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Visio Divina

Many have heard about and maybe even practiced Lectio Divina, but have you heard of Visio Divina? If you’re more drawn to images than words, it might be the perfect contemplative practice for you. It is simply a way of praying and being attentive to God.

“Visio divina, holy seeing, is a way to pray with the eyes,”  

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Practices that Transform Us.

How to do the practice:

  • Find a drawing, sketch or painting using a key word, phrase or scripture you’d like to work with. You can use universal themes like love, trust, angst or peace, or identify a scripture (or a few key words within it). If you’re more of a tactile person, go to the museum or locate an art book from your local library. Go with your gut in choosing the best image for this exercise; pick one that immediately calls to you without knowing why, if possible.
  • Once you locate the image that speaks to you, begin to consciously breathe. Notice where there is effort and where there is ease in your breath pattern. Use the breath to create ease within. Imagine places of resistance softening and expanding as air breath flows. Feel yourself begin to center. Stay here; no need to rush. Close your eyes.
  • Then slowly open them and contemplatively move though the following four phases in your Visio Divina practice:
    • Visio: Seeing (1 minute) …. simply sit with the image; scan it. What are you drawn to? Just notice. Then close your eyes and rest them again.
    • Meditatio: Meditate (2 minutes) … as you open your eyes, notice the place(s) in the image that most calls to you. What catches your eye? What do you most notice? Perhaps it’s a shadow, movement, texture, color or shape. Don’t judge. Just notice. Allow your eyes to be ‘led’ and allow the rest of the image to fade as you stay with the focus of your attraction. Without using too much mental energy, name the part that is calling you. Close your eyes for a few moments again.
    • Oratio: Pray (3 minutes) … as you open your eyes, allow them to rest again on the place in the image that calls to you. Allow it to give rise to a word, phrase or emotion. Let the word or felt sense vibrate within you. Be with it all. Then name the word, phrase, image, or feeling, holding onto any connections to your life that are currently forming for you. Allow the eyes to rest again. Focus on sacred breath as it moves in and out.
    • Contemplatio: Contemplation (4 minutes) … open your eyes again, and sink as fully as you can into this sacred portal that has been calling you. Gazing at the image, open to the possibility of God speaking to your through your physical eyes and the eyes of your heart. What is being communicated? Close your eyes again. Soak in the fullness of the experience. Journal if it is helpful.

God is always present to us. God is within. But we often forget. All Divina practices (Lectio, Visio, Audio, Terra) are excellent, simple ways of spending time with God. Messages locked away in our subconscious come through more easily during contemplative practice. Focus on breath. Relax. Take it all in. And let your mind wander toward what it will, without judging, controlling or fixing.

(Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash)