Visio Devina by Lisa Hunt-Wotton
The soul is the natural shelter around your life. If during the course of your life, you have not continually scraped away this shelter, your soul will now gather around you to mind you – John O’Donahue
Prayer and meditation are the central pathways to a spiritual life. I think that it is vital that we fully understand that God is not ‘out there’ in some random location in the cosmos. For too long we have believed that the divine has lived outside us when in fact the divine dwells within us in our souls.
Some of us when we worship tend to automatically look up and out. Reaching OUT for God. I often hear people praying for the Spirit of God to ‘come’, and we wait for the spirit of God to show up.
God dwells within us, He is present with us. He is not some elevator God up there and unreachable. Our heart, as well as being the seat of our emotions, is also most importantly, the place where God dwells.
In 1 Corinthians 3:16. The apostle Paul says:
Don’t you know that your body is a temple and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?
The heart is the place where ” body, soul and spirit come together as one” (Nouwen).
“Spiritual formation presents opportunities to enter into the centre of the heart and become familiar with the Complexities of our own inner life” (Nouwen).
There are many contemplative exercises that assist us in the process of moving from head to heart. Remember, what works well for someone, may not resonate as strongly for you as another method. If you have been reading Monday meditations we have looked at a few ways like writing/ journaling, breathing, color and mindfulness as ways to help us transition from the head to the heart. Today we are going to look at Visio Devina.
Exercise: Visio Devina
The ancient practice of meditating on visual images has recently been called Visio Devina, or divine seeing. While the Orthodox tradition has long practiced praying with images through icons, the western church, and Protestantism in particular, is less comfortable with this type of prayer.
We live in a busy, hectic world filled with words and little time. Sometimes exercising the right side of the brain, by engaging visually, helps us to descend from the mind into the heart. I am a visual learner so this works exceptionally well for me personally.
Look deeply at one of these images that resonates with you:
- How does this image make you feel?
- What does the image make you think about?
- What is God saying to you through this image? Write it down.
Just sit with the image for 5 min and let the many details within the image speak to you.
Are you in a comfortable position with little chance of interruption for 5 -10 min.
Shut the door, tune out the world.
- Breathe deeply. Move your awareness down to your heart centre. Settle into the moment.
- Look closely at the image. Release any thoughts, distractions or expectations.
- Explore all of the details, colors, movements, and shapes. Notice what resonates with you.
- Let your eye rest somewhere on the image.
- Stay with what resonates, close your eyes and allow it to unfold in your heart.
What are you experiencing?
- Make space within for images, feelings, and memories to stir.
How does your body respond?
- Slowly shift your awareness to a sense of invitation which rises up from your heart
Release all of the words and images and slow down even more deeply.
Allow yourself some time for silence and stillness. Breathe gratitude in and out.
Form a prayer about the image in your heart. At the end of your prayer you might gaze one more time on the image just to see if you see anything new there.
How do you feel?
This is a great tool.
Try and do this a few times a week. Love Lisa
Love to know how you went!!
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Photos by Atilla Siha – you can view more of his work here: