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Eyes of the Heart: Photography as Contemplative Practice

A companion retreat to the book

Registration Fee: $120 USD

Program Description

Photography is a deeply contemplative practice. If we approach it with reverence and intention, it can help us to see the holy moments all around us. In this online class you will be invited to take your camera out into the world each week for photographic journeys based on an adaptation of the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina and specific guided themes. In the process of slowing down and lingering over moments of beauty, you will cultivate sacred seeing, your ability to see the world beneath the surface appearance of things.

Photography is essentially about the play of light and dark, illumination and shadow, much as the spiritual journey is a practice of paying attention to these elements of our lives and how the holy is revealed in each. Photography is also about the choices we make in the visual framing of elements, what to include and what to exclude, whether to zoom or pull back. This is a practice of visual discernment: a way of choosing what is important and what needs to be let go of. We begin to see things differently, and in our images also discover aspects of ourselves and God.  In our discussions we will explore how to distill wisdom from the images we receive.

Are you seeking a way to bring more presence and prayerfulness to your creative expression? Are you longing for ways to practice the contemplative life which are more visual and kinesthetic? Would you some structure and encouragement in the creative path?

This class is not about developing your technical proficiency as a photographer –  it is about cultivating your ability to see with the “eyes of the heart” (Eph 1:18).  In biblical and mystical traditions, the heart is the seat of our whole being.  To see with the heart, means we bring the whole of ourselves to whatever reality we find ourselves in. We will explore photography in service of expanding our contemplative practice and compassionate presence to the world and to ourselves.

The themes of this class are designed to build upon one another, opening you to new ways of seeing the world.  Your camera becomes a tool for contemplative practice.  Using the ancient practice of lectio divina in an adapted form, you will learn ways to become present to sacred in the world.

This retreat accompanies Christine’s book – Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice – available for order online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  You will need to order a copy of the book yourself as part of the class.

Film is a record of the ever-changing face of God. This moment is holy, but we walk around like it’s not holy. We walk around like there are some holy moments and there are all the other moments that are not holy. [But they are] and film can let us see that. Film can frame it so we can see that, Ah! This moment. Holy.

What's Included

Week 1: Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart, Practices and Tools to Cultivate Vision

Week 2:  The Dance of Light and Shadow

Week 3: What is Hidden and What is Revealed?

Week 4: The Symbolic Significance of Color

Week 5: What is Mirrored Back?

Week 6: Discovering the Holy Within Us

Week 7: Seeing the Holy Everywhere

Six days each week you will receive an email with a link to the day’s content. The 7th day is a time for rest and integration The added materials (in addition to the book) are in audio format which you can listen to at any time. You have forever access to the materials in the course and can move through the lessons at your own pace.

  • Weekly reflections on photography as a contemplative practice from Christine Valters Paintner
  • Weekly reflections on scripture from John Valters Paintner
  • Seven (7) mp3 recordings of Christine leading you through the guided meditations in the book.
  • Please note: You will need to purchase a copy of Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice to accompany the class directly from a bookseller.  A copy is not included in the registration fee.  Currently it is available to order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Your Guides for the Journey

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Christine is the director of, a virtual monastery exploring contemplative practice, creative expression, and ways to nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness. She is a spiritual director, teacher, pilgrimage guide, and author of nine books on spirituality and the arts. Her deepest belief is that the earth is the original monastery–a wisdom guide and mentor in living a soulful and vibrant life. Visit the “About Christine” page for more information.

John headshot 2

John Valters Paintner, MTS

John studied education and earned a teaching certificate in his home state of California.  John later went on to earn a Masters in Theological Studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.  After working in parish ministry for several years, John returned to the classroom, teaching high school religion with a focus on the Hebrew Scriptures for twelve years.  After a sabbatical year abroad, John now works as Prior of the Abbey of the Arts along side his wife of twenty years, Abbess Christine, living together in Galway, Ireland. Visit the “About John” page for more information.

Praise for the Course

As I reflect back on the photos I have received these past weeks, I realize how much more visually "awake" I am, how much more aware of the presence of God in all things. I am also grateful for the way in which others have opened my eyes to places where the Holy dwells that I had never considered - through your poetry and words of wisdom, your deep sharings, your photos and thoughtful comments on the photos of others. I feel greatly blessed - thank you!
Susan Dougherty
I am telling my friends about it...beginning with describing photography as receiving instead of taking pictures. The whole idea of photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice is a natural for's deep in my soul, and now I have ways to talk about it and share my discoveries. I can't stop talking about you Christine! Your personal stories (and powerful photos) make me feel like I am coming to know you personally. I'm a Christine follower! Your use of technology is amazingly well done...superior to most I've experienced and I'm also sharing that with some of my techy friends who are responsible for building websites and on-line training.
Ellen Ratmeyer
I was often challenged by the reflective exercises, and sometimes thought I couldn't 'do' them, but the more I thought about them, the greater their value became. Therein lay the transformative factor. Thank you so much, Christine, from the bottom of my heart, for such a transformative, wise, and beautiful course.
Caroline Moore
I have grown and been stretched, inspired, challenged and incredibly blessed by Christine's teaching, encouragement, modelling, support and understanding as we journeyed together for six weeks. Her faith, creativity, artistic expression and insights and all the incredible photographs shared have changed the way I "see". I had hoped to receive much but find in fact I received even more than that! I know I will benefit as a result for the rest of my life. Rather than being finished, this class has whet my appetite to learn more and to incorporate all this learning and experience into my being. Thank you, Christine, and God Bless all your future efforts and classes!
Jennifer Longley
This class was an ideal way to experience Lent, for me. The combination of reflections for the week, daily questions, guided meditations, and photography 'assignments' and reflection opportunities created an opportunity of unparalleled richness from which to learn. Thank you, Christine!
Laura S.
Eyes of the Heart was just what I needed in my frantic search for a practice which would combine my artistic passion and the contemplative life style. It has become a useful path which I can practice every day and embrace as a way of life. Thank you for making it a great experience. It was the best on-line experience I have ever had.
Susan Hedge Mason


Your registration constitutes an agreement with our online program Terms and Conditions below.

All prices displayed in USD.


Registration Fee

If you need a different payment plan or a scholarship to make this program accessible, please get in touch with us.

Purchase the Companion Book

The book is not included in the registration fee. You may purchase the book at the links below or at your local book seller. Thank you for your support!

Terms and Conditions

Please consider your purchase carefully and review the many free materials we have on our website to make sure the program will be a good fit or get in touch with any questions.

We ask that you honor our work by not sharing the program materials with others who are not enrolled.

Please contact us for permission to quote in settings beyond the program

Some self-study retreats include video or audio recordings of sessions that were recorded in a live community offering of the retreat and may make reference to forums or other modes of sharing. Please disregard these as self-study retreats do not have these available.

If you choose a payment plan and stop payment before fulfilling the commitment without contacting us to make other arrangements, your access to the program will be removed.