Contemplative Visio Divina Experience

Julie Shelton Snyder’s art is a study in meditation and stillness. Her upcoming show from March 2 to April 28, 2019 at the W83 Ministry Center, 150 W 83rd St, New York, New York will exhibit prints inspired by or created during her residency at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Japan.

Julie is a long-time centering prayer practitioner and to accompany the opening of the show she invited Contemplative Outreach of NYC coordinator Lindsay Boyer to create a contemplative experience using Visio Divina, a form of “divine seeing” in which we prayerfully invite God to speak to our hearts as we look at an image.

For those who are unable to attend this experience at the gallery on March 2 from 10 am to 12 pm, the following is an exercise that can be done at home with a reproduction of one of Julie’s prints or at the gallery of the W83 Ministry Center at any time during the run of the show.  This exercise can be experienced in written form or in audio form below.  

Let’s start by reading a poem by Pablo Neruda, from which the title of Julie’s show, “now we will count to twelve,” is taken:

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Visio Divina 
Now let’s engage in a Visio Divina exercise using a reproduction of one of Julie’s prints.  Lectio Divina is a traditional way of reading a passage of scripture with the ear of the heart.  In Lectio Divina, the words of scripture become very alive and touch the heart in spontaneous ways that lead us more deeply into relationship with God.  Similarly, Visio Divina is a form of “divine seeing,” in which we prayerfully invite God to speak to our hearts as we look at an image.

Below is a reproduction of one of Julie’s prints, called “This Really Happened.”  Notice your breath and your body as you gaze at the image.  Simply be present to the image and allow it to speak to your heart, without any particular agenda.  It might speak to you in words or wordlessly.  Notice if any particular element of the artwork draws your attention.  Spend as much time as you like gazing at the image before moving to the next step, below.

Julie Shelton Snyder, "this really happened"

Julie Shelton Snyder, "this really happened"

When you are ready, ask yourself:

How does this image make me feel in my body?

Is the image bringing up any particular emotions?

Is God speaking to me in this image?

What is coming forth from me as I look at this image? 

Spend as much time as you like gazing at the image and responding wordlessly or in words to these questions before moving to the next step, below.

If you would like, offer a prayer, blessing, or reflection that expresses your experience.

Finally, simply rest wordlessly in what the image and your experience of it offer you.  Just be.


Read an article about Visio Divina by Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler of Contemplative Outreach.

Visit Julie Shelton Snyder’s website.

Read an article by Lindsay Boyer about the Visio Divina event written for the Contemplative Outreach e-bulletin.