Translate Page

Art and your spiritual journey: Compass 113

Art and prayer share much in common--so much so that art can lead us into prayer and connection with the Divine. In this episode of Compass, Michelle and Ryan try out two art-based spiritual practices... and they provide directions on how you can utilize these practices as well.

Listen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Amazon / YouTube / iHeart

Episode notes

In this episode:
(00:00) Catching up
(02:49) Why art is spiritually meaningful
(09:42) Visio Divina
(20:16) Doodle Prayer
(30:28) Other episodes to check out

For the practice of Visio Divina, we used "The Annunciation" by Henry Assawa Tanner:

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

See the full image and get more information about the painting and artist Henry Ossawa Tanner from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Upper Room provides a great description of Visio Divina -- and many other spiritual practices.

Visio Divina usually follows five simple steps:

  • (1) preparation and clearing your mind,
  • (2) looking at the image,
  • (3) meditation,
  • (4) contemplation, and
  • (5) prayer.

Just like there's no official way to doodle, there's no official form of Doodling Prayer. Here are the steps we followed in the episode:

  • Start with writing out a name for God, the name of someone you'd like to pray for, or a Bible verse.
  • Draw a shape around the word or phrase
  • Continue doodling around the page, building on each element
  • Reflect on what is moving you to doodle and pray as you go.
  • Reflect on what you've created and offer it as a conversation with God.

Related episodes

Help us spread the word

  • Tell others: friends, coworkers, and anyone else might benefit from these conversations.
  • Share us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
  • Review us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you download the episode. Great reviews help others find us.
  • Email our hosts Ryan Dunn and Michelle Maldonado about future topics and feedback.

More podcasts

Thank you for listening, downloading, and subscribing.

This episode posted on June 28, 2023

Episode Transcript

Ryan Dunn [00:00:02]:

Hey. This is the Compass podcast where we connect the spiritual to the everyday. I'm Ryan Dunn.

Michelle Maldonado [00:00:08]:

and I'm Michelle Maldonado.

Ryan Dunn [00:00:11]:

Michelle, you're back. Where have you been? And what have you been up to?

Michelle Maldonado [00:00:16]:

Oh, okay. That's a very long story. But long story short, I've been in the African continent for three and a half weeks. I've been at DRCs, Democratic Republic of Congo And South Africa for some trainings that we've been doing through our agency.

Ryan Dunn [00:00:36]:

Okay. And trainings around what? Communications

Michelle Maldonado [00:00:40]:

to all things all the things communications.

Ryan Dunn [00:00:44]:

Alright. Yeah. I hear we do some of that around here. Cool. Cool. Any, like, moments or moments that you're like, boy, I wish people back in the US could experience something like this?

Michelle Maldonado [00:00:59]:

Yeah. It's just you know, we think people all over the world are so different, but we're not. We're the same. You know? And it's just awesome seeing folks being themselves. You know? in another context, but people are being people. And in our United Methodist connection, it's just extended family.

Ryan Dunn [00:01:19]:

Well, alright. and a human family. Well, thank you for enlightening us on that a little bit. In this episode, we're gonna celebrate Michelle's return by diving into a topic that she's a bit passionate about art. Specifically, yes. specifically we're exploring art as a spiritual practice. So coming up, we'll talk about how art can assist in your spiritual journey And then we're gonna dive into 2 spiritual practices that utilize art as a means for feeling more connected to God and the spirit's work in our own lives. First, Michelle, when you think of art as a means for divine connection, are there any specific pieces of art that come to mind?

Michelle Maldonado [00:02:06]:

Probably the one that's right behind my head.

Ryan Dunn [00:02:08]:

Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I had a caveat this and that, like, we're doing this very visual kind of episode in what is mostly an audio medium. So I wanna note that it's, everything that we talk about or allude to visually, we're gonna post in notes on the on the website and also We do a video version of all of our episodes. So in real time, if you wanna watch this stuff, you can see. So So Michelle right now is pointing to a a piece of art behind her head. You wanna describe it for us? Sure.

Michelle Maldonado [00:02:47]:

Let me grab it. Yeah. It is a painting on a small canvas of a female figure It is kinda split in half. Like, half of the female figure is indigenous, the other half representing the African heritage of Puerto Rico. And you can also see in the background a Spanish ship arriving. So it's kind of the story of Puerto Rico in one image. Let me and this is our non shame plug for our website and social medias and all that so you can check that out.

Ryan Dunn [00:03:34]:

Right. Right. Well, Art has the remarkable to connect with our emotions, imagination, sense of beauty, and it makes it a powerful tool for cultivating spirituality because of all that. So There are several ways art can help us deepen our spiritual experiences. For example, art expresses the inexpressible, which means that it allows us to convey abstract ideas, emotions, and spiritual concepts that kind of elude our verbal ability to describe. So, like, you know, you painted that word picture for us, but It's not a full description of what it is that we were looking at there. Through various artistic mediums such as painting, skull or poetry or music, artists can tap into the depths of their inner being and commune communicate, profound, spiritual truths. Also, art invokes awe and wonder. In this sense of awe can awaken our spiritual nature and open us up to new perspectives. And it also ports us beyond our ordinary perceptions and invites us into contemplation about the mysteries of existence. That is That is really deep. And it's something that, again, like, words kinda fall short to exactly what art provides for our human experience. That said, art employs symbols and metaphors to convey deeper meanings through the use of visual symbols, much like you just alluded to in in your painting there, visual symbols, allegories, or metaphorical language, art can communicate, profound spiritual concepts that resonate deep within our human experiences. Now you just showed us something very personal to you. That is a piece of art that you created yourself. Was there a sense of, like, divine communance communates. Is that right? Divina communion as you were creating something like that? Like, did you feel like was a spirit at work pushing you to put hand to to Canvas in in a sense?

Michelle Maldonado [00:05:49]:

Yeah. I'd say yes. hard to put into words that that drive that kinda makes you wanna put a brushed to Canvas. But I do remember that Puerto Rico was in the news for something I I don't remember what it was. When you created that piece. Yeah. Okay. And I was just thinking, like, man, the the story is so much deeper than that. They didn't even talk about what led to that situation, which, again, I don't remember what it was in the news form. And that was where that feeling was. I just need to put this these I just need to put this down somehow on paper or, in this case, on Canvas. And It's just what happened. That's what the the brush created.

Ryan Dunn [00:06:40]:

Okay. Yeah. So art pulls something out of us that is what we would call transcendent, meaning this quality that can create a bridge between the material and did we say the spiritual realms, which allows us to glimpse the divine or experience a profound sense of oneness with the divina. So did you feel like in a way that your your brushstrokes were kind of led?

Michelle Maldonado [00:07:08]:

I would say so. Mhmm.

Ryan Dunn [00:07:11]:

Alright. Well, of course, Art also opens us up to reflection in contemplation. So engaging with art can create a space for reflection and contemplation, which again allows us to connect with both our inner selves and access a deeper level of awareness for where the spirit or the divine is working around us. And, Michelle, we're gonna attempt that in a couple ways today on the Compass Podcast. And, again, I know what we're diving into here is mostly a visual kind of medium. We're gonna do our best to to represent that. In the audio form, That being said, our first practice is called Visio Devino, which, as you can tell, is all about the visual. It's kind of like divine looking, I guess, is is how you would interpret that. And we've gone through something similar like this before on the Compass podcast where we've done lectio Divina, which is divine reading. Well, now we're gonna apply those principles to the visual medium of art. And Visio Divina usually follows 5 simple steps in their broadest terms. First one is preparation and clearing out your mind. So that would just be like, hey. Find yourself a comfortable quiet space where you're not gonna be distracted by something else. And then second step is looking at the image 3rd step is meditation, the 4th step is contemplation, and then we're gonna let that go into the 5th step which is prayer. Now our friends at the upper room have put together a description, a more detailed description of VIZIO Divina, in the following steps, and we're gonna kinda follow those through. And, again, I just want us to to note that what we're gonna do here, as Michelle and I practice this together, is in the final version of this podcast, we're just gonna cut to the highlights. So Michelle and I may, like, spend quite a bit of time considering this image that I'm gonna put up for us. but that doesn't make for good radio, so to speak. So, like, we'll kinda get to the steps. I'll provide the prompts If you wanna follow along in real time, you're probably gonna need to hit the pause button and and because we're just gonna kinda through those little times, edit out those little times where we're just, like, staring blankly at the screen, which you don't need to look at. It's not entertaining at all. Maybe it is, but not for us. Not for us. So for our purposes, we're going to sitter or contemplate upon the enunciation by Henry Asawa Tanner. Again, I realized that This is visual, and we're gonna cut to some of the the highlights here. But this image is gonna be displayed on our show notes for the page. And, also, if you're following along on the video, you can see it there. So let me pull it up here. Okay, Michelle. First of all, are you in a comfortable space, free of distraction? I'm uncomfortable. I'm not free of distractions, though. Okay. You know, that's just kind of par for the course for our lives, though, isn't it? Like, as free as of distraction is maybe you can be on a Monday morning during work hours kinda deal. With, like, 15 different windows open -- Yeah. -- on the computer. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Close out the Slack channels, and, yeah, let's focus in here. Alright. Okay. The first thing we're gonna do is look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see So keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. And then try to keep your eyes from wandering to the other parts of the picture. This is, like, our challenging concentration for the day. Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so. So we'll take a minute here and look at it. Now let your eyes gaze at the whole image. Now you can let yourself wander a little bit. Take your time and look at every part of the image. See it all. Take it in and reflect on the image for, again, another minute or so. Okay. We're gonna continue to look our way around the image. This time entertaining a few questions. Specifically, what emotions does this image evoke in you? So what are you feeling as you look around this image? Is there anything specifically that the image stirs up in you or brings forth in you?

Michelle Maldonado [00:12:01]:

I just have questions.

Ryan Dunn [00:12:04]:

Alright. Hey. Why

Michelle Maldonado [00:12:08]:

is she so chill? Just looking at that bright light, like, what now. You know?

Ryan Dunn [00:12:15]:

Yeah. To create a word picture of what it is that we're looking at, we have this image of who we a person who we would assume to be Mary sitting on a bed, staring at a pillar of light in the corner of the room. And it's I would call it, like, a very yellowish picture or golden picture. We can tell that the light shimmers out a little bit. It seems to be the source of light in the room. Yeah. And Mary's countenance is, like, somewhat show inquisitive. sense a little apprehension there. What was the first thing, Michelle, that that stood out to you? Like, what did you lock on to first in that first part of the exercise?

Michelle Maldonado [00:13:02]:

the light, which is how I figured out that was Mary.

Ryan Dunn [00:13:08]:

Okay. Alright. That's interesting because the first thing that I locked on to was her face, which I don't know. I just found the face to be curious in trying to discern, like, what emotion was going on there for her. And it's hard to read in the picture, isn't it? Like -- Mhmm. -- we don't quite know if that is a a look of understanding or if it's a look of, like, befuddlement or disbelief for quite what's going on there.

Michelle Maldonado [00:13:38]:

Yeah. On on my end, I can zoom in on her face. So it's It's kinda difficult to see it even her features. But from what I can see, that's why I thought, you know, like, what now is the expression that knowing that it's assuming that it's married. You know? Like, ugh. Okay. I'm already in this situation. what now? What's what else are you gonna pile on? Mhmm.

Ryan Dunn [00:14:06]:

Yeah. Yeah. I can see that a little bit. The weariness of, like, okay. Yeah. This is a lot. Mhmm. Dear god, this is a lot. That that kind of exists there. Yeah. So noting something like that, does that lead you into an attitude of prayer?

Michelle Maldonado [00:14:27]:


Ryan Dunn [00:14:30]:

Do you feel a sense of connection with I mean, I guess, really, we have, like, 2 characters depicted in this. We have Mary, of course, but then we also have the presence in the light -- Mhmm. -- which in scripture gets personified in into an angel. Yeah. Do you feel like a sense of connection with either one of those?

Michelle Maldonado [00:14:53]:

With her, I it it's very relatable. You know? Like, what what else what other burden will I have to carry? Like, what what else? You know?

Ryan Dunn [00:15:06]:


Michelle Maldonado [00:15:07]:

So I do feel that's relatable. Yeah. Well -- I I in in other words, like, god, I know you're there. I know you're watching over and put, like, what else? what else it might have to handle today.

Ryan Dunn [00:15:20]:

Yeah. Well, the last step in this Visio Divina is to let that become a prayer, and then it encourages you to to write down your prayers if you so desire. So You look around the image, looking for ways that it might lead you into an attitude of prayer and then let that that prayer take form, and then you offer your prayers to god in a in a final time of silence. So it would be interesting to do this exercise with a painting where we don't quite know the context. Like, you and I are looking at this painting and, like, okay. We It's called the enunciation. Like, already, we know the story of what's happening here. Right? So -- Yeah. -- it would kinda be neat to take a look at a a painting that, like, we just don't know the context. Although here, I think it's relevant that, you know, we do wanna kind of scripturally reflect on -- Mhmm. -- on on what's happening.

Michelle Maldonado [00:16:20]:

Is there anything else that you kinda yeah. Go ahead. Yeah. Yeah. I was gonna say, I do wanna point out something interesting that I noticed. The person who painted they've painted a wrinkle into the rug. Yeah. And I thought that was interesting.

Ryan Dunn [00:16:37]:

Yeah. I you know, the whole holiness of the of the painting kinda struck me. I mean, just felt like the realness of it. You know, it's not like a a medieval painting or a renaissance painting in which the surroundings seems so I don't know, just kinda perfected in a way, but and it it's probably well, we can note that I think that this painting was painted in, like, 18 97 or 18 98. So it's from a different time period than -- Mhmm. -- even though it has very much like a renaissance style to it. At least to me, to buy a untrained eye. But yeah, there's a humbleness. Like, I was looking at the rug, and I'm like, that seems like something that I would see in my grandparent's house. It just was very reflective of that to me. And so there was a, like, a sense of comfort in their surroundings. And in a way that makes the whole scene seem a little bit more interruptive or disruptive because it is such a a comfortable surrounding. Like, her sheets are all messed up on the bed. Like, obviously, she just woke up, and here is this presence in the room, which makes her her expression on her face to me just all that much more befuddling because It's not like a oh shoot kinda moment that we've encountered. Maybe that already passed. And now she's she's looking to understand. But, yeah, just that kind of idea there that there is a, like, a sense of comfort in the room. Mhmm. I would not be uncomfortable in that room.

Michelle Maldonado [00:18:13]:


Ryan Dunn [00:18:15]:

Anything else that stood out to you that you encountered through this exercise or reflection?

Michelle Maldonado [00:18:22]:

No. Just overall the the related relatableness, if that's a word.

Ryan Dunn [00:18:30]:

Yeah. And maybe that's the usefulness of an exercise like this. Is it it invites us to become a part of the story or or to place ourselves within the story. Like, you know, I really I guess where it came down to me is, like, I was really trying to interpret, like, what I would have on my face if I was sitting in Mary's spot there. Yeah. I don't know if I would have that look in my eyes. I mean, there is, like, a closer up image you can see, like, there's a a trace of, like, the deer and the headlights look, but it's not all that strong. There's something else going on there too. There's a an acquiescence or a surrender and a will to understand.

Michelle Maldonado [00:19:15]:

So -- And her her hands are just resting on her knees, like,

Ryan Dunn [00:19:19]:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I hadn't even looked at that. So is this a useful practice for you? Yeah. Might you revisit it?

Michelle Maldonado [00:19:32]:

I think I would.

Ryan Dunn [00:19:34]:

Okay. So, again, the five steps of Visio Divina are 1st preparation in clearing your mind. 2nd, looking at the image and the way that we practice was to focus on one part in particular and then to look around the image later, then meditate on what sticks out to you. Kind of like our our Visio, Devina, our our reading process. Like, we wanna look for the parts that that stick out to us like Splinters or shimmer to us in a way? What is it about this image that sticks out to us or shimmers to us? And then contemplate on that. Why is that sticking out to us today? and letting that lead into prayer. Alright. You ready for something slightly different, Michelle?

Michelle Maldonado [00:20:16]:


Ryan Dunn [00:20:17]:

Alright. This one is much more interactive. It's called Doodle prayer. For the podcast, we're gonna treat this one just like we treated Visio Divina, meaning that we'll edit to the good parts. You're not gonna have to listen and Michelle and I furiously scribbling on our notepads. But if you wanna see the final versions of what Michelle and I come up with, then check out the show notes or, again, the accompanying video of this podcast, and we do video versions of all of our podcast episodes. You can see those on YouTube or on the website The Compass podcast has its own YouTube channel to Chang. That was the plug there. This one, this episode will probably be worth the watch because there's so much visually going on here. Anyways, for this practice, you'll need some paper and a writing utensil. So, Michelle, do you have that? I'm ready. Okay. I do as well. And we'll go through this in real time and then edit for the good parts. So start with a blank piece of paper. In the center, write a name for God or the name of someone for whom you're praying or a scripture verse. The next step then, after you've written your name god or the name of someone for whom you're praying or a scripture verse is to draw a shape around the words to start the doodle. And this is your prayer space. So start to doodle around that then releasing your words to God in prayer. And you can doodle in silence or you can talk to God if you feel that as you're doing this. Okay. Pencil's down. Oh, but there's more. Okay. Pick up your pencil again. Now you can add other people, other names for god. or other parts of the scripture verse to your paper and then draw a shape around each set of new words to create a separate prayer space. Doodle around those and pray. Let's spend a moment doing that. Michelle's still scribbling Alright. You had a good stopping place.

Michelle Maldonado [00:22:29]:

I guess my two rolls are so random.

Ryan Dunn [00:22:33]:

Yeah. Oh, This is gonna be fun then. I thought we could if you're comfortable sharing what you drew, like, we could take turns in a almost like a pictionary kinda style exercise of trying to describe from listener what it is that each of us true. So I'll describe yours, and you can describe mine. You you want me to go first? Sure. I'll lead on this one. Okay. Hopefully, this shows up. Oh, oh, there we go. This is This is what I came up with.

Michelle Maldonado [00:23:06]:

Okay. And let's describe I see a water, a large part with a computer. And on the screen, it says Grace?

Ryan Dunn [00:23:21]:

It does. Yes. Okay.

Michelle Maldonado [00:23:25]:

There is below the tip of the heart. It looks like 2 stones. I this it's it feels is it 2 stones?

Ryan Dunn [00:23:36]:

Ish. Yeah. It's one stone.

Michelle Maldonado [00:23:39]:

Okay. I was yeah. I wasn't sure, but -- It's the empty tube. Okay. That's what I thought. It just from the computer screen, it looks like 2 stones, but with the shading, you can kinda see and I think somebody's at the bottom of the own pushing. And let's see. In the sky, what I assume is the sky a megaphone or a microphone.

Ryan Dunn [00:24:05]:

That's amazing that you got that. I'm like, oh, that looks ridiculous.

Michelle Maldonado [00:24:08]:

But cool. And it says gospel above it. Is that a cross on top of the heart? It is. Okay. At the bottom, shouting bubble with love inside of it. I'm trying to figure out what those items on the watch are,

Ryan Dunn [00:24:29]:

but I can't Well, you and me both. It was supposed to represent, like, on a I was having hard time representing, like, the really sins are the things that tear us away from God. Mhmm. So And I can't

Michelle Maldonado [00:24:48]:

I there's a word right above them, but I can't read it. It's forgiveness. Forgiveness. And I can't tell what's next to it either.

Ryan Dunn [00:24:57]:

Yeah. It it was representative of, like, a wind blowing.

Michelle Maldonado [00:25:03]:

Okay. And that's that's literally I can see. It's it's very difficult through the screen.

Ryan Dunn [00:25:10]:

You probably sell. And, you know, the fact that I do not have a steady hand for the artistic Brown doesn't make it any easier. But yeah. Hey. I figured it out, though, so it's not that far off. I was I was kind of impressed. Your your skills and interpretation are amazing.

Michelle Maldonado [00:25:31]:

Right. Like I said, mine is extremely random. It's not a larger picture. It's just a bunch of little tiny doodles individually. Okay. So they it has no rhyme or reason.

Ryan Dunn [00:25:46]:

Okay. I'm gonna start at the top. We have Deyus, which look like some kind of rays coming out of it. There may be a chip. Next to that, there's definitely an airplane on the other side of it with a coconut tree that kinda sets and moves really kind of behind the whole picture of everything. A book of nut tree? It's it's well, it's Palmy. And there are there are coconut looking things in the middle of it. So it's a palm tree. For sure. Let's see. I see a a soda can or where I come from a pop can. Several words for god around there. See Jehovah, Deos. Of course, God, Deos. There are representations of music and headphones and guitar, maybe a representation of the stereo there. I'm not quite sure. I see the the Methodist United Methodist logo in there. And oops. It frees we've got a screen freeze. It's it's it's divine warfare or sorry. virtual warfare. Thank you. Alright. Assign, an m, I think that there's a tent in there. and representations of nature in the flower and the sun. Maybe that's what the tent is as well, a rabbit. Yeah. So I see just a number of ways that that maybe the presence is is being felt in and around Michelle's life. you know, a smiling face there as well. Mhmm. So was I way off on the I'm at coconut tree. Yes. It's a palm tree. Yeah. Palm tree. Yeah. I mean, that guy. there eventually, but some palm trees have coconut, don't they?

Michelle Maldonado [00:27:58]:


Ryan Dunn [00:28:01]:

Right. Right on. Right on. Okay. So there we go. 2 contemplative activities for art and spirituality. Michelle, do you have a preference?

Michelle Maldonado [00:28:14]:

I like them both. Yeah. Okay. Equally.

Ryan Dunn [00:28:19]:

I was kind of impressed surprised with how just revealing and well, I guess effective. They both were. Like, really, the I I did not know that the doodle thing would kinda take me to such a deep spiritual place, but I I found myself really kinda contemplating on some events that I've already gone through in the morning. And that's I mean, yeah, really figuring out ways of of letting that become a a prayer to god. And through that, I felt like a sense of invitation. Like, you know, I had the you pointed out, the loud speaker there, the Bullhorn thing that Bullhorn thing there that's like, yeah. And, I mean, really this invitation to kind of proclaim a message of grace through some of the conflict that I had already encountered in my Internet wanderings this morning. So yeah. yeah, anything stick out to you?

Michelle Maldonado [00:29:19]:

It might I guess because we heard we were just talking about my trip. I just wrote god's name and all the different languages that I can think of. Mhmm. And I guess that's where the airplane came from. Like, I was just doodling in my mind just -- Yeah. elsewhere. You know? So -- Yeah. Like a stream of conscience. Yeah. These are just little bits of things that popped in, I guess. I will say, and you can cut this out. The at some point, the Titanic popped into my mind with the the unfortunate

Ryan Dunn [00:29:50]:

accident that happened. And so the Titanic is up there. Yeah. I mean, that's what the the ship is. It's the Titanic. Yeah. Yeah. That was -- Yeah. -- that was random. Yeah. Well, it it can be a point of concern and yeah. And how we depict those things. Well, well, we would love to hear your reactions to this practice both practices or other recommended spiritual practices and contemplative exercises that we've done on Compass. Of course, if you think all of this is nonsense, then Michelle really wants to hear from you. It's just Actually, you can email both of us at [email protected]. The Compass podcast is brought to you by United Methodist Communications. And if Compass is meaningful for you, then we both invite you to check out another episode. Really think that you would also enjoy a recent episode number 112, disrupt your busy life, and cultivate a heart of loving kindness with this meditation, or you can go back aways. And something that's really closely related to this is an epic episode entitled using your imagination in prayer. That was episode 95. While you're listening, leave a rating and a review, company comes out every other Wednesday unless, of course, you know, there's something that gets in the way like a big holiday, in which case we're just gonna follow-up the following week. And in the case, we're gonna be back online in 2 weeks time. Michelle, looking forward to it. So good to have you back.

Michelle Maldonado [00:31:20]:

Thanks. Good to be back.

Ryan Dunn [00:31:22]:

We'll chat that you in a couple weeks peace.


United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

©2023 United Methodist Communications. All Rights Reserved