I start each year choosing a word that I hope will inform the way I look at my life and help me be mindful of how I empathize with others. I use the word to bring me back to a singular goal whenever my focus goes haywire. In the past, I have used words such as love, compassion, and transformation. This year I chose perspective. With 2020 going in the craziest of ways, the word perspective helps me be grounded in our life of quarantine. I have recently adopted is a daily spiritual guided meditation which helps me keep my perspective. Another practice I use is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment while calmly observing your thoughts and feelings.
I’d like to suggest the Yoga Journal article entitled “12 Steps to Turn an Art Museum Visit Into Mindfulness Meditation,” (5/3/17). The author, Shannon Stevens, offers steps to make art observation an exercise of mindfulness. (You can read the entire article here »)
Stevens says “observing artwork is a doorway to the present moment, and in this unusual time a doorway to the present moment is essential. Casey Moorman, a yoga instructor and a teaching artist at the Museum, often holds yoga classes in the galleries. This space is a peaceful and inspirational setting for a yoga experience. The health and spiritual benefits of yoga have been widely studied over the years; yoga is proven to enhance physical and emotional wellbeing. Like meditation and yoga, looking at artwork forces us to slow down and take in the moment. The moment can be the one we are experiencing with the artwork or the moment the artist “recorded” for us to reflect upon. This is where the practice of mindfulness can be experienced. Stevens says this about our mental process: “Within the very same moment, there is probably an underlying mood that affects your state of mind. A part of you may be thinking about an email you need to answer, while another part of you sees or hears something that sparks a memory. This mental static dims our mind’s potential, the layers upon layers of ‘mind stuff’ scatters our attention, and like a hamster on a wheel, we become locked in perpetual mind chatter. Opportunities that break the patterns of thinking (yoga, meditation, art observation) open us up to the richness of the moment and all its possibilities.”
Here at the Museum, museum educator Amy Korpieski and I use mindfulness techniques in our educational practices to help visitors of all ages have deep experiences in the galleries. Mindfulness, similar to meditation, can reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and deepen empathy with others. We thought it would be beneficial to use our galleries in a guided practice of mindfulness. Even though we cannot physically be in the galleries, we thought we could bring a work of art to you through a digital platform and guided mindfulness experience. We invite you to check here each Monday and join us for a mindful moment with art.
– Annette Eshelman, Curator of Education