We’re working in New York at the moment delivering positive psychology sessions with Spotify and other companies in the States so it was a happy coincidence when we were contacted by the US based IAAPA ‘Funworld’ magazine. After hearing about our ‘Meditation in the Museum’ sessions with the V&A they wanted to know if we’d like to write a piece about practicing mindfulness in museums . Did we need any persuasion to head over to the Guggenheim and get our zen on? We think not. Take 5 and grab a cup of hot stuff, here’s what happened when we practiced mindfulness in the Guggenheim along with our guide to mindfulness in museums. Here are our top tips for how to practice mindfulness in museums.
Museums offer us the perfect environment to be mindful, a space away from the hum of the city to savour and reflect. Sometimes we’re tempted to rush around, ticking every single exhibit off our ‘List’. Nothing wrong with that but think of mindfulness as an opportunity to be present in the exhibition.
Start by thinking of museums as spaces to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’. Turn your tech off and disconnect from the pressures of everyday life. Leave your preconceptions at the door and approach each piece with a beginners mind. Start your journey into mindfulness with a blank canvas. That’s just what we did at the Guggenheim, Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘temple of the spirit’. There was something almost sacred about leaving the noise and heat of Fifth Avenue, entering the smooth, cool, white, cylindrical space of the Guggenheim. Seated, we paused for a while, observing the flow of people moving along the spiralled levels under the luminescence of the skylight. And yes, for film fans, it was impossible not to conjure images of that famous shoot out scene in The International where a life-sized replica of the Guggenheim was shot to pieces.
We walked through the Danish artist Danh Vo’s ‘Take My Breath Away’ exhibition surveying photographs, letters, paper dresses and assorted images addressing cultural and political themes. Vo’s projects represent various layers of meaning in the world and with each level of the museum’s narrowing spiral we were met by a new object ranging from chandeliers, suitcases, wooden crates and refrigerators. The perfect playground to practice mindfulness.
How to practice mindfulness in a museum
Enjoy those carefully curated collections and really notice what is in front of you; textures, colours, light, darkness, symbolism, warmth, brush strokes, aromas, cool tones and shapes.
Notice your physical landscape
Practice mindfulness by observing your reactions to each exhibit, connecting to the internal landscape of your senses. Notice your breath, observe how your senses respond, what is happening in your body. Alllow yourself to focus on your emotional reaction to what you see. Do you notice any preferences? Joy? Sadness? Elation? Shock? Revulsion? What does a piece evoke for you?
What’s happening around you?
Notice the noises in the space of the museum, the echo of voices, the volume of the people around you, how you react to those noises, do they sound near or far away? Is the space silent? Do the noises vibrate? And then switch back to your inner world again. Are you feeling calm or hurried? Focus on the subtle shifts in your perception as you move through the museum, you really are in a tailor made environment to be mindful.
If you’d like to know more about practicing mindfulness take a look at our huge range of free resources including e-books, podcasts, guided meditations and toolkits. Thinking of holding mindfulness at work sessions? Get in touch, we’ve worked with a number of organisations including Spotify, UK Sport, the V&A, Lancaster University’s Bennington Leadership Programme and more, we’d love to work with you too so drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org