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How museums are offering meditation and mindfulness sessions

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The popularity of mindfulness and meditation have grown exponentially in recent years. Whether it’s our unfathomably busy schedules that are piling on the pressure or the frenetic nature of modern life in general, switching off and enjoying life at a slower pace has provided a saving grace for countless individuals.

As a nation, we’re taking time away from our screens and dedicating more of our schedules to finding the calm that keeps us all collected in face of modern day struggles. Using art and culture as prescription is no new thing, but with cultural institutions and creative spaces reopening their doors to the public post-lockdown, we’re realising the benefits of these quieter, more soothing experiences.

How meditation and mindfulness work

Meditation and mindfulness are widespread practices which have long been used to enhance physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. During times of crisis, practising meditation and mindfulness can have powerful results, delivering mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and showing notable improvements in the management of depression and anxiety.

Research shows that mindfulness has also been effective in the management of pain and physical discomfort. It has been practised as a method of pain relief by Buddhist monks for thousands of years. More recently, the power of meditation has been scientifically proven, with participants reporting reductions of 40% in pain intensity and 57% in pain unpleasantness in one study.

Mindfulness meditation works by slowing down the thought process, being present, and paying more attention to everything from our thoughts and feelings to the world around us. It can lower stress, combat anxiety, manage emotions, promote kindness, and enhance self-awareness. It has even been found to improve concentration and memory skills.

Meditation in the museum

Museum and gallery visits have become powerful tools for relieving the modern day pressures and mental health issues we all feel on varying levels.

People are visiting to not only indulge their thirst for deeper, broader knowledge, but to calm their fears, centre themselves and gain perspective. Around the world, meditation and mindfulness sessions being run by many institutions are proving particularly popular as a result.

Cultural institutions and creative spaces are prime locations to pay more attention to the present, wander at a slower pace, and reconnect with oneself. Museums are putting more resources into mindfulness and meditation to help visitors better connect with the beauty around them and within. Visitors of all ages and abilities are feeling the effects, with exhibits, interactive activities, workshops and projects helping to cater and care for individuals.

Visitors are learning the skills they need to be more mindful, with programmes focused on mindfulness, meditation and mental health support uncovering strategies that can be practised every single day.

Mindfulness in motion

Mindfulness and meditation are being applied to a varied programme of workshops, events and projects across museums around the globe.

Manchester Art Gallery is just one of the institutions that engages visitors in art and mindfulness to improve wellbeing. As well as the gallery space being adapted to ensure a more positive influence on the state of mind, Manchester Art Gallery regularly runs mindfulness drop-ins to connect with visitors and enrich mental health on an individual level.

NYC based Rubin Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington D.C. offer similar examples of programmes that are enhancing wellbeing via regular mindfulness and meditation sessions.

The Rubin Museum of Art has even taken their mindfulness sessions online. The museum hosts 45-minute-long, live mindfulness meditation programs influenced by age-old Himalayan practices and guided by teachers, and access is free for members.

The National Museum of Asian Art runs free-of-charge public programmes both online and off to explore the art of mindfulness and meditation. Their sessions are inspired by museum collections and explore the deep rooted role of both mindfulness and meditation in Asian spiritual traditions.

In the UK, Mindfulness Mondays are being used in museums across the country to guide visitors on their own mindful journeys. Canterbury Museums and Galleries focus on promoting mindfulness in children aged between 5 and 14 to spark an interest in the management of better mental health and wellbeing from an early age.

Whether museum visitors are looking for a grounding in meditation or are already on the quest to enlightenment, presenting mindfulness in motion within gallery and museum settings provides the ultimate interactive experience.

Find out more about the health and wellbeing issues currently impacting museums at the upcoming Museums, Health and Wellbeing Summit, running 31st January – 2nd February 2022.

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