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Week 12 | A Convincing Argument and Surprising New Way to Meditate

Beneath Ai Wei Wei's Tree #11

(Audio Guide)

I will admit, I am new to this meditation thing. With noted benefits that sitting still with yourself allows for anti-aging, reduced stress, increased self awareness, and more, I have been trying to incorporate this practice into my day to day, admittedly with definite inconsistency.

I came across an article in Artsy and a study out of NIH that I thought I would share - both provide convincing argument and offer variations in practice that have persuaded me - and hopefully you - to somehow soothe a way into more consistency.

A Variation In Practice: Meditating with Art

An article recently ran in Artsy that argued for sitting in front of one piece of art for an hour.

The piece described how writer, Peter Clothier blended his work as an art critic with his love of meditation by offering, one hour + one painting sessions at museums in LA; “In our overly busy, 21st-century lives”, Peter explains for Artsy, “there is a growing call for time and space to slow down for long enough to rest in rapt attention to something of value and importance, and to offer the mind the relaxation and refreshment that it sorely needs”. And so he created one hour + one painting classes; “The process is simple”, Peter goes on, “I spend a few minutes at the start introducing the blend of meditation and contemplation skills that participants will need, using the breath as the anchor for attention and the means to bring [the mind] back when it begins to wander. Then, we launch into alternating periods of open-eye contemplation of the painting on the wall in front of us, and closed-eye internalization of what it is we’ve seen. I [hope] that others will be moved to try it for themselves” (Artsy).

Taking In Art Effects Cognitive Abilities

The science seems to support Clothier. Taking the time to appreciate art has been proven to affect cognitive abilities.

In a study done to measure the effects examining art had on medical students', “physical examination skills”, results showed that those participants who frequented fine art and observed and contemplated artworks in meaningful ways, increased sophistication in their descriptions of clinical imagery” (NIH). That is, participants improved their visual acumen and were able to observe and decipher real life findings more accurately if they participated in some sort of artful immersion on the side. The benefits of taking the time to appreciate art are transferable and add to the sophistication of the mind.

If you want to take it a step further, creating art does even more wonders for the mind; “Recent research suggests that to starve off cognitive decline, doing creative activities may be more effective than merely appreciating creative works“ (Harvard). Research supports that creating art, relieves stress, it encourages creative thinking, it increase self esteem, it increases brain connectivity and plasticity, it makes children better students, encourages empathy, tolerance and feelings of love, and it eases the burdens of chronic health conditions among many other things" (Be Brain Fit).

There are clear links that taking in art and further creating art is good for the mind and can sharpen cognitive abilities. Time to fit in a visit to your favorite museum or art gallery? I think so.

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