I love art. We can all appreciate some type of art as it is a reflection of the things that make us human. For myself, as a person with a passion for sketching since I’ve been able to hold a pencil, I have always appreciated the incredible amount of skill required to create realism from splotches of pigment using brushes on a two-dimensional surface. Now the artist who selects subject matter that evokes deep and profound feelings, is nothing short of a magician. I remember being in the Smithsonian Museum of Art and witnessing a woman moved to tears while looking at a painting on a wall. Whatever she saw, tapped into her soul the way certain literature and poetry does for me.
And now for the book. I confess I bought Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Paintings to Change the Way You Live because the title implied content that would target art teachers in my school building; I didn’t imagine that this would be the impactful, mindfulness lesson it proved to be for me. Like all truly wonderful books, this one has shifted my perception; of art slightly, and of life tremendously. Such a simple but profound analogy! Gaze upon the seemingly small, insignificant moments of life as you would stop and gaze at works of art with mindful appreciation.
How it this done? Using paintings of a variety of styles and spanning historical and geographical time periods, the author teaches valuable mindfulness lessons. With each painting, the author invites the reader to perceive the big picture first, then literally zooms in on details which bring a deeper meaning. Quotes and actual instructions (lessons) also accompany each insightful analysis. My favorite of which is when the author invites the reader to literally halt before physically turning the page of the book in order to physically check in.
Instructions and lessons include the importance of immersive awareness, during which you attempt to “feel without thinking,” the importance of listening as a means of gaining presence, and allowing and acknowledging painful feelings like sorrow or anger. A topic of particular interest to me is the author’s addressing of the quality of attention and how today’s society bombards us with fast-moving, flashy, irrelevant content. This, which the author refers to as a “psychotoxic environment,” has the ability to not only rob us from fully experiencing the present, but can in fact significantly damage our well-being.
The challenge, as I’ve been learning daily during my personal quest to live mindfully, is to remember to consciously employ these mindful living lessons. In a gallery, art on the walls is motionless and the placement in the gallery invites undistracted contemplation. Real life moves by quickly and catching all of the beauty and nuance requires attention, attention which can only be achieved by mindful moment-to-moment awareness characterized by freedom of distracting, biased thoughts.
I was delightfully surprised to find this book to be, for me, the most enjoyable series of lessons on mindful living yet. Andre succeeds in conveying deep ideas both clearly and beautifully. Stay tuned for a review of his follow-up, Happiness: 25 Ways to Live Joyfully Through Art.
Purchase on Amazon: