“Integrative meditations are these really powerful ways for us to start to discern the difference between our experience and our awareness of experience,” Lewis explained. “Once you start to notice the part of yourself that is witnessing the experience, you really start having the power to become present in the moment.”
“You’re actually seeing what is in front of you and you’re noticing things that you might not have,” she continued. As I sat in the sculpture garden, my mind wandered upstairs, back to the Water Lilies. They felt new, unencumbered by the associations that have cropped up around them. The social media posts and consumer products became background, irrelevant to the work, in the same way the shriek of a horn and revving of engines outside MoMA fell away during meditation.
Art history courses teach you to examine art with your mind; every bit of canvas can be subject to analysis and criticism. An upbringing in the social media age teaches you to look at art with the eyes of everyone but yourself. Which colors will look good with what filter? What part of the exhibit should I story?
Art too often becomes something to be consumed—either by Instagram feeds or analysis. By this logic, I had already “consumed” the Water Lilies. But meditation foregrounded the experiential part of viewing art. Monet’s work became not the masterpiece it’s been branded and idolized as, but a mere assemblage of pigments dancing across a canvas. Perhaps it’s better that way.
MoMA’s “Quiet Morning” was not quiet at all. But amidst the noise came clarity—an engaged art experience can happen anywhere. Even, perhaps, while dodging selfie sticks in front of Starry Night
(1889) on MoMA’s free Friday nights. Even as a baby in a stroller screams back
painting. Even in front of those damn Water Lilies