Posted February 19, 2020
By ALEXIS WIENER
Samantha Shapiro forgets to eat in between classes, studies in the library for hours on end, and completes her many internship obligations. Not to mention trying to balance her social life on top of it all, the pressure can be overwhelming.
The University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum is trying to bring mindfulness to the everyday stressed-out lives of students, staff and outside community but bringing peace and serenity through art and relaxation.
The practice of mindfulness is a movement that was first brought to the United States by John Kabat-Zinn. On Miami’s campus, you can find different mindfulness programs, like in the Wellness Center or Richter library.
About a year ago, the Lowe Art Museum began offering mindfulness programs. One is a more traditional mindfulness practice and the other is being mindful looking. Students and staff are encouraged to go to learn about and practice being present in the moment and slowing down their busy minds.
Mindful looking is held in any of the different galleries, like the African or Glass exhibitions. A group of about 15 people will visit and everyone sits in front of a work of art and will do a short mindfulness practice with their eyes closed. After keeping their eyes closed, they open them and practice focusing all their attention on the work of art.
A discussion then happens after each aft work until time is up. This is led by two of the four pioneers of the program, Jodi Sypher and Hope Torrents.
Sypher, who is also the education curator at the Lowe, found this program to be extremely beneficial to herself as well as the people she is leading.
“If it wasn’t for this mindfulness every Tuesday, I’m not sure if be so diligent in my practice.”
The more traditional mindfulness practice is held in the front of the museum in the room with glass walls. The group is then taken on a mindfulness journey of meditation and inner reflection without the use of any artwork. This is then led by the other two founders, Scott Rodgers and Alice Lash.
Lash not only leads this program, but she also runs “Mindfultime” a mindfulness meditation studio in South Miami. She dedicates her time to teaching these important tools to others and believes strongly in this practice.
“Mindfulness is important because, when practiced regularly, it gives us the ability to cultivate emotional balance. Instead of being unnecessarily reviewing things that have already happened, or fast forwarding into the future and thinking about things that haven’t yet happened, or may never happen, we are better able to live in the present and feel a greater sense of calm,” she explained.
Sypher and the other leaders are really into health and wellness and found that being in a museum can be very relaxing and good for a person’s health. With such a hyperactive world, everyone is stressed out, especially on campus. Being able to bring some peace and relaxation for 45 minutes is something they really seek.
“The whole idea is to practice being in the present moment. It’s not about controlling your thoughts, it’s about noticing your thoughts and paying more attention to yourself, your mind and your body. You can practice mindfulness anywhere,” Sypher said walking through the different galleries.
Senior Dalia Paskin is a frequent visitor to the museum and attends the mindful looking program when she feels like she is overwhelmed.
“I first heard about this program because it was required we go to something at the Lowe for class assignment. I decided to attend the mindful looking program and actually got a lot out of it. From then on, whenever I felt like school and work was becoming too much, I went to the program and was able to calm down and focus on myself,” she said.
Many people enjoy practicing mindfulness because it gives them a sense of peace.
“Mindfulness impacts those who practice it by reducing stress and anxiety and helping us to be present for moments of joy, which we might otherwise miss, and helping us to realize we have the capacity to be with difficult moments,” Lash stated.
This educational program is free of charge. A great thing for the attendees but it puts a much heavier burden on the leaders. Funding has always been the top issue and continues to create problems for them.
“It is up to me to try and look for a grant. It shouldn’t be that much, but it would be nice to give Alice and Scott some money as well as if we had funding we could pay for promotion,” Sypher said.
Promotion is key when trying to attract more people, but without funding their promotional methods are very limited and not just with this specific program but for the other many things done at the Lowe. Their social media presence is also limited due to the number of followers they have.
“It’s tough you know; you can’t leave fliers and the video screens are expensive. It’s a free program, we don’t have sponsorships. We put it on our websites and Facebook, and we are emailing it out to our email list, but if you’re not on it you’re not getting it so,” Sypher said.
Mindfulness is just one of the many free programs at the Lowe. Others include Lowe After Hours, which is free music, food, drinks and art Thursday, Feb. 6 and March 8, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Along with Collage Making: The Art of Playing with Images, which is Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020 from noon to 3 p.m.
Without funding, it could be possible that the museum will have to cut back on some of these programs, which would be upsetting to the many people who love all that the Lowe has to offer.