“Look slowly. Clear your head. Silence your phone. Get inspired.” These were the instructions handed to me on a green piece of paper as I entered New York City’s Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. this week.
On the first Wednesday of every month, “Quiet Mornings” at the MoMA gives New Yorkers a chance to start their day with a little tranquility. From 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., visitors can explore selected galleries in silence and then join a 30-minute guided meditation in The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.
As I made my way through the museum it was clear that the meditation started before the crowd gathered in the sculpture garden. I watched as people roamed around the galleries, carefully and slowly appreciating each piece of art. It was a rare chance, especially at the MoMA, to connect with another person’s creation without any interjections or distractions.
The formal meditation began at 8:30 a.m. and was led by this month’s teacher, Sah D’Simone. Sah guided our breath and within a few seconds, 50 strangers were breathing in perfect unison.
Meditation is a practice of observing and accepting whatever’s happening at the moment, but that’s easy to forget when you’re hearing sirens and construction rather than running rivers and bird songs. Bringing the sounds and energy of New York into my meditation reminded me that it’s possible to find stillness in the middle of chaos. Whenever sounds or activity interrupted my meditation, I had the choice either to get frustrated or to be curious about the experience—what exactly is bothering me? How do I know it’s bothering me? What does it feel like? When we choose to be curious, we don’t actually have to block out the crowds and the noise to center ourselves.
After a morning like this, I went into my day feeling a little more grounded and connected to the city and people around me. My rush hour commute to work didn’t bother me and by the time I got to the office I felt focused and energized.
I could feel my sense of calm dwindle as the day went on, so I made an effort to regain it whenever I could. Devoting my full attention to a few sips of tea or my walk to the bathroom or my food at lunch was enough to help me recognize and appreciate the moment I was in. Starting my morning with a bit of gratitude and mindfulness helped me approach my day with a little more purpose and poise.