The Asia Society's current exhibit, 'Golden Visions of Densatil: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery,' has allowed its curators to foray into unconventional areas of contemplative practices. Along with the exhibit, visitors have the opportunity to view a sand mandala and partake in a free meditation session -- experiences that leave one with a sense of beauty, reflection and mindfulness.
A day after the opening of the Densatil exhibit, the Asia Society commissioned monks to create a Tibetan sand mandala. The monks, who came together from various parts of the country, worked painstakingly over five days to create a colorful three-dimensional, geometric mandala which traditionally is believed to house the Buddha.
Hun Lye, a Tibetan monk who has a doctorate in religious studies, explained that sand mandalas are traditionally created in religious settings. But being that they share the same lineage with the Densatil Monastery i.e., they both belong to the Drigung Kagyu School of Buddhism, the monks decided to make an exception and create this mandala in a secular setting.
Lye said that the primary reason for creating a mandala is not just to demonstrate the Buddhist quality of impermanence but also to increase qualities of compassion, loving kindness, patience, joy and wisdom in the world.
In addition to the mandala, the Society in April began offering weekly 30-minute Mindfulness Awareness sessions. These sessions led by Patricia Bloom, M.D., an Associate Professor of Geriatrics and Director of Integrative Health at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, focused on introducing participants to meditation. Bloom, who was trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and yoga, said that there exists scientific evidence proving that mindfulness is beneficial in ailing a gamut of physical, psychological and social problems like reducing pain, preventing memory decline and improving life quality.
Arianna Huffington, president of the Huffington Post and author of Thrive shares this ideology. At a recent two day conference at New York's City Center entitled, 'Thrive: A Third Metric Live Event,' Huffington explained that the relentless pursuit of money and power among today's masses has created an epidemic of burnout, sleep deprivation and stress-related illnesses. She believes that mindfulness and yoga are instrumental to regaining our mental balance and are necessary to fulfill the third metric in our lives: well being, wisdom and wonder.
Each of Bloom's sessions have focussed on a different theme, but they all begin with the ringing of Tingsha bells. Then in a soothing, soft and relaxed voice, Bloom helps participants clear their minds of all thoughts. So far her sessions have covered aspects of loving kindness and stress reduction.
She believes this practice is especially helpful for busy New Yorkers.
"Whenever I ask my audience a question as to who is stressed, it seems that everybody raises their hand. At a recent memorial the daughters of the deceased mother reported to me that their mother's mindfulness practice helped her find peace during the last stages of life."
Kudos to the Asia Society for offering these sessions.