Unwind With These Free, Museum-Led Meditation and Mindfulness Sessions

The Rubin Museum of Art and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art offer an array of relaxing experiences

National Museum of Asian Art Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
The National Museum of Asian Art's Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, from the Alice S. Kandell Collection Arthur M. Sackler Gallery / Gift from Alice S. Kandell

After weeks—or months—of sheltering in place, many stuck inside are feeling decidedly devoid of inner peace. Luckily, thanks to an array of online offerings announced by shuttered cultural institutions, options for unwinding abound. Among the most relaxing experiences available: meditation and mindfulness sessions led by the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C.

Per the Rubin’s website, the Manhattan museum’s “Daily Offering” video series is inspired by its collection of Himalayan art and artifacts. Featuring ten-minute reflections, guided meditations and musical offerings, the sessions aim to help participants “achieve greater balance at a moment of considerable upheaval.”

The Rubin posts new episodes on its Instagram account and website each day it would ordinarily be open to the public (Thursday through Monday). Sessions feature wellness tips from anthropologist and Tibetan medical doctor Tawni Tidwell, guided meditations led by teachers Sharon Salzberg and Kate Johnson, commentary by philosopher Tenzin Priyadarshi, and performances by musicians from the Brooklyn Raga Massive collective, among others.

The National Museum of Asian Art, meanwhile, is hosting 30-minute online workshops on meditation and mindfulness, in addition to highlighting a wide array of online tours, podcasts and virtual exhibitions. Held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Eastern time, the free Zoom classes are “appropriate for all levels of practitioners.” Per the museum’s website, sessions strive to help participants “build a relationship to a place of inner quietude.”

2 hours of chanting in a Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room for meditation and concentration

If these shorter practices whet your appetite for uninterrupted hours of contemplation, consider visiting virtual versions of the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Rooms housed at the Rubin and the National Museum of Asian Art. Accompanied by traditional Buddhist chanting, the interactive experiences feature 360-degree views of the sumptuous real-life spaces, as well as annotated artifact histories.

The Rubin’s “Daily Offerings” begin with a curator walking viewers through calming, focused analysis and observation of one of the more than 3,800 objects in the museum’s collection. The offerings then shift into a mindfulness practice led by teachers, artists or musicians.

Below, find a selection of highlights from the daily video series.

“Take One Breath”

The Rubin Daily Offering Week 1 Ep1: Take One Breath with Sharon Salzberg and Green Tara

As Katie White reports for artnet News, the museum’s first episode centers on Tara, the most important female figure in Buddhism. Dawn Eshelman, the Rubin’s head of programs, introduces viewers to the deity, who attained enlightenment but decided to stay on Earth in hopes of helping others free themselves from suffering. Salzberg, speaking in voiceover as the video frames a 13th-century sculpture of Tara, then leads a grounding meditation that urges viewers to remember to breathe.

“Tibetan Medicine”

The Rubin Daily Offering Week 2 Ep1:Tibetan Medicine with Tawni Tidwell | Exploring Tibetan Medicine

Tawni Tidwell is a biocultural anthropologist trained in Tibetan medicine. According to the museum’s website, she is the “the first Westerner to have formally completed her Tibetan medical education in a Tibetan institution alongside Tibetan peers.” This episode finds Tidwell focusing on a deceptively simple wellness practice: drinking hot water. In addition to promoting healthy digestion, she says, viewers may simply enjoy the calming practice of inhaling some steam.

“Embracing Listening”

The Rubin Daily Offering Week 3 Ep4: Embracing Listening with Kate Johnson

In this episode, the museum’s chief experience officer, Jamie Lawyer, introduces a painting of Milarepa, a famous Tibetan poet and yogi. Johnson then leads a meditation inspired by Milarepa’s pose in the painting: a cupped ear ready to listen. The meditation seeks to help viewers deepen and expand their ability to listen, encouraging them to make themselves available to those in need of a compassionate ear.

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