Claude Monet, Irises, 1914-17

For my first post on mindfulness in London, I decided to look for a non-traditional way of practicing mindfulness. I used to work near the National Gallery, and always loved visiting its grand rooms full of beautiful paintings on my lunch break.

So, what does visiting a museum have to do with the practice of mindfulness? To practice mindfulness is to fully engage with the present moment in a spirit of non-judgemental curiosity, to bring a heightened sense of awareness to your current physical and mental state and your immediate external environment.

Adults in western society typically spend the majority of their time analysing the past or planning for the future. To practice mindfulness is to consciously step outside of these thought patterns and engage with the present moment in order to enrich our current experience.

Looking at a beautiful painting is a fantastic way to practice mindfulness: particularly paintings that allow us to reconnect with nature. Philosopher Alain de Botton even argues that in a secular society art and culture could replace the role of organised religion, in providing us with a chance to think, reflect and understand life better: watch his ‘Sunday Sermon’ here.

Room 43 of the National Gallery houses paintings by French impressionist Claude Monet. Monet’s water lillies are particularly good subjects for mindfulness: they are colourful, peaceful, natural and beautiful – a sight for sore eyes after staring at a computer screen all week.

Monet created many works throughout his life, but in 1883 when he moved to a house in Giverny with a huge garden and water lily pond, he began to focus almost exclusively on paintings of water lilies, irises and a Japanese bridge that he had built especially for the garden.


Claude Monet, The Water-Lily Pond, 1899

In his book on Monet, Christoph Heinrich describes Monet’s relationship with his garden: “It was his peaceful realm, a place of meditation, hot in the sun, with dragon flies flitting about and frogs plopping into the water if they were disturbed where they rested amid the reeds.”

Not all of Monet’s garden paintings are on display at the National Gallery: quite a few of them are currently in US galleries. Of the paintings that are in Room 43, my favourite is Water-Lillies, Setting Sun, but I would recommend that you visit the gallery and decide which one you like best!


Claude Monet, Water-Lillies, Setting Sun, 1907