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Mindful : April 2013
now What They Don’t Teach at the Academy STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES No, really. 1) Locate a flower in field of vision. 2) Stop. 3) Lean in and sniff. Find more on Twitter @mindinterrupter Looking at Art, Art Looks at You Performance artist Marina Abramović did something revo- lutionar y three years ago at the Museum of Modern Ar t in New York: she just sat there. Museumgoers who came for this living exhibit—where the ar tist sat in the same chair, in the same position, six days a week, seven-and-a -half hours a day, from March through May 2010—were invited to sit opposite Abramović and stare into her eyes. That’s it. Nothing else happened. Except a lot more. People lined up to see and to be seated. Some who sat across from Abramović were moved to tears. (To see for yourself, search Marina Abramović Made Me Cry.) And now, in case you weren’t one of the 750,000 who checked out the “charismatic space,” or the 1,565 people who waited—some for hours— to encounter Abramović at MoMA , there’s Marina Abramović: The Ar tist Is Pres- ent, a documentar y that char ts the per formance and offers a retrospective of her work. “Put your mind here and now, and then something emotional opens,” Abramović says in the film. “If you are per forming in that way, you are there 100%. The emotional moment arrives for everybody. There is no way out. Ever ybody feels it. The hardest thing is to do something close to nothing. It demands all of you because there is no stor y to tell, no objects to hide behind.” Matthew Akers, the docu- mentar y’s director, told Mind- ful, “I think it forced people to look at themselves. It was like that for me. We so often find ways to hide from ourselves and not meditate on what it means to be alive and in the present. That’s what triggered a lot of those tears.” Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present, produced by Music Box and HBO Documentary Films, is now available on DVD. The ar tist also recently collaborated with avant-garde theater director Rober t Wilson on a project called The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, which will have its Nor th American premiere June 14 to 17 in Toronto. Abramović’s Institute for the Preser vation of Performance Art, in Hudson, New York, will open in 2014. ● Imagine you’re a police officer heading to an emergency call. You’ve been trained to be prepared for any situ- ation. As you rush to the scene, you run through a range of scenarios. “In your mind, you’re always heading into the worst-case scenario,” says Alice Duncan, who was on the Fort Collins, Colorado, police force for 10 years. “You ask yourself, what could happen? Then you back yourself down. That process starts creating unending stress.” Over the five years that Lisa Wimberg- er, a Denver-based trainer, has taught police and emergency workers mindful- ness practices, she has seen firsthand the deep damage that stress inflicts on those we send into harm’s way. She has helped more than 700 first respond- ers—police, military, Secret Service, FBI, and Homeland Security—perceive stress more effectively, identify early signs of post-traumatic stress, gain perspective during crisis, and steer clear of dysfunc- tional patterns. Wimberger’s course star ts with a short routine that’s enough to convince skeptical officers that some mind training might help. “I simply ask them to visual- ize something highly threatening, and their adrenaline spikes,” she says. “Then, I say, ‘Okay, you’ve turned stress on. This course shows you how to turn it off.’” Through discussion about how the brain works and guided meditation, officers learn to understand better how their neuromuscular system responds to thoughts they’re forming. Having benefited from this training, Alice Duncan says mindfulness helps police “be prepared for any scenario, but also back down from that heightened level in everyday life.” The key to getting police officers to try techniques such as medita- tion is to present them in police talk. “Like ‘ tactical’ mindfulness,” Duncan jokes. “Anything tactical, cops like.” ● OVERHEARD “Breathe! And ask yourself where your attention is directed. These two simple acts, taken together, are your first steps, and powerful levers for bringing your attention to social media under control.” Howard Rheingold, in his book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online Marina Abramović sits opposite a museumgoer during The Artist Is Present exhibit at MoMA in 2010. 16 mindful April 2013 PHOTOGRAPHBYSCOTTRUDD Illustration by Malin Rosenqvist