Exploring the Art of Meditation at the Parrish Art Museum

Julie Sacks, founder of Vie Wellbeing, will host a meditation experience using the Parrish’s artwork for inspiration. Dana Shaw photo.

Let’s face it, it’s been a tough year and a half for us all with shifting business models and lifestyles due to COVID-19, which has brought drastic changes that no one could have foreseen in late 2019.

For healthy living expert Julie Sacks, who, in 2020, relocated from New York City to Wainscott with her husband and 6-year-old son Jack to ride out the pandemic, adjusting to a new way of life has been full of challenges.

That includes not only finding a new school for Jack (he recently began first grade at Sag Harbor Elementary) but also reimagining what had been her in-person based wellness business that served the minds, bodies and souls of clients in the city.

“I’m creating a whole new program, like a mediation subscription, with a library of more spoken offerings,” Sacks explained of her new bespoke company, Vie Wellbeing. “I’m taking people on very intimate journeys based on what their needs are and using mediation in that way.”

Julie Sacks, founder of Vie Wellbeing, outside the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. Beginning October 8, Sacks will host a four-session meditation experience using the Parrish’s artwork for inspiration. Dana Shaw photo.

Another way Sacks is promoting the benefits of meditation in a more in-person venue is through the use of art. Beginning Friday, October 8, Sacks will offer “Art + Meditation,” four weekly meditation sessions at the Parrish Art Museum that will tap into the works on view in order to help people relax, reconnect and reflect on what’s happening in their own lives.

“When I became a mediation teacher, just before my son was born, I actually did an art and meditation program at the Parrish for a few weeks,” said Sacks. “What I found was it was really powerful.”

Sacks has discovered that even people who have never before meditated are able to benefit from the artistic sessions. She explains that the meditations will take place at 10 a.m. — an hour before the museum opens to the public — when participants will be invited to walk through the galleries in silence in search of a specific piece of art that speaks to them.

“It could be a sculpture, a painting — anything. When you have something that catches your eye, the idea is to really look at and see it,” said Sacks. “I’ve found in my experience, I’d rush around a museum and not really see it. So I’m asking you to take your time to look at every brush stroke.”

After studying the chosen artwork in silence, Sacks will gently tap participants on the shoulder to indicate it’s time to return to a seated position in the terrace area outside the museum where she will lead the group in guided meditation.

“I’ll take them through breathing, into calming the body then into visualization and mediation from there,” she explained. “We’ll probably be spending maybe 10 minutes in mediation at most. I know for a lot of people, that sounds like a long time, but it’s really not. They’ll say ‘That was half an hour? It felt like two minutes.’ I’m holding your hand through the process, so it’s all guided. You’ll have moments where you are on your own, but you can go into a deeper experience.

“I take you to that place and use mediation so you see the work in your mind and what you think the piece is trying to communicate,” added Sacks. “It’s really powerful.”

Sacks also asks people to share their experience with the group, though she admits, often they don’t and prefer to approach her privately afterwards to tell her what happened.

“The first time I did this, I had a woman who had never mediated before who said, ‘I thought this was a sculpture of a bird. But I am going through this awful divorce and haven’t been able move on and feel free. In meditation. I saw it as my freedom,’” said Sacks. “I thought if we can do that in one session, it’s amazing.”

Sacks adds that like many things in life, including wine, art is so subjective that it can be something different for everybody. And like art or wine, Sacks has found there are many places where meditation can be used to help people tap into their internal lives.

The Parrish Art Museum invites you to give meditation a go with its new sessions offered by Julie Sacks. Photo courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

“Once you know how to meditate — breath, mantra, visualization — and once you have the basics, you can incorporate anything,” she said. “I’ve done classes at Wölffer Vineyard. It’s really incorporating things that make people feel good and you can really do it anywhere. I think people think it has to be a dark, room but it doesn’t.

“I was attracted to the Parrish because it has the gorgeous outdoor space and brings in that part of the experience,” Sacks added. “Nature is healing and the art was a natural extension of that. It’s another way that speaks to people.”

And like art appreciation, Sacks finds mediation to be an entirely personal journey.

“Like anything in wellness, what we experience depends on what we’re working on, where we are in life and our life experiences,” she said. “What you will feel is a sense of relaxation and support. My hope is you’ll come out feeling amazing and not only say I feel great, but I’m seeing art in a way I perhaps never saw it before.

“So put the phone down and experience something different. Once you learn the basic skill, you can do it on your own. Set an intention and off you go.”

“Art + Meditation,” a series of four classes offered by Julie Sacks, meets at the Parrish Art Museum from 10 to 11 a.m. on Fridays, beginning October 8. Attend one class or all four. Sessions are earmarked for Parrish members, but membership is free for Southampton and Tuckahoe school district residents, and affordable for everyone else. Members who attend may bring a guest. The Parrish Art Museum is at 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill. For more information, visit parrishart.org.