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“The top floor, 33 foot high gallery is an intentionally unconventional shape. . .it is a provocation for artists and curators to engage for site specific installations.”
—Steven Holl, Forking Time
Ashley Williams is the founder and owner of BareSOUL Yoga & Wellness and a Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) with 11 years experience in the fields of education, behavioral and mental health and community programming. She is dedicated to developing accessible yoga and mindfulness programs that transform institutions to promote social change, improve individual awareness and collective well-being. BareSOUL Yoga & Wellness is a community-based business with a mission to bridge yoga, education and community to cultivate a diverse, accessible experience that provides balance to the mind, body and SOUL for the greater impact. Our vision is to bring yoga and mindfulness practices to community spaces by making it accessible to local businesses, corporations, school systems, households, and community organizations to transform the climate and culture of the community.
Welcome to Mindfulness at the Institute for Contemporary Art. I am Ashley Williams, a yoga therapist, meditation practitioner, and founder of BareSOUL Yoga and Wellness. I will be guiding you through a series of meditations exploring four of the many underlying principles that Steven Holl Architects uses to create built environments like the ICA’s Markel Center.
As you prepare, I invite you to practice focused attention and mindful awareness. Take a moment to clear your space of any non-essential objects.
Interiority is a design that emphasizes the interior space of a building. This meditation will invite mindful awareness into your internal world of your physical space. As you begin to settle, find a comfortable seated position. Allow your feet to plant solid and grounded onto the space beneath you. Allow your sit bones to root down into its support. Allow the spine to lengthen and when you find your comfortable space, invite your eyes to close or find a downward gaze.
Begin to take a few deep breath. Allow your mind to begin to clear. Allow your awareness to begin to heighten. Simply breathe slowly and calmly, taking your time with each breath. With each breath, allow the sounds, and the sensations of the breath begin to be your one pointed focus for this moment. Begin to let any external sounds that take place around you begin to cease and to begin to fade into the background. Begin to bring your awareness internally.
Allow your breath to flow at its own pace, allowing each breath to come as it may, without any conscious effort to change the movement, the flow or the length of your breathing. Allow this to be an exercise of observing the sound and sensation of your breath.
During this practice we will complete an internal body scan, and observe each part of our body passively, just noticing, without the need to make any changes or to cause anything to occur. You can simply watch and take note of any changes that may happen on your own without any effort to take any part in it. As we begin, continue to allow the sound and the sensation of the breath to be your focus.
Begin to turn your attention to your toes, the space in which the feet land. As you focus on this area, simply notice how the internal space of the toes, the feet, the heels, and the ankle feel at this moment. Begin to bring awareness and concentrate onto your right foot. Noticing the space of your right foot without trying to change anything at all. Move your attention to your left foot, noticing how the left foot feels, not trying to change anything at all. Observe both feet. How does the internal space of your feet feel? Notice its temperature. Can you feel anything touching your feet? Notice how the internal space of your feet feel — heavy, light, loose, tight. Make these passive observations, you are simply an observer, not providing any input, simply observing.
Continue the internal body scan up into the lower leg, passively noticing the space of your shins, the space of your calves. Feeling the internal space of this area. Allowing yourself to breathe openly and gently. Allow yourself to be an observer of what takes place in this internal space.
Begin to draw awareness and mentally scan your knees, noticing and observing each knee. Noticing how each knee feels at this moment. Noticing, observing, completely passive, not trying to change a thing.
Begin to take note of your upper legs, and the feelings and sensations that are present for them. Noticing, observing, completely passive, not trying to change anything.
Notice both legs, the left leg, the right leg. Taking note of any passive observations you become aware of. Noticing the internal space of both legs. Letting your attention focus in this space at this moment, not trying to change anything.
Begin to let your attention move to the next area of your body. Now notice your hips, your lower abdomen. Allow yourself to notice and observe each of these spaces, and take note how they feel at this moment. Noticing, observing, completely passive, not trying to change anything.
Moving all the way up to the center of your body, at the level of your heart area, your sides, your chest, the upper back. Mentally watch and observe how the core of your body feels. Taking in any notes of the internal space that the body is feeling. Do a passive scan without making any changes, or trying to make anything happen. Observe how your internal space feels. Noticing, observing, completely passive, not trying to change anything.
Begin to turn your attention to your fingertips. Noticing their weight, their temperature, the internal sensation of each finger. Notice, observe, completely passive, not trying to change anything.
As you continually scan your entire body and to observe each feeling that is present, take notice of the hands, the palms of the hands, the backs of the hands. Breathe. Scan the wrist, the lower arms, the elbows. Noticing the upper arms, allowing yourself to notice, observe, and take in observations of how your internal spaces feel. Completely passive, allowing, watching, completely free of any effort or direction as you observe.
As you continue to move your awareness to the other spaces in the body, begin to observe the neck, the front of the neck, each side of the neck, the back of the neck. Move your attention to the nose, the eyes, the cheeks, the forehead, the top of your head, the ears. Simply observe how this body feels. Simply notice the internal space.
Keeping this attitude of passive observation, mentally scan your entire physical body as a whole. Doing a complete scan at your own pace, from your feet to your head. Begin to check in with the internal space of each area, and if you notice anything of interest, noticing any space of prominent sensation, noticing a space of warmth, of coolness, heaviness or lightness, begin to take your attention to whatever area interests you. You may choose to allow your attention to linger in one space just for a moment as you observe how your muscles and your tissues are feeling, begin to bring the awareness even deeper. Begin to allow yourself to feel the sensations that go beyond the physical structure of the body, noticing any sensation, emotion, or feeling, that once again is a space of interest.
As you draw your awareness deeper into your internal world, simply notice. Allow complete allowing, watch, and simply be with each sensation that begins to arise. You are fully aware, completely passive, not trying to change a thing.
You are fully aware of how your body and your internal space is feeling. You have completed a body scan at this moment. Notice how you are feeling mentally and physically and overall. Observe any changes that may have occurred all on their own. Notice your practice of observing, allowing, and watching.
It is time to conclude this body scan with a few gentle breath. Allow yourself to become fully alert and energized with a deep breath in and a steady breath out. At your own time, begin to gently blink open the eyes and bring awareness to your external world, taking this knowledge and this wisdom that you have gathered with you.