Visitors meditating in the Ganesha exhibition

Want to Combat Stress & Create More Peace? Try Meditation in the Museum

Q&A with Teacher Kadam Lucy James

The Denver Art Museum has recently launched a new monthly mindfulness meditation program that invites participants to slow down and relax in the galleries, aesthetically inspiring spaces that naturally invite a different kind of pace and contemplative experience. We've partnered with Kadampa Meditation Center Colorado to offer hour-long guided sessions that are accessible and approachable to anyone, from first-timers to those who enjoy a regular meditation practice.

We recently sat down with our partnering teacher, Kadam Lucy James, to get to know her and to learn more about the practice of meditation.

Kadam Lucy James

...art can, like meditation, communicate ideas, create beauty, explore the nature of perception, and help us understand and respect each other. So holding meditation sessions at the DAM is a perfect synthesis.

– Kadam Lucy James

Molly Medakovich: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How long have you been in Denver and how did you make your way here?

Kadam Lucy James: My abbreviated life story is that I spent my youth in seven countries on five different continents, due to my parents' work, then landed in England for 15 years, and then came to the States in 1999. I have been to 45 countries, not because I have a burning desire to travel but because life has just worked out that way. I set up several Buddhist meditation centers in Florida and San Francisco, and followed this with a solitary meditation retreat for a couple of years. Then I was invited to be the teacher in Denver four years ago, and I like it here very much.

MM: What is your role at Kadampa? What do you do, and why do you do it?

KLJ: I am the main teacher at the Kadampa Meditation Center in Colorado, which is part of a network of 1,100 centers in 40 countries around the world. We try to hold classes for all levels of interest, so most days will find me teaching meditation and Buddhism in downtown Denver to people of different backgrounds and walks of life. I am also invited to travel most months around America to teach meditation courses.

Learning to meditate is not as hard as you may think.... Wherever you go, whatever you do, meditation can become your own tool for growing peace and happiness.

– Kadam Lucy James

MM: How were you introduced to meditation?

KLJ: I stumbled into my first meditation class when I was in college in 1981, long before it was fashionable, and in fact at a time it was considered rather weird, at least in the North of England! However, it immediately made a lot of sense to me as a practical, effective way to get happy and solve problems. Simply put, meditation involves taking control by changing our thoughts themselves rather than always trying to change everything from the outside.

MM: What is your favorite thing about teaching meditation?

KLJ: That's a great question. I love being able to help others discover and realize their own potential for real happiness and freedom. Meditation gives everyone the opportunity to access their inner peace and grow their good qualities. That never gets old. I've not met anyone yet who cannot use meditation and Buddha's wisdom to solve their problems if they've a mind to—regardless of who they are, where they come from, or whether or not they want to be Buddhists—because we all have everything we need inside us.

Many medical studies these days show how effective meditation is in combating stress, anxiety, depression, and even sickness and age-related problems.

– Kadam Lucy James

MM: What advice do you have for those who are interested in learning how to meditate?

KLJ: First of all, it's great you have this interest, as it could be the start of something very special. Learning to meditate is not as hard as you may think, and you’ll never regret learning. Wherever you go, whatever you do, meditation can become your own tool for growing peace and happiness.

I would suggest finding a meditation class and learning with a good teacher and fellow students—nothing seems to beat that in terms of learning fast and well. Luckily these days, meditation classes are far more available than they used to be.

Meditation means becoming familiar with peace, positivity, and wisdom, both on the meditation seat and off it in our normal daily lives. A lot of you may be turning to meditation in the first place to find a way to turn off the anxiety and find a measure of calm and relaxation.

Many medical studies these days show how effective meditation is in combating stress, anxiety, depression, and even sickness and age-related problems. Maintaining a relaxed and positive mind always helps us deal better with practical, daily difficulties.

You will also discover that meditation is a powerful way to become a happier, wiser, and more fulfilled person. And it will help you to help others. Life is short, our time is passing, and meditation helps us get the most out of our remaining years, months, or weeks, as well as prepare for the future.

MM: What are you most excited about in regards to bringing your practice to the Denver Art Museum?

KLJ: I am so very happy to have this opportunity to share meditation, mindfulness, kindness, and wisdom with people who are already interested in creativity and perhaps seeking some measure of peace. My feeling is that many people come to Denver Art Museum to find a refuge from the constant over-stimulation and stressful concerns of fast-paced modern life, as well as interesting and deeper ways of looking at life and each other, using the medium of art.

To my mind, art can, like meditation, also communicate ideas, create beauty, explore the nature of perception, and help us understand and respect each other. So holding meditation sessions at the DAM is a perfect synthesis.

Far from being an escapist pursuit, placing us all in our own peaceful little bubbles, I feel that meditation is very relevant to these challenging times—an idea whose time has come. Not only can it bring about peace in our own lives, but it can also help us make a very big and necessary difference in our troubled world.

Molly Medakovich is a teaching specialist for adult programs in the learning and engagement department at the Denver Art Museum. Molly has been at the DAM since 2012, and her favorite painting in the collection is Gustave Doré’s The Family of Street Acrobats: the Injured Child.