"Asia is closer than you think" proclaims signage at the museum's portal. Once visitors enter the Crow Collection via a pair of glass doors, they are greeted by a reception area and information regarding current and upcoming events. Turn left at the desk through elegant galleries filled with Chinese and Japanese art and your meditative "pilgrimage" is underway.
Flanking the back wall of the Crow's gallery used as a meditation space: Facade of a residence, North India, Rajasthan, Mughal period, 18th-century, formed from red sandstone carved in jali and half-jali techniques.
On the way to the meditation area visitors pass through an array of art on the first floor. This is one such piece, a splendid Edo-period Japanese screen, circa 1850. This screen, one of two on view, is adjacent to the elevator used to access the meditation space on the second level.
A serene marble Buddha greets gallery-goers upon their arrival on the second floor, a work of art from China's Northern Qi dynasty (A.D. 550-577) or Sui dynasty (A.D. 581-618).
The beauty of Dallas’ Crow Collection of Asian Art might easily tempt you — but don’t let the museum’s elegance eclipse its healing initiatives. Hint: Sunday meditation is an ideal place to start.
Scholars generally agree that René Descartes, the 15-century French philosopher and mathematician, is responsible for the West’s specious understanding of mind and body. With his widely quoted “Cogito ergo sum” (“I think therefore I am”), he managed to posit an understanding of “thought” and “being” as distinctly different aspects of the human person. Fast forward to our current era of “somatic coaching” and a host of other yoga-inspired endeavors and you’ll rapidly discover that everyone from corporate executives to suburban housewives are now working assiduously to mend the rift that Descartes used to all too handily define European thinking. Moreover, it’s interesting to note that the East never fell for the Cartesian split; in fact, the French philosopher’s paradigm is now regarded as an infamously wrongheaded model for parsing human behavior — and it caused the West to go awry on an array of fronts too numerous to catalog here.
Meanwhile, Hinduism and Buddhism, not to mention a host of other sects and traditions, have long maintained a more integrated approach that has now become a branding motif for New Age thinking and, for some, even a new understanding of the medical paradigm. One particular maxim is widely circulated: “There is no such thing as a mind-body dichotomy.” Thus, what Descartes sundered is now being nicely (re)united. And that brings us to the Crow Collection of Asian Art and its extraordinary initiatives with regard to healing motifs that include — among many things — the ancient practice of meditation.
Every Sunday newbies and veteran practitioners alike gather from 2 to 3 in the afternoon at the Crow to learn about meditation techniques and enjoy a newly found sense of inner peace. Teaching instruction is clear and accessible to all without charge and, to make it even better, the meditation session takes place in the Grand Gallery, a space located on the museum’s second floor at the far end of an easily located skywalk. Metaphorically, the path to the meditation area can be understood as a kind of mediating space, even a pilgrimage of sorts.
Mental rejuvenation begins immediately when viewers enter the Crow via two glass doors discreetly marked with the verbiage, “Asia is closer than you think.” This signals both a literal and figurative threshold between “inner and outer” and the secular and the sublime. The subsequent path to an elevator is punctuated by elegant Chinese and Japanese art that includes a darkly beautiful Chinese work, Woman at Altar Table as well as two Japanese folding screens. One of the screens depicts bamboo in green and gold and the other features a wetland landscape flanked by plum and pine trees. Both metaphorically and literally, visitors are then positioned to ascend to their second-floor destination where elevator doors open upon a spectacular Buddha sculpture. As an aside, I was told by a curator I met years ago, “Every kind of Buddha is powerful for the practitioner. A Buddha gotten from a gumball machine can be powerful.” While I certainly took her at her word, I immediately began pondering the emotive heft engaged when one witnesses some of the finest Eastern statuary on the planet. And, needless to say, the Crow offers multiple examples of pieces with substantial seismic clout.
But there’s more. A short walk through the skywalk, which is decorated with hundreds of origami birds, leads visitors (by now pilgrims) to the Grand Gallery, aka meditation hall. It contains sculpture after sculpture of figures and deities — and the power of the place is palpable. At this juncture, Asia is, indeed, closer than you think and India is so resonant that it seems to permeate every breath. Thus, the Crow is an ideal place to learn more about meditation or simply gain badly needed equanimity. Give it a try; chances are it won’t feel foreign at all. In fact, it might become apparent that you’ve finally arrived home. At any rate, you’ll begin to integrate mind and body — and that’s the start of a new and healthful approach to living. Plenty more wellness-related events are available at the Crow. For more information, simply click here.