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Simple green line drawings of museum objects

Wellbeing Audio Trail

This trail is to help you to ‘reset’ and find some moments of mindfulness and wellbeing at the National Museum of Scotland, noticing and enjoying the sensations, sights and sounds around you. It's an audio trail, so remember to bring headphones with you if you're planning on doing the trail during your visit. The trail features objects on Level 1 (or objects visible from Level 1).

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Prefer to keep things offline while you reset? Download and print this physical version of the trail.

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Map of Level 1 of the museum showing the stops of the wellbeing trail.

Jump to a trail stop

1. Introduction and Grand Gallery

Line drawing of architectural features of the Grand Gallery.

Welcome to the museum reset trail. This trail is to help you to "reset" and find some moments of mindfulness and wellbeing in the museum. And to notice and enjoy the sensations, sights and sounds of the museum and its collections.

Before you begin take a few moments to become settled, letting yourself arrive here in this moment. As you do so, set an intention to be observant as you journey through the museum, noticing your surroundings, and the sights and sounds you encounter, as well as your own experience of the present moment. Notice when your mind has drifted away from looking at the objects on this tour. If your mind wanders off once, or a hundred times, it doesn't matter. It's the returning of our attention that counts. Do this as many times as necessary: Stop, look at the object in front of you, and when your attention drifts away, which it inevitably will, notice that this has happened and gently guide it back to the object or space. This is mindfulness.  

Starting in the Grand Gallery, stop and pause for a moment to look up and around you. Notice the height and light of the architecture and let your gaze follow the patterns and shapes it makes. What sounds can you hear? Take a few deep breaths and observe your experience just as it is: your thoughts, feelings and sensations as you stand here. Notice how these may show up in your body. After a few moments let your attention move into the space around you, sensing how things are at this moment. Looking down at the shiny stone-tiled floor of the Grand Gallery. It's made from a marble which contains the fossils of sea animals. Take a moment to notice different examples around you.

2. Hawthornden Court

Line drawing of Hawthornden Court at the National Museum of Scotland

Look up and around you as you enter Hawthornden Court. Notice the changes in ceiling height, and the strong, angular shapes and feeling of spaciousness made by the architecture. The building here is inspired by Scottish castles and tower houses. Find the slits and openings in the walls that reflect this.

3. Carved oak panels, Kingdom of the Scots

Line drawing of a carved oak panel with patterns of different flowers

Go into the Kingdom of the Scots gallery and find this carved wooden panel. Focus on just one panel and spend a few minutes really looking at it, letting your eyes move slowly across the surface of the work. Observe the shapes and patterns. What thoughts, emotions, memories, and ideas arise? Imagine running your fingers over it, tracing the carvings, feeling the sensations of smooth and rough.

4. Corryvrechan, Hawthornden Court

Line drawing of a large tapestry

From Kingdom of the Scots return to Hawthornden Court and find the large red tapestry. Take a few minutes to notice the colours, lines and shapes of this tapestry, letting your eyes drift across the tactile surface. The tapestry is inspired by a whirlpool off the Isle of Jura. Imagine for a moment watching it swirling round and round. Take three deep breaths.

5. Court mantua dress, Fashion & Style

Line drawing of a wide dress adorned with floral designs

At this 18th century court mantua dress, try simply being with the object in the Fashion and Style gallery. Looking, noticing it, savouring the experience of being in this space, in this moment. Ask yourself the question: ‘what can I notice about this object?’ What thoughts and emotions arise from looking at the textures, shape, patterns and colours on this dress?

6. Emu and Dingo Dreaming, Living Lands

Line drawing of an aboriginal painting featuring several shapes, lines, and arrows

In our Living Lands gallery absorb yourself in this painting by Aboriginal artist Raylene Biscoe Nungala. Starting at the top, work your way clockwise around the artwork, take a moment to notice what you see, attending to each area bit by bit. Observe the different colours, patterns, lines and shapes. Following the dotted circles in the centre round and round all the way to the middle, taking your time to savour the experience.

7. Buddhist prayer wheel, Living Lands

Line drawing of part of a Buddhist prayer wheel

At the nearby Buddhist prayer wheel, pause to enjoy the abundance of colours and patterns – a visual feast for your eyes. Notice the intricate coils of gold, and the fantastical faces in the patterns and on the roof top. Let your gaze roam across the object, from left to right…from right to left, from top to bottom. If your mind wanders, gently guide your attention back to the prayer wheel.

8. Leopard, Animal World

Line drawing of a leopard lying on the branch of a tree

Find this leopard in a relaxed pose in the Animal World gallery. Think about how you could channel this in your own body. Scan how you are feeling, from the top of your head all the way down to your toes, noticing where there might be tension. Take three big deep breaths, and with each out breath, let any tension flow out of your body

9. Vista from Animal World to the Grand Gallery

Link drawing of the skeleton of an Elk standing in a large museum gallery space

Moving into the Grand Gallery take a moment to enjoy this view from Animal World. Notice the calm order of the repeating lines the arches and columns make as they travel away from you into the distance.

10. Buddha Amida, Grand Gallery

Line drawing of a Japanese statue of the Buddha Amida.

Pause here at the nearby 19th century Japanese statue of the Buddha Amida. Take a moment in quiet contemplation to notice the smoothness of his face and body, and the curving, soft lines of his features and drapery. Do any details catch your eye? It can be something as simple as the shine of the metal or the decoration of lotus leaves around his feet. Copy the pose he makes with his hands – placing index finger and thumbs together in front of you.

Close your eyes if that feels comfortable and listen once more to the sounds of the Grand Gallery.

To finish

Now, give yourself a few moments to wrap up this experience before moving into the next moments of your day.

When you leave the museum todaymaybe you could think of other everyday activities that you do that you might be able to do a little more mindfully. Stopping, slowing down, bringing your full awareness to the sensations of the experience, whatever it may be.

Thank you for taking our Museum Wellbeing trail. We hope you are feeling good and wish you a lovely rest of your day.

Text and audio created in collaboration with Mindfulness practitioner Laura Baxter.

Our family programming is supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery  People's Postcode Lottery

Notes on Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of living in the moment and of being aware of everything that makes up this experience. 

When we practice mindfulness we observe our thoughts and feelings from a distance without engaging with them or  judging them. 

We tune in to what we are sensing both in ourselves and in our surroundings. 

We are more aware of sights, smells, sounds, tastes and bodily sensations, many of which we are often too busy to notice. 

Through maintaining an open and active attention to the present moment our focus is directed away from unhelpful thoughts and responses to things that have happened in the past and it prevents us from becoming caught up in our worries about the future.

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