There are a number of images that come to mind with the word “meditation.” Whether it’s a serene mountaintop where only the sounds of nature can be heard, or simply deep breathing in the comfort of your home, one OU doctor is encouraging students to find their zen.

Dr. Surya Pierce has been practicing integrative family medicine with Goddard Health Center for nearly two years. Pierce will be leading students in guided meditation classes in the Sandy Bell Gallery of the museum in conjunction with the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art’s latest exhibit, “Macrocosm Microcosm: Abstract Expressionism in the American Southwest.”

Just as many abstract expressionists turned to meditation as a way to clear their minds, Pierce is hoping students can benefit from meditation as a way to deal with stress.

“Meditation seems to be fairly potent preventative medicine,” Pierce said. “Meditation research has revealed a wide variety of positive effect from the daily practice of meditation that range from improvements in everyday mental tasks to increased longevity.”

Each one-hour session will provide students with the basic skills they need to begin a daily practice, with special attention given to connections between the world of abstract expressionist art and the practice of meditation.

But what is meditation, exactly? Pierce said there are many different kinds, and these “Meditation in the Museum” sessions are cracking the question wide open.

“We are focusing on developing the skill of opening up to what it is,” Pierce said. “We will be learning to open our awareness to what is actually happening in the present moment and in our current location.”

Pierce said this awareness isn’t as simple to find as it can seem, but it is the foundation for many types of meditation and is generally helpful to living a healthy life.

Pierce said he remembers when his own parents introduced him to a few simple meditation practices at a young age.

“I quickly realized that paying attention to my breath was helpful in coping when I was upset,” he said.

After going off to college he found a group of accomplished yoga meditation teachers who took him much deeper into the practice.

“It was my interest in meditation that eventually led me to medicine, not the other way around,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the exhibit has inspired discussion about meditation in a more current context. The idea of boiling things down to their simplistic, abstract forms is evident in the pieces on display at the museum.

“Many abstract expressionist artists were influenced by meditation, and this is evident in their interest in minimalism and attention to subtle aspects of experience,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the long-lasting effects of a relaxed, meditation-filled life are especially relevant to college students, who live in a world full of stress.

“Possible benefits of meditation that students might be particularly interested in include better sleep, enhanced coping in stressful situations and improved concentration,” he said. “I think most students could get behind that!”

For more upcoming events, visit the museum’s website at