The Liffey Swim: Mindfulness and Art

Oil painting of spectators crowding along the quays of the River Liffey watching a swimming race
Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957), The Liffey Swim, 1923. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

We're continuing our Mindfulness and Art series with this short guided-mindfulness video focused on Jack B. Yeats's painting The Liffey Swim (1923).

Watch the video

Take 3 minutes to look closely and immerse yourself in this atmospheric painting by one of Ireland's best-loved painters.

If you're in the Gallery, you could use your own headphones to listen to the video as you look at the painting. You'll find it hanging in Room 14.

This guided mindfulness was written and recorded by Mary Dowling.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is deliberately pausing and paying attention to the present moment, without judgment. It gives us time to connect with ourselves and the world around us, fully experiencing what’s going on. We can practice mindfulness by spending time looking at an artwork, and it can be a very helpful tool to calm and settle our busy minds.

Some tips

  • Relax: Give yourself permission to relax as you look at the painting. Calm and focus your mind.
  • Breathe: Notice your breath as you breathe in and out. Don't try and change your breathing; just breathe as normal and become aware of it.
  • Release: Pay attention to how your body feels as you look at the painting. Are you holding tension anywhere? Check in with your back, your shoulders, your neck, your jaw, your eyes. Soften and relax.
  • Forgive: Allow your thoughts to come and go. Don't worry if your mind wanders, just gently bring your focus back to the painting.
  • Accept: Don't let outside noises bother you. In fact, accept any sounds or noise and let them become part of your experience of looking at the painting.

Fast facts

Jack B. Yeats was awarded a silver medal for The Liffey Swim at the 1924 Olympic Arts Competition in Paris. The medal is in the Gallery’s collection. Read more about Yeats's Liffey Swim.

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