Selfie Conscious

Smile or Smirk?

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I’d waited my entire 35 years to go to Paris and finally, I was there! First on my list: the Mona Lisa. Little did I know what the Mona Lisa would teach me about mindfulness, selfies, and humankind’s inability to be present to beauty and life.

So, I’m at the Louvre, the finest art museum in the world, winding my way through the maze of galleries to find the holy grail of paintings, The Mona Lisa. With  great anticipation, I stepped into the spacious room where she was enshrined. As I approached the legendary painting, I found a massive crowd of people crammed together, just like me, craning to get a glimpse of the worlds most famous painting.

Then I noticed something strange. Nobody was looking at Mona. Not really. Rather, almost everyone was looking at the view finder on their smart phones and cameras trying to take a photo of her. As I looked around the room, I noticed a pattern. People would fire off 10 or so photos, a few selfies with the Mona Lisa, then scurry off to some other masterpiece to do likewise. What for? To go home and document the art that they didn’t really look at? The art they didn’t take the time to connect with. The art they never really experienced?


I’m guilty of this, are you? You are having an extraordinary experience but you fear it will end so you try to capture it. You pull out your camera phone and take a shot or video and post it on Facebook or Instagram or whatever because somehow that will store that memory on the cloud somewhere and you can always access it later, right? 

But have you ever come back home and tried to show some innocent, unsuspecting person your photos? It goes like this, “Here’s the Grand Canyon, only it’s so much bigger than the picture suggests, and oh, you should see it. Here’s the great restaurant we ate at, but oh you should taste the amazing food, this photo doesn’t do it justice.”

Just as unsuspecting observer‘s eyes start to glaze over and they start looking at their watch, you decide you’re going to holster the photos because they don’t do the experience justice anyway.

Besides, if you spend the entire time behind the lens of your camera to try to take the moment, to own it, you’ll come home and realize that you’re trying to remember something that you never really experienced in the first place. You were never really there. At least not present, anyway. 

So never take photos, right? Never post anything on social media? No, there’s nothing wrong with posting to social media but maybe try taking a photo and then put your camera away and then really try to experience it for a while. And sometimes maybe try allowing yourself to simply experience it, sometimes even without the camera. Soak it up and experience it to the fullest. Be 100% there. Let your sense really open up to it. Smell it, breathe it, see it, feel it, taste it (although if you try to taste the Mona Lisa you better be prepared to lose your tongue. Besides, that salty babe is a vintage that is much to refined for my pallet.)


After I’d spent a good time with the Mona Lisa, seen many other pieces, I had reaching my LMCL (Louvre Maximum Capacity Limit, which for me was 5 hours, despite the fact that I’d only scratched the surface of what’s available to see at that museum). After a lovely refresher at nearby  café (read stuff my face with several éclairs), I wandered over to the Musée de l’Orangerie where Monet’s Water Lilies are on display. The scene was very different than in front of the Mona Lisa.

Here, it was quiet, serene, and uncluttered. I sat and stared at the Water Lilies for 30 minutes in abiding tranquility without the rampant selfies. Something about this painting just sat you down and invited you to experience it. Besides, what I saw at the Mona Lisa taught me that I didn’t need to take a selfie to really experience the art.

What I’m getting at is that yoga and meditation help us to practice this presence so that when we are in an extraordinary experience, or even a seemingly mundane experience that with awareness could prove to be incredible, we are totally there, senses alive, ready to experience it. I’m thinking about events like hanging with our kids, focusing on a project, experiencing a concert, or looking at the MONA LISA. Sometimes in a yoga class, I see the fidgets, the distant stares, and absent mindedness of someone whose mind is somewhere else. I want to say, come back. We’ve missed you. Be here, now. Be there later.

Yogi Scott Moore,

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats to places like Hawaii and Amalfi Coast and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program


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