WE'VE all had those moments. You’re sitting listening to a song or looking at a view and it hits you. You get a shiver up your spine or your eyes start to well up. Something in the music, the lyrics, or what you’ve just seen, has pierced through our normal shallow receptors and gone somewhere way deeper and more primal. These are precious and potentially hugely insightful moments of raw experience.

There’s a piece of modern classical music by a recently deceased Polish composer, Henrik Gorecki. From his Symphony No 3 (Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs), the second piece is unbearably poignant to me, yet still beautiful and nurturing of all that is good in people. It’s a very understated, mimimalist piece but it rends the heart. The short lyrics are directly from words carved into the wall of a Gestapo cell in Krakow, Poland. Written there by an 18-year-old girl, it reads:

Mama, no, don’t weep.

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Most pure Queen of Heaven

Protect me always

Ave Maria

Even writing about it makes me well up. To experience the full impact of this astonishing work it’s best to go onto YouTube and search for Gorecki Isabel (that’s the soloist’s first name) and it’ll be the first link that appears. The film is a work of art in its own right, complementing the music and lyrics impeccably. It is set in Auschwitz with the orchestra playing in the camp itself. The soloist, Isabel Bayrakdaraian, sings at the doorway looking out into the dark as snow falls onto the concrete. Read the comments and you get a sense of what this short piece of music does to the human heart.

Not much hits me as powerfully as this, but many other things do make a deep impact. The scene in To Kill A Mockingbird – the book, or the film – where the hero, Scout, a young girl, recognises Boo Radley near the end of the book. You have to know the back story to get why this works so powerfully, and if you don’t know it, go buy both the book and the film, they are gems. Scout says, “Hi Boo”, then a few minutes later she takes his hand and leads him out of the room. It is a moment of great beauty and sensitivity.

My final example is not something I experienced but which I witnessed my wife experiencing way back before we got married. I had been working and travelling my way around the world for the best part of four years in the 1980s and she came to see me for a short time in Mexico in the Easter of 1986. I took her to see the Diego Rivera fresco masterpiece, Man At The Crossroads. It depicts a man in the centre, dressed in scientific protective type clothing and gloves, with something resembling four giant electron pulses emanating around him, and a big metallic cylindrical machine above his head. Beyond that the world is in turmoil. Created in 1934 it shows the political tensions of the time. Fascists to his right, communist marchers to the left. Lenin, Darwin, Marx and the mass of mankind are all represented, while below is the world of plants and nature.

I love his work so was thrilled to see it. My wife Christine came along because I wanted to see it but she was the one who was deeply affected by it. It’s his face, his eyes, she said. She was right. His face looks fraught, stressed, anxious, worn out; the immensity and complexity of the world around him seemingly impossible to control.

Rivera’s depiction went straight through all the usual inner defensive mechanisms we have and struck Christine deep in her heart.

This is mindfulness happening naturally through great art. With practice we can enable such feelings to happen on a daily, even frequent basis, with each experience softly but surely building up our empathy, compassion and love of life. Instead of having to wait for a moment of great artistry or genius, we can experience it watching a field of hay, or a patch of blue sky on a cloudy day.