Researchers have uncovered an abundance of research on the health benefits of meditation, particularly for seniors. When you practice meditation in nature, you gain even more benefits. They include are reduced blood pressure and heart rate, less muscle tension, and a decrease in the production of stress hormones. Staff at the Masonic Homes of California and Acacia Creek community practice a meditation technique called moving meditation. This has been a wonderful find, as our residents have been able to practice meditation while walking.
The basic definition of moving meditation is “rhythmic physical movements to focus and center the mind.” It’s a combination of meditation and low-impact exercise. Moving meditation is often linked with practices such as qigong and yoga, but the principles can be applied to other forms of exercise, too. While walking, you focus on your five senses, taking one sense at a time. For instance:
Touch: Notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground with each step you take.
Sight: Focus on the sights of the environment you are walking in – the flowers, green grass, sunlight.
Hearing: Focus on the sounds around you – birds chirping, cars passing.
Smell: Focus on the smells of the environment around you – the fragrance of the air, the smell of flowers, trees or freshly cut grass.
Taste: How does the air taste? Is it sharp or sweet?
As a meditation exercise, members of the Acacia Creek and Masonic Homes community gathered for nature works in search of materials to create nature mandalas. The word mandala is Sanskrit for “circle.” The circular shape symbolizes how nature doesn’t begin or end. It is always connected. Mandalas traditionally teach two principles: being mindful while creating art and non-attachment when letting it go. When adventuring out, we tend to find ourselves lost in time searching for items, such as uniquely shaped leaves or feathers.
When creating a nature mandala, you can start over as many times as you like. There is no need to feel frustrated or pressured to make anything perfect. When you’re satisfied with your creation, simply sit back and marvel at how each piece has a perfect spot in the mandala. The idea that the wind will eventually blow the mandala away is liberating. It takes the stress one is feeling away with it, vanishing into thin air.
For all you introverts out there, this is a great chance to open up and express ourselves. I hope you find it is a rejuvenating way to add some intentional movement to your day while eliminating stress. For seniors, practicing meditation in nature is a double reward.