There is an abundance of research on the health benefits of meditation. When you practice meditation in nature, you gain benefits such as reduced blood pressure and heart rate, less muscle tension and a decrease in production of stress hormones. There is a meditation technique the Acacia Creek community practices called moving meditation. This has been a wonderful find, as our residents and team members have been able to practice meditation while walking.
The basic definition of moving meditation is rhythmic physical movements to focus and center the mind, or 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 such as walking. While walking, you focus on your five senses, taking one sense at a time. For example:
Sense of Touch: Notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground with each step you take.
Sense of Sight: Focus on the sights of the environment you are walking in – the flowers, green grass, sunlight.
Sense of Hearing: Focus on the sounds around you – birds chirping, cars passing by.
Sense of Smell: Focus on the smells of the environment around you – fragrance of the air, smell of flowers, dry wood of trees or freshly cut grass.
Sense of Taste: How does the air taste? Is it sharp, sweet or juicy?
As a meditation exercise, the Acacia Creek community gathered last summer 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 unique-shaped leaves or even a feather.
When creating a nature mandala, one can start over several times. There is no need to feel frustrated or pressured to make anything perfect, because it is so easy to start over – or let it go. When you’re satisfied with your creation, simply sit back and look at each piece and marvel at how it has a perfect spot in the mandala. The idea that the wind will at some point blow the mandala away is liberating, as if it is taking the stress one is feeling away with it, vanishing into thin air.
For all you introverts out there, this is great intro for us to open up and express ourselves. I hope you find it is a very rejuvenating way to add some intentional movement to your exercise routine while elevating any stress that you may be feeling.
Carolee Rodrigo, CTRS, RTC