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Five ways to become more present

Created date

March 22nd, 2018
Left: Seabrook priority list member Jim McCorkel (front) teaches qigong to Bea Yeamans (center) and Bernard Degnan. Right: Donna Sica leads a monthly crystal bowls meditation class.

Left: Seabrook priority list member Jim McCorkel (front) teaches qigong to Bea Yeamans (center) and Bernard Degnan. Right: Donna Sica leads a monthly crystal bowls meditation class.


Spring is a time of rebirth, revitalization, and rejuvenation. With spring right around the corner, what better way to rejuvenate your own life than becoming more present and tuned in to your breath, body, and emotions?

Activities like yoga, tai chi, and meditation may be rooted in ancient history, but they’re just as beneficial today as they were thousands of years ago.

One demographic that’s benefiting from mindfulness activities may surprise you—older adults. Yes! Even in retirement, people can reap the benefits of taking time to slow down and tune in.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., psychologist, and cofounder of The Center for Mindful Living in West  Los Angeles, Calif., says mindful people are more apt to forgive themselves, hold their emotions lightly, practice compassion, make peace with imperfection, embrace vulnerability, and understand that all things come and go.

Here are five ways retirees living at Seabrook, an Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J., are becoming more present—and more revitalized.

1. Guided mindfulness meditation

“Mindfulness mediation is beneficial at any age, as it helps us to savor life and everyday  occurrences,” says David Bowman, pastoral ministries manager at Seabrook. “For older adults, in particular, it strengthens their ability to concentrate and focus. The relaxation affects their blood pressure, and a general reduction of stress helps them in their day-to-day to be more mindful in the present moment. It helps them to avoid overreacting to any stress that’s coming their way.”

Bowman leads the Mindfulness Meditation Group at Seabrook, which meets weekly for 45 minutes in the Town Square activities room on campus.

Bowman breaks each meditation class into three parts: relaxation and body awareness, counting breath, and natural breath awareness.

2. Tai chi

People all over the world practice tai chi, an ancient Chinese martial art. Combined with breathing and meditation, the fluid movements of tai chi help students clear their minds of stress and worries.

“Its greatest benefit would be to strengthen the body and help with balance,” says Ben Yeh, who has practiced tai chi for 40 years and has lived at Seabrook for 15 years.

“But it’s not overnight,” he says. “You have to practice consistently to achieve results.” That’s why he offers tai chi classes three times a week in Seabrook’s activities room.

3. Yoga

Yoga focuses on breath, meditation, stretching, and strength. Lou Cutler, who lives at Seabrook and leads chair yoga, says his classes are healthy and fun.

Yoga aids every system of the body, according to Joseph LePage, founder and director of Integrative Yoga Therapy, and a leader in the yoga therapy field since 1993.

Lou can attest to that; his students are seeing results. “They’re feeling good and getting something out of it.”

For Lou, “It’s very gratifying.”

Bonnie Marsh, who takes yoga with Lou once a week, says she likes yoga because it’s “a different kind of meditation.”

4. Qigong

Qigong—alternatively spelled qi gong, chi kung, or chi gung—is a gentle exercise and martial art composed of a series of repeated movements, breathing, and meditation. It is known for its health and spiritual benefits by stretching and increasing awareness of how the body moves through space.

Priority list member Jim McCorkel leads class once a week at Seabrook for 10 to 15 regular attendees. He even created a DVD for students to watch in his absence.

Bonnie takes qigong as well and calls it “moving meditation.”

“I’ve been doing qigong for 20 years. That means I must like it,” she quips.

In fact, Bonnie says, “Every one of the classes I take is just wonderful. I feel so privileged to live here, and the exercise classes are one of the reasons why I love it so much.”

5. Individual meditation

If a group atmosphere isn’t up your alley, you can find guided meditation programs to do in the privacy of your own home on YouTube.

Lou Chaiken, who started meditating at an ashram in New York City in 1996, plays soft meditation music on YouTube for the background of his 20- to 30-minute meditation practice.

He relaxes in the comfort of his own home and lets his thoughts drift away.

“Meditation is a process of trying to empty your mind of racing thoughts and give your brain a rest. We were taught how to do that by breathing deeply, concentrating on your breath, and not thinking about anything else,” he says.

He admits meditation is not easy, “but if you keep at it you will be successful.”