March 2018

Mindfulness Meditation: A Beginner's Guide

“It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now… with its aches and it pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” ~ Pema Chodron

Pause for a moment and breathe. Be present. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, relax your body. It might seem easy enough, but meditation—based on traditional Buddhist practices—requires you to be completely alone with your thoughts, and can actually take some time to “train your brain” to stop wandering. Once you’re able to focus on being present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, there’s no denying the positive benefits. Mindful meditation can improve our:

  • Sleep
  • Memory
  • Mood
  • Stress levels
  • Health

People who regularly practice mindfulness say they’re more happy, less anxious, and more spontaneous. Mindful meditation can also encourage connectedness, which can alleviate loneliness.

How does a person start meditating? Actually, you may have meditated without realizing it. Remember the last time you stared at a flame in a burning fire? Or even did a jigsaw puzzle? Your brain was likely focusing and relaxing. It’s different, though, when it’s an intentional daily act. Here’s how to get started:

• Find a quiet, peaceful room in your home, a space without clutter or distractions. Some people prefer to meditate in the morning; others before bed.

• Clear your mind, but acknowledge that thoughts will pop into your head. Let those thoughts float away.

• When you first start meditating, it might be helpful to listen to the Calm app, white noise, or lulling music.

• Make sure your shoulders and neck are relaxed. Breathe deeply in and out.

• Count the inhalations and exhalations. Or breathe in positive energies and let go of the negative. If thoughts creep in, keep focusing on your breathing. Start with just 2 minutes, then work your way up to 10-15.

Being mindful doesn’t mean you’re thinking about nothing. It means waking up out of autopilot and really paying attention to our thoughts and feelings, and allowing those feelings to happen. It means accepting that some negative emotions are part of life, and learning to balance negative feelings with positive ones (once we deal honestly with emotions, we can learn and grow—and experience life in a more productive way). It means fully deeply present in the moment, with the past and the future having no power. As Mother Teresa said, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

American Baptist Homes of the Midwest has senior living communities in Harlan, Iowa; Denver, Colorado; Omaha, Nebraska; Albert Lea, Minnesota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Milwaukee; Wisconsin. Our mission is to create healthy Christian communities that empower older adults, families, and people with disabilities through providing choices for housing, services, and technology that enrich body, mind, and spirit.

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5 Fun Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Whether or not your relatives lived in Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine, it’s nearly impossible not to get into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. This year, on March 17, celebrate the holiday by doing one (or all!) of the following:


Wearing green, legend has it, makes you invisible to leprechauns. Pinching someone who isn’t wearing green is a reminder that a leprechaun could appear and wreak havoc. You don’t want to get pinched, do you?! From green felt hats and wigs to green boas, shamrock-shaped glasses and earrings, and socks, there are many ways to add a little green to your ensemble on St. Patty’s Day.


Some ideas include My Wild Irish Rose, Galway Bay, I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover, Danny Boy, Peg ‘o My Heart, That’s an Irish Lullaby, and When Irish Eyes are Smiling.


Whether it’s corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, stew, potato soup, Irish soda bread, tea cakes, or mint brownies, celebrate Ireland with a nod to some of the traditional favorites.


Instead of getting B-I-N-G-O, tape the letters L-U-C-K-Y to bingo cards. Free printable bingo cards can be found here.


Place a hoola hoop in the center of the room, with a paper shamrock in the middle of the hoop. Hand out coins (or quarters or chocolate coins) and give each player three tries to hit the shamrock. When someone hits the shamrock, they win a small prize.

While you’re having fun celebrating, try to remember a few key Irish expressions: “Erin go bragh!” (Ireland forever!), “May the roof above us never fall in, and may we friends beneath it never fall out,” “May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours, that stay with you all the year-long” and “Sláinte!” (Cheers!).


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