Hike Recap: Meditation and Mindfulness in the Monument

By Stasie Maxwell

When you walk into the woods, how often is it to observe or learn about yourself? With a National Monument that is home to over 3,500 species, including birds, butterflies and an amazing diversity of conifers (just to name a few), your own self may not have been on the list of things to observe. On May 25, it was.

While our Hike and Learns are usually organized with the scientific lens of ecology or botany in mind, this one was led through the lens of biomechanics therapy, specifically Qigong and meditation. Biomechanics is the study of human motion and is utilized in determining what caused injuries and how we may prevent them in the future. Qigong is between 4-5,000 years old and is a system of breathing practices and movement therapy geared towards rejuvenation and regeneration.

As we all probably know already, walking into the woods has an immediate anxiety reducing effect. Meditating in a sunny meadow, surrounded by trees and wildflowers can only deepen those relaxing qualities for the body and mind. I, Stasie Maxwell, am a long-time student and practitioner of Qigong and meditation. While we can learn much about the many plants, birds and animals, they also have much to teach us about ourselves. As I led the participants through both seated, standing and movement meditation (Qigong) I shared my favorite relational exercise.

I invited everyone to choose a plant, or animal somewhere in the meadow and observe the characteristics of that plant. I used vetch as an example; the plant spreads easily and quickly, it has many little tendrils to reach out and climb up or out. We can interpret this as an outgoing, opportunistic plant. It spreads its tendrils out in many directions searching for every opportunity. I can then relate those traits to myself. I am more of an introverted person, not outgoing, but I can see when the traits of being outgoing are beneficial. In terms of opportunistic, there is a strategy in feeling out many opportunities and moving in the direction that works best for you.

As you walk through the woods the next time, observe the various traits of the plants and animals, consider if you possess those traits yourself, or if you’d like to, or if there are situations where you could utilize those observed traits. There are lessons all around us, and opportunities for rejuvenation.