“We’re going to the beach today,” Dr. Roxane Hearn told a group of Homeland Center residents.
Sure enough, the residents went to the beach. Mentally, at least, they wiggled their toes in warm sand.
More importantly, they created calm places for mental getaways and for replacing stressful thoughts with happy memories.
Welcome to “Calm My Mind Tea Time.” Dr. Rox, Homeland’s Employee Wellness Program Coordinator, began the meditation sessions as stress relievers for residents when the Covid-19 pandemic began uprooting cherished routines.
A walk on the beach
At first, the sessions lasted 15 minutes, but they quickly grew so popular that they are now 45 minutes long, twice weekly for first and second floor skilled care residents. Every session starts with an affirmation of gratitude, as residents repeat after Dr. Rox: “Thank you for another day.”
Before meditation begins, Dr. Rox plays an upbeat song, such as “All is Well,” by Karen Drucker. A resident suggested that Dr. Rox look up the singer, whose life-affirming messages suited the sessions. “All is well,” say the lyrics. “I can rest. I am safe. All is well.”
“I felt that was the most perfect song for the residents,” said Dr. Rox. “You can rest well knowing you’re taken care of. You’re safe here at Homeland. All is well.”
After the song, Dr. Rox opened the Simple Habit app on her phone, and the 10-minute meditation began. A man’s voice with a lilting brogue directed participants to close their eyes and focus on their breathing. The voice walked residents through a meadow, down three steps, and onto a “wonderful, golden, sandy beach.”
“You have this beach to yourself,” said the voice. “Just find a place where you can relax and let go and enjoy the experience of being on this golden, sandy beach.” Remember this place, the voice said, and when you need to be calm and centered, return to it.
After residents opened their eyes, Dr. Rox reminded them that in addition to their calm place, they can conjure up a happy place. To help residents recollect one, she played a familiar song – “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Did anyone have a happy memory to share?
One resident immediately piped up. At age 4, her parents took her to a baseball game in Chicago.
“I had a sister, but they only took me, so I had both of their attentions,” she remembered fondly. She was wearing her favorite pale blue coat but somehow left it behind. Her father, coming to the rescue, went back into the stadium to retrieve it.
When Dr. Rox looks around the room, she sees that residents love hearing each other’s stories. Sometimes, she sees secret smiles on faces, as residents recall memories that they don’t share. That’s okay, too.
“Just for that time, their mind is off the news or thinking that their loved ones can’t visit or worrying about their family getting sick or not working,” says Dr. Rox, who also is conducting Zoom meditation sessions for Homeland at Home staff. “During that time, we’re tapping into happy memories.”
This day’s session also featured Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes,” which prompted a resident to make everyone laugh with her story of a boyfriend who couldn’t dance unless he was on roller skates.
Every session ends with the playing of Celine Dion singing “God Bless America.” The anthem resonates deeply with every resident, as they all sing along.
“I feel like we have a Homeland choir,” marveled Dr. Rox at this Monday session. “I watch how it moves through you.”
Abundance of gratitude
Residents attending Tea Time say they have a lot to be grateful for.
“I am grateful for a nice clean place to live with friends that is virus free,” said Faye Dunkle.
“It's like having family here,” said Ann Soder. “I enjoy the Story Time and Alphabet Trivia with Becky. I also am grateful for the aides who are patient with me.”
Ann added that she loves the music of Tea Time, which “puts the heart and mind in the right place.”
Vicki Fox loves “the energy in the room” that Tea Time creates. “Very calm and safe,” she noted.
The second-floor group agreed that the sessions take their minds off the stressful things going on in the world.
Every session ends with tea and Lorna Doone shortbread cookies. Before residents disperse, equipped with happy memories and calm places, Dr. Rox leads them in repeating another affirmation.
“Everything is well in this moment,” they say. “I am so blessed for everything I have. Thank you for another day.”