A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class.  You may already have a positive self-image and feel good about your body. You may consider your body to be “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Or you may have a negative body image, even hating your body. Whether you love your body or hate it, you can benefit from the body scan, a foundational practice from mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).



Your compassionate human desire to take good care of others is critical to the well-being of your family, friends, co-workers and community – and taking good care of yourself is the foundation for your care of everyone else.  However, it is sadly true that we often take better care of others than we do of ourselves. It’s as if we need a new Golden Rule: Do unto yourself as you do unto others. We would never say or do to someone else some of the things we say and do to ourselves.



You and I have two primary modes of mental activity: the doing mode and the being mode. Although we are called human beings, we spend the majority of our time in the doing mode rather than the being mode.  Your “doing” mode is highly prized in our culture for schooling, work and career. It demonstrates your mastery and command of detail, data, thinking, intellect and your goal-oriented ability to get things done. We depend heavily on the doing mode to take care of all our daily affairs at home and work,….


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Receiving the diagnosis of cancer strikes fear in the heart of most people. Livelihoods and relationships can be affected. Side effects from complicated therapy or surgery can cause emotional distress. As treatments have advanced, many people are living longer with cancer as a chronic condition. Stress is often a constant companion of the person living with cancer. Fortunately, there are practical mind-body approaches for managing physical, mental, emotional and social stress.

A basic practice for stress management is mindful breathing. Though mindful breathing is rarely associated with any side effects, discuss with your medical provider your interest in integrating this practice with your conventional treatment.

Getting Started.

Settle into a comfortable position – sitting, reclining or lying down. Plan to spend about five to 30 minutes using these instructions or my audio recordings at the Mind Body Studio website (www.mindbodystudio.org). You can practice with eyes open, closed or partially closed. Use pillows and blankets to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Noticing Your Breath.

Begin with a couple of slow deep breaths, feeling the long slow in-breath followed by a long slow out-breath. Allow the out-breath to go out-out-out, dissolving into space. Then simply breathe naturally without

changing the breath in any way.

Feeling Physical Sensations of Breathing.

Place your full attention on the tactile physical sensations of each breath, wherever you feel it in the body. Feel the breath moving in and out of the nostrils. Feel the breath as it moves back and forth across the upper lip. Notice the cool-dry air coming in and the warm-moist air going out. Feel the breath moving in and out across the back of the throat. Feel the breath in the chest as the ribs expand and contract. And feel the breath in the belly.

Soft-Belly Breathing.

Abdominal breathing (aka diaphragmatic breathing) is an exceptionally relaxing breath practice. This is the way you breathed as a baby. Allow the belly to rise and fall, expanding with the in-breath and contracting with the out- breath. The more the belly moves, the more the diaphragm moves, stimulating the vagus nerve as it runs through the diaphragm, sending relaxation impulses throughout the entire body just by softening the belly.

The Wandering Mind.

The normal mind wanders. When you notice the mind is no longer on the breath and has wandered off onto sounds, thinking, planning, memories, physical sensations, discomfort or emotions, simply notice the wandering and without any judgment, gently escort the attention back to the breath. This non-judgmental returning of attention to the breath is an important part of the practice, a coming home to the breath as it flows in and out of the body. Emotions may arise. Our emotions are constantly changing. Let them come and let them go without clinging to emotions you like or pushing away emotions you don’t like. Simply continue breathing in and breathing out, softening the belly and letting the out-breath dissolve into space.

Winding Down.

Continue for five to 30 minutes, paying attention to the breath. Simply be present to your breath constantly moving moment by moment. As your practice ends, expand your attention beyond the breath, feeling it moving in and out of the entire body, inside your skin and beyond your skin, connecting with the room around you and the sensations of the body touching the surface you are on. And as you slowly open your eyes, remain in touch with the breath and the body and the calm place inside, so that even with the eyes wide open, you can remain in touch with this inner resource of calmness and peacefulness.

The breath, the body and your calm center are always with you, anytime, anywhere. It’s just a matter of remembering, and you are more likely to remember if you practice, even a few minutes, every day.



Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations