MINDFULNESS AND INNER BEAUTY

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).

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MINDFUL SELF-COMPASSION

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.

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MINDFULNESS FOR SENIORS

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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MINDFUL, GRACEFUL AGING

Aging is a mixed blessing. We want to live a long life, but aging often comes with disability, pain, loss of function and loss of loved ones. Aging well involves healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating, physical activity, restful sleep, social support and stress management. Mindfulness is an extremely practical skill that can help you manage stress and achieve your best overall health – physically, mentally and emotionally.


What is mindfulness? An often- cited definition of mindfulness is from Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), the gold standard mindfulness course worldwide for over 40 years. He defines mindfulness as “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.” Mindfulness involves the intentional directing of your attention with curiosity, openness, acceptance and gratitude. These open minded attitudes are antidotes to our habitual, automatic, knee-jerk reactivity. It sounds simple, but it’s not so easy. The more we pay attention to our physical, mental and emotional habits, the more we recognize our ruts and lifelong habits. But anyone can practice mindfulness – and it can change everything.


Begin with mindfulness of the senses. Open your senses wide, welcoming sounds rather than objecting to them, touching into your gratitude for the sense of hearing. Notice your sense of sight, seeing in a new way the shapes, colors, light, shadows and objects that you see,

touching into your gratitude for sight. Notice your sense of touch, feeling the surface that is supporting your body and the contact with your feet, hips and torso, touching into your gratitude for the sense of touch.


Practice mindful eating. Place a small piece of fresh, unprocessed fruit in the palm of one hand. Smelling it and looking at it, notice perhaps the salivation beginning even before it enters your mouth. Placing it in the mouth, notice the taste, texture and temperature; notice how these slowly change. As you swallow, hear the sounds and feel the sensations of the fruit being digested and becoming part of your body, touching into the gratitude for the sense of smell and taste and the miracle of digestion.


Practice mindful walking. Mindfulness can be practiced during routine daily activities. The closer we pay attention to walking, the more grateful we become for the ability to walk. You simply pay complete attention during walking. With eyes open, just walk very slowly and focus your attention on the minute details of balance and your body walking – the heel landing, the weight shifting to the ball of the foot, the foot lifting and landing again. Even with age-related physical

challenges, bring attention to your gratitude for your human body and your ability to walk in whatever way you are able.


Your breath is the great connector between mind and body. The breath is a classic focus of prayer, meditation and mindfulness. Simply feel the physical sensations of the breath as it moves in and out of the nostrils, back and forth across the upper lip, in and out of the back of the throat, in and out of the chest (feeling the ribs expanding and contracting) and the belly (feeling the belly expanding and contracting).


Practice mindful bedtime. As you prepare for sleep, it is helpful to reflect on the day, especially noticing those people and circumstances for which you are grateful. Research suggests one’s degree of gratitude is highly predictive of one’s emotional well-being. A specific practice is called What Went Well (aka Three Good Things or Three Blessings). Write down or simply recall three things that went well today. The power of this practice comes from training yourself to notice the things that might otherwise go unappreciated. For instance, I begin my list with “I woke up today.” As you persist with this practice, you find yourself noticing the little things (and people) that you often take completely for granted.


Have a mindful morning. As you wake in the morning, before you get out of bed, it is a perfect time to notice the gift of one more day. You can notice your gratitude for another 24 hours and perhaps promise yourself (or a higher power) that you will use this gift for your own health and happiness and the well-being of others. Promise yourself not to waste the precious time you have been given.


Aging is both a challenge and an opportunity. Whether you have good health or major medical conditions, mindfulness practices can nurture your gratitude for all of life’s gifts and blessings, large and small.


Resource:


DR. JOHN PATTERSON


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