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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Human beings are social creatures by our very nature. We depend on each other. We need each other. Even though we may feel self-sufficient and fiercely independent, research shows our interpersonal relationships and social support are extremely important to our physical, mental and emotional health. The increasing epidemic of loneliness caused by aging, poor health and geographic dislocation is associated with increased perceptions of stress, anxiety and depression, aggravation of symptoms of chronic illness and even suicide.

Pleasant and unpleasant communication

Communication is one of our most important tools for overall health, but many of us lack basic information about how to communicate clearly and effectively with other people. Many of us allow pleasant and supportive conversations to go by unnoticed without any awareness of our good fortune to have had friendly, nurturing and uplifting conversations. Most of us find it especially challenging to handle difficult communication with confidence and sensitivity. We often make difficult conversations even more difficult by our unskillful ways of communicating at home, at work and even with ourselves.

With practice, you can refine your communication skills. You can notice pleasant communication when it happens and express gratitude for it. You can even learn to handle difficult communications without making them more difficult. You can become more mindful of the quality of your communication and learn to manage difficult communication while increasing the likelihood your communication will be helpful, useful, pleasant, friendly and kind.

Keep a daily log

Like any behavior or skill you want to refine and master, mindful communication benefits from a regular daily habit of self-inquiry. A daily log or journal can help you examine the circumstances associated with communication. This only requires a few minutes but it can make a lifetime of difference in your capacity to handle interpersonal communication. Answer some of the following questions about your communication or modify them to suit your own needs.

Describe the conversation or communication

Who was it with? How did it begin and why? What was the communication about? Was the communication difficult, easy, pleasant, unpleasant,

friendly or unfriendly. What made it so? Avoid assigning blame or judgment to either yourself or the other person(s) involved. Look for elements of pleasant communication even within an unpleasant communication and vice versa.

What did you want, need or hope for?

What was your agenda? Recall any pre-conceived ideas about an outcome and how you expected or wanted the communication to go. How open were you to the communication going in a different direction based on the other person’s or persons’ needs? How much control did you want and how much control were you prepared to relinquish?

What did you actually get?

Were you satisfied with the outcome of the communication? Did you “win” or “lose”? How did “winning” or “losing” affect your opinion of this as a pleasant or unpleasant communication?

What did the other person want? What did they actually get?

Did they think this was a pleasant or unpleasant communication? Did they “win” or “lose”? Did either of you “react” as if your buttons were pushed or “respond”

wisely and thoughtfully? Do you see elements of “automatic pilot,” knee- jerk reacting in either of your communication? Do you see elements of skillful, aware responding?

How much listening did either of you do?

Active, intentional listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person. Don’t be thinking of your reply while they are talking. Don’t look for openings to jump in between their sentences. Just listen.

How did you feel in your body, your mind and your emotions during the communication and afterwards? What do you notice NOW as you recall this communication?

Mindful communication utilizes all your experience – physical sensations and sense perceptions, thoughts and cognitions, feelings and emotions. We begin to see our communications and other people as three dimensional and notice how that new depth of awareness makes us more skillful communicators and more tolerant.

Over time, mindful communication can grow in your life if you nourish it with intention. It can truly become a great gift you share with others. You may live healthier and longer because of it.

Sources and Resources


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

more articles by dr john patterson