Mindfulness and Inner Beauty

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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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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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).


The following script is a condensed version of the body scan. See below for a link to five-and 40-minute versions I have made for my classes. We use the body scan to train the mind to pay attention to the present moment, here and now, not the past or future, but moment to moment as life is actually being lived. Your physical body is your most dependable anchor in the here and now. It is always here, even though your mind may be far away. Your body is always in the present moment, even though your mind may be in the past or the future.


If you have a medical condition, discuss your use of the body scan with your provider. If you feel restless or agitated during the body scan, you may want to open your eyes or even stop the practice session and resume it later. It is recommended to begin the  practice with a trained teacher and a group of dedicated students.

Body Scan Instructions

It is recommended you allow quiet, protected time without distracting technology, except a recording to guide your practice. Close the door if you share your home with a dog, cat or family member. The room should be warm; you might need extra clothing or a blanket to prevent feeling cold, which can distract from the practice. The ideal posture for body scan is lying down flat on the floor or a firm mattress, though you may also use a seated position. While sleep is not the goal of the body scan, it can help those with sleep issues. Ideally, you will remain alert and awake during the body scan. For this reason, it may be best not to use a bed.


Begin with legs uncrossed and not touching each other. Arms are alongside the body without touching it. Feel each body part in turn rather than moving them, imagining them or thinking about them. Feel the entire back of the body touching the surface you are on, feeling gravity pulling you close to the earth. Close the eyes and feel the sensations of the breath coming in and out of the body. Then direct your attention to the left foot, feeling the toes, the top and bottom of the foot, the heel and the ankle. With curiosity and openness, welcome any

sensations that are present without worrying if there are few sensations; for some people, the feet are relatively insensitive.


Then direct your attention to the shin of the left leg, feeling the skin covering the shin bone, then feeling deeply into the calf muscles and the entire left knee. Feeling the tactile sensations in each body part, one after the other. Feeling into the thigh muscles and the hamstrings in the back – just feeling sensations that are present. Then feeling and sensing the left hip, inner groin and gluteal area. Repeat this process in the right foot, leg and hip.


Direct attention to the pelvic area, feeling sensations in the pubic area, the bones to the left and the right and the bones coming together in the back at the sacrum. Direct attention to the abdomen – feeling sensations of the belly rising and falling with each breath, allowing the belly to relax and soften.


Direct attention to the lower back, the lumbar area, and being especially kind and friendly as you sense and feel sensation in this area that does so much work and is so neglected. Feeling into the muscles, tissues, nerves, discs and spine and allowing those sensations to simply be as they are without judging. Then feeling sensations in the shoulder blades and sensing the ribs coming off the spine and wrapping around to come together in the front at the sternum. Feeling the ribs expanding and contracting with each breath.


Direct attention to the left arm and proceed in the same manner as you practiced in the legs, from fingers, palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm and shoulder. Do the same with the right arm.


Direct attention to the neck, feeling sensation in the front, the sides and the back of the neck, being especially kind and friendly in the way you pay attention to the back of the neck, another area of your body that is overworked and often neglected.


Direct attention to the face, feeling sensations in the chin, lips and inside the mouth. Sensing the tongue, teeth, gums, roof of the mouth, floor of the mouth and back of  the throat. Direct attention to the ears, feeling both ears simultaneously. Feeling sensation in the nose as the air comes in and out of the  nostrils. Feeling the air moving back and forth across the upper lip. Feeling the eyes resting in their sockets. Feeling the coolness of the air touching the face. Feeling the scalp and feeling the hair.


Feeling the entire body – quiet and peaceful. Feeling the breath – quiet and peaceful. Allow the mind to be quiet and peaceful for several minutes before opening the eyes and perhaps journaling about your experience. Writing about your physical, mental and emotional experience of body scan can help deepen your moment- to-moment awareness of your life during routine daily activities.


The regular practice of the body scan meditation can connect you to the wisdom of your body, deepen your gratitude for it and cultivate a kind and friendly relationship with it. You  can practice for seconds or minutes, sitting at stop lights or standing in lines – anywhere and anytime you choose to pay attention. You may even experience your body as beautiful.


Resources:


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

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