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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Massage was one of the first complementary therapies widely accepted by the general public, health professionals and insurers. It is no wonder ancient healing traditions and modern science both have high regard for touch, this most basic of human needs. We are social creatures. Human touch is central to our very survival as infants. Touch deprivation is a risk factor for physical and emotional conditions in infants, children and adults.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a partner pandemic of social distancing, touch deprivation, emotional stress and isolation. Many of those who can afford a therapeutic massage are delaying appointments until they feel safer with such physical contact.

But if you have one or two hands that function properly, you have the tools to promote your well-being by using self- touch and self-massage – ancient forms of self-care, self-healing and self-compassion. Here are some simple, gentle suggestions for connecting to your own inner resources for healing.

Begin with an intention. You can maximize the therapeutic benefit of self-touch by stating a clear intention, aligning with your North Star, staying on course, remembering why you need self-care. Simply acknowledge your worthiness for self-care and your intention to honor your self-care needs in a nourishing way that is not selfish,

self-centered or egotistical. Rather, you might dedicate this practice to the benefit of your family, friends, pets, co-workers and all of Creation.

Fill your cup. Despite our best intentions to serve others, we are limited by our own physical, mental and emotional well-being. You can’t pour water from an empty cup. But if you fill your own cup first by nurturing your own well-being, you can sustain your ability to serve others. Fill your own cup first so it can overflow in service to others.

Contemplate your hands. I learned a beautiful practice from Sister Emily Nabholz, former president of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Bardstown, Ky. She was a beloved doctor of nursing, a community mental health advocate and an early proponent of holistic health of body, mind and spirit. She believed we humans are not physical beings with a spirit but spiritual beings with a body. She was also a reiki master, practicing a form of spiritual energy healing using hands on or slightly off the body. She taught me and my medical students the practice of contemplating the hands for use in her reiki sessions or prayerfully at any time. You can do this by simply gazing into your hands, looking at your hands with

eyes of compassion, seeing your own acts of kindness done with these hands and seeing your mother, father and all your ancestors right there in the palms of your hands. Rubbing your palms together until you feel warmth generated in them, place your palms softly over your eyes, feeling the intention to be kind to yourself. Feel your own worthiness of this time for yourself – not in a self-centered way but serving yourself as a foundation of selfless service to others.

Self massage. You deserve your own kindness. You deserve your own compassion. You deserve your own gentle, loving touch. Feel yourself being kind to yourself as you allow tight muscles to relax. Use whatever techniques that appeal to you – perhaps gentle light touch over the eyes and face, long strokes over the arms and legs, deeper kneading of the feet and careful stroking of the abdomen. Even 5 minutes can connect you to your intention of self-care, remind yourself of your own worthiness and your own kindness and perhaps even improve your management of stress-related chronic conditions.

Be kind. It is said the truest measure of our progress in our quest to live an ethical, empathic, compassionate life is the degree to which we are becoming increasingly kind. Kindness begins at home, with yourself. As you touch and stroke your body, remember you can search the whole world over and not find another creature more deserving of your kindness than yourself. Feel this permission and intention to be kind to yourself.

Mindfulness is heartfulness. All religions spiritual paths and wisdom traditions share a common theme of heart-centered reverence, contemplation, prayer, meditation, friendliness, generosity and kindness. Ancient symbols for mindfulness can also be translated as heartfulness. As you mindfully practice self-touch, periodically bring your hands to your heart, connecting to your heart center, to your own kindness and self- compassion.

Mindfulness is remembering your heart, anywhere, anytime – this moment, this day, this life, this breath, your deepest heartfelt desire, meaning, purpose and values. You can do this by mindfully contemplating your hands, touching yourself with kindness, filling your cup and letting it overflow in service to others.

May you be well.    



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