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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“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – The 14th Dalai Lama

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love. ” – 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

The holiday season is filled with emotion for most people. While this emotion is often happy, positive and loving, for many people it can be very unhappy and even depressing. Holiday music can trigger emotional associations with the absence of a loved one or unhappy memories from the past. The gap between the smiling faces of holiday ads and one’s unhappy emotional experience can actually lead to a deepening of the emotional darkness that often accompanies this season of lights.

Many people are reducing their external gift-giving in favor of spending time with family, friends and serving those in need. Research shows one of the best and safest remedies for depression and feelings of emotional isolation is giving of one’s time and energy in volunteer service. The gift of human-to-human connection actually mobilizes internal hormonal and neurological resources that can provide natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety relief. Giving of oneself can truly help the giver as much as the recipient.

Many people also take the opportunity of holiday gifting to give themselves a gift. This can be a psychologically healthy reflection of self-care and self-nurturing if it complements, rather than replaces, sharing and giving to others. It can also be an opportunity to give oneself an inner gift that costs no money but can feel priceless. Compassion practices are just such an inner gift.

Whether your emotional experience of the holidays is happiness or sadness, you can benefit from positive psychological practices that contribute to self-healing. Some of the oldest, most powerful and effective practices for emotional self-care are compassion practices, and one of the most popular and powerful compas- sion practices is loving kindness, also known as metta.

What is Loving Kindness (Metta)?

The Pali word metta means loving kindness, friendliness, goodwill, unselfishness, altruism and non-violence involving the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others. The epidemic of hurrying and worrying in modern life can lead to physical, mental and emotional symptoms and chronic conditions that negatively impact the workforce, the family and one’s personal

sense of well-being. The compassion prac- tice of loving kindness can be a particularly warm and soothing antidote to these diseases of isolation, separation and unhappiness.

Instructions for Loving- Kindness (Metta) Practice

My mindfulness classes always end with a brief loving-kindness practice. Some people refer to the practice as a meditation. Some refer to it as a prayer. I describe it simply as a mind-fulness tool to keep in your self-care tool kit for regular use anywhere, anytime. There are several versions of loving-kindness practice. This is one I have crafted over the years. You can practice loving kindness by yourself. The version below is for practicing in a group. 

Begin by sitting or lying down with eyes open or closed, then repeat these phrases once or twice silently to yourself:

May I be safe

May I be happy

May I be well

May I be peacefully at ease

Bring everyone in this group into your mind’s eye. Go around the circle and have everyone say their name (including yourself). Bring into the group anyone else for whom you’d like to wish loving kindness.

Say to them all:

May you all be safe

May you all be happy

May you all be well

May you all be peacefully at ease

May we all be filled with  loving kindness

May we all be filled with  loving kindness

Your inner resource of loving kindness (metta) can help you mobilize your inner pharmacy for self-care and healing. It can lift your spirits, open your heart, promote resilience, manage stress, prevent burnout and heal social isolation and loneliness. The mindful gift of loving kindness is truly a gift that can last a lifetime.


A 4-minute Loving Kindness audio recording is available on my website at http://www.mindbodystudio.org/?page_id=1594  


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