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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MINDFULNESS OF BREATH, BODY AND HEART

Ancient wisdom practices and modern research in medicine and psychology provide clear evidence for the skillful use of breathing practices for relaxation and self-care. This especially benefits people with chronic physical and emotional conditions, including anxiety, depression and pain. With proper training and regular practice, some people can minimize the use of prescription medication in collaboration with their prescribing health professional.


Mindful breathing involves the clear intention to place the attention on the breath – right now, in this present moment. It involves the attitudes of curiosity, openness and especially non-judgment when the attention wanders off the breath – knowing the normal mind wanders – and simply bringing attention back to the breath when we notice the wandering. There are many ways to practice mindful breathing as a totally secular practice or as a complement to spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation and contemplation.


Simple breath and body awareness is the most basic mindful breathing practice. One simply feels the physical sensations of the breath in the body – at the nostrils, the upper lip, the back of the throat, the chest and the belly – while breathing normally, without changing the rate or depth of breathing and bringing attention back to the breath and body sensation when one notices the wandering.

Soft belly breathing, aka abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, is an especially relaxing practice. Allowing the belly to expand with the inbreath and contract with the outbreath increases the movement of the diaphragm, stimulating the vagus nerve as it runs through the diaphragm and sending relaxation impulses throughout the entire body just by softening the belly.


Attention on the outbreath adds additional mental and physical relaxation. Beginning by noticing the inbreath, followed by a slight pause, then the outbreath, followed by a longer pause. One senses the natural internal peace and quiet at the end of the outbreath. This sense of relaxation can be helped by allowing the outbreath to effortlessly go out – out – out, dissolving into space.


Mindfulness of the heart involves the sensation of the heart beating, which is easier for some people than others. It also involves paying attention to the center of the chest and the entire body for any pulsing, throbbing, vibration, shimmering or humming. Using the sensations of the breath in the body, one may also feel the breath energizing the heart. One may feel the energy of the breath and the energy of the heart moving together throughout the entire body. The body is a

constant flow of energy and information. It is important to remember mindfulness is also translated as heartfulness.


Mindfulness of the body is regarded as the foundation of mindfulness practice. In mindfulness practice, we are training the mind to pay attention here and now. The body is our most dependable object of mindful attention. The body is always here, even when the mind is somewhere else. The body is always in this moment, even when the mind is in the past or future. We know every cell in the body is fueled by the energy of the breath and the heart. We open our attention to the feeling of energy of the heart and breath moving in and out of every cell in the body.


Practicing any of the above techniques for even five minutes a day can improve overall well-being, promote resilience, manage stress, prevent burnout, cultivate compassion and help manage chronic conditions. Be creative. Start slow. Find the practice that suits your needs. I have made several audio recordings you can access using the link below.


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