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The MBSR body scan in clinical practice


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ISSN 1868-8527
Volume 4
Number 4
Mindfulness (2013) 4:394-401
DOI 10.1007/s12671-013-0212-z
The MBSR Body Scan in Clinical Practice
Samuel J.Dreeben, Michelle
H.Mamberg & Paul Salmon
1 23
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The MBSR Body Scan in Clinical Practice
Samuel J. Dreeben &Michelle H. Mamberg &Paul Salmon
Published online: 7 April 2013
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013
If one thing, O monks, is developed and cultivated, the
body is calmed, the mind is calmed, discursive thoughts
are quieted, and all wholesome states that partake of
supreme knowledge reach fullness of development.
What is that one thing? It is mindfulness directed to
the body
Anguttara Nikaya 2010,p.9
The body scan is a somatically oriented, attention-focusing
practice first introduced into clinical practice as part of
the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) pro-
gram. Developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the MBSR program
brings together a range of techniques and practices uni-
fied by a common theme that of cultivating mindfulness.
Mindfulness is defined predominantly as moment-by-moment
attention focused in the present, in a nonjudgmental manner
(Kabat-Zinn 1990). Described as a clinic, in the form of an
8-week course(Kabat-Zinn 2003,p.149),MBSRhasbeen
adapted for various clinical populations, including individuals
with eating disorders (Kristeller and Hallett 1999) anxiety
(Kabat-Zinn et al. 1992), cancer (Speca, Carlson, Goodey &
Angen, 2000; Lengacher et al. 2009), chronic pain (Kabat-
Zinn, Lipworth, & Burney, 1985) and fibromyalgia (Sephton et
al. 2007). MBSR was also the inspiration for a well-validated
clinical intervention for depression: Mindfulness-Based
Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), developed by Segal, Williams,
and Teasdale (2013).
The MBSR program typically consists of an introductory
informational meeting followed by eight, 2½-h group meetings
with an all-day retreat on the weekend of the sixth week
(Kabat-Zinn 1990). Participants are expected to commit to
45 min of home practice, 6 days of the week for the entire
8-week program. As the first formal home practice, the body
scan is frequently participantsinitial encounter with mindful-
ness. Though the body scan serves as a foundation for all
subsequent practices in the MBSR program, it has received
remarkably little individualized attention. This relative lack of
theoretical exploration may be an artifact of what McCown,
Reibel and Micozzi (2010) note as a tendency of MBSR
scholars to favor sitting meditation over other forms of prac-
tice. Whatever the reason, little has been written on the body
scan in terms of its background, unique clinical contributions,
and prospects for expanded clinical use. In this article we
consider each of these facets in turn, with the intention of
locating the body scan in the broader spectrum of clinical
psychology practice.
Body Scan
In practice, participants begin the body scan by sitting or lying
in a comfortable position. The instructor (live in class, then on
audio recording at home) slowly guides the participantsatten-
tion through the various regions of the body. Kabat-Zinn has
described the practice of the body scan as a sweeping
(Kabat-Zinn 1982,p.36)orazone purificationof the body
(Kabat-Zinn 1990, p. 87). Kabat-Zinns meditation teacher, a
chemist by training, used the metaphor of a circular furnace
slowly scanning a bar of metal, temporarily melting each
segment while pushing impurities to the end of the bar. The
body scan practice has elsewhere been described as an affec-
tionate, openhearted [and] interestedattention to the body that
can be practiced at various speeds and levels of precision
(Kabat-Zinn 2005,p.250).
According to Drummond (2006), Kabat-Zinnsbodyscan
was originally based on U Ba Khinssweepingpracticeand
S. J. Dreeben (*):P. Salmon
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences,
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA
M. H. Mamberg
Department of Psychology, Bridgewater State University,
Bridgewater, MA 02325, USA
Mindfulness (2013) 4:394401
DOI 10.1007/s12671-013-0212-z
Author's personal copy
Hatha Yoga meditation. S.N. Goenka, a Burmese-trained
Vipassan a teacher, was U Ba Khin s long-time student and
primary lineage holder (Srinivasan 1996). Goenka (cited in
Hart 1987) has indicated that his teachings are based in the
Satipatthana suttas observation of bodily sensations
(Drummond 2006). The body scan may have been influenced
in much the same way. Kabat-Zinn (2003) has pointed to the
Satipatthana sutta (in addition to the Anapanasati sutta)as
constituting the core teachings of mindfulness, with mindful-
ness of the body being the first of the four foundations of
mindfulness. Relatedly, current Vipassana teachers (e.g., at the
Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock) discuss both
suttas when leading a similar type of scanning practice to
stabilize attention and shift focus from being lost in thought
during insight meditation.
As individuals begin body scan practice, they are often
confronted with thoughts about success and failure or pleasure
and discomfort (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2013). These
cognitions may relate to sleepiness, physical discomfort, atten-
tional lapses, or emotional unease. Segal, Williams, and
Teasdale (2013) encourage instructors to use these experiences
as teaching moments, accentuating the participantsattention
to these thoughts and feelings. By gradually shifting the inten-
tion of the practice from performance to simple attention, the
practitioner may begin to cultivate a more detailed awareness
of emotional, cognitive, and physical experience.
In traditional Buddhist practices, once attention is stably
focused on bodily processes such as physical sensations or the
flow of breathing, the practitioner can begin to notice the
transitory nature of experience as well as the mindstendency
to judge each sensation (Sayadaw 1994). Experiencing pe-
riods of uninterrupted sensory awareness can highlight the
extent to which the mind engages in automatic evaluative
thought. Having noticed the minds tendency to judge, one
can in turn notice the attachment to or rejection of specific
bodily sensations, becoming increasingly aware of the mind
as intermediary interpreter.
Intimate knowledge of bodily experience, without judging
or reactivity, is further assumed by Buddhist psychology to
lead to an acceptance of impermanence the body will
fall ill, decay and die. As a consequence, the meditators
identification of self with body may be reduced with practice.
This cognitive shift of dis-identification, we argue, is an inte-
gral aspect of the body scan as practiced in MBSR. McCown,
Reibel, and Micozzi (2010) explain that this dis-identification
also extends to separating present moment experience from
stories or opinions about the experience. Through separating
stories about the present moment from the experience of
present-moment happening,MBSR participants cultivate
the ability to be flexible and to maintain perspective as they
perceive their inner experience and the world around them.
Kabat-Zinn (2005) similarly points out that the body scans
embodiment of two ways of representing meditation as a
technique (which implies a goal) and as a way of being can
contribute to reducing the minds tendency to fallinto dualistic
The popular caricature that Buddhist psychology rejects
the body in favor of enlightenment is directly contradicted
by the body scan. The practice makes clear that the body can
be and is used as a vehicle to stabilize the mind and as a way
to eliminate Dukkha, or suffering. Olendzki (2010)illustrates
this process when he writes:
The reason [mindfulness of the body] is effective is that
the mind can be aware of only one thing at a time over
time, as the practice of mindfulness of the body develops,
one can actually have multiple consecutive moments of
sense awareness uninterrupted by thinking aboutwhat
one is sensing. To those who habitually think too much,
this is experienced as blissful relief. (p. 89)
The body scan, in effect, provides the pedagogical basis
of all the practices introduced later within both the MBSR
and MBCT programs. By providing participants an oppor-
tunity to experience the automaticity of judgmental and
narrative thinking, the impermanence of thoughts, and the
flexibility of attention, it provides a thorough introduction to
mindfulness in practice. If participants experience even a
moment of blissfulsensing without thinking, they may be
more prepared and motivated to begin meditation and yoga
practice. In addition, the inquiry which follows each MBSR
practice in class entails just these skills of directing attention
nonjudgmentally. As they learn this first practice in the
MBSR course, participants develop an attitude of explora-
tion, which serves as a shared foundation for teachers and
students in future inquiry discussions. Finally, having been
introduced to kind, patient attention to the body early in the
course sequence, participants are better equipped to attend
nonjudgmentally to their direct experience as they begin the
more physically engaged mindfulness practices.
Somatic Attention in Clinical Practice
Just as various lineages employ scanning practices, many
clinical interventions use some form of explicitly attending
to the body. In reviewing these stand-alone clinical prac-
tices, we may begin to consider ways in which the body
scan might fit into the canon of Western somatic psycho-
therapy techniques.
The body scan is markedly less action-based and goal-
oriented than the most widely known Western-based somat-
ic practices. For instance, in Progressive Muscle Relaxation
(PMR), the therapist instructs the patient to notice sensa-
tions involved in tensing and relaxing specific muscle
groups, sequentially, with the purpose of training the patient
to bring the relaxation response more fully under conscious
Mindfulness (2013) 4:394401 395
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control (Jacobson 1938). PMR shares with the body scan a
progression of attention through different regions of the
body. It also shares with the body scan a de-emphasis on
labeling emotional reactions. However, unlike the body scan
in which attention is continually re-directed to the body,
PMR requires that participants should let the power go
offin all the muscle regions until thinking has ended
(McGuigan and Lehrer 2007, p. 75). More importantly,
PMR differs from the body scan in that muscles are actively
engaged and released rather than simply observed. This
important difference means that PMR is more focused on
the participantsdoing cognitively and physiologically
rather than being. In contrast, the body scan directs awareness
to the noticing of how one is in the moment, rather than
aiming to accomplish any task, however subtle. Lastly, PMR
has the declared goal of achieving relaxation or reduced
anxiety as its end, whereas the body scan is based in the
non-striving attitude characteristic of mindfulness practice.
Schulzs Autogenic Training (AT) also shares the body
scans focus on the body. However, it is based heavily on
imagery and aims to alter body sensations (Linden 2007).
For instance, a person practicing AT may aim to lower her
heart rate (HR) or warm her arms. Again, an important
difference between the body scan and other Western somatic
therapies lies in the difference between doing in order to
achieve something, rather than simply noticing ones current
state of being.
Similarly, hypnotherapeutic inductions frequently move
attention through the body as a means of shifting an indi-
vidual into a hypnotic state. Again, this differs from the
body scan in its goal-directedness and use of non-body
imagery. However, the body scans traditional use of the
present participle and slow speech patterns is quite similar to
hypnotic inductions. Notice the language in this segment of
a hypnosis induction: The muscles around the right elbow
and forearm becoming loose and comfortable. And all the
muscles in the hand letting go, letting go. Completely
letting go(Karlin 2007, p. 137). As discussed in our close
examination of Kabat-Zinnslanguaging(Mamberg,
Dreeben, & Salmon, 2012), similar phrasing is a core part
of the body scan. In both cases, language is used to encour-
age a particular type of experiential focus; however, the
body scan does not elicit striving toward a particular state.
Arelatedbut somewhat distinct clinical approach
derives from humanistic psychotherapy, in which a number of
therapeutic modalities have incorporated elements of somatic
awareness. Gendlin (1981) developed Focusing based on
developing clientsperceptions of the felt sense of an emotion
in their bodies. In this technique, an individual first notices the
physical sensation of an emotion, and then gives a handleto
the emotion by labeling it with a word. This differs from the
body scan in both the use of labels and the attention directed at
a felt emotion, rather than sequential regions of the body.
Gestalt therapy also uses attention to somatic sensations as a
central feature of therapy; for instance emphasizing awareness
of gestures, breathing, voice, and facial expressions (Perls
1973). Much like the body scan, the use of non-evaluative,
sustained attention to the body in Focusing and Gestalt
Therapy may function to reduce reactivity to negative physical
states and shift focus to present moment experience.
Charlotte Selver, the founder of Sensory Awareness in
the U.S., influenced a wide range of psychological practi-
tioners, including Fritz Perls, Erich Fromm, and Alan Watts.
Her therapy focused specifically on the body, often in con-
junction with movement, touch, or other sense perceptions
such as noticing the effects of gravity. Her instruction, like
the body scan, encouraged directing awareness through the
body, cultivating a familiarity with the entirety of the body
(Littlewood and Roche 2004). SelversworkinSensory
Awareness has found its way into mindfulness practice via
teachers such as Ruth Denison (Boucher 2005).
Compared to western somatic practices such as PMR and
AT, the body scan is markedly less action-based and less
goal-oriented. PMR and AT both involve active manipula-
tion of inner states, such as tensing and releasing muscles to
attain relaxation. These techniques intentionally bring about
changes in state, rather than foster experience of the body as
it is. By emphasizing attending to the body and its functions
without the practitioner having to do anything, the body
scan fosters a distinction between awareness and bodily
reactions, as well as acceptance of the body as it is. It also
encourages adaptive attitudes with which to approach the
body (e.g., curiosity or kindness).
In sum, the body scan shares certain features with other
somatic therapies incorporated in western psychotherapy,
while contributing a distinct quality. The MBSR body scan
remains unique due to its focus on non-striving awareness
without doing, and its roots in Buddhist psychology.
MBSR Body Scan as Yoga
The body scan is normally conducted lying supine on a floor
or mat, comparable to the Savasana pose in Yoga. Savasana
is treated in yogic texts as a particularly challenging pose.
This is because of the demands it places on steady, inwardly
focused attention, which in part is attained by taking phys-
ical activity out of the equation: very little conscious control
is needed to maintain the posture, in contrast to the mental
challenges involved, not the least of which is staying awake.
Seen from this perspective, the body scan is intimately tied
to Yoga, by virtue of establishing a vantage point from
which to observe internal sensations. However, there are
differences between these two practices, as well. In Yoga,
savasana serves as a vehicle for stabilizing attention that is
not necessarily somatically focused, but rather puts one in
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touch with a state of being that transcends the physical
world (Iyengar 1966). In a way, savasana presages death,
quite literally it is translated as the corpse pose and
implicitly fits in a much different framework than that of the
body scan, which is undertaken within the context of the
assertion “…as long as you are breathing, there is more right
with you than there is wrong(Kabat-Zinn 1990, p.2). In
effect, the body scan brings the practitioner into intimate
connection with sensations of being alive. Here is one point
where the effects of the body scan and the yoga asana
appear to diverge.
In both the body scan and savasana, the body makes
more complete contact with the physical world in the
form of a mat or floor than in any other posture. When
standing, for example, our point of contact is through the soles
of the feet, resulting in a certain precarious postural state that
requires minute, non-conscious moment-by-moment skeletal
and muscular adjustment needed to sustain what from a dis-
tance appears to be a static pose.
Novice yoga practitioners begin developing awareness of
movement by observing the body during gross physical
motion. Over time, they become increasingly attuned to
more subtle postural shifts and their resulting sensations.
As a natural lead-in to yoga practice and the MBSR pro-
gram, the body scan helps cultivate awareness of the wealth
of distinct somatic sensations. This is in contrast to the
common experience of only noticing physical reactively
when something unusual happens, typically negative. Once
the practitioner has learned to develop this sensitivity, in-
structions such as pivot on your right hipbegin to make
sense, because of acquired sensitivity to subtle propriocep-
tive and kinesthetic feedback generated by movement.
So, in one sense, although yoga is formally introduced in
session 3 of MBSR, in reality it begins with the body scan in
session 1, due to the close physical correspondence with
savasana. One could go further, and say that simply the act
of moving into and out of the body scan comprises a fairly
complex series of movements that are closely associated with
yoga. Getting down on the floor is in fact a highly complex
sequence of actions, beginning with establishing the intention
to move and culminating the moment one finishes making
contact with the floor and is able to completely let go and
release any sense of effortful action. (Returning to an upright
position is the reverse of this, and likewise requires enactment
of a very different and highly complex sequence of
movements resulting in assumption of a seated or standing
position.) Mindful Yoga is full of instances where apparently
simple movements are enacted with careful attention; in fact, it
is the quality of attention, rather than the movement itself, that
is paramount. In MBSR, these sequences provide an opportu-
nity for careful attention to ones automatic judgments about
bodily movements, limitations and sensations. The body scan
provides practice with this attentional style well before mindful
movement is introduced. It highlights embodied awareness,
inherently based on sensation; it is not merely a mental exer-
cise that uses the body as an object.
Clinical Research
In this section, we summarize the existing research on the body
scan which falls into four general categories: (1) physiological
effects, (2) intervention applications, (3) correlations between
body scan practice time and psychometric variables, and (4)
clinical case studies.
Physiological Effects of the Body Scan
Ditto, Eclache, and Goldman (2006) compared the physio-
logical effects of body scan meditation, PMR, an audio
recording control group, and a quiet sitting control group.
They found that over a 20-min recording period and following
4 weeks of daily practice, the body scan group had a signifi-
cantly greater increase in Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia
(RSA), a measure of parasympathetic activity reflecting heart
and breathing rate synchrony, than PMR, the audio recording,
or sitting groups.
In a study of MBSR for women with fibromyalgia, par-
ticipants listened to a 20-min body scan before and after the
8-week program, while HR, skin conductance level (SCL)
and peripheral (finger tip) temperature (PT) were measured
(Lush et al. 2009). Mean SCL was significantly lower during
the post-program body scan. Additionally, following MBSR,
SCL had significantly lower initial values and declined more
rapidly during the recording, suggesting lower sympathetic
activation and reduction during the body scan. Although other
factors in MBSR may have contributed to this pattern, the
body scan likely contributed to the observed practice-specific
Body Scan as Clinical Intervention
Although the body scan is a facet of many mindfulness-based
clinical interventions (e.g., MBSR, MBCT, Mindfulness-Based
Eating Awareness Training [Kristeller and Hallett 1999],
Mindfulness-Based Relationship Enhancement [Carson et al.
2004], Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy [Monti et al. 2006],
Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training [Jha et al. 2010],
Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention [Bowen, Chawla, &
Marlatt, 2011]), it has received little attention as a stand-alone
or complementary treatment. One notable exception is a series
of studies by Ussher, Cropley and colleagues comparing the
effects of the body scan to various smoking cessation tech-
niques. A pair of studies found that a modified version of the
MBSR body scan was as effective at reducing withdrawal
symptoms and desire to smoke as isometric exercise (Ussher,
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Cropley, Playle, Mohidin & West, 2009;Ussher,Doshi,
Sampuran & West, 2006). Cropley, Ussher, and Charitou
(2007) also examined the effects of a modified body scan on
withdrawal symptoms and cravings in overnight abstinent
smokers. Compared to an educational audio recording control
group, participants who listened to the body scan reported
reduced irritability, restlessness, and tension, as well as a di-
minished desire to smoke. There were again no significant
differences between the two conditions, while both proved to
be more effective than an educational audio recording.
Although these studies tested a briefer body scan as a stand-
alone intervention for a very specific application (smoking
cessation), they suggest that the body scan may have value as
an independent clinical resource.
Practice Time and Psychometric Variables
One of the most consistent findings in the MBSR literature
is a preference for the body scan, as measured by practice
time, compared to other core practices. In the study of
Shapiro, Brown & Biegel (2007), student therapists in
an 8-week MBSR program reported spending more time
practicing the body scan (on a minutes/week basis) than
they did sitting meditation or hatha yoga. In a pre-
deployment military sample of Mindfulness-based Mind
Fitness Training, the body scan and breath awareness
were reported as the most frequently used practices (Jha
et al. 2010). Tacon, Caldera, and Ronaghan (2004)
reported that women with breast cancer participating in
an MBSR program preferred both somatic practices: yoga
(50.6 %), and body scan (42 %), followed by sitting
meditation (7.4 %). At a 3-month follow-up, yoga remained
the top preference (50 %), followed by the body scan
(29.2 %), and sitting meditation (20.8 %). Finally, Carmody
and Baer (2008) found that participants in a mixed MBSR
group practiced the body scan 3135 min/day, as compared to
1620 min/day for both yoga and meditation.
In addition to tracking body scan practice time, Carmody
and Baer (2008) also correlated these values with pre-/post-
changes in psychometric measures. Body scan practice time
was positively and significantly correlated with decreased
interpersonal sensitivity and anxiety, and increased well-
being, non-reactivity to inner experience, and observing skills.
Lengacher et al. (2009) similarly correlated practice time with
pre-/post-changes in an abbreviated MBSR program for
breast cancer survivors. In this study, body scan practice
time was correlated with significant improvements in trait
anxiety, depression, perceived stress, emotional well-being,
and aggregate mental health. Although it is unclear what
mediating factors may be at work, or precisely what these
outcome measures communicate, these studies collectively
suggest that body scan practice is positively correlated with
mental health.
In the papers reviewed thus far, the body scan is used as an
indicator of patient engagement and as an outcome measure,
with little attention paid to the activities (cognitive, affective
and interpersonal) employed during the body scan itself. We
turn now to clinical self-reports describing the effectiveness of
the body scan.
Clinical Reports and First-Person Studies
There are several reports of participantsexperiences with the
body scan (Ott 2002; Finucane and Mercer 2006; Williams,
Duggan, Crane & Fennell, 2006;Smith,Graham,&
Senthinathan, 2007). These papers include accounts of people
who reported the body scan being useful for distress tolerance
and stress reduction, as well as coping with chronic pain,
generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and epigastric
The many narratives provided by Finucane and Mercer
(2006) provide a particular wealth of first-person accounts
about the body scan from MBCT participants. One of their
participants describes the personal benefit of their body scan
practice by contrasting it with PMR, stating:
when you are doing (progressive muscle) relaxation
you are sort of concentrating just on muscles or different
parts of your body but it's outside your body but I felt the
[body scan] meditation was going inside the body as
if I've got into the root, is probably the best way to
describe it. And I can get right to the nucleus of it and
I can feel it. (p. 7)
As experienced MBSR instructors know, not every
encounter with the body scan is positive. For instance,
a woman with a history of childhood sexual abuse found
that the body scan made her aware of "horrible feelings
through my body that I had never felt before" (Finucane
and Mercer 2006, p. 7). This is not unlike an MBSR
participant described in Full Catastrophe Living, whose
memories of childhood sexual abuse and guilt over her
fathers death surfaced as a result of sensations she
experienced during the body scan (Kabat-Zinn 1990,
p. 7980). However, she persevered with the body scan
and found that her physical and emotional pain decreased
substantially. To further emphasize the variety of possible
experiences, Finucane and Mercer describe another par-
ticipant with a history of childhood sexual trauma who
had a very positive experience with the body scan, and
continued to practice it several times a week even at
3 months follow-up. Such reports are a reminder that
the body scan itself is a neutral stimulus to which prac-
titioners bring their own reactions, whether positive or
negative. They also reinforce the importance of under-
standing a clients history and relationship to their body
before embarking on this intervention.
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Finally, some neuropsychological studies are beginning to
focus on body scanning, as well. Goenkas adaptation of
U Ba Khinsbody sweeping practice has been employed
in neuroimaging studies showing structural changes in
practitioners. A study by Holzel et al. (2008) reported
higher concentrations of gray matter in the left inferior
temporal gyrus, right anterior insula, and right hippocam-
pus in long-term meditators compared to non-meditating
controls. In a study with the same participants, the left
inferior temporal gyrus was also significantly more acti-
vated during body-focused meditation; additionally, the
concentration of gray matter in this region was also
correlated with amount of practice time (Holzel et al.
2007). Greater concentration of gray matter in the right
anterior insula corroborates a similar finding with insight
meditation practitioners (Lazar et al. 2005). The right
anterior insula is generally considered to be related to
interoception and awareness of bodily feelings (Holzel et
al. 2008). Thus, while research on the body scan is in its
infancy, it shows promise both as a clinical practice
alone as well as an integral element of MBSR.
Clinical Application
The body scan has been widely practiced within the context
of MBSR and other mindfulness-based interventions for
over 30 years now. It is our opinion that it is clinically
useful and needs to be researched as a unique clinical
practice if we are to deconstruct the effective components
of MBSR and related mindfulness-based interventions. To
inform research and clinical use of the body scan, we
propose the following applications of the body scan in
traditional clinical settings:
(1) To help explicitly establish the connection between
physical sensations and emotional labels. Most patients
can say very little about what is going on internally, and in
general have minimal sensitivity to inner states. The body
scan provides a means of establishing a deeper sensitivity
to sensations, as well as a vocabulary for conveying
physiological experiences, that may previously have been
missing or absent.
(2) In psychotherapy, to aid in identifying somatic corre-
lates of cognitive activity and coming to understand
that modifying either one may potentially impact the
(3) Re-directing attention away from stressful time travel
cognitions to here and nowsensations. Such re-directing
may be particularly helpful with patients who dissociate or
ruminate excessively.
(4) To encourage noting and appreciating affective states
(Davidson 2010) using non-reactive language that is
descriptive rather than diagnostic. For example, rather
than saying Im depressed,clients with mood disorders
may benefit from explicit re-framing and encouragement
to state experiential correlates such as my breath feels
heavy and labored.Further, the body scan helps the
practitioner move past static characterizations of the self
(Imdepressed), in favor of more momentary sensa-
tions of the breath or body.
(5) Keeping in mind that many MBSR participants (and
psychotherapy clients more generally) have physical
problems, the body scan can be a tool for positive re-
framing by bringing attention to the fact that whatever
difficulties may be going on in ones body, there is
much that is working properly.
(6) Avoidance is a common obstacle to therapeutic
progress avoidance of thoughts, avoidance of feelings,
not being willing to make contact with experiences
that are, or have been, prematurely labeled as aver-
sive. Some people are so entrained into avoidance
perhaps habitually so that clinicians need to em-
ploy a very gradual, gentle means of guiding them
into making contact with the object of aversion. The
reason for using the body scan to initiate this process
is that much of avoidance involves cognitive activity,
and by initially focusing on somatic sensations the
therapist can establish a sort of phenomenological
beach headfrom which further contact with corre-
lated cognitive events could be initiated. If clients are
avoidant or fearful of emotional experience, it may
also provide an opportunity to experience emotions as
somatic events, independent of evaluative cognitions.
Introduced early, and practiced throughout the MBSR
curriculum, the body scan encourages awareness and
acceptance of inner states, whether positive, negative or
neutral. It is a unique practice, differing from most
somatic-based clinical techniques because of its consistent
emphasis on awareness in the present, rather than on
future (or even immediate) change. Although largely
overlooked in research, it has been a central feature of
mindfulness-based practices for many years. The time has
arrived for researchers and clinicians to consider seriously the
unique contribution of the body scan in both MBSR and
clinical practice.
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Supplementary resource (1)

... This kind of practice involves voluntarily shifting one's attention first to specific body parts (e.g., toes, back, or head), and then to the whole body, in order to notice what is happening (e.g., sensations such as pain or muscle tension) in the present moment without judging or reacting to the experience (equanimous attitude) (e.g., MBSR) [28]. BSM is significantly related to the mindfulness facets of observing and non-reacting to inner experience, as well as to improvements in psychological well-being [29], and thus, appears to be an important clinical resource that one could integrate into psychotherapeutic work [30]. Nevertheless, BSM is not typically used in association with disturbing memories (differently from EMDR and BSP), and, as such, does not specifically require individuals to follow their stream of consciousness related with these memories, but only to notice when the mind wanders, in order to bring it back to body sensations. ...
... These individuals' feedbacks thus indicate the therapeutic potential of focusing on one's body parts and sensations when different physiological states are activated by the recalling of a distressing memory. More generally, these data suggest a deepening of the clinical implications of BSM [30]. For example, if a client shares a highly distressing memory during a therapeutic session, the therapist could guide a BSM practice before proceeding with the deepening of the experience and its elaboration with more specific techniques, such as EMDR. ...
Full-text available
Objectives: We explored the effects of a single 40-min session of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Brainspotting (BSP), and Body Scan Meditation (BSM) in the processing of distressing memories reported by a non-clinical sample of adult participants. Design: A within-subject design was used. Methods: Participants (n = 40 Psychologists/MDs) reported four distressing memories, each of which treated with a single intervention. EMDR, BSP, and BSM were compared with each other, and with a Book Reading (BR) active control condition, using as dependent measures, SUD (Subjective Units of Disturbance) and Memory Telling Duration (MTD) on a 4-point timeline: Baseline, Pre-Intervention, Post-Intervention, Follow-up. Results: SUD scores associated with EMDR, BSP, and BSM significantly decreased from Pre- to Post-Intervention (p < 0.001). At Post-Intervention and Follow-up, EMDR and BSP SUD scores were significantly lower than BSM and BR scores (p < 0.02). At both Post-Intervention and Follow-up, BSM SUD scores were lower than BR scores (p < 0.01). A reduction in MTD was observed from Pre- to Post-Intervention for EMDR and BSP conditions (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Overall, results showed beneficial effects of single sessions of EMDR, BSP, or BSM in the processing of healthy adults' distressing memories. Study limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed.
... This practice is linked with significant and positive correlation with decreased anxiety, stress, and depression as well as increased emotional wellbeing (Hazlett-Stevens 2017; Dreeben et al. 2013;Carmody and Baer 2008;Lengacher et al. 2009). ...
... It also provides continuous sensory awareness which in turn can enhance mental engagement. Furthermore, it allows the notion of noticing without judgment (Dreeben et al. 2013). This non-judgmental practice helps the individual to familiarise with things as they occur. ...
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This study looks at the effects of the combined practice of mindful meditation and aromatherapy on the wellbeing of MCAST ICS lecturers, potentially providing resources that can help them deal with various stressors. Each practice is supported with literature underlining its effects towards a holistic wellbeing. The researcher uses a qualitative narrative inquiry approach to draw meaning and understanding out of the participants’ experiences. Three MCAST ICS lecturers participated in this study. Their background in health care enables them to relate better with the benefits of mindful meditation and aromatherapy. The research design of this study consists of four stages; a pre-session held with the three participants, weekly mindful meditation sessions for six weeks, individual interviews with each participant, followed by a focus group. Three of the six sessions included aromatherapy and a mindful journal was kept throughout the sessions. The analysis format could either develop as an analysis of narrative or narrative of analysis. In this study both formats were used, however, due to the word count limit only the analysis of narrative is seen. The researcher elicited whole segments from the individual transcripts to develop various themes. To examine the data for the emergent themes the researcher chose to use thematic narrative analysis as it focuses on the ‘told’ (Riessman 2008). In this case the ‘told’ is what helped identify the common patterns found across the narratives. As themes started to emerge, whenever possible the researcher used the MAXQDA software to facilitate the process. Mindful meditation was found to lead to a series of events that enhance self-awareness, thus enhancing holistic wellbeing and positively effecting the individual’s approach towards work and family. This can be achieved because mindful meditation has the potential to enhance one’s social skills, soft skills, and emotional intelligence. Furthermore, combining aromatherapy with mindful meditation was found to positively enhance one’s experience. However, it was not the only decisive factor since the ambience was also an influencer.
... In the Islamic tradition, challenging experiences are accepted as tests of faith from Allah (Hamdan, 2007) while mindfulness also expects that people process their experiences through the lens of acceptance (Cardaciotto et al., 2008;McWilliams, 2014). With such acceptance approach, the two (mindfulness and Islamic tradition) share the practice of the positive reframing of stressful situations (Abu-Raiya & Pargament, 2010;Berzengi et al., 2017;Dreeben et al., 2013). In addition to the aforementioned shared practice, there are Islamic bridging concepts for Mindfulness training. ...
... The body scan meditation is a somatically oriented, attention-focusing practice designed to increase interoceptive awareness and acceptance. 37 The practice of the body scan enhances the felt sense of being localized within one's physical body; references the lived, immediate experience of one's own body; and cultivates a subtle distinction between thinking about the body and perceiving the body. 38 In the present study, the middle of the audio was a body scan for 4 min (transcripts e.g., feel the weight on the soles of the feet, the pressure, the slight tremor of the muscles, the warmth or coolness of the skin …). ...
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Background Mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) as a psychological treatment is adopted in the sports field, but its effect during competition has not been explored. This study investigated the acute effect of a brief MBI on athletes’ cognitive function after a 45-min, lab-based soccer protocol. Methods In a single-blind randomized counter-balanced crossover design, 17 male soccer players completed two main trials—an MBI trial and a control trial. The MBI trial was provided with a brief MBI after 45-min exercise; the control trial was instead assigned a travel-related audio to listen to at that time. In each main trial, cognitive function (i.e., Stroop task for inhibition; Corsi-block tapping task for working memory), salivary cortisol, blood lactate and mental fatigue were measured at baseline (pretest) and after the intervention (posttest). The cerebral oxygenation status was recorded using functional near-infrared spectroscopy during the cognitive function test. Results The brief MBI improved working memory performance in terms of both reaction time (pre vs. post, P = 0.02, d = 0.71) and accuracy (pre vs. post, P = 0.009, d = 0.58), supported by eliciting increased oxyhemoglobin concentration in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Whereas a slightly better cognitive performance for MBI trial than control trial at posttest (P = 0.37, d = 0.32) accompanied by a lower oxyhemoglobin concentration. A lower mental fatigue level (P = 0.05, d = 0.6) and lower cortisol concentration (P = 0.04, d = 0.65) were observed in the MBI trial than in the control trial after the intervention at posttest. The decreased cortisol concentration correlated with increased inhibition performance in the MBI trial. Conclusion The acute effect of MBI on athletes’ mental fatigue and cortisol concentration was detected, and the beneficial effect on working memory was preliminarily supported. In general, MBI is recommended to be adopted at half-time of a soccer game.
... However, it should be noted that BSM was also effective in reducing perceived disturbance by an average of 43%. This outcome supports the idea that the BSM may have its own intrinsic value as an independent clinical resource (Dreeben et al., 2013). Indeed, it seems that having greater confidence in oneself and in others (ASQ "Confidence"), experiencing one's body as safe and trustworthy (MAIA "Trusting"), awareness of the connection between body sensations and emotional states (MAIA "Emotional Awareness"), and capacity to active listening to the body for insight (MAIA "Body Listening") could be associated to the BSM therapeutic potential. ...
Full-text available
Brainspotting (BSP) is a relatively new type of brain-body psychotherapeutic approach discovered and developed by David Grand (2003) that accesses the client's innate self-observing and self-healing capacities in the frame of a neurobiologically attuned clinical relationship. Despite it being increasingly growing in popularity among therapists, there is still a paucity of literature on its effectiveness. The aim of the study was to explore the efficacy of BSP in treating distressing (not necessarily traumatic) memories in a non-clinical sample of adults. A within-subjects design was employed for the Brainspotting effectiveness analysis, with two within-subjects factors (treatment, time). The treatment factor had two levels: Brainspotting, and a control condition (Body Scan Meditation). Both objective (Heart Rate Variability-HRV parameters) and subjective (self-report) measures were used in the study. Results showed that, after about 40 minutes of treatment, Brainspotting significantly reduced memory-related distress in comparison with Body Scan Meditation control condition (p = .028). Additionally, the participants had better HRV than before the treatment (all Time Domain parameters p < .05). Participants' Interoceptive Awareness dimensions and dispositional traits such as attachment style, temperament and character were also examined and discussed within the Brainspotting theoretical frame. These findings, more broadly, highlighted the key role of interoceptive awareness in the processing of distressing memories.
... Moreover, reflective practices differ in their perceived effects and benefits (Ager, Albrecht, & Cohen, 2015). For example, body scans, which influence sympathetic and parasympathetic neural activity, may be associated with heightened awareness of physical sensations (Dreeben, Mamberg, & Salmon, 2013) while journaling may evoke greater awareness of emotions (Ager et al., 2015). Hence, providing a variety of experiences may promote diverse types of reflective practices. ...
Early childhood education is a demanding profession, and teachers’ stress is inversely associated with the quality of their interactions with young children. In order to provide stress management tools to preservice teachers prior to entry into the field, there has been growing interest in the use of reflective practices as part of higher education pedagogy. There is initial evidence that reflective practices have the potential to positively influence preservice teachers’ well-being and teaching practice. Instructors at two universities incorporated the use of reflective practices, including journaling, in-class discussions, and mindfulness, into their early childhood courses. Students from these courses were invited to participate in focus groups regarding their experiences with the use of reflective practices as part of their course’s pedagogical approach; 21 students participated (n for Course 1 = 13, n for Course 2 = 8). Using constant comparative analysis, two primary themes emerged: 1) participants described important aspects of the process and structure of using reflective practices as part of their course, and 2) participants reported how reflective practices supported their social-emotional understanding and well-being. Implications for using reflective practices, including rich descriptions, examples, and practice suggestions, as part of early childhood higher education pedagogy are discussed.
... • Explore: "Conscious Breathing" [77], in which the participants learn to concentrate their attention only on the physical sensations caused by their own breathing, leaving all thoughts out of their attentional focus, with subsequent relaxation. • Close: "Body Scanner" [78], in which participants identify the different sensations throughout their body, with subsequent relaxation. • Open: "Body Leadership" [79], with the aim of making participants aware of their body and how their different body positions can generate one impression or another on others, perceiving us as more or less dominant and facilitating or hindering their collaboration. ...
Full-text available
In the 21st century, to be successful at the workplace and to get their first job, potential employees must have both “soft skills” (“know how to be”) and “hard skills” (“know how to do”). The proposed Soft Skills Training Program (SSTP) combines multiple serious games to train future employees in four key soft skills that are most demanded by companies: intrapersonal, interpersonal, personal social responsibility, and organizational sustainability. These four MacroSoftSkills are subdivided into eight MesoSoftSkills and 21 MicroSoftSkills to establish a complete multilevel structure. The development of soft skills is measured before and after the training using five appraisal questionnaires and tests. The pilot project, aimed at young university and vocational training students, lasted 9 weeks and proved to be effective since the proposed aggregate indicators of soft skills development increased in value, with the results being different across soft skill, gender, and educational center. The contents and length of some of the training sessions should, however, be adjusted to further develop and improve the program.
... The body scan form of mindfulness training is a somatically oriented experience that can be used alone or in combination with MBSR and can last from 5 to 30 min (Kabat-Zinn, 1990;Dreeben et al., 2013). The body scan is an introspective practice in which attention is progressively directed from one part of the body to another, with instructions to simply pay attention to sensations as they arise. ...
Full-text available
Numerous recent studies have shown that COVID-19 and the accompanying mandated lifestyle changes have resulted in significant negative effects on people’s mental health. To meet the increased need for mental health support, while also maintaining physical safety, a variety of telehealth services have been created or expanded. A body scan mindfulness program is an intervention that can easily be modified to be offered virtually. This study was designed to determine if a virtual body scan mindfulness exercise, with participants’ holding their dog or a pillow/blanket, could reduce their stress and anxiety as well as that of the facilitators. Significant differences in pre/post-State Anxiety Assessment scores for participants and facilitators were found. These results are discussed within the framework of the human animal bond and the potential of this form of intervention as a useful virtual tool for participants and facilitators alike.
Wie schaffen wir es, selbstbewusster und authentischer zu werden? Dieses Kapitel beschäftigt sich mit dem Prozess der Selbstführung, den L-Loops. Wir führen uns wie ein Team, dessen Mitglieder aus unterschiedlichen Ländern stammen, verschiedene Sprachen sprechen und unterschiedliche Kompetenzen haben. Es gilt, die Sprache aller Teammitglieder zu verstehen und sich mit ihrem jeweiligen Kontext vertraut zu machen. Der nächste Schritt besteht darin, Hindernisse aus dem Weg zu räumen, die die Zusammenarbeit im Team behindern. Dadurch gewinnt man ein klareres Bild über sich selbst und kann mithilfe spezifischer Techniken gezielt Probleme loslassen. So gelingt es, auf der einen Seite Reibungsverluste zu reduzieren und auf der anderen Seite Selbst-Bewusstsein zu stärken. Auf dem Weg zu mehr Resilienz, Authentizität, Kreativität, Unternehmergeist, Führung mit Gefühl und dem Kreieren neuer Erkenntnisse lohnt sich immer ein Zwischenstopp in der Laughing Loop zum Baden in innerer Entspanntheit.
Der amerikanische Psychotherapeut Eugene T. Gendlin stellte in Untersuchungen fest, dass Menschen, die gut mit Krisen und Problemen umgehen können, offenbar über eine andere Art der Selbstwahrnehmung verfügen: Sie beziehen körperliche Empfindungen ein und äußern sich nicht nur theoretisch oder abstrakt über ihre Lage. Von dieser Beobachtung ausgehend, entwickelt Gendlin eine Methode, solche Art der Selbstwahrnehmung zu lehren: Focusing. In seinem Buch stellt er die Technik des Focusing vor und erläutert zugleich, wei diese zur Selbsthilfe bei der Lösung persönlicher Probleme eingesetzt werden kann.
The applications and use of mindfulness-based interventions in medicine, mental health care, and education have been expanding as rapidly as the empirical evidence base that is validating and recommending them. This growth has created a powerful demand for professionals who can effectively deliver these interventions, and for the training of new professionals who can enter the fold. Ironically, while the scientific literature on mindfulness has surged, little attention has been paid to the critical who and how of mindfulness pedagogy. Teaching Mindfulness is the first in-depth treatment of the person and skills of the mindfulness teacher. It is intended as a practical guide to the landscape of teaching, to help those with a new or growing interest in mindfulness-based interventions to develop both the personal authenticity and the practical know-how that can make teaching mindfulness a highly rewarding and effective way of working with others. The detail of theory and praxis it contains can also help seasoned mindfulness practitioners and teachers to articulate and understand more clearly their own pedagogical approaches. Engagingly written and enriched with vignettes from actual classes and individual sessions, this unique volume: Places the current mindfulness-based interventions in their cultural and historical context to help clarify language use, and the integration of Eastern and Western spiritual and secular traditions Offers a highly relational understanding of mindfulness practice that supports moment-by-moment work with groups and individuals Provides guidance and materials for a highly experiential exploration of the reader's personal practice, embodiment, and application of mindfulness Describes in detail the four essential skill sets of the mindfulness teacher Proposes a comprehensive, systematic model of the intentions of teaching mindfulness as they are revealed in the mindfulness-based interventions Includes sample scripts for a wide range of mindfulness practices, and an extensive resource section for continued personal and career development Essential for today's practitioners and teachers of mindfulness-based interventions Teaching Mindfulness: A Practical Guide for Clinicians and Educators brings this increasingly important discipline into clearer focus, opening dialogue for physicians, clinical and health psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, pastoral counselors, spiritual directors, life coaches, organizational development professionals, and teachers and professionals in higher education, in short, everyone with an interest in helping others find their way into the benefits of the present moment. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010. All rights reserved.
The author presents in 21 chapters a clinical, practical and scientific discussion of the method of progressive relaxation whereby the subject is trained to reduce greatly or to eliminate residual muscular tensions. With the consequent reduction of excitatory impulses there is a reduction in the irritability of nerve centers. Suggestion is ruled out as an explanatory factor. Inhibitory processes may play a role. Bibliography, 44 pages. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)