Deep gratitude to Her World magazine for featuring Mindful Moments in their April 2018 issue, as well as for writing about why we should pursue mindfulness and how we can practice it daily!
In The Mindful People Series, we interview people from different walks of life and get them to share their mindfulness experience, as well as how learning and practicing mindfulness have made a difference to their personal and professional lives
MiMo: How did you get into learning and practicing mindfulness?
David: I am a curious and adventurous person who is always eager to learn new things. As a trainer and organization consultant, I am always looking for new ways and techniques to constantly remind myself to have a clear mind and engage events with different perspectives. As a practitioner of NLP (Psychological) and Whole Brain Thinking Metaphor (Social), I want to enhance in the area of Physiology. Therefore, searching the Internet, I chanced upon the practice of Mindfulness.
MiMo: Tell us about your experience in the MBSR program.
David: It has been an eye opener and great experience. My course mates were great. Initially, it was a tough challenge to attend all the weekend classes. After the first three lessons and daily practices, I realized that I was experiencing different physical experiences.
Erin was great. She was always very patient and helped us overcome detractors during the practices. The frequent weekly group sharing was very motivating and encouraging. I could see that towards the end of the course, most of my course mates were very different in their physical appearances and were engaging people with very positive body gestures.
MiMo: How has mindfulness contributed to your personal well-being?
David: I am beginning to enjoy my surroundings better, becoming more patient with events happening daily, and more importantly, appreciating things from a different perspective. I am also able to recognize the physical sensations I feel when I am about to burst, and I am able to manage myself well before I exploded.
MiMo: How has mindfulness supported you in your professional work?
David: It has helped me to maintain a clear mind where at times my work can be very overwhelming ("Mind Full"). I am also able to integrate Mindfulness into my training agenda and help my clients/students cope better with the mental, social and physical aspects of their lives.
MiMo: How have you incorporated mindfulness into your daily life?
David: I have been making it a point to continue the daily practices whenever possible amidst my daily activities.
MiMo: Any words of advice for people who are thinking about learning mindfulness?
David: It is a great practice that I would say all humans should learn and practice. It has very diverse benefits and suits people from all walks of life.
About David Ong
David has more than 25 years of Managing, Developing and Training Human Capital both local and regional countries which includes, Japan, Myanmar, Bhutan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and various provinces of China. His vast training experiences and travels make him a close Business Consultant with numerous corporations, partnering them in their Organization Development in areas related to Values and Culture, Training Needs Analysis, Training Evaluation and Leadership Competency Model.
His niche areas are delivering Leadership Competency Related Programs; ie, Project Management, Change Management, Decision Making, Problem Solving, Creativity, Innovation, Negotiations, Diversity Management, Team Enhancement, Communications, People Skills and Human Behavioral Science(Psychology/Sociology). His passion in Human Behavioral Science has seen him further studied in the fields of Education-Adult Learning and Psychology-Behaviors.
Are you a mindfulness practitioner or do you know one who would like to share their mindfulness experience on the MiMo blog? Do drop us a message!
Whenever I met with doubts or challenges in teaching the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, my mentor would gift me this timely reminder: "Erin, be curious. Curiosity will always get you out of trouble".
The cultivation of curiosity in mindfulness is an interesting practice to engage with. When was the last time you were truly curious about something? If you have observed a child figuring out the way the world works, you might notice the wonderment and spark in their eyes as they discover something new and interesting.
As a child, we were naturally curious and open about everything around us, and we simply wanted to explore. But as we grew up, fears, expectations and judgments set in, and we no longer approach things with genuine curiosity. We worry about the unknown or ambiguous, we reject repetition and avoid change, we seek concrete answers to the questions we ask, we tend to form biased perceptions, categorizing what we observe into stereotypes, and we almost always look to get something - usually a function or benefit - out of anything we see or come across.
Being curious about things is encouraged in mindfulness practice. In mindfulness, we practice a lot of acceptance towards the stresses and challenges in our life, but before we can even develop greater acceptance, we need to train the mind to see things just the way they are. We notice the prejudices and assumptions we tend to make, and learn to let go of preferences for things to go our way. When we are able to cultivate such genuine curiosity that is free from expectations and judgment, we usually experience remarkable changes to our relationship with the world around us.
Curiosity does not kill the cat. Instead, it can be your new best friend - a support you can depend on anytime, anywhere, and a gentle practice that invites you to approach life in an entirely different way. If you'd like to learn how to cultivate genuine mindful curiosity, do check out our 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program.
I get this a lot as a mindfulness practitioner and advocate - many tell me they would love to practice mindfulness, but simply can't squeeze out much time to do it. This usually happens when our idea about mindfulness is pretty much limited to sitting still for a (very) long time. I completely empathize with their concern, because to be honest, when you're already pressed for time to complete work deadlines, finish up your chores, and spend time with your family, who can afford to idle around on a cushion, not moving, and doing nothing?
But here's the thing: mindfulness does not have to be practiced in stillness, and it is certainly not doing nothing. When we are practicing mindfulness, we are actually training the mind to pay attention to the present moment, and that can take a lot of work on our part. While some mindfulness practices take place sitting or lying in stillness, others can be practiced in movement. Not all mindfulness practices are long - some can be short, or really, really short. And what's also beautiful about mindfulness is that it can be practiced almost anywhere, anytime.
How about practicing mindfulness while brushing your teeth? You might wonder how you could do that. All you need is something to place your attention on. Feel the motions of your hand and the brush moving up and down, back and forth; feel the sensations of brushing on the teeth, the gums, the tongue; feel the minty coolness and notice the taste of the toothpaste; notice the temperature of the water in your mouth. Notice the present state of your body instead of running through your to-do list in your mind.
Or how about when you're commuting on an MRT train? Instead of looking down at your phone (it is scary how uniform commuters look when everybody's heads are bowed down at their gadgets), notice your posture and the way you are sitting or standing; feel the floor at the bottoms of your feet; feel the texture of the pole you're holding on to; feel our breath in and under your nose.
You can also practice mindfulness when you're vacuuming your home, washing the dishes, driving, crossing the road, taking a shower, eating a meal, unlocking the door... The list is endless! Simply pay attention to what's present in your immediate environment - physical sensations in your body, movements, sounds, etc. This kind of daily life mindfulness practice, which we call informal practice (in contrast with formal practices of sitting on the cushion or chair or lying on the floor for a longer period of time), can last a few minutes or even just a few seconds or moments, but the benefits are tremendous.
That said, it is worth noting that both formal and informal practices are important in mindfulness training, and the best way to practice mindfulness is to find a balance between them both, which complement each other. While formal practice deepens our concentration and wisdom through observing the nature of our mind and body, informal practice allows us to incorporate awareness in our daily lives. When both practices are integrated as a way of life, we are training the brain's cognitive flexibility to effectively regulate our emotions, change our relationship with stress, and improve our health and well-being.
The author Erin is a Mindfulness Coach and Founder of Mindful Moments Singapore. Learn more about the research-based mindfulness training program she teaches.
When people come to know that I practice and teach mindfulness, quite a number of them would ask me this same question: What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a word that we see everywhere in the media and at our workplaces nowadays. Through reading editorials and articles, we probably have a roughly idea about what it is, although we may not really understand what it encompasses. Many of us define mindfulness as a kind of meditation, but this concept of mindfulness might stop at images of sitting still and quiet in a cross-legged position, attempts to empty the mind, or of other rituals such as prayers and chanting.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the classic 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, explains mindfulness as "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally" (see source). If we tried to understand this definition conceptually, it might be difficult to fathom what this form of paying attention truly means. What do we mean by paying attention on purpose? Why the emphasis of the present moment in mindfulness? What does being non-judgmental have to do with mindfulness?
In this article, I will aim to explain in the simplest way possible the key words and terms used in describing and practicing mindfulness. It is worth noting that experiential practice of mindfulness is much more important for understanding what mindfulness is, than the terms I discuss below.
All of us have awareness. In the broader sense, awareness refers to the capacity of knowing or perceiving events, objects and situations. In mindfulness, we talk about knowing what is happening while it is happening, often referring to one's inner experience.
When someone makes you happy and you smile, you are aware that your face is smiling. When you are angered by another driver rudely cutting into your lane, you are mindfully aware of the grip of your hands tightening on the steering wheel, and the wave of heat rising in your body. You are aware of your own likes and dislikes, the thoughts and voices in your head, your emotions, actions and behaviours.
Awareness is different from reflection - reflection often takes place on hindsight, after something has happened and you're pondering about what had happened. Awareness takes place as the event itself is taking place, i.e. in the present moment.
There is a great emphasis on being present in practicing mindfulness. We cannot be practicing mindfulness if we are not in the present moment. By the present, we mean the here and now - what is going on in your inner experience at this particular moment.
The opposite of the present moment is the past or the future. The mind often carries us to the past to relive (and dwell in) memories, or carries us forward to think about (or worry about) the future. When the mind is engaged in the past or the future, we are no longer in the present moment.
For example, while you are having lunch, you start to worry about the business presentation you are about to give in an hour, or you begin to think about the comments your colleagues had made about your work earlier in the morning. Your mind is caught up about the past or the future, and you have lost the ability to pay attention to the present moment: i.e. the food on your plate, the tastes on your tongue, the way you are eating, etc.
In mindfulness, we are learning to be in the present, moment-by-moment - one moment at a time. We take each moment as it comes - learning to let go of the moments that have passed, and learning not to anticipate the upcoming ones.
Autopilot is the opposite of mindfulness. When we are mindful, we are aware of what is happening and what we are doing. But when we are in autopilot, we are doing something without being aware that we are doing it. For example, when we are driving, our mind shifts to autopilot and does the driving for us without us having to put too much conscious attention into the skill, and before we know it, we have reached our destination quite effortlessly. Autopilot is a function of the mind that allows us to carry out learned habits and skills efficiently, thus freeing the mind to engage in other activities or thoughts.
But when we are in autopilot, we also act out ingrained patterns of the past without knowing it, and some of these patterns are often negative or destructive. For example, when faced with new challenges, the mind automatically retrieves information about past failures and we react with the same cycles of fear and anxiety. Or we might shove unhealthy food down our body simply out of habit, or light a cigarette time and again without being aware of it until we have taken the first puff.
With mindfulness of the present moment, we learn to be aware of our negative patterns and behaviours, thus beginning to break out of our automatic patterns.
Mindfulness is one of the most effective antidotes to stress. When we talk about stress, we are referring not only to the stress itself, but also to the relationship we have with the stressors in our lives. These stressors can be internal or external, but more often than not, it is the stress we feel internally that really affects our health and well-being.
External stress is inevitable in life, and we often add on to the stress by reacting to the stress, such as allowing ourselves to engage in negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours. For example, your boss calls you into his or her office. This may feel a little stressful for you, but you tend to react to this initial (and external) stress by thinking: What does he want from me? Is she unhappy with my performance? And before you know it, these negative thoughts are taking over your mind, and you are ruminating not just about the stress at hand. Everyone in the office is looking at me with sympathy. This is so embarrassing. Why can't I do anything right with this job? What am I doing with my career? What am I doing with my life?
Mindfulness trains the mind to be aware of the stressors as they arrive, and learn to weaken and break out of the negative and automatic cycles of thoughts and emotions. With the practice of mindfulness, we are working on greater acceptance towards stress, without fighting with reactivity or avoidance or running away, thus changing our relationship with stress.
Doing versus Being
The modern pace of life, with its never-ending stream of tasks and communications, as well as roles and responsibilities we have to take on, has us engaging in the mode of doing all the time - we focus on to-do lists and check-lists; we think and plan ahead, we make decisions and problem solve.
Although these types of doing are important in getting us through the day, the doing mind also often gets into the habit of thinking non-stop, and we find that it gets increasingly difficult for the mind to shut off at night when it's time to rest and sleep. The doing mode also encourages the mind to make judgments and appraisals, assess and criticise, speculate and make assumptions, or dwell in what had happened (the past) and worry about what's to come (the future). For example, you might spend the whole night going through your to-do list for the next day over and over again, or get lost in regretting what you had done today at the workplace.
The practice of mindfulness encourages the being mode of the mind, and simply allows us to rest in the present moment instead of getting drowned in the turmoils of the inner mind.
As humans, we tend to be judgmental beings. We like to appraise things, people or events we encounter, deciding whether they are good or bad, beneficial or detrimental, useful or harmful. We have preferences, hoping for pleasant experiences to continue, and avoiding or pushing away unpleasant ones. We often want things to go the way we like, and when they don't, we react. These reactions we have greatly add on to the stress in our lives.
When we practice mindfulness, we simply pay attention to our inner experiences non-judgmentally. We learn to observe things just the way they are, without the adding of judgments, without preference, and without attempting to change the experience. Whatever that arises in the mind, we train the mind not to engage or react, but to simply observe non-judgmentally.
Paying attention is the fundamental practice of mindfulness. We always set an intention to pay attention at the start of each practice. We have learned how to pay attention - without judgment and in the present moment. But what are we paying attention to?
We can pay attention to anything that arises in our inner experience. To practice the foundations of mindfulness, we often start with paying attention to physical sensations of the breath and body. We also learn to pay attention to the physical sensations in movement. These practices help to anchor our attention to the present moment. As we progress along our practice, we learn to also observe the thoughts and emotions that come and go in the mind, without engaging in them.
Through paying attention this way, we acquaint ourselves with the nature of our mind, and over time we learn to concentrate better, increase our self-awareness, manage stress more effectively, shift the neurology of the brain to embrace more positive outlooks, and improve our health as well as emotional and mental well-being.
Do you have more questions about mindfulness, or need further explanation on a mindfulness term you have come across? Leave a comment, or drop Erin a message here or via email!
What's the big deal about mindfulness? You might have wondered. You see it everywhere in the news and media; you've received emails and newsletters about mindfulness events; perhaps you've read an article or book about mindfulness; maybe you've even engaged in a little mindfulness practice yourself. You've noticed that companies, institutions and other organisations are paying increasing attention to this field and beginning to conduct mindfulness workshops and training for their employees and stakeholders. Why the fuss over this seemingly new discipline?
The fact is, mindfulness is getting a lot of attention, and it is not all just media hype. It is being increasingly backed by scientific research spanning the fields of neuroscience, psychological therapy, healthcare, education, and parenting - just to name a few. The proven benefits of practicing mindfulness has, in the recent decades, attracted more and more people to incorporate mindfulness in their daily lives.
This free information session, conducted by Erin Lee from Mindful Moments Singapore, will cover the background and develop of mindfulness, applications and research of this field, as well as an introduction to the classic 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program, on which many positive research outcomes are based. Participants will also be invited to join in a little experiential mindfulness practice, and have their questions about mindfulness answered.
The event offers two sessions: Session A at 2:30 pm, and Session B at 4:00 pm. Participants will only need to register for one of the sessions. If you're bringing family and friends, please register a seat for each attending person.
"I can't think of anyone who will not benefit from learning more about and practicing mindfulness. It is so all-inclusive that whatever your background and life situation, mindfulness opens the door for us to become more compassionate towards ourselves and others, and develop an attitude of gratitude for what we have."
"Mindfulness really does help us to appreciate the moments in life better and enrich our daily lives."
"Mindfulness makes you into a more well-rounded person. It helps you see the world in a clear light; it lets you hear yourself better without all the negative chatter in your mind."
"A practical tool to better manage your stress level."
"I'm a calmer person and I find simple joy in everyday life."
"Let go of the past, stop worrying about the future, and just be with the present."
"Mindfulness really helps if you commit yourself and dedicate the time to do it sincerely! Erin is a great mindfulness teacher and I really appreciate how she is so helpful, responsible, and non-judgmental."
"Every session was fun and can pick up an insight about everything ranging from self to nature to people."
Dow Jones Singapore invited Erin to give a sharing about mindfulness on 27 Jan 2016 as part of their global Wellness Week initiative. Kudos to the company for taking care of their employees' health and well-being!
During the experiential session, Erin led the participants in a few mindfulness practices and explained how mindfulness helps us reduce stress and anxiety, regulate our emotions, and enhance our overall well-being.
Mindfulness is increasingly being incorporated into the workplace. Is your current workplace already practicing mindfulness? Do contact Erin if you'd like to arrange for a customized sharing or mindfulness program for your co-workers!
Mindful Moments was invited to give a sharing on mindfulness with ITE College West School of Electronics & Info-Comm Technology educators in the morning of Friday 8 January 2016.
After learning about the benefits, research, and applications of mindfulness and experiencing some moments of calmness and awareness, these dedicated educators expressed interest in bringing mindfulness into the classroom to benefit their students.
Erin is available to conduct mindfulness talks and programs for organisations, so please contact Erin to discuss the possibilities, because she would love to practice mindfulness with you.
Dawn is a passionate educator with 17 years of experience spanning the communication and education industry. Starting her career as a public prosecutor, she joined the media industry and garnered experience in writing and editing corporate reports, speeches, press releases, e-newsletters and other corporate publications. Since then, she has transitioned to being an edutainer (aspiring to educate while entertaining in doses) and lectured at various tertiary institutions. An avid learner, she has now moved into coaching and counselling and looks forward the next chapter of her journey of learning and unlearning.
The Initial Assumptions
When I first heard about the practice of mindfulness, I was rather surprised to hear that it has gained much currency in the past few years. I was even more intrigued to discover that there were increasingly more academic disciplines offered for practitioners. After all, is mindfulness not a basic form of etiquette that we have been socialised into accepting and practising for the longest time?
This was where I realised something.
I confused being ‘mindful’ with the act of ‘minding’, where I use my intellect to consider, reason and ‘mind’ my business for the latter. I also associated it with keeping others around me in ‘mind’ - extending consideration to them. While all these thoughts and actions are perfectly fine and commonplace, the one aspect that I neglected about ‘mindfulness’ was how I could extend consideration to myself and how that could really help in some of my challenges.
A Taste of Mindful Moments
I had absolutely no expectations when I attended the information sharing session about mindfulness conducted by Erin on 9 Jan 2016. This was useful in keeping an open mind and gleaning three key takeaways from the session.
1. Mindfulness is not tangible, but the results of practising mindfulness are. During the session, Erin invited us to participate in a short activity to fully experience the sights and senses of tasting a fruit. That felt like the longest three minutes of my life and I was ready to explode with impatience. Why should eating a fruit even be so cumbersome? Then I realised that I chose to slow down midway and not fight my urges to accelerate the simple process. Strangely, I was able to feel calmer after this activity. All that took place within me was not tangible and only known to me. But it was a poignant reminder to not be afraid to go slow and take stock of things around us.
2. It takes effort (and some pain) to be mindful: This is about taking steps to coach my mind to resist reacting with familiar means. Instead, I believe in working to modify the response. Whenever I feel the urge for something to be done immediately, I recall the song ‘Right Here, Right Now’ by Fatboy Slim. While I do enjoy the beat of the song, it never fails increase my stress levels since we live in a world when everybody demands things instantly. Hence, there is pain when I make intentional efforts to practise mindfulness and slow down. Naturally, I do not recommend applying this to time sensitive work situations but more on a personal front for a start. Nonetheless, there is immense value in practising mindfulness at work when making choices that are triggered by perceived stressors.
3. Can I afford to not be mindful? The short answer is both ‘Yes and No’ since we always have options. Having said that, I do not believe that I can afford to not be mindful. This is especially so given my personality, profession and passion for life. As an educator, communications practitioner and coach, even my best intentions for individuals will be met with challenges. Mindfulness helps me increase my empathy, full-heartedly. It also helps me to choose to reduce the tendency to internalise the problems of my clients. Most importantly, it facilitates my ability to separate thoughts from truths. This was the most precious and empowering reminder I walked away with from the session.
As of now, I am fully mindful that this journey will not be easy but it will be worthwhile.
If you are a mindfulness practitioner or have meaningful experiences or thoughts about mindfulness to share, please contact Erin to find out more.
About The Author
MiMo founder Erin Lee is a Mindfulness Coach and MBSR Teacher at Mindful Moments, and advocate of mindfulness as the way of life. She conducts the classic 8-Week MBSR Program, as well as the 8-Week MBSR Workplace Program.
Are you a mindfulness practitioner and have meaningful experiences or thoughts about mindfulness that you'd like to share? You can contribute an article on the MiMo blog! Please contact Erin to find out more.