AR: We live in a world that is moving and evolving too fast, change is the only constant in today's day and age. Hence, stress levels are endemic. While a lot of us focus on physical health, the awareness and attention being given to mental health is still nascent. At some point last year, I decided to rewire my routine and make it more balanced. I decided to focus on my mental wellness too. This led me to the Plum Village group in Singapore which was my first tryst with mindfulness practices. Furthermore, I started reading a book on Buddhism where I learnt about Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and the MBSR program. Being an engineer, this instantly caught my attention since the program has a scientific basis to it!
MiMo: Tell us about your experience in the MBSR program.
AR: I had already experienced the practices taught in the MBSR program at the Plum Village 'Day of Meditation' events. However, MBSR is a structured program that focuses purely on mindfulness practices. In addition, the class size is small allowing enough face time with the teacher (Erin). The discussion sessions in class after each practice or discussions about the home practices are an essential and valuable part of the program. Without going into too much theoretical detail, the MBSR course also helps you understand stress, how it affects your body, why you react in certain ways and how you can deal with it. Hence, all in all it was an enriching experience for me.
MiMo: How has mindfulness contributed to your personal well-being?
AR: Earlier in stressful situations, I would react and not understand why there were certain reactions or sensations. Now, I am much more aware. Mindfulness practices are simple yet powerful tools to support you in a multitude of situations. It has helped me calm my mind and as a result my body. Of course, that said, there is no switch that can be flipped and suddenly you have a "Eureka" moment of being a mindful person. It is a slow process which requires persistence and practice.
MiMo: How has mindfulness supported you in your professional work?
AR: I work as a Vendor / Project Manager in IT. My job involves working with multiple internal / external stakeholders, dealing with conflict, dealing with tough situations on projects. When faced with challenging situations, mindfulness helps me be aware of my feelings / emotions and sensations. Once I am aware, it enables me to take a Pause. Basically to apply one of the practices to draw attention back to the present moment and calm the mind. What works best for me is drawing attention to the breath and breathing deep.
MiMo: How have you incorporated mindfulness into your daily life?
AR: Since I got to know about mindfulness, I am more aware of how I spend my time. Often sparing 30-40 minutes every day for formal practices can be challenging. As a new father, I also need to strike a balance between spending time at work, with my family and on my well-being. Hence, I try to use my transition times more effectively - while I am on the MRT or in a cab or walking towards somewhere. I try to bring my attention back to my breath or focus on nature and just observe. Of course, when time permits I still try to keep up with the formal practices as well.
MiMo: Any words of advice for people who are thinking about learning mindfulness?
AR: We spend our lives worrying about the future or getting stuck in the past. Our minds have gotten attuned to overthinking, to making a mountain out of a mole hill, to be racing all the time. Mindfulness helps us break this vicious circle and brings us back to the present moment. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, the present moment is the only moment we have. Hence, mindfulness is all about being aware, being present, being here. Mindfulness practices help us achieve this and see the benefits of it.
Mental health is often a touchy topic and there is stigma associated with it. I personally have gone through this. However, I would just say shun the stigma, shun the doubts and immerse yourself into the mindfulness experience. Because "Happiness is here and now, Peace is here and now"! Being here and now is Mindfulness.
About Ameesh Randeri
Global Vendor Manager at Autodesk Asia Pte. Ltd.
Ameesh has a Masters in Information Technology and started off his career as a techie. In 2010, he transitioned to the business side of things and currently works as Global Vendor Manager at Autodesk. Ameesh enjoys working in diverse, cross-cultural environments and interacting with people from the world over. Luckily, his job allows him to do just that. On the personal front, Ameesh is a new father and lives in Singapore with his wife, four and a half month old son and their pet dog, Cookie. He is an avid reader and loves reading both fiction and non-fiction books. Off late, he has been flirting with books on Buddhism, Spirituality and Mindfulness.