CHS: I have always been keen to know why some individuals are able to cope with stress better than others. I have learned to notice that individuals who are able to cope with daily stress have a much happier and better quality life. My life took a turn in the early morning of 2015, when I suffered a massive cardiac arrest. That week was a very stressful week as I had to juggle work and at the same time prepare for my thesis. Later, I was told that my heart had stopped and I had collapsed while on my way to the library. I was rushed to the hospital and had an emergency procedure to remove the blockage. The doctor told me how lucky I was and the situation would have been different if I had arrived a minute later. I could not remember much except while regaining consciousness, there was a sense of regret as well as anger. I was not prepared to give up my life and felt that GOD must have made a mistake. “Clinically dead” was what the doctor told me that I had experienced; and as a result, there was an extensive damage to my heart. It has been about three years now, and I am still able to keep up with my daily 6 km walk. Now I joke about my NDE (near death experience) and the reason that I am around is because “I have forgotten to bring my MRT card while I was up there, and was thus denied entry”. Being a perfectionist, I enjoy demanding and challenging environments. This could be due to my formal training as a mental toughness and performance coach. I was blessed to have friends who recommended the mindfulness program to me, and that was how I came to know about Erin’s MBSR program. I have never regret that decision!
MiMo: Tell us about your experience in the MBSR program.
CHS: Every student would ask the same questions and that is whether this is the right course for them; what could they learn from this course; and how to survive the 8 weeks? I realized that not only was the program aligned to my needs, the instructions given were also clear and easy to follow. After a minute or two, Erin had me! I enjoyed the guided instructions and various class practices. It was a refreshing experience to my whole being and yet not demanding. The group discussions and sharing sessions were good and every participant had the opportunity to share their experiences. The after-class recap of the day's practice which was sent out after each session, was very helpful. It gave me the chance to reflect upon them for my home practice. I loved the mindful walking practice and it made my daily walk more enjoyable than before. I learned to appreciate and pay attention to walking, without rushing and with open awareness of my surroundings. Not only does it bring awareness to the body, it also brings calmness and clarity to the mind.
MiMo: How has mindfulness contributed to your personal well-being?
CHS: I have learned to manage my expectations of others. Being less judgemental and to accept situations as they are, have helped me be more composed when dealing with others. When situations arise, I learned to be more appreciative of the circumstances and accept those circumstances as new experiences. Listening more and accepting things as they are, I discovered that I am able to manage my stress level. For example, taking a breather such as a walk to the cooler corner or shifting my attention to somewhere for a short moment will help to calm the mind. The essence of mindfulness is all about non-judgment, patience, trust, and accepting the way things are. Practicing and embracing mindfulness in my daily activities have helped me to manage my stress level and emotions. This has not just benefitted my personal well-being, but also others who are around me.
MiMo: How has mindfulness supported you in your professional work?
CHS: Instead of pushing and demanding for results all the time, I have learned to take a step back to check my thoughts, feelings, intentions and behaviours before responding to the situation. I noticed that my colleagues are more at ease when they have issues to discuss. Mindfulness practice has opened me up to new experiences, especially in making me a better listener by being in the moment. By being non-critical and non-judgemental, I can now appreciate others' efforts in wanting to make good things happen. This new experience has helped me shape my thoughts and management style. Not only does mindfulness practice help reduce stress in the workplace, it also helps me get things done faster as people are now happier and more open.
MiMo: How have you incorporated mindfulness into your daily life?
CHS: Whenever there are opportunities, I will always incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. Be it at work, with friends, business associates or family. Every day we need to face challenges or engage in simple daily routine activities. Through daily mindfulness practice, one can enjoy a less stressful experience and an abundance of joy. One important lesson that I learned in the program is “Loving Kindness”. To me, that is an important part of the essence of mindfulness practice. Only with “Loving Kindness” can one understand the meaning of being non-judgemental towards another. This has helped improve my relationships with others, create better understanding, appreciate everyone's strengths and weaknesses, and this in turn brings acceptance.
MiMo: Any words of advice for people who are thinking about learning mindfulness?
CHS: Go with an open mind and see how the program will impact you personally and in other aspects. At the end of the program, there must be some transformation in your life. Such transformation can only be achieved through daily and conscientious practice. The beauty of mindfulness practice is that you can practice whenever you want and wherever you are. Be it resting, having a meal, walking or any activities you are doing, you can practice mindfulness. The results of such mindfulness practice are a tendency to feel less stressful, more appreciative, non-judgmental, and to have a quality of life that will benefit you, your friends and family.
Hock Soon is a strong believer and advocate of achieving “Excellence” through lifelong learning. At the age of 58, he pursued his interest in Psychology at UC (Berkeley), and thereafter attained his postgraduate qualification in Business Psychology studies from Scotland. He is currently a Certified Mental Toughness Coach from the Mental Toughness Research Institute (MTRI) in the United States. He does performance and mental toughness coaching for business leaders and individuals.
Hock Soon also has a specialized diploma in Child Psychology and Learning Disorder Management. He takes time off his busy schedule at work to help children with learning disabilities as a volunteer. He is also actively involved in various social projects, namely, The SGH Liver & Pancreas Cancer Support Group, The Disadvantage and Disabled Group, and other social enterprise community projects.
Hock Soon believes that “to live a meaningful life, one must also be able to bring joy to others”. Mindfulness training has helped him understand and find the true meaning and purpose of life.
Throughout his career, Hock Soon has won numerous awards and accolades, including the Public Service Medal and Lifelong Learning award. Hock Soon enjoys competitive sports and holds a black belt in martial arts, and is a marksman. Hock Soon believes that his mindfulness practice complements his mental toughness training and helps him to achieve his goals with much less stress.