May: I got to know a bit about mindfulness when I was taking a positive psychology course from The School of Positive Psychology in 2015. I started reading books like ‘The How of Happiness’ by Sonja Lyubomirsky and ‘Positivity’ by Barbara Fredrickson which links mindfulness with happiness and positivity. It sparked my interest in wanting to know more and how I could practice it. I found a book online and it caught my attention so I ordered it. It is called ‘Sitting Still Like a Frog – Mindfulness Exercises for Kids’. I wanted to try it out myself by starting with something simple. I then started searching for a more formal course which could guide me better so that one day, I can instil mindfulness into the younger generations.
MiMo: Tell us about your experience in the MBSR program.
May: The whole experience has been very enriching. The home practices motivated me to keep to a regular schedule of practicing mindfulness. I also learnt about how I can incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. I realized that when we practice mindfulness, it is not about relaxing or emptying the mind but is a way of noticing our thoughts and emotions without engaging or judging them. I enjoyed the small group discussions and the one-day retreat. The one phrase that I will always remember from Erin’s class is ‘The Time is Now’.
MiMo: How has mindfulness contributed to your personal well-being?
May: I used to be preoccupied with a lot of thoughts and worries. Now I am more aware of my thoughts and know how to let go of them. My mind is free to enjoy more present moments.
MiMo: How has mindfulness supported you in your professional work?
May: As my work deals with young children and special needs children, mindfulness has helped me to stay focused and better manage my emotions and stress especially in difficult situations. I will take a mindful pause. Breathing and trying to stay non-judgmental are useful skills to have.
Mindfulness gels very well with the Son-Rise program that I volunteered in, that is, being non-judgmental and being fully present in the playroom with the special needs child. When I am playing with an autistic child in his/her playroom, my mind can be easily occupied with past and future wandering thoughts especially when it comes to joining in with their repetitive behaviours for a long period. Now, I am in a better state of not engaging in any of these thoughts and to bring my attention back to the child (to be fully present in the playroom) for 2 to 4 hours.
MiMo: How have you incorporated mindfulness into your daily life?
May: I try to make it a regular practice with the body scan before I sleep at night, alternating with mindful movements and sitting practice. I also incorporate mindfulness in my daily auto-pilot routines such as eating my meals, walking and taking the bus rides.
MiMo: Any words of advice for people who are thinking about learning mindfulness?
May: Though it requires some commitment to practice mindfulness, do not be afraid to attempt and take the steps to make this change in your life. Be consistent in the practice and it will eventually be a part of your life. It will help build better relationships in your family, workplace and community. I especially recommend it for educators and parents as you play a big role in nurturing the young generations. We need to be mindful of our words and actions and not be "mind-FULL" of thoughts and judgements.
About Chin Tan May
May obtained her Bachelor in Early Childhood Studies from Monash University in 2006 and switched her career from the IT industry to the Education industry. She has worked with voluntary welfare organisations, special needs kindergarten, enrichment centres and childcare centres. She now works part-time as a learning support teacher in a childcare centre where she helps mild special needs children integrate into their preschool life. She also provides private learning support service to children with learning difficulties in particular dyslexic children. She is an active Son-Rise volunteer, contributing her time to 2 families who are using the Son-Rise home-based program to help their autistic children. In her quest for more knowledge to help young children and their families, she is currently working towards being a certified Goulding SleepTalk consultant.