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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mindful Breathing Made Easy at Nalanda Centre

Mindful Breathing Made Easy For Mental Hygiene.

Date : Sunday, 7 December, 2014.
Time : 9.00 am – 11.30 am
Venue : Nalanda Centre, Sri Serdang
  • Labeling breathing
  • Slow & deep breathing
  • .b breathing
  • Qi Qing breathing
  • Finger breathing
  • Imaginary breathing

MINDFULGym with IMU students at Hilltop Buddhist Society

21st November, 2014: MINDFULGym with International Medical University students at Hilltop Buddhist Society. Three tools for happiness were introduced: Mindful-S.T.O.P., 'Google-WWW-Yahoo,' and Mindful Breathing...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mindful Photography at Lake Garden

1st November, 2014 (Saturday): We had our mindful photography session at Lake Garden, KL. This is part of the regular Mindful-Gym booster session. One of our Mindful-Gym graduates, Sis. Sok Lin, who is a professional photographer, guided us patiently on how to apply mindful attitude in capturing beautiful moments in photos. After a two-hour free-and-easy morning (including eating ice cream) at the garden, we returned to Brickfields Maha Vihara to share our photos and stories related to them. The sharing was insightful. We continue to share our photos of 'mindful moments' through a Mindful Photography WhatsApp group. We are grateful to Sis. Catherine and her team for helping to organize the meaningful event, Yeahoo.

What is 'Mindful Photography?' From Mindful-Gym point of view, it is an alternative way of cultivating mindfulness. "Mindfulness is remembering to pay attention to the present moment with beginner's mind, kindness and wisdom," that is the training definition of mindfulness in Mindful-Gym program. In mindful photography, the primary present moment object is what we observe with our eyes here-and-now. It is useful for savoring the present moment and finding simple joy in everyday life.

Here are some of the lessons that we have learned from the 'photoshop':

"What my eyes see and I see though the camera are different. Why should I expect others to see things same like me?"
"Just like taking photos from different angles, we should learn to see life in different perspectives."
"I like the photo. Besides nice, it's telling a personal story..."
"When we want to capture it, it doesn't appear. When we have fun and let go, the beautiful shot appears." 
"That beautiful moment is impermanent. Therefore, it's more precious - savor it."

Monday, October 27, 2014

.b Mindfulness in Schools Teachers Training Course

Teach . b Mindfulness in Schools Teachers Training Course

20-23th October, 2014: Three BMHA members (KC Chiang, Dr. Phang, Jasmine Chiam) attended the Teach .b Mindfulness in Schools Teachers Training Course in Phuket, Thailand. The course cum meditation retreat was held in Phuket International Academy (PIA), an international school that integrates mindfulness and social emotional learning in its curriculum. With the four-day training, we now have more certified teachers to deliver mindfulness training to adolescents in Malaysia using the . b model. In .b program, mindfulness is taught using secular, short, and simple methods. Led by James Gibb and his team, step-by-step instructions were given to deliver nine mindful-based lessons in classroom. The video clips, classroom activities and pedagogical discussion are all indeed very useful. Hopefully more Malaysians could be trained to teach .b program in the future.   

Sunday, October 26, 2014

MINDFULGym at Kinta Buddhist Society

18th October, 2014 (Saturday) - A half-day Mindful-Gym Stress Reduction & Wellness REST-Shop was introduced to about 30 school teachers and lecturers in Kampar & Kinta. The program was initiated by Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) and held at Kinta Buddhist Society located near Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR). The trainers of the rest-shop were Dr. Phang Cheng Kar (psychiatrist & lecturer, UPM) and Mr. Pheh Kai Shuen (clinical psychologist & lecturer, UTAR). The participants had a wonderful time at the rest-shop and were requesting for more Mindful-Gym training. Hopefully Mr. Pheh could deliver a full 5-week program in Kampar/Kinta by 2015. 

MINDFULGym at International Medical University (IMU)

16/10/2014 - Mindful-Gym has been introduced at International Medical University's (IMU) Clinical School in Seremban. The half-day program was initiated by Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Philip George and Registered Counselor Madam Yeoh Kim Yeok for the emotional well-being of the students. Hopefully with the Mindful-Gym 'kungfu,' the students could be more resilient in coping with the challenges in medical school and become great doctors. With this, Mindful-Gym has now been introduced in 3 medical schools in Malaysia; UPM, UTAR and IMU.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

MINDFULGym in The Star paper

Online version of the article - HERE

Tentative dates for MindfulGym intakes in 2015:

MindfulGym 10 - January: 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
MindfulGym 11 - May: 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
MindfulGym 12 - October: 3. 10, 17, 24, 31

All sessions are on Saturdays, 3-5 pm at Brickfields Maha Vihara.
For registration - HERE. FAQ on MindfulGym - NOW.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mindful Walking Song

We walk to the left, 
And we walk to the right,
And we walk and we walk,
Everything is alright...

To the left, I let go,
To the right, I dunno,
With a smile on the face,
Rest in here-and-now...

Let go = let go of regrets of the past & worries of the future
Dunno = keep an open/beginner's mind 

Click HERE to access the PowerPoint file with singing

Friday, October 3, 2014

MINDFULGym Batch 9 Graduates

Congratulations to the 9th batch of 21 MINDFULGym graduates. This is the last batch of training for 2014 and the next batch will likely commence in January, 2015.


Very dedicated trainers and coordinator - yeah.

The smile check is really important. I find that the Japanese version of Happiness Here and Now is really nice. Dr. Phang is really innovative.

Everything is awesome, especially the Whatsapp group and emails that connect and engage everyone in home-gym and sharing. Free training materials, that's GREAT!

I have gained from the exercises in the training. In addition the books and DVD in the training kit, have given me a lot of information and guidance on mental health. I like the informal atmosphere which makes me feel at ease.

Honestly, I can't find any area for improvement at the moment as all aspects of the program is really good. The only thing is we have to remember to put it to practice.

It is a good training for everyone. no matter how educated you are , how senior you are , how rich you are it is definitely helpful to find more happiness in life.

MINDFULGym is useful for meditation practitioners too as being mindful is an important aspect of the practice. The beginner's mind approach to things we take for granted does open up new discoveries. This is really amazing. For example, sitting on the steps of the main shrine hall and just looking at the bodhi trees - with just a gush of wind, the leaves seem to be lightly dancing in the air, reminds me of those window chimes (foong ling in Cantonese), gives a very light-hearted feeling.

It will benefit everyone, may everyone be more grateful and mindful. Count your blessings, and send blessings to people around you!

It's good program for everyone, especially on managing stress.

MINDFULGym provides a list of ways to calm and relax one’s mind. It heightens one’s awareness and in the process empowers one to live a more effective life. Go for it!

Good for reducing stress, tools easy to practice.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mindful Parenting Group

The concept of mindful parenting is rather new and it was introduced to the group of enthusiastic parents in Kinrara Metta Buddhist Association (KMBA) on the 29th June of 2014. The introductory session illustrated the source of parenting stress, understanding of mindfulness in parenting and ways of to practice mindful parenting. The talk received good responses by the audiences. This served as a good foundation to call upon the group of parents to participate the subsequent training sessions, namely the Mindful Parenting Group. 

There were four sessions conducted throughout the month of July and August. A total of approximate 30 interested parents participated the group training. The group was given training on how to apply mindfulness skills in relating to their children. The topics that were delivered include automatic parenting, self-compassion, applying beginner’s mind in parenting, understanding the influences of family system in parenting, responding vs reacting to parenting stress. Group discussion, group activity, role play and demonstration were used to present the content in order to promote better understanding among the parents.

The content of the delivered topics are summarized as below:

  • -    Automatic Parenting: Understanding how parenting process can become “automatic” that parents learn “reacting” instead of “responding” to daily stressors.

  • -       Self-compassion: Understanding and applying the self-compassion onto parents themselves that to allow space for further improvement.

  • -        Beginner’s mind in parenting: Using new perspectives to observe and understand our children, learn to see them as ‘raisin.’

  • -       Family system in parenting: Learning on how parent’s family of origin could limit the parenting experiences and understanding the subtle influences of how parents were influenced by their past upbringing experiences

  • -        Reacting vs responding to parenting stress: Understanding how parents could react or respond to their children’s problems based on their own expectations and belief system.

The group members were enthusiastic and passionate about learning. They were taught about the concepts of automatic parenting and being guided on how to be aware of their body sensations. In the sessions, parents were guided on reflecting themselves in their parenting role, learning about how to apply beginner’s mind in perceiving their children, applying self-compassion on themselves when they made mistakes, and practicing to respond to their children’s needs with awareness. The group members were also given home practice in order to apply the learnt skills on their parenting experiences.

Being the trainer, I felt honored that I have been given this opportunity to conduct the group sessions in KMBA. Throughout the process, I learnt that this group is a unique group that the participants are truthful and kind to each other. I sensed the group’s respect for each other, especially every time when there was someone shared about him/herself. I like the way the group members encouraged each other by giving space and being patience to listen and take turn to share. Although it was a rather big group for group processing, I felt pleasant and relax that the parents were mindful about the group process and learning to express themselves. I am thankful to all the participants who made this group process as a meaningful learning experience for each other.

Prepared by,
Clinical Psychologist
KL Buddhist Mental Health Association

Monday, September 1, 2014

MINDFULGym Booster (August, 2014)

Mindful-Gym Booster Session

Date                :           16th August, 2014 (Saturday)
Time                :           3.00 pm – 6.00 pm
Venue              :           Lecture Hall, Brickfields Maha Vihara, KL

No. of participants:      24

The MINDFULGym Booster Session was successfully organized by Catherine, Eng Chong and Jasmine.  This session was open to all the Mindful-Gym graduates (Batch 1 - 8). The main objective was to provide opportunity for revising what had been learned in the 5-week Mindful-Gym program. 

Activities were carried out in fun and meaningful ways. The session started with a 55-minute movie sharing - “Room to Breath.”  This is a movie on application of mindfulness in a high school setting for attention and emotional regulation. Students were taught mindful hearing, mindful body, mindful breathing, mindful eating and purposeful thinking, i.e. sending good wishes to themselves and others.  

After the movie and tea-break, we had ice-breaking. The participants were divided into 3 groups, which were named after the MINDFULGym slogan (Be Present, Be Calm, and Be Grateful). The leaders for the groups were Dr. Phang (Be Present), Sis. Mi Yen (Be Calm) ,and Madam. Tan WK (Be Grateful). In the ice breaking, they were required to remember one another's name and respond to the following questions: 

1.      Share one main message that you've learned  from the movie
2.      Name one of the tools taught in Mindful School program
3.      Give one benefit of practicing mindfulness.
4.      What is the training definition of mindfulness?
5.      What is the slogan of Mindful-gym?
6.      Name one of the tools taught in MINDFULGym
7.      Name one of the thinking errors taught in MINDFULGym
8.      Tell us one thing that went well for the past one week


You'll be gently & mindfully hammered if you don't get the correct answer...

More revision of MINDFULGym tools through games:

That was just warming up...

After forming a big circle, a durian was passed around while a song related to mindfulness was playing. When the song stopped, the person holding the durian would pick a piece of paper. Written on the paper was one of the several questions/tasks designed for reminding them to practice mindfulness:
  • Choose a mindful stretching posture (PMR style) & lead the group in practice
  • Demonstrate deep & mindful breathing (i.e. gi gong style) & lead the group in practice
  • Sing the song, “Happiness is here and now” & get others to sing along
  • Lead the group in practicing 'Mindful-S.T.O.P.'
  • Share an example of how you apply 'A.A.M.' (Accept, Adjust & Move On) in life
  • Radiate kindness with the song, "Rasa Sayang" (MINDFULGym version) 

Yeah, got gifts one...

A gift (e.g. smiley ball) was given to the person who could answer the question or perform the task well. Durian was used in the game (instead of a ball) to reinforce mindful attention to touch sensations. This was followed by gratitude training through 3-Gratitude Cards.

Before the end of the session, Dr. Phang shared with us on a new Mindful-Gym tool. It is known as “Goggle-WWW-WhatsApp” [Google/mentally search for someone 'Who Wish Wellness' (WWW), and WhatsApp positive wishes to the person. This is a simple way of remind ourselves to cultivate loving-kindness (Metta). May you be well & happy.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

MINDFULGym at KL Mental Health Conference in PWTC

A MINDFULGym REST-Shop was help as part of the KL Mental Health Conference (KLMHC) on 25/8/2014 at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC). This is the first time that a full-day mindfulness workshop was conducted in a mainstream psychology conference in Malaysia. It was the most participated pre-conference workshop with about 20 participants; psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, counselors, nurses, Buddhist monk, etc. from all over the country. The rest-shop was conducted by Dr. Phang Cheng Kar, a consultant psychiatrist and mindfulness-based therapist from UPM; and the developer of Mindful-Gym (a local mindfulness-based stress reduction & wellness program). Among the MINDFULGym tools introduced were NOW-ing I (anchoring attention by labeling actions), NOW-ing II [anchoring attention by 'H.T.C.' (hearing, touching, seeing], beginner's mind, mindful stretching, mindful breathing, paying attention to WWW (What Went Well).

They particularly enjoyed the session on playing with bubbles to cultivate beginner's mind. After the rest-shop, the participants were reminded and supported on daily mindfulness practice through a WhatsApp group.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mindfulness of Rapid KL: Understanding Train of Thoughts

Are we mindful of our train of thoughts? Click on image for sound effect...

Song: A hundred miles, a hundred miles...Let's be mindful of our train of thoughts...When you hear the whistle blowing, it's time to NOW...

One of the common problems that we encounter is being caught and driven away by unhelpful train of thoughts (see above). We're particularly vulnerable when our mood (e.g. depressed) is congruent with the thoughts (e.g. I'm a burden to others). Here are some strategies to cope with such challenge: 

1. Foremost, be mindful that thoughts exist and they have the power to influence how we feel and behave. Subjectively, thoughts are often experienced as inner chatter or dialogue. It's like a radio channel broadcasting in the head. Thoughts can also be in the form of images; like TV channel in the head. Learn to recognize the existence of thoughts.

2. Practice relaxation exercises (e.g. deep breathing, pleasant imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, mindful walking) to calm the mind and body. When we're emotionally stable, we're in better position to manage our thoughts. Else, we'll easily slip at the railway track, fall and be swept away by the train of thoughts. Relaxing the body also helps to calm our thoughts; the train of thoughts slows down. Furthermore, exploring and understanding our thoughts (see no. 4) need mental stability. So, relaxation practice is a helpful start. This method is like training ourselves to stand firm and stable by the side of railway track.

3. Shift our attention to sensory experience, instead of the emotionally charged thoughts. We can use the acronym, 'H.T.C.' (inspired by HTC brand cell phone with its slogan, "brilliantly quiet") to remind us to pay attention to sounds (Hearing), sensations (Touch), and sights (C/Seeing) in the present moment. This helps to anchor our attention to something neutral or pleasant (e.g. 'H.T.C.'of seeing birds chirping and feeling warm sensation on the chest). In this way, there's lesser chance of being lost in thoughts; and time-traveled to haunted past (e.g. guilt) and future (e.g. worry). This method is like shifting our attention to other railway tracks without train. 

4. Explore and understand the train of thoughts with a beginner's mind attitude (fresh perspective). Be mindful of where they originate (e.g. past conditioning of strict parenting and punitive education system). Be mindful of how they're often reactivated (e.g. when we're overworked and tired). Be mindful of how they usually subside (e.g. when we practice relaxation exercises - see no. 2). Remind ourselves that thoughts may not be facts or completely true; don't be spammed by thoughts. We can re-examine the thoughts when we're calmer. Another option is to get second opinions on what we think. That's how we can relate to our thoughts with wisdom, instead of blindly believing them - thoughts may not be facts.. This method is like getting information on the history and pattern of the train before getting on board. 

5. Accept reality and brainstorm action plans. At times, out thoughts can be true; there's a real challenge that is not distorted by thinking error, e.g. "I've failed in the examination. I'll need to resit and that involves extra cost." In such situation, the more helpful way is to "A.A.M." (Accept, Adjust & Move On). This involves asking ourselves, "What can I do about it now?" (problem solving mode). The solutions could be working part time to get more money, studying smarter, getting help in studies, etc. Such approac is definitely more helpful than just asking, "Why?! Why?! Why?!" without any action plan (rumination mode). This method is like using alternative transport system when the train isn't operating.  

6. Engage in meaningful activities, e.g. exercise, voluntary service, and learning new skills. The new experience can change our perception of life and reprogram our thoughts. Many people find doing something physically is much easier compared to methods mentioned in no 3 and 4 (more mental). This method is like taking another train at a different station.

7. Intentionally cultivate positive, healthy and helpful train of thoughts. Instead of aimlessly waiting for the train to come and drive us to nowhere, we can make purposeful choices on which train to take and where to go. We can learn to deliberately focus on helpful thoughts. Of course, this requires training. One of the useful tools in the Mindful-Gym program is known as "Google-WWW-Yahoo." When we're in a train or train station, we can make effort to mentally search (Google) for the blessings (WWW - What Went Well) in life, and rejoice/celebrate (Yahoo). With regular practice, the brain will rewire to stay positive, Yeahoo! This method is like making a choice on which train to take for a planned destination.

8. Stay a distance from and dilute the thoughts with strategies known as 'cognitive defusion.' These are some options: 1. Convert the thoughts into lyrics and sing a song (e.g. "Auld Lang Syne"), 2. Imagine that you can cut-and-paste the thoughts on clouds in the sky and let them drift away 3. Imagine a cute parrot verbalizing your thoughts. These strategies help to create a psychological space between us and the thoughts. Doing so avoids drowning in thoughts and gives us better choice in handling them. This method is like distancing ourselves from the railway track and remind ourselves - we don't have to get on board all trains. 

9. Practice Mindful Self-Compassion. Sometimes the train of thoughts are very sticky and stubborn. We're trapped at the train station; the train doesn't move and we can't move (none of the methods mentioned above are helpful). Worse still, we feel helpless and disappointed because we fail to conquer the thoughts. How? That's when 'Self-Compassion' is life-saving. First, I'll gently remind myself that we have no complete control over thoughts; they come and go according to conditions (that's how thoughts behave). Going against this reality is like jumping from a building to defy gravity. Second, i'll remind myself that I'm not alone; many others experience the same struggle with thoughts. Gradually, I'm getting wiser in forming a harmonious relationship with thoughts. Third, I'll remind myself to be gentle with myself, like coaxing a crying baby within. The discomfort from 'thought attack' is already bad enough; let's be kind to ourselves. Before long, all will pass, and we'll be 'home' again. This method is like accepting the imperfection of train system, making peace with it, while appreciating the benefits.

10. Check if our mood is conspiring with thoughts to deceive us. Real may not be really real - learn not to be spammed by thoughts. Our perception and thoughts are often colored by mood/feeling/emotion. As a general rule of wisdom, try to postpone any major life decision when we're confused or don't feel well (e.g. tired, moody, anxious). This method is like not getting on board the train despite all other passengers do so. May you have a happy and harmonious relationship with your train of thoughts.

Song: A hundred miles, a hundred miles...Let's be mindful of our train of thoughts...When you hear the whistle blowing, it's time to NOW...

By Dr. Zhen-Phang

Yes, let's be mindful of our train of thoughts...

Note: Mindfulness is remembering to pay beginner's mind, kind, and wise attention to the present moment, which includes the 'mindscape' of thoughts.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Meditation Made Easy: Tools From Mindful-Gym

The practice of meditation is increasingly popular worldwide with scientifically proven benefits. But how can we meditate EASILY in daily life for mental hygiene? Easy to understand, easy to remember, easy to practice, easy to gain benefits, and easy to share with others. Is it possible? YES, it's easier now with innovative tools from the Mindful-Gym program. The talk at Nalanda Buddhist Centre, Sri Serdang (3/8/2014) shares with you five useful tools from the Mindful-Gym program: 1. NOW-ing I (labeling actions) & II ('H.T.C.'), 2. Gratitude M-Gym: 'Google-WWW-Yahoo' (What Went Well?), 3. Equanimity M-Gym: 'Google-WWW-Lotus' (What Went Wrong?), 4. Loving-kindness M-Gym: 'Google-WWW-WhatsApp' (Who Wish Wellness?), and 5. Mindful-S.T.O.P. Slides for download HERE.

When things go wrong, take 'multi-mindful vitamins'...

Connect to mindfulness at any time and anywhere for anyone... 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1-day MINDFULGym REST-Shop at KL Mental Health Conference

‘Mindfulness’ is a concept that originates from various meditative traditions, particularly Buddhism. Over the past few decades, it has gained immense popularity in neuroscience research and psychotherapy. Despite its spiritual origin, principles of mindfulness have been adopted in a secular approach for mental health. Mindfulness-based interventions, e.g. Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are also used for treatment of mental disorders, e.g. anxiety, depressive, and borderline personality disorders. To introduce mindfulness to the Malaysian mental health providers, the 9th KL Mental Health Conference is organizing a one-day workshop on mindfulness. This workshop is based on a locally developed mindfulness-based intervention program – MINDFULGym. The program has been empirically shown to reduce stress and enhance wellness among medical students in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), critical care nurses in Hospital Serdang, and adults in the general community. Participants will learn simple, practical, and effective mindfulness-based tools to enhance mental health in daily life. 

More information on conference & pre-conference workshops - HERE
Registration for conference & workshops - NOW
Fee: RM350 for doctors, RM300 for students & paramedics

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mindful-Gym study presented at 8th International Congress of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Dr. Keng Shian Ling with her research poster at ICCP, Hong Kong

Summary of study:

Medical students often experience heightened psychological distress that may undermine their training experience in medical school. This study evaluated the effects of Mindful-Gym in reducing psychological distress and improving well-being among medical students, and whether the mechanism of effects were mediated by changes in trait mindfulness.

77 Malaysian medical students enrolled in the intervention programs; 57 served as control group participants. Participants completed measures of mindfulness and symptoms of psychological distress before and after intervention. 

Analysis showed that those who attended Mindful-Gym reported significantly greater decreases in symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychological distress and perceived stress, as well as increases in subjective happiness and satisfaction with life compared to those who did not attend the program. The analysis also showed that the effects of the intervention were mediated by changes in the levels of mindfulness, suggesting that the beneficial effects of the program are due to its ability to increase people's ability to be mindful in daily life.
This study suggests that Mindful-Gym is effective in reducing psychological symptoms and improving well-being among medical students. Mindfulness may be a key process responsible for the effects of the intervention.

Note: The study is a collaboration between University Putra Malaysia (UPM), National University of Singapore (NUS) & University of Queensland. Dr. Keng is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in NUS.

Keng, S.-L., Phang, C.K., Oei, T.P.S., Seah, S.T.L., & Tan, J.X.  (June 27, 2014). Effects of a brief mindfulness-based group cognitive behavior therapy program on psychological distress among medical students: A preliminary study. Poster presented at 8th International Congress of Cognitive Psychotherapy, Hong Kong.