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Who Wants To Learn

MINDFULGym? 12 Mindful Tools For

Stress Reduction & Wellness

Dr. Phang Cheng Kar (M.D.)


is the time for

MINDFULGym The first & only structured mindfulnessbased program in Malaysia which is supported by local research & Ministry of Health (MySihat). Your journey to a healthier & happier life starts here-and-now.


Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Phang Cheng Kar, M.D.

Published by Malaysia Association for Mindfulness Practice & Research (MMPR)

All Rights Reserved

ISBN: 978-967-11016-3-6

Reminder This book shouldn’t be used as a substitute for consultation with medical or mental health professionals if you’re suffering from depression, anxiety disorder, or any other psychological illness.


Emperor’s Three Questions The thought came to a certain king that he would always be successful he knew the answers to three questions:

When is the most important time? Who is the most important person? What is the most important thing to do? Many educated men attempted to answer the king's questions, but all came up with different answers. The king decided that he needed to ask a wise hermit in a nearby village. The hermit would only see common folk. So the king disguised himself as a peasant, left his guards behind, and went to see the hermit. The hermit was digging flower beds when the king arrived. The king asked his questions, but the hermit went on digging rather laboriously. The king offered to dig for him for a while. After digging for some time, the king again asked his questions. Before the hermit could answer, a man emerged from the woods. He was bleeding from a terrible stomach wound. The king tended to him, and they stayed the night in the hermit's hut. By the next day, the wounded man was better, but was incredulous at the help he had received. The man confessed that he knew that this man was the king who had executed his brother and seized his property. He had come to kill the king, but the king's guards had wounded him. The man pledged allegiance to the king, and went on his way. The king asked the hermit again for his answers, and the hermit responded that he had just had his questions answered.

By Leo Tolstoy.


The most important time is

NOW The present is the only time in which we have the power to make changes… The most important person is whoever you’re with NOW… The most important thing to do is to care for the person you’re with NOW.


Testimonial I “I find that Mindful Body Stretching helps to reduce body aches and tension on the face. Using Mindful-STOP techniques, I can focus more on daily work without getting frustrated or stressed-out. As for deep and Mindful Breathing, it helps me to think more wisely before acting, especially when I’m facing students who are noisy and who are not behaving well.” Au Yeong Su Lyn – Teacher at St. Mary Secondary School.

“Whenever I’m stressed-out or have too many things to do, I’ll immediately take a Mindful-STOP and practice Mindful Breathing for a minute or two to calm my mind and body. I’m grateful that I have these strategies that can help me cope with stress. Besides that, I’ve been suffering from numbness in my fists when I wake up in the morning. I find Mindful Body Stretching exercises (those involving squeezing the fists) good for reducing numbness.” Matron Hee Kim Lan – Nurse, Malacca General Hospital.

“I had a really wonderful time in the MINDFULGym program. The exercises introduced are simple and can be done just about anywhere and at any time. These exercises help me refocus during a stressful day at work. I’ve also learned to change my perspectives and view things/situations in a more positive light.” Chin Xiu Li - Administrative Executive, Centre for Psychological & Counselling Services, HELP University.


"It has been a few years since I last felt really positive; glad that I regained it after attended the MINDFULGym course recently. The psychological tools taught in the course are relatively easy to apply in daily life. It’s very helpful for coping with stress at work. I would strongly recommend this course to my family and friends I’m grateful that I had the chance to attend this course, as it definitely has had a positive impact on my life!" Jenny Tee Chen Nie – Accountant.

“I decided to join the MINDFULGym workshop to help me cope with the stress of private medical practice and to improve my sleep. The workshop was conducted well and in a friendly manner by Dr. Phang and his team. A lot of material was covered, but I found the Mindful Body Stretching, Mindful Breathing and Gratitude Workout most useful for my daily life. The trainers encouraged the participants to adapt and modify the techniques for personal daily use. I have recommended the workshop to my colleagues and patients, and would recommend it unreservedly!” Dr. Muhammad Azrif Ahmad Annuar - Oncologist.

“The concept of Beginner's Mind inspires me to constantly notice the beauty of life. With an attitude of openness, I begin to see the multiple possibilities beyond the self-limiting preconceptions, and they fuel my interest to continue learning from people and things around me.” Goh Lei Kheng – Clinical Psychologist, University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC).


Siak Hun, Siak Jin, Siak Yee, and Siak Teng

'I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend this mindfulness program. When I practice NOW-ing (e.g. replying this email), I’m able to focus more on the present moment, do things without hurry, and be free from guilt later. By doing Mindful-STOP and Mindful Breathing, I’m much calmer when faced with challenges at work and at home. My conflict with loved ones has definitely reduced a lot. I’m definitely happier and able to live meaningfully in the present moment. Many people notice the positive changes in me and I’ve recommended this program to my supervisors, colleagues, clients, and of course loved ones (all my sisters).” Tan Siak Hun. “As a student, I need to sit in front of a computer for more than 10 hours per day. That caused a lot of muscle tension in my back, shoulders, and neck. Practicing Mindful Body Stretching keeps me aware of my body condition and helps me relax. Besides that, I like to do body scan before sleep. By doing so, I’ m able to experience close contact and communication with my body, and to express gratitude to it for supporting my daily activities.” Pamela Woo Chiat Sing, Student in Clinical Psychology, UKM.


Foreword There’re so many MINDFULNESS books in the market today. This precious and superbly useful book you have in your hands is one of the best practical guides in mindfulness. It invites and guides you through so many simple yet profound and healing meditations. Page by page it encourages you to be mindful, as if “your life depends on it, because it does” as Jon Kabat-Zinn would say. The presentation of the book is play oriented. Research has shown that we learn best when we’re joyfully PLAYING, not gnashing our teeth and WORKING tensely. Dr. Phang gives all of himself to play with you through pictures, stories, songs, simple words, and easy sentences. You will be having fun as you follow along. ENJOY! With each activity, Dr. Phang empties your cup to open your heart, then fills it with some more precious gifts. These gifts are sourced from three big gems - religious leaders, spiritual teachings, and counseling/psychotherapy of group healing. You can journey through the present moment with 14 heartfelt and inspirational stories; to short, medium and longer mindful exercises, and informal daily practices which will raise your positivity index and put a smile in your hearts. This book is Dr. Phang’s creation based on years of evolution of the MINDFULGym program that he created. As far as I know, this is the first and only structured mindfulness-based program in Malaysia, which is supported by local research and Ministry of Health (MySihat). They're references to many scientific research papers for those interested to continue practicing, in good faith, this enriching mindfulness for more and more minutes of their lives.


The best time to start is NOW‌..take in a deep breath and breathe out slowly, onto the next page. Play time for a lifetime of well-being is here!

DR. ENG-KONG TAN, (MBBS, MPM, FRANZCP) Consultant Psychiatrist & Analytic Psychotherapist, Metta Clinic, Sydney, Australia; Founder President & First Director of Training, Australian Association of Buddhist Counselors & Psychotherapists (AABCAP); Former Chairman of Training, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association of Australia (PPAA); Adjunct Professor, Nan Tien Institute, Wollongong, Australia. 2016


Dedication

This book is joyfully and gratefully dedicated to everyone who has participated and benefited from the MINDFULGym program. Their feedback has helped me to innovate simpler and effective methods for mindfulness training. My life has been enriched tremendously by all the sharing on surfing the adversities of life with a mindful attitude. May we continue our workout in MINDFULGym and gain happiness from it. Let’s ‘Be Present, Be Calm & Be Grateful.’ (MINDFULGym slogan).


Content Testimonial I Foreword Dedication Content What is MINDFULGym? MINDFULGym Tools, Stories & Research: 1. Mindful Body Stretching (MBS)……………………………………6 2. NOW-ing: Labelling Physical Activities …………………………14 3. Contacting the Present Moment with HTC………………………19 4. Mindful-STOP……………………………………………………..27 5. Mindful Breathing…………………………………………………33 6. Beginner’s Mind……………………………………………………45 7. Gratitude Workout………………………………………………...53 8. Body Scan & Kindness……………………………………………..64 9. Mindful Walking…………………………………………………..74 10. Mind-Scan: Mindfulness of Thoughts…………………………...82 11. Befriending Challenges…………………………………………..94 12. HEART-fulness………………………………………………….103 Mindfulness Personal Practice Plan (MP3) MINDFULGym Theme Song Acknowledgement About the author Books & products by the same author Mindfulness Resources Testimonial II


Mindful Stories This book contains inspirational stories related to mindful living living in the present moment, gratitude, contentment, beginner’s mind, embracing change, compassion, and so on.

1. The Genie of Unlimited Wishes ..................................................... 12 2. Tiger & Honey.................................................................................. 17 3. A Better Tomorrow Chocolate ........................................................ 22 4. Finding Peace in the Garden ........................................................... 30 5. The Monkey Trap ............................................................................ 42 6. A Cup of Tea..................................................................................... 50 7. The Noisy Kids ................................................................................. 50 8. Wishing Game ................................................................................. 61 9. The Cracked Pot............................................................................... 71 10. Two Monks & a Woman ............................................................... 79 11. Everything Happens for a Good Reason ....................................... 92 12. The Butterfly That Can’t Fly ......................................................... 99 13. The Mexican Fisherman .............................................................. 110 14. This Too Shall Pass....................................................................... 120


Mindful Research This book contains scientific research information related to the benefits of mindfulness. The findings of each research paper are summarized into 3 main points for easy understanding. 1. Mindfulness for Stress Reduction in Healthy People .................... 13 2. Mindfulness Reduces Multitasking & Stress .................................. 18 3. Mindfulness for School Teachers .................................................... 24 4. Mindfulness for Primary Care Physicians ...................................... 32 5. Mindfulness for Breast Cancer Patients ......................................... 44 6. Mindfulness for Medical Students .................................................. 51 7. Mindfulness in Schools Program .................................................... 62 8. Mindfulness for Critical Care Nurses.............................................. 73 9. Mindfulness & Immunity ................................................................ 80 10. Mindfulness for Anxiety & Depressive Disorders ........................ 93 11. Mindfulness for Chronic Pain ..................................................... 102 12. Mindfulness & Neuroplasticity ................................................... 112 13. Mindfulness for Stress Reduction in the Workplace ................. 122


NOW, it’s time for MINDFULGym training. Your journey to a happier & healthier life continues here-and-now…


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Introduction

What is MINDFULGym? MINDFULGym is a 5-week group mindfulness-based stress management and wellness program that I developed in 2010 for the Malaysian community. The program is based on ancient Buddhist wisdom and state-of-the-art scientific research in mindfulness; cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology. Supported by research collaboration with local universities (e.g. UPM, UKM, UM, Sunway University, Help University), the program has received grants from the Malaysian Health Promotion Board – MySihat (Ministry of Health) for free mindfulness education in the community. This book describes the various MINDFULGym tools taught in the program so that more people can benefit from the program. Benefits of practicing MINDFULGym tools: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Better sleep and ability to relax. Greater ability to concentrate and pay attention. Enhanced mood, self-esteem, and happiness. Stronger emotional resilience and anger management. Relief from stress-related physical symptoms, e.g. a headache.


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6. Increased immunity and slow down aging. 7. Improved problem-solving skills and creativity. 8. More self-compassion and empathy in relationships. 9. Increased productivity at work. 10. More happiness and peace of mind. What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a concept that is found in various spiritual traditions, especially Buddhism in which it’s a meditation practice known as ‘Sati.’ In the secular world, it was first applied in behavioral medicine in the 1970s in the form of an 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for stress and chronic pain management by Professor Dr. Jon. Kabat-Zinn at University of Massachusetts Medical Centre, United States. Since then, various mindfulness-based programs have mushroomed and these have been successfully applied in the secular world, e.g. healthcare, psychotherapy, education, parenting, coaching, and business. Recently, the British parliament approved a national policy (Mindful Nation UK, 2015) for implementing mindfulness in the country for good mental health. MINDFULGym (mindful-gym.blogspot.com) is a mindfulness-based program tailored to the needs of Malaysians, the first and only structured one which is supported by local research and Ministry of Health. To date, several definitions of mindfulness have evolved in the world. In MINDFULGym, it’s defined as a form of attention training. Being mindful means training our mind to pay attention and relate to present moment experience (e.g. sight, sound, body sensation, thought, feeling) with an attitude of kindness, a beginner’s mind, and wisdom. Please try to memorize the training definition of mindfulness


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as it’s important to appreciate the essence of various MINDFULGym exercises covered in this book.

Why do we need to pay attention to the present moment? 1. Our mind can easily time-travel to the past (with guilt) and future (with excessive worries). Living well in the present enables us to learn from the past, improve on the present, and move on meaningfully towards the future.


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2. Paying attention to the present moment allows us to appreciate the beauty around us that is ever-present. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you’re attentive, you’ll see it.” 3. Giving full attention to the present moment in communication is the foundation for building relationships. This is important in the era of the cell phone and iPad, whereby many are lost in the cyber world, instead of relating and caring for the people around us, here-and-now. In this book, you’ll be learning various ways to pay attention to present moment experience, which includes external (e.g. sight, sound) and internal (e.g. body sensation and movement, breathing, thought, emotion) events. Not only that, you’ll also be guided to pay attention/ be aware/ relate to the present moment with an attitude of kindness (gentle, warm, friendly), a beginners mind (non-judgmental, curious, open), and wisdom (an understanding of how the mind works and ways to ‘happify’ life through attention training).

How to use this book? Each chapter in this book is devoted to one of the 12 MINDFULGym tools and the material is arranged under subheadings:

What it is This is the introduction to a MINDFULGym tool (e.g. Mindful Breathing) and its purpose (e.g. calming and monitoring states of mind).


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How it works This provides the brief explanation on how a MINDFULGym tool produces its intended effects (e.g. Mindful Body Stretching for relaxing muscular tension and relaxing the mind).

What to do This describes simple and effective ways to practice a MINDFULGym tool in daily life. The instructions are just guides; feel free to adapt them to your preference and needs.

When to practice This is about 3 people from different backgrounds. It relates how Johnny (medical student), Mrs. Chan (working woman with a family), and Mr. Ramesh (middle-aged man with various medical problems) apply MINDFULGym tools in their lives. You will get ideas on customizing MINDFULGym tools and integrating them into your life.

Heartful story This contains inspirational stories related to mindful living - living in the present moment, gratitude, contentment, beginner’s mind, embracing change, compassion, and so on.

Mindful brain This consists of scientific research information related to the benefits of mindfulness. The findings of each research paper are summarized into 3 main points for easy understanding.


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1. Mindful Body Stretching (MBS) What it is This MINDFULGym tool consists of a 10-posture physical exercise for progressively stretching and relaxing different parts of the body. When we’re relaxed, it’s easier to pay attention to the present moment (e.g. stay focused in meetings) and to cultivate positive emotions (e.g. gratitude and kindness). It also helps in body awareness in response to stress.

How it works When we’re under stress, one of the common symptoms is muscular tension, especially those around the neck and shoulders. This could lead to physical pain, restlessness, tiredness, and more stress. When the breathing muscles are tensed, it could also lead to breathing difficulty. Oxygenation of the brain becomes poor, and this naturally worsens the stress reaction. MBS works by reversing the muscular tension and thus refreshes the mind and body.

What to do 1. Squeeze oranges Clench your fists… Imagine squeezing oranges for juice… Feel the tension around the fists… Count 1 – 10 slowly… Open your fists and let go of tension… Feel the waves of relaxation…Repeat this 2x


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2. Tortoise Imagine that you’re a tortoise…Push your head into the shell and shrug your shoulders… Feel the muscular tension around the neck and shoulders…Count 1 – 10 slowly… Let go and return to neutral position… Feel the waves of relaxation…Repeat this 2x 3. Superman Push your hands behind to squeeze the shoulder blades together…and extend your stomach forward… Feel the muscular tension around the area between your shoulder blades and stomach… Count 1 – 10 slowly…Let go and return to neutral position… Feel the waves of relaxation…Repeat this 2x 4. Push the ceiling Imagine that the ceiling is falling down… Straighten your hands with palms facing upward, fingers mutually pointing and imagine pushing the ceiling…


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Arch your body a bit towards the back and feel the muscular tension around the hands, neck, and chest… Count 1 – 10 slowly… Let go and return to neutral position… Feel the waves of relaxation… Repeat this 2x

The next three postures are for relaxing facial muscles. They may not look nice but are certainly effective for facial relaxation. 5. Aaahhhh! Open your mouth as wide as possible and imagine making the sound, “Aaahhhh!”… Feel the muscular tension around the mouth…

Count 1 – 10 slowly… Let go and return to neutral position… Feel the waves of relaxation… Repeat this 2x


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6. Eeeehhh! Clench your teeth and imagine making the sound, “Eeeehhh!”…Feel the muscular tension around the jaw… Count 1 – 10 slowly… Let go and return to neutral position… Feel the waves of relaxation… Repeat this 2x 7. Oohhhhhh! Stretch your nose vertically and imagine making the sound, “Oohhhhhh!”… Feel the muscular tension around the nose… Count 1 – 10 slowly… Let go and return to neutral position… Feel the waves of relaxation…Repeat this 2x The next three postures are for relaxing the legs and can be very helpful after standing or walking for a long time. 8. Grab tissue papers with toes Imagine trying to grab a piece of tissue paper or cloth with the toes of both legs…


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Feel the muscular tension around the toes… Count 1 – 10 slowly… Let go and return to neutral position…Feel the waves of relaxation… Repeat this 2x 9. Touch your toes with hands Touch your toes with hands or try to flex your ankles towards the body… Feel the muscular tension around the calves…Count 1 – 10 slowly… Let go and return to neutral position…Feel the waves of relaxation…Repeat this 2x

10. Touch the wall with your toes Imagine touching an imaginary wall in front of you with your toes... Feel the muscular tension around the upper parts of the feet… Count 1 – 10 slowly… Let go and return to neutral position… Feel the waves of relaxation… Repeat this 2x


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When to practice Johnny Johnny has been using the computer for his assignment for the past few hours. He’s tired, restless, and a headache is starting. He stops his work for a while and practices three of the MBS postures: superman, tortoise, and push the ceiling. He feels refreshed and continues with his work. The headache has also subsided, without the need to take Panadol. Mrs. Chan After a hectic day at work, Mrs. Chan is having a facial at home. She’s also listening to her favourite piano pieces by Richard Clayderman. After her facial, she uses three of the MBS postures (Aaahh, Eeehh, Ooohh) to further relax her face. She can now smile beautifully and attend to her children with patience and kindness. Mr. Ramesh Mr. Ramesh is diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol. Trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle, he’s playing badminton and practicing yoga every week. He integrates some of the MBS postures into his Yoga practice. He does MBS on the bed before sleep, which enables him to have restful sleep. Whenever he’s caught in a traffic jam, he does MBS too in the car to cope with impatience.


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Heartful story The Genie of Unlimited Wishes Once upon a time, a man was walking on a beach and he found a lamp. He rubbed on the lamp and a genie appeared. As in any typical genie story, he was granted wishes. However, instead of three wishes, he was offered unlimited wishes. On closer look, there were terms and conditions written on the lamp: “1. You must make at least ONE wish a day, else you’ll be eaten by the genie. 2. You can’t wish to change the terms and conditions. 3. It’s OK to repeat your wishes. But you can’t wish that you’ll have no wish.” Will you accept the offer? The man did and soon he was enjoying his wishes: big houses, luxury cars, pretty wife, good health, successful business, a lot of money, fame, and more. As expected, he was very happy. But after a while, he was stressed-out as he was running out of wishes. Remember the terms and conditions? Making no wish means he would be eaten by the genie. How can we help him? Luckily, the man thought of a wonderful solution. He returned to the genie and made three wishes that day (and the same for the coming days): “1. Create a torchlight and shine it up and down a coconut tree. 2. Whenever I have a new wish, stop doing that and grant my wish. 3. If I don’t make any wish, continue with no 1 – focus your attention on the tree.”


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In this way, the man technically did not violate the terms and conditions, and continued to enjoy his unlimited wishes.

Lesson: The genie represents our mind. Shining a torchlight up and down a coconut tree means paying attention to the present moment. Whenever our mind isn’t focused on the here-and-now, it has the tendency to dwell on the past with guilt, or be in the future with excessive worries. That’s how the genie (our mind) swallows and torments us with mental sufferings. So, in order to stay calm, healthy, and positive, live meaningfully in the present moment.

Mindful brain Mindfulness for Stress Reduction in Healthy People Reference: Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 593-600. Summary: 

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program has shown consistent efficacy for people with mental and physical disorders.

Less attention has been given to the possible benefits that it may have for stress reduction in healthy people.

This review of scientific literature shows that MBSR training has significant effects on healthy people for reducing stress, anxiety, and ruminative thinking; enhancing empathy, selfcompassion, and spirituality.


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2. NOW-ing: Labelling Physical Activities What it is This is a MINDFULGym tool that helps us to be more aware of what we’re doing by mentally labeling or silently verbalizing our physical activities.

How it works 

Sometimes we do things in autopilot mode; the mind is not fully in the present moment during activities. When this happens, we’re prone to forget things and make mistakes, e.g. forget to switch off the fan, fill petrol after paying for it, collect money after ATM withdrawal. We wear a shirt inside out/ back to front; we leave things behind (phone, purse, and laptop).

When we mentally label or silently verbalize our physical activities, we increase our attention on what we’re doing and thus reduce forgetfulness and careless mistakes.


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What to do

1. Think of physical activities that we need to focus more on to reduce forgetfuness or mistakes, e.g. when we withdraw money from ATM, use a knife, drive to a new place, count money. You may also think of situations in which we're often absent-minded or careless.

2. Mentally label or silently verbalize some of the steps associated with the activity, e.g. "insert ATM card," "942235" (key in pin number), "RM 500" (key in amount of money), "collect ATM card," "100, 200, 300..." (counting money).

3. NOW-ing could be used to support other MINDFULGym tools. For example, for enhancing concentration during Mindful Breathing, labelling the in and out breaths: "breathing IN, I know I'm breathing in; breathing OUT, I know I'm breathing out..." In Mindful Walking, we could label, "left...right...left...right."


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When to practice Johnny Johnny is learning to take blood from patients. He’s nervous and clumsy. After MINDFULGym, he verbally goes through the steps in blood taking before the actual practice. Now, as he’s withdrawing blood, he mentally labels the steps. By doing so, he’s much more focused and calm. After repeated practices, he can smile and comfort patients while taking blood. Mrs. Chan Mrs. Chan is driving and is shocked to see that her petrol tank is empty (she has just left the petrol station). She has paid for the petrol, but left without filling. This is the second time it has happened this week. Remembering to be mindful, she gently tells herself to pay full attention whenever she’s at a petrol station. She practices NOW-ing by labelling, “switch off engine…pay money…walk to car…fill petrol…collect receipt.” Mr. Ramesh Mr. Ramesh has a cold and is feeling tired after medications. He’s mentally blur, negative, and forgetful (e.g. looking for glasses that he’s wearing, leaving his keys in the office, and misplacing his shaver in the refrigerator). His wife kindly reminds him to practice NOW-ing. He also labels his breathing and thoughts, “thinking…thinking…thinking.” By doing that, he minimizes his forgetfulness and negativity.


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Heartful story Tiger & Honey A man was being chased by a tiger in the jungle. Tigers can run much faster than a man, and they eat men too. The tiger was hungry; the man was in trouble. With the tiger almost upon him, the man saw a well by the side of the path. In desperation, he leaped in. As soon as he had committed himself to the leap, he saw what a big mistake he had made. The well was dry and, at its bottom, he could see the coils of a big black snake. Instinctively, his arm reached for the side of the well, where his hand found the root of a tree. The root checked his fall. When he had gathered his senses, he looked down to see the black snake raised to full height to try to strike his feet; but his feet were a fraction too high. He looked up to see the tiger leaning into the well trying to paw him from above, but his hand holding the root was a fraction too low. As he contemplated his dire predicament, he saw two mice, one white and one black, emerge from a small hole and begin chewing on the root. As the tiger was attempting to paw at the man, its hindquarters were rubbing against a small tree, making it shake. On a branch of that tree overhanging the well, was a beehive. Honey began to drip into the well. The man put out his tongue and caught some. "Mmmmm! That tastes good," he said to himself and smiled. Zen story.

Lesson: Mindful living means learning to enjoy the present moment amidst the challenges and imperfections of life. There’s a Tibetan saying: “If a problem can be solved, there is no use worrying about it. If it can't be solved, worrying will do no good.�


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Mindful brain Mindfulness Reduces Multitasking & Stress Reference: Levy, D. M., Wobbrock, J. O., Kaszniak, A. W., & Ostergren, M. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation training on multitasking in a high-stress information environment. Paper

presented at the Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2012, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Summary: 

Multitasking is a widespread phenomenon in today’s information-saturated world, and there is considerable concern about its effectiveness and negative consequences on personal health.

The study aimed to determine the effects of mindfulness training on multitasking behavior in an office setting (e.g. checking email, instant messaging, word-processing, answering phone calls) in Canada.

Those who had received 8 weeks of mindfulness training made fewer task switches, reported less negative emotion and fatigue after task performance, and showed better memory for the details of work done.


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3. Contacting the Present Moment with HTC What it is This is a MINDFULGym tool that helps to quickly shift our mind from being lost in thoughts to sensing present moment experience – HTC (H for hearing, T for touching, and C for seeing).

How it works 

Our sense of hearing (H), touch (T), and sight (C) can only pick up objects that occupy the present moment. It’s the mind (thinking) that create stories (thoughts) from the objects, based on past experience, and project them to the future (e.g. catastrophic thoughts, “I’ll sure fail!’). If we’re not mindful, we could easily be carried away by stressful thoughts.

HTC enables us to temporary disengage from thoughts by shifting our attention to what we hear (H), touch (T), and see (C). In this way, we can rest our thoughts for a while, before returning to them with greater mental clarity to examine and act on them if necessary.

What to do 1. Imagine you have an HTC phone that you can use to contact the present moment at anytime and anywhere. This is a skillful way to remind us on how to anchor our attention in the present moment.


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2. We can quickly rest our attention in the present moment by one or a combination of the three methods below, which are based on hearing (H), touching (T), and seeing (C) present moment experience in the here-and-now.

H: Tune your attention to the sounds that you can hear now, e.g. birds chirping, fan spinning, air conditioner humming, people talking, vehicles moving, breathing, swallowing. Listen with curiosity. How does silence sound like?

T: Stamp feet on the ground a few times and feel the sensations on your soles. Alternatively, clap hands a few times, and feel the sensations on your palm. You could also park your attention on the sensations of the face, neck, or contact points between the back and the seat or bed.

C: Find something pleasant, relaxing, or inspiring around you now to look at, e.g. sky, clouds, trees, flowers, leaves falling, children playing, fish swimming, birds flying, a memento, someone whom you respect. Savour the beauty around you.


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3. The duration for each practice (H, T, or C) can be one, three, five, or more minutes. Generally, it’s meant to be a short and simple practice for quickly shifting attention to sensory experience. It’s important to practice regularly (e.g. three times per day), so that our attention gear can shift easily.

When to practice Johnny Johhny is ‘digesting’ his lecture notes on biostatistics. He’s worried as he can’t understand many things in the notes. He feels that his mind is unpleasantly stuck with numbers, formulas and graphs; he’s lost in thoughts. Besides, he feels like he’s disconnected from his surroundings. Suddenly, his phone rings, and he remembers to practice HTC. After that, he feels calmer, connected, and aware that he has the option to discuss his studies with friends. Mrs. Chan Mrs. Chan is driving to work and is caught in a traffic jam. Instead of cursing the traffic light, other drivers, and herself for starting out late, she attempts to focus on the present moment. Amidst the jam, she practices HTC: temporarily shifts her attention to the beautiful sky with clouds and birds, and sensations between her back and car seat. Thus, she stays calm and cool.


NOW: Who Wants To Learn MINDFULGym?

Mr. Ramesh It’s time for daily prayer. Before praying, Mr. Ramesh spends a few minutes checking into the present moment with HTC. He finds that by doing so, he’s able to concentrate and connect better to God during prayer. At times, he combines HTC with deep breathing practice: on each out breath, he heightens his attention on the sensations on his soles. At the same time, he imagines releasing his tension to the ground. With that, he feels more blessed and grounded.

Heartful story A Better Tomorrow Chocolate Once upon a time, a little girl dreamed of getting a special box of chocolate. “A Better Tomorrow,” was the brand of the chocolate. The box of four chocolate pieces was magical. As the name implies, she could fast forward her life by taking a piece of the chocolate. She wanted to go to a school where she had many friends to play with and wonderful things to learn. She took the 1st piece of chocolate and magically, she found herself having a great time in school. However, the happiness didn’t last long as she started to discover the problems related to school, e.g. tuition and examination.


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“How nice if I could finish school and start working. No more exams, I’ll have my own money and can buy anything I like,” she thought to herself… So, she took the 2nd piece of chocolate and magically, she found herself working in a big multinational company with a lucrative salary. The happiness also didn’t last long as she started to discover the problems related to work, e.g. office politics and work deadlines. “How nice if I were married. My husband would take care of me, I don’t have to work and I can spend quality time with my children,” she thought to herself. So, she took the 3rd piece of chocolate and magically, she found herself comfortably at home with her wonderful kids and caring husband. Again, as you would expect, the happiness didn’t last long as she started to discover the problems related to family life, e.g. marital conflict and kids getting rebellious. “How nice if my kids were grown up, I won’t have to worry about them anymore and I can really rest,” she thought to herself. There’s only one last piece of chocolate left. If you were her, would you take the last piece of chocolate and fast forward your life for happiness in the future? In the story, she didn’t. She threw away the last piece of chocolate into a lotus pond. As she gazed at the bubbles and ripples in the pond, she woke up from her dream. Not only had she awakened from her dream in sleep; she had also AWAKENED from her ‘sleep’ in life…What did she discover?


NOW: Who Wants To Learn MINDFULGym?

She discovered the importance of appreciating every moment in life instead of compulsively fast-forwarding her life for future happiness. It’s good to have meaningful goals in life. But while working hard to achieve our goals, let’s not forget to enjoy the journey and what we’ve already achieved – that’s the art of happiness. By Zhen-Phang.

Lesson: Remember the genie of unlimited wishes? Don’t just keep making wishes. Mindful living means remembering to spend time to appreciate and enjoy the present moment - NOW - all we’ve wished for that have come true.

Mindful brain Mindfulness for School Teachers Reference: Franco, C. C., Mañas, I. I., Cangas, A. J., Moreno, E. E., & Gallego, J. J. (2010). Reducing teachers' psychological distress through a mindfulness training program. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 13(2), 655-666.

Summary: 

Teachers constitute one of the professionals most affected by psychological problems. This has a negative impact on job performance and effective school education.


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

Sixty-eight teachers from various public schools in Spain participated in a mindfulness training program for reducing psychological distress. The program was conducted over a period of 10 weeks (1.5 hours per week) with daily home practice (40 minutes).



Compared to teachers who did not participate in the program, teachers who did had significantly lower levels of anxiety, depression, hostility, and physical symptoms caused by psychological factors.

Yesterday was history Tomorrow is mystery Today is a gift, The PRESENT -Agnes Baker Pilgrim-


NOW: Who Wants To Learn MINDFULGym?


NOW: Who Wants To Learn MINDFULGym? - 12 Mindful Tools For Stress Reduction & Wellness  

Published by Malaysia Association for Mindfulness Practice & Research (MMPR). This is a preview of the first 3 chapters of the book. The ha...

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