BER5 Mindful Webinar. Episode 1 : Series 2(April 2020)
COVID 19 has done some amazing transformation in our lives. Take it as you may but this is how I view it as. Being a curious learner, I had the opportunity to have dialogues with five amazing women. Each of these five women was asked the same questions to understand how they lead their professional and personal life by being mindful particularly in these present times.
My second guest is a friend who inspires and influences me through her stories. She helped me to heal my endometriosis using food as medicine. I always look forward to dinner meetings with her because I know I will be learning something new. She is authentic to the core. She connects with you at a very deep level. Her name is Sulynn Choong, the Founder and CEO of Asian Centre of Applied Positive Psychology. Below is a summary of the hour-long dialogue that we had on BER5 Mindful Webinar on 7th April 2020 at 9 PM to 10 PM (GMT +8).
“If we allow the news to fill our heads — allow our hearts to worry, we are actually allowing the war that is outside — against the virus — to come inside ourselves. We have allowed the war outside to come inside — a war zone within ourselves. So the trick is to focus on what’s happening within ourselves.“ Sulynn Choong
What does mindful mean to you?
To me, being mindful means being fully present, being in the moment intentionally. It is a mental state of being here and now … not thinking of what you ate just now or what you will have for dinner. It helps you to focus on your feelings and thoughts and sense what is going on in your body.
We need to stop that monkey mind that is in our head by paying attention — to be still in the moment. Your attitude matters. To be in the moment, firstly do not judge yourself. For example, before this webinar, my head went ‘Why did you do your things last minute? ‘What a mess you are.’ ‘Your friends are going to be looking at you.’ I chose to focus on how I want to show up.
Being mindful is also about trusting the process and not worrying overly about the outcome. This is true in coaching and in all kinds of tasks. I was recently introduced to a book by Atul Gawande — The Checklist Manifesto. He (the author) is a surgeon who shares on how a checklist helped pilots avert an air crash and how using one reduced the number of death during or post-surgery. Focusing on the process and using a checklist helps you to stay on track.
It’s very interesting what you just shared. None of us have experienced pandemic before. It is even more important to be mindful at this current moment. How does one do that?
I have been living on my own for past 2 years so social distancing is a norm to me. It is much harder for people who are extroverted and need external stimulation. We are creatures of habit. It seems like the pandemic and MCO have stripped us of everything. We feel we have no control. We dread what might happen to us. All that is routine and familiar seems lost — our business, our kids and school … and the terrible fear of infection. We have been thrown into totally unchartered territory.
Mindfulness brings us back. If we allow the news to fill our heads — allow our hearts to worry, we are actually allowing the war that is outside — against the virus — to come inside ourselves. We have allowed the war outside to come inside — a war zone within ourselves. So the trick is to focus on what’s happening within ourselves.
What is this doing to me? If your kids are driving you up the wall … think ‘how can I make the best out of this situation?”. There is no point complaining about this situation. You know the MCO is necessary. So why are we allowing that war to rage inside us instead of being peaceful and grateful, knowing that this too will pass. It will not be forever. It will pass.
Anxiety and stress are not good for your physical health. Be calm. I know it is tough. Try this: go to your room just for 10 minutes. Sit quietly just on your own. Center yourself. Mindfulness is super important for your state of well-being, and to those around you.
How are you practicing mindfulness with other people?
Maintaining high quality connection is very important to me — staying connected even though separated from others. High quality connections are positive interactions whether in person or virtually that make you feel rejuvenated, uplifted, connected and good about yourself and the other.
In communication, the language we use may be misinterpreted. What I said may be different to what you hear and understand. Often conflict arise. When I am mindful, I ask myself ‘is being right more important than this relationship means to me’. My ego has to go away — to focus on not letting the relationship break down.
During this MCO, we need to remember what Maya Angelou said — ‘people don’t remember what you said or what you did, they remember how you make them feel’. Everyone knows this but how many of us remember this when we feel like screaming?
I have the good fortune of working with wonderful teams of business associates who value high quality connections. One such team is Black Dog Consultants. We actively share knowledge and humour, collaborate and agree on how best to leverage on this down time. Such bonding albeit virtual is leading to much learning, creative innovation and commitment to each other and the team. With so much psychological safety in the group, we are going to come out stronger
To me, mindfulness in relationships means I need to be aware of how I communicate.
That is so beautiful. I love the Maya Angelou quote. So Sulynn, what is meaningful to you in this present moment
During this time, spiritually grounding myself is meaningful to me. To center myself so as not to be affected by the storms around me. Also, staying physically fit, taking care of myself. This is not the time to get sick or to make people worry about me. I do not want to be a liability to people. I have high curiosity and a great love for learning. During this season, there are many online courses either free or at discounted fees. I have signed up for so many courses to help me become better at what I do, that would probably take two years to complete. Finally, to stay psychologically well, I am aware of my need to not only feel physically and mentally fit but to also be emotionally strong through mindful connection with others. Being strong inside is essential to my ability to deal with the outside and to provide support to others.
I always get so absorbed in your conversations. How are you mindful with your goals and aspirations now? How do you do it?
My goals are determined by remembering who I am. I am a child of God and He has a plan and purpose for my life. I ask myself how I can best use my talents, strengths and skills. What will I spend my time on? Where do I want to see myself 5 to 10 years from now? What is my legacy? What do I need to do?
I want to be of service to others. What do I wish to leave behind? Quoting my daughter (then only 6 years old) — ‘I want to touch people’s hearts’. I want to leave an imprint on the hearts of those I meet. I want them to know they matter to me.
My goals are founded on what I need to learn, what do I need to do… to deliver on that purpose. Knowing my purpose gives meaning to what I do.
Well I remember in one of our dinner meetings, I said to you “Oh well Sulynn, you are a positive psychologist, obviously you are going to speak like this right? So for people who don’t know you here and who may think the same, how much of what you do influences how you live your life ?
I am a coach, counsellor, a learning facilitator, a consultant. I am one of the lucky ones who can say my work is my calling. I do what I love and what I am great at. I get paid for it. It is something that people value. Ikigai, a Japanese concept, where you have a reason to wake up to every morning, it gives meaning to your life.
For example. My health is of paramount importance to me. No life, no mindful living. I tell everyone this: take care of your health. To practice what I preach, I pay attention to my gut and what I eat, exercise, and sleep. Stress is not an option. I want to stay drug free (no medication). Sam you know this. Food is my medicine. Other people matter. Having high quality connections helps in building my immunity
I keep a journal which includes habit trackers to keep myself accountable every day. (Shows pages of her personal journal) These track the things that I need to do to keeps me fit and alive. I have a daily routine marked out in time blocks — work, chores, self-care, daily devotions, exercise, sleep etc — a plan. I track how I use every hour — if I don’t recall how I used my time, I am not mindful and I have wasted that hour. Am I able to execute it all? No, and that bugs me because then I am not being true to myself. All I can do is do the best I can every day.
Thank You Sulynn, conversations with you are always so intriguing and I get so absorbed in it. Thank you so much for inspiring and sharing with us.I would like to thank the entire BER5 team and MaGIC community for supporting our live sessions and to all our audience who came in today. To watch the full interview click here. After watching the interview please do spare few moments to fill up our feedback form. This will help us to improve our next sessions.
About BER5 Mindful Webinar
BER5 Mindful Webinar is a social cause to support people in personal growth through mindfulness. Personal growth is essential as it helps us see challenges through a different lens. Our host, Sameeta Sparks is a Therapeutics Art Practitioner from CiiAT. Besides running her own art therapy sessions, she is also a lead volunteer at BER5 Mindful Webinar. BER5 Mindful Webinar is endorsed by CSED and lead by art Wellness. Our April collaborators are NeOOne Associates, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre, Asian Centre of Applied Positive Psychology Centre, Protege Advisory, HMO. Inner Voice and Linkedin Local Kuala Lumpur.
Resources recommended my Sulynn Choong :
- The Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right. Atul Gawarde (2011). Picador Paper. New York.
- Mindfulness, Ellen J. Langer (1989). Perseus Books, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- High Quality Connections, Jane E. Dutton and Emily D. Heaphy, University of Michigan.
- Active Constructive Responding as explained by Dr Tal Ben-Shaar.