Mindfulness Based Stress Management 4


Perhaps because she spent too much time on activities and recapitulation in the last two sessions, the facilitator did not spend much time recapitulating today (maybe 5 minutes) but went straight into the topic for the day. After all, in the overview, there is a lot of reference to the previous materials when the discussion is about Negative Interpretations, Your Authentic Self and Further Benefits of How Mindfulness Reduce Stress.

Negative Impressions would involve the topic of  Choices in respect to People, Places, Position and Possessions. Negative Impressions are unhelpful (eg making assumptions, when in most times these are unfair and not true, as what happened is what happened). This in turn is related to the A.C.T. of Mindfulness (Acknowledge/Accept, Choose, Take Action) mentioned last week.

Your Authentic Self : “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we actually are” (Brene Brown, author & researcher). Some questions for authenticity are: What am I afraid would happen if I share my experience with this person right now? How will I feel if I don’t share what I am thinking and feeling? If I weren’t afraid, what would I most want to say to this person right now? How can I share this with even more vulnerability? There are several ways to Be True to Yourself : Speak up for yourself, Maintain alignment between what you feel & need and what you say & do, Don’t put up with abuse of any kind, Give up designing your behaviour to be liked, Do something each day that reflects your deepest needs, wishes & values, Forgive/encourage yourself, Laugh with others but laugh at yourself.

Wrapping up, Mindfulness Based Stress Management not only reduces stress but helps to build an inner strength, Future stressors have less impact on our happiness and well being, We become more aware of toxic thoughts, Helps us be more sensitive to the needs of our body, We don’t immediately react or overact, Our “being” mode is activated, We are better able to focus, and We become more relaxed, calm and at peace.

Finally, we are given “homework” (which need not be handed up) – four pages on which we’re supposed to write about / reflect on how Negative Feelings  impact on others & ourselves , and Love Notes to others (‘action plan’ /something nice to others) & ourselves (say something nice & good).

I hope to attend a similar course in the near future as I found I’ve not only learnt something, but enjoyed myself in the process.



Everyone makes mistakes,

Including you and me.

Will we get another chance

To start all over again?

When one breaks a promise,

The other feels jilted;

Like the old fables passed down

In romance stories and tales.

Life is sadder in reality –

My vision is slowly fading;

Whatever you say,

Please don’t break my heart.

I will not bear grudges,

Even though my heart is bruised;

For pain is training ground

For the mistake of loving.

To tolerate in solitude

Or to beat a hasty retreat,

There’s no dodging

The same sad outcome.

Yearn to bestow comfort,

Yet no word can come out right;

If memories die fast,

There’ll be no tear or sorrow.

Our Brand Is Crisis

I vaguely recall that this 2015 movie didn’t do very well at the cinemas; neither did it get any rave review in the newpapers. I thought the only thing worth watching was perhaps Sandra Bullock, since I was never into politics. So I could wait until I get my hands on the DVD from the library.

Suggested by the 2005 documentary by Rachel Boyton, this movie is about how “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock, who is also co-executive producer), a brilliant strategist of political campaigns comes out of self-imposed retirement to challenge her nemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), the opposition’s political consultant.

Bolivian politician Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) hires an American political consulting firm to help him win the election, and the firm brings in Jane Bodine. Calamity Jane can convince herself of anything if the price is right, so she can work with politicians she doesn’t believe in. Truth is relative in politics. She is combative at heart, belligerent, entitled, and when she doesn’t get her way, she makes noise. She’s the centre of a firestorm and huge controversy. She has no kids, no family, no life.

On her team are Eduardo/Eddie (Reynolds Pacheco), a young volunteer, and La Blanc (Zoe Kazan), a researcher who specialises in digging up dirt on candidates. Castillo wins by a small margin.

There are lots of music throughout the movie, including funk, rap, bongo, Latin music, Spanish songs, Spanish dance music, theme song and other songs specially composed for this movie, and even a Howard Greenfiled-Neil Sedaka song (performed by Tom Jones) and The Rose, written by Amanda McBroom.

There are also many quotes from various literary sources – for example, from The Art of War by Sun Tzu : “If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant”, “If his forces are united, separate them”; from Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche : “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster”, “When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you”; from  Enter The Dragon by Bruce Lee : “A man’s strength can be measured by his appetities. Indeed, a man’s strength flows from his appetites”; from The Wealth of Nations  by Adam Smith : “the invisible hand”; from Faust by Wolfgang Von Goethe : “It may be all right to have a power that is based on guns; however, it is better and more gratifing to win the heart of a nation and keep it”; from anarchist and activist Emma Goldman : “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”; from singer Dolly Parton : “If you don’t like the road you’re on, start paving a new one”; and more from Machavelli, Warren Beatty and Mohammad Ali: “He who is not courageous enough is not going to win”.

With the stunts and special effects, this movie is worth watching after all.

From Clementi to Carnegie

This is the book that Singaporean Siow Lee Chin wrote in 2015 about her journey from her humble home (a HDB flat in Clementi, a suburban residential town named after the British colonial Governer of the Straits Settlements Sir Cecil Clementi Smith; coincidentally, Clementi is also the name of a composer) to Carnegie Hall in New York.

Like Mrs Carmee Lim (Mentor Principal of MindChamps Holdings, and ex-principal of Raffles Girls’ School), I read the book in one sitting. In the Preface are also accolades from seven other prominent persons :Dr Lee Boon Yang, Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings & Kepple Corporation and former Minister for the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts; Almita Vamos, Professor of Roosevelt University Chicago College of Performing Arts and the Music Institute of Chicago; Gary Graffman, former President of Curtis Institute of Music, concert pianist and teacher of notable pianists including Lang Lang and Yuja Wang; Dr Chang Tou Liang, Classical Music Reviewer of The Straits Times and former member of the Board of Directors of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO); Andrew Lim, Creative & Music Doirector and Producer & Presenter of Symphony 92.4FM; Dr Tan Chin Nam, Chairman of Temasek Management Services; Peter Crookes, Professor of Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

This memoir gives more than reading pleasure; it is inspirational and contains some valuable advice for everyone:

Perfect music is more than just playing notes. While not everybody will become a concert artist, the lessons learnt from cultivating the discipline required to perfect our passion, and having the faith to persevere through setbacks are valuable takeaways that will carry us through life. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, said at the inauguration of the Victoria Concert Hall in 1980: “The best musicians begin training from the age of 3 to 5. It is a long and rigorous road, even for the gifted. Few gifted Singaporeans, with such good minds, ear and touch, will want to chance their career in music. Any person with a mind of committing 120 20-minute pieces to memory, and a deft touch, can easily meet the demands of more traditional professions; they can become surgeons, doctors, lawyers or engineers, professions which provide a rewarding life, without continually disciplined efforts.”

Siow’s first teacher was her father, who taught her that “the loudest and the flashiest piece wasn’t always the best; look for beauty in the mundane”. With a flashy piece, all one may think about is playing the notes; a lyrical piece, however, teaches patience – an essential virtue in life. A CD (Songs My Father Taught Me) that Siow recorded in 2009, is a tribute to her father, and was at the top of the classical charts at HMV store at the time. (And I have an autographed copy!)

Siow was the youngest musician with the SSO when a guest soloist, American violinist Aaron Rosand, asked her to play something for him during a rehearsal. When he heard her warming up with a cadenza instead of some scales, he immediately offered her a place to study at Curtis Institute of Music. (She also auditioned for and was offered a place at the Julliard School in New York around the same time. She chose Curtis.)

From early on, Siow had been taught to hold herself to the highest standards. There are no short cuts; never have been, never will be. From the legendary Romanian maestro Sergei Celibidacha: If you have very little potential, no matter how much you practise, it doesn’t matter. The better you are, the more you need to practise. If you have a lot of talent, all the more you need to practise. Stage performances look effortlesss because you are supposed to have worked out all the knks when you practise. Another teacher, Felix Galimir (who studied with the legendary Carl Flesch whose scale system is still the “Bible” for violinists and whose own scale exercises took two-and-a-half hours from start to finish, expecting his students to practise these every day) told her: By definition you are already a masochist by choosing to be in this profession. Musicians have to keep striving, and there’s no guarantee you will make it. Scales are like mundane exercises at the gym; but if you have the fortitude to work through them without giving up, there is no doubt that you will be able to see and hear the difference with every passing day.

Technique is important the way grammar is important in language. One should master musical technique in order to serve the music, to understand that it is a means to an end, so that a powerful musical statement can be delivered faultlessly, one which would resonate with the audience and move them.

Preparing for a (music) competition is not unlike preparing for the Olympics. What matters is how you pick yourself up again. This is the real challenge for a musician. You’ll never know when success is right around the corneer. Life is full of serendipitous surprises. Students look to a teacher for psychological and emotional support because great music involves the whole being – mind, body and soul. As a musician, one quickly learns how to acquire the mental strength to carry on despite stumbles. (Whether in front of a hall full of people, or when an accident occurs – like Siow’s car accident which left her with two broken bones in her left hand, or when there are health issues – like Siow’s brush with cancer.)

Through her experiences, from the humourous to the harrowing, Siow has learnt that when things fall apart, they will come together again. The journey is far from over, and I hope she will write another memoir in the next decade or so.

At the end of the book, Siow shares that the scale is her metaphor for the basic priciples of life:

C   Create your own opportunities. Be proactive.

D  Do not worry about the harvest. Keep sowing, and the rest will take care of itself.

E   Explore new things. Take on challenges that scare you.

F   Follow your inner voice. Don’t follow the herd.

G   Go back to your source.

A   Always be prepared. You never know when Lady Luck will come knocking.

B   Beauty is in the mundane. To perform your best, you first need to nail the basics.

A Game of Chance

Unlike the previous Linda Howard novels that I’ve read, this one took me more than two weeks to finish.

Chance Mackenzie is on a covert operation – trying to capture the terrorist Crispin Hauer. He plans to do this by following Hauer’s daughter Sonia Miller, suspecting that she works for her father and she is the key to locating Hauer. Chance sets a trap and gets himself and Sonia stranded in a canyon, hoping to find out more about Hauer. Instead, he discovers that Sonia and her sister have been running from her father since she was five, and that he is also a pervert and child molester. So Chance decides to formulate a game plan, using Sonia as bait to get to Hauer. Eventually, Hauer is eliminated and Chance and Sonia start a family of their own…

Even though Howard writes with the same kind of flair as for her other stories (full of emotion, tension, sensuality & suspense), it is still just another romance drama. Perhaps I’m getting on in years and should give this genre a rest (at least for a while)?!

The Postman

Based on a book by David Brin, The Postman is an epic post-apocalyptic adventure film, not something I favour, but I borrowed this 1997 DVD because Kevin Costner (also the director and co-producer) is a drifter who has a knack for Shakespeare.

A drifter who trades Shakespearean performances for food and water  stumbles upon an old uniform and mail bag of a postman, arrives in Pineview claiming to be a postman from the newly restored US government. He inspires at least one young man, Ford Lincoln Mercury (Larenz Tate) who organises a postal service based on the Postman’s story, to establish communications with other settlements and spreading hope. He also meets Abby (Olivia Williams) and becomes involved with her.

The longest Shakespearean quote in the film comes from Henry V:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-flavour’d rage.

It is slightly modified for the movie: “In peace, nothing so becomes a man as modesty and humility, but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with rage and lend the eye a terrible aspect”.

Filmed in Metaline Falls and Fidalgo Island, Washington; central Oregon; and southern Arizona around Tucson and Nogales, the sceneries are spectacular and breathtaking. Kudos to the crew involved in photography, special effects and visual effects.



This is a 2012 remake of the film Crime D’amour (2010). If I remember correctly, it didn’t get a good review in the Straits Times. Hence I was pleasantly surprised to find it exactly the kind of crime thriller that gets me hooked from the beginning to end!

Christine Stanford (Rachel McAdams) is a top-level executive at a big international advertising agency who steals her subordinate Isabella James’ (Noomi Rapace) brilliant idea for a project and claims credit for it. She even humiliates Isabella at an office party in front of all her co-workers. Isabella’s secretary Dani ((Karoline Herfurth), who is infatuated with Isabella, is indignant. (There is a sub-plot that gives a  hint of why Christine wants to ruin Isabella – because she is having an affair with Christine’s lover, Dirk (Paul Anderson) who is embezzling money from the company. Christine also tries to fire Dani. These cause Isabella to be overwhelmed and needs prescription drugs for relief but which leads to an addiction that leaves her confused.)

Christine turns up dead and Isabella is arrested. Inspector Bach (Rainer Bock) investigates. This is where the plot thickens and becomes more intriguing…

Besides the twists and excitement of the story, what I enjoyed most is the music used. Other than the dozen or so original pieces by Pino Donaggio and  French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and a ballet performance by Polina Semionova & Ibrahim Oyku Onal to this, there are two classical pieces (Allegro from Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 4 in D Major and Andante from J. S. Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra) that bring out the atmosphere of the lively and stately dances at a ball. Of course, the special and visual effects are a treat. And the stunt coordinator did a good job with the stand-ins.


Miles Ahead

I had been looking out for this movie since I read a newspaper article about it, but I doubt it was ever played in cinemas here. Hence I was very excited when I spotted in on the library shelf.

The story (and screenplay), about great jazz musician Miles Davis, is co-written by Don Cheadle, who also plays the lead besides directing it. Cheadle also co-wrote a piece of music which is played by a band that includes Herbie Hancock at the end of the movie.

Right from the beginning of the movie, there are lots of coarse language used, with car chase and violence. The movie is not a biopic as I expected but an exploration of the period during which Miles disappeared from public view, and how he dealt with pain, got numbed by drugs and memories of his past, about his deteriorating mental and physical health, flirting with self-destruction and how his found salvation in his music.

I did not quite like how frequently the movie moves in and out of the different times : the present day and the flashbacks to the past. It has a dizzying and disorientating effect. What I like, though, is the music. I counted almost 30 pieces, including more than a dozen Miles Davis classics like: Nefertiti, So What, Blue In Green, Sketches of Spain, Miles Ahead, Someday My Prince Will Come, Teo, Solea, Seven Steps To Heaven, Black Satin, Agharta Prelude, Duran, Go Ahead John, Miles Ahead, He Loved Him Madly, Black Seat Betty, Gone, Frelon Brun and Sanctuary.