Mindfulness Based Stress Management 2

I was looking so much forward to the second session of the Mindfulness Based Stress Management (MBSM) this morning that I ended up quite disappointed, because the trainer spent at least half the entire duration repeating last week’s session, not just for recapitulation but for the benefit of the three participants who were absent.

It was only when the Responses to Stress was discussed (in small groups) that things got a bit more interesting. All the males were in one group, and the females were split into three groups; this was in order to find out how differently men and women would response to stress. It seems that men talk from the head, as their brains are comparmentalised, more structured and logical, whereas women talk from the heart. The discussion was lively, and brings us to the explanation of Body Sensations (such as Anger, Anxiety, Envy, Fear, Happiness and Surprise) and Body Scan Descriptors (such as Balanced, Cool, Dizzy, Dull, Relaxed and Tense). Mindfulness requires us to step back and reflect on our feelings; and we need to pay attention to our body sensations.

What followed was perhaps the highlight of the day’s programme: exercises for Stress Management and PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) involving scrunching up our faces then relaxing it, tensing our arms and relaxing them, tensing up our shoulders and chest then relaxing them, tensing up our legs then relaxing them and breathing in relaxation and breathing out tension.

Another set of exercises is called Mindful Movement Meditation where we have to be mindful of our breathing and our body sensations. This involves having the feet apart, arms raised, fruit pick, side bend and shoulder roll. I shall make an effort to incorporate all these into my daily exercise routine. I may also look up the book called Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace In A Frantic World the next time I visit the library.

It was only after this that the trainer embarked on what was supposed to be today’s topic: going into detail the Being & Doing Modes. Being is “what we are” & Doing is “what we can accomplish”. Being Mode is letting go, being still, observing and regaining perspective and helps to put us back in contact with all of our senses; Doing Mode is action and immediate responses (hurry up, faster, quick) and can result in being ‘automated’. More often than not, many of us are in the Doing Mode; we need to think of the kinds of emotions both states exhibit and what the impact is on others. More will be elaborated in the next session, though they are supposed to be covered today.

I hope next week’s session will be better than today’s.

An Evening In Autumn

I remember the first three lines of this poem by Li Qingzhao (d. 1155) from forty years ago. So I decided to do a translation of the entire Song Lyrics by one of the greatests poet in Chinese history:

An Evening In Autumn

 

Searching and seeking,

Quiet and bleak,

Desolate, bereft and forlorn.

The Autumn warmth has suddenly turned chilly,

It is most difficult to keep well.

A few cups of light wine,

Are no match for the strong morning wind!

Wild geese fly past,

While I’m grief-striken,

But they are friends from bygone days.

Fallen chrysanthemums pile up all over the ground,

Withered and scattered,

What else is there to pluck?

Leaning at the window alone,

How do I pass the time till dusk?

Raindrops fall on a parasol tree,

That becomes wet by evening.

A time such as this,

Is filled with sorrow immense and immeasurable.

Flowers They’re Not

 

Many have translated this Bai Ju Yi (772-846) poem as “A Bloom Is Not A Bloom”, but I translate it as

 

Flowers They’re Not

They look like flowers, but they’re not.

They look like mists, but they’re not.

They appear in the middle of the night,

And are gone by the break of light.

The spring dreams come,

like transient joy;

And leave like morning clouds,

no-where to be found.

Mindfulness Based Stress Management

I attended the first session of a four-session workshop on Mindfulness Based Stress Management (MBSM) ograninsed by Family Central this morning. The facilitator is Evelyn Khong, a trainer (also a counsellor) from Fei Yue Community Services. Because I’ve attended another workshop conducted by her, I knew I was going to enjoy the 12 hours (4 x 3hrs).

Evelyn explained the 7 Dimensions of Wellness (physical, intellectual/mental, emotional, social, spiritual, financial & vocational) before conducting an activity that helped explain the definition of MDSM (The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something) and the learning outcomes (Understand what MBSM is & the benefits, Difference between being & doing, Identify thoughts, feelings & sensation, Be mindful of stress & employ stress management techniques, Recognise and apply the ACT of mindfulness).

This was followed by another activity that would explain The Suitcase Of Our Mind, and leading to Integrity or Despair in the Later Years. According to Erik Erikson, there are 8 stages in life: Infancy, Toddlehood, Pre School, School Age, Teenage, Young Adult (20-35), Middle Adult (36-50) & Older Adult (>50).

The questions to ask are: What have we been packing in all these years? As we look back in life, did we find integrity or despair? What are some of the thoughts that run through our mind every day? Do we reflect on our day at night?

We need to be mindful about the suitcase of our mind. Even letting out a sigh is a mindfulness technique. We need to step back and check: why are we sighing, what is causing us to sigh? We must remind ourselves of the benefits of MBSM (Better self control, Be more objective, Increased tolerance, Improved concentration, Less stress & reduced reactivity, Relate better with others); otherwise, if enduring outweighs enjoying, the system will soon give up.

We also need to differentiate between the Positive Stress Cycle (positive behavorial response, decreasd stress symptoms, improved mood, beneficial thoughts, relaxation self-talk) and Negative Stress Cycle (automatic thoughts, negative moods & emotions, maladaptive behaviour, negative physical symptoms).

To unpack our suitcase, we have to be aware of the causes of stress (children & family, chronic worry, financial problems, major life changes, negative self talk, over scheduled, relationship difficulties, rigid thinking & lack of flexibility, unrealistic expectations/ perfectionism, workload). The non-verbal cues (tone 38% + body language 55%) overshadows the words used (7%) in causing stress.

For “homework”,we have to be more mindful, think about the factors that make us stressed/uptight and how we react to situations. And remember to do deep breathing exercises.

In the next session, we will learn more about Good Stress and Bad Stress, our response to stress, body sensations, and stress management & some exercises that help relieve stress which is what I look forward to most.

Farewell

Du Mu (Tang poet, 801-852) wrote a couple of poems which he titled as Farewell; this is the second one:

 

There is so much love but

The passion seems to have gone;

There is a feeling that

Smiling is impossible.

Even the candle grieves

When we say our last goodbye;

As though it has a heart

To weep for us till daybreak.

Autumn Evening

This is another Tang poem by Du Fu (803-852). My translation is as follows:

 

Cold painted screen

And silver candles

Flickering

On an autumn night.

A silken fan,

Petite and dainty,

Gently chase

Fireflies away.

The palace steps

Appearing at night

Like water

Cool and serene.

Stars of Cowherd

And the Weaver Girl

Can be seen

By lying down.