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Finding Calm in a Congested City (Part of “The Mindful Singaporean Uncle” series)

Updated: Feb 19

Let’s be honest, as a soon-to-be 53-year-old Singaporean man, the idea of sitting and chanting initially made my eyes roll. I’ve spent a lifetime building, providing, and doing. My idea of self-care is usually that second glass of wine ... definitely not conducive to enlightenment. And yet, as they say, even the strongest uncle sometimes needs a good sit-down, right?

This concept of “mindfulness” keeps popping up. It’s a trendy word, for sure, but digging deeper, there’s something that resonates. Mindfulness feels like an antidote to the relentless pace of life in Singapore, a way to find our footing even when the ground feels perpetually unsteady.

Why an Uncle Needs Mindfulness

It’s not about throwing away our aspirations (if you’re the achievement-type) or ignoring those hard-earned wrinkles of responsibility. For us Singaporean uncles, mindfulness is about adding tools to our life skills.

Some reasons for mindfulness

Caring 2.0: Our families morph and grow. Mindful communication gives us space with aging parents or keeps us still-present as our own families turn gray, older, decline or grow apart.

Tackling the Mid-Career Grind: Performance pressure doesn’t vanish with seniority. Many breath-focused breaks throughout the day are critical to keeping focused and clear-headed when many decisions have to be made.

Being Unconditionally Strong: We want to remain that steady presence for younger generations. Mindfulness is the inner recharge that makes this sustainable.

The Art of Savoring: After decades of “doing”, finding contentment in the ordinary matters. Whether it’s a walk at East Coast Park or sharing a simple meal, mindfulness adds a layer of forgotten richness.

My Own Mindfulness Routine:

The Morning Calm: No news, no emails. I start the day with 20-30 minutes of yoga and meditation. Because I’m a practicing Buddhist, I also do my malajapa, chanting mantras for health, peace and ease for myself, my loved ones, for Singapore and the world. All this does mean I have to walk up early, by 6am, if I’m to fit in checking overnight emails, coffee, feeding the cats, and commuting to work by 9am.

The Mindful Commute: Occasionally, I take the bus although I’ll admit I’m addicted to Grab and Tada. On the public bus, I ditch the podcasts to take in the city noise, our tree-lined streets, and fellow passengers, always trying to just observe without judgement (quite a feat for my judgy personality).

Taming the Inner “Wah Lau”: I still lose my temper, and I’m quite reactive, but learning to simply name the emotion (“frustration”, “impatience”) creates a pause, letting kinder choices prevail. Right now, I’m reading “Build the Life You Want’ in which writer Arthur C. Brooks says we have the ability to develop metacognition: letting emotions signal to us that we need to do something, but leaving the response entirely to our decision-making. We have the ability to CHOOSE how we react, and not let feelings take over. As co-writer Oprah Winfrey (no, the book is not trashy!) says niftily: Feel the feel, then take the wheel.

Maybe it’s those chanting monks I once scoffed at who were onto something after all. Not about hours on a cushion, but finding those chanting-like moments amidst a regular uncle’s life. Mindfulness isn’t magic, and it definitely won’t fix bad traffic. But sometimes, stopping that relentless internal motion is precisely what keeps the Singaporean spirit strong.

You can also find The Mindful Singaporean Uncle on Instagram at @thedoingwellcentre and on Facebook at

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