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Mindfulness as Service for Asians

For many of us, especially as achievement-oriented Asian men, mindfulness starts as a personal tool. Stress reduction, better focus, maybe even managing flashes of temper... Yet, a powerful shift can occur: Mindfulness becoming an act of service to those around us.

Both ancient and modern thinkers have explored this idea:

The Buddha's Lesson: Early Buddhist texts emphasized practicing mindfulness not just for self-enlightenment, but with compassion for the suffering of others. Compassion isn't weakness, but strength to bear witness and act (Bodhi, 2011).

Thich Nhat Hanh's Engaged Buddhism: This influential Vietnamese monk teaches 'interbeing' – recognizing how mindfulness directly informs action in the world. This ranges from peaceful protest to simple interactions infused with mindful presence (Hanh, 1998).

Beyond Religion: Authors like Jon Kabat-Zinn, while presenting mindfulness in secular terms, highlight its ethical dimension. Cultivating awareness leads to kinder choices, even when nobody is watching (Kabat-Zinn, 2013).

Service in Everyday Asian Lives: What does mindfulness in service to others look in real life?

Truly Present Parent/ Spouse/ Friend: Phones down during focused time, active listening... It sounds basic, but how often are we doing this? I’d admit 1 in 10 times for myself.

The Mindful Leader: Leaders aware of their inner biases are fairer, those handling stress calmly create focused teams, and those driven by values inspire loyalty.

Citizenship and Shared Values Redefined: From reducing our “noise pollution” on public transport to withholding anger in public, the quiet mindfulness ripple can benefit our communities. Mindfulness might be especially applicable for Singapore. Our populations have so many new citizens and transient workers that we no longer have “shared values”: foreign residents outnumber local citizens by 2 to 1. Mindfulness can bind us all in constant states of self-and other awareness, and mutual compassion.

In Asia, especially for Singapore, perhaps the power of mindfulness lies in the way it helps us be of better service to those around us, no matter how different we are.

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