Tag Archives: Mindfulness

The Mind Bell

I first heard about this mind bell app when I was attending a talk by Dr Phang Cheng Kar, and installed it on my phone the next day, I’ve since been using it for about 6 weeks.

This is basically an app, which makes the sound of a bell every 15 mins (you get to adjust the intervals based on your preference, I left it by default), and generally people might do a few of mindful breathing when they hear it along the day. When you silent your phone the bell will be muted too. And you can set a schedule – when it starts and ends every day (so if it’s until 9pm, you are allowed to stop being mindful after 9pm. Haha).

We do not want to live in our brains, ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. We want to live in the present, the here and now. And that’s mindfulness, and you might notice how the bell stops some people who worry too much from doing so, by reminding them to breath mindfully and focus on the present, on what they are doing, instead of living in the brain.

I did not use the bell sound as a reminder to perform the breathing, I might just take a deep breath once, or continue to focus on what I’m doing, knowing that I’m focusing on the here and now. One thing that works quite well for me, is actually reminding me of valued living. Sometimes I might be scrolling facebook, and the mindbell showed up (when the screen is on there’s a golden ‘bowl’ showing up with the sound), I might realize that I’ve been spending enough time on FB and this really isn’t the kind of thing I want to spend much time of my life doing. And so I stopped wherever I was.

Though, most of the times, I find the bell distracting. Like when I am reading, replying to emails, running, I was concentrating enough, and it stopped me and got my attention, wanting me to be mindful(?), but it could somehow be the thing that makes me not mindful on the here and now. I believe this is because I’m quite mindful and focus as a person normally, I do not live in my brain much, or spend much time worrying unnecessarily.

However, I believe this app can be very useful for those who worry endlessly. Do try it out to see if it helps and/or suits you.

The Benson Relaxation Method

The essential factors:

  1. Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer or muscular activity.
  2. Passively disregarding everyday thoughts (which inevitably come to mind) and patiently returning to your repetition.

The method summarised:

  1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system
  2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position
  3. Close your eyes
  4. Relax your muscles, progressively from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head and neck
  5. Relax slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale
  6. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself “oh well,” and gently return to your repetition.
  7. Continue for ten to twenty minutes.
  8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising
  9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.

You can also elicit the Relaxation Response while exercising. If you are jogging or walking, pay attention to the cadence of your feet on the ground - “left, right, left, right” – and when other thoughts come into your mind, say “Oh, well,” and return to “left, right, left, right.” Of course, keep your eyes open! Similarly, swimmers can pay attention to the tempo of their strokes, cyclists to the whir of the wheels, dancers to the beat of the music, others to the rhythm of their breathing.

(Adapted from the AHPC Training Manual by Don Robertson)





  • 生活所有事都能肯定确定吗?有可能吗?
  • 对“确定性”的需要其实有多重要呢?有什么好处与坏处?
  • 你是否常常因为事情的不确定性而总是预测坏事会发生?这样合理吗?坏事以外的事发生的可能性不大吗?
  • 你所预测的事,发生的机率有多高呢?如果发生的机率很低,这样一直担心下去对你好吗?生活会快乐吗?
  • 你能尝试接受“不确定性”吗?能怎样做到船到桥头自然直的态度呢?
  • 问问你周围的人,他们怎么接受“不确定性”呢?


当你无法忍受“不确定性”时,你都把专注力放在“未来”。现在就要学习如何活在当下,对当下警觉注意,并接受这个“不确定性” -三个步骤:

  • 警觉:清楚自己目前的思维与感受。用呼吸的步伐来让自己感受当下。当你总是想要确定性时,它给你带来了什么感受或问题?
  • 放手:放弃这个对确定性的需要,告诉自己“这不过是个需要确定性的想法,我可以放手让它走”
  • 不批判性:让想法在脑海里走过,不要批判它,或尝试改变它。然后把注意力放回当下,体验现在,注意你周围的声音,身体的感觉,或你的呼吸,或专注于你现在需要做的事。


N.B. 在我看来,除了广泛性焦虑症(generalised anxiety disorder, GAD),不能接受“不确定性”(就是凡事都要百分百确定,不能冒一点险)也是强迫症(obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD)的一个明显特征,只是除了在脑中担心、不断思考,强迫症患者会对不确定性做出(反复的)行为反应。


You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Let it go or Chuck it away?

I was looking at some psychotherapy worksheets and came across some exercises on “learning to let go“. Here are some of the exercises:

Exercise 1

On a separate sheet of paper, describe a problem that has been making you feel depressed lately. Write about it in as much detail as you can. Choose one of the methods below to physically let go of what you have written, and then do it. As you destroy your problem, tell yourself, “I am letting go of this. I will not let it depress me anymore.”

  • Rip up your paper into tiny pieces and throw it into the garbage.
  • Put your paper through a shredder.
  • Read what you have written to someone else and then give that person the paper and ask him or her to rip it up in front of you.
  • With permission and in the presence of an adult, burn your paper in a fireplace.
  • Write your problem on bathroom tissue instead of regular paper and flush it down the toilet.

Exercise 2

Sit quietly and comfortably where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes and picture yourself in vivid detail doing one of the following:
You wrap your problem in a box and seal it very securely with strong tape and rope. Then you attach the box to a very powerful rocket. You take the rocket to an outdoor area where there are no houses, trees, or other obstructions. You light the rocket and stand back. You watch as the rocket blasts off into the sky with great speed and force. You watch it carry your problem quickly and powerfully away from you. You watch until it is completely out of sight, far off beyond the pull of Earth’s gravity, continuing to travel farther into space. As you watch it go, you say to yourself, “I am letting go of this. I will not let it depress me anymore.”

What do you think about these exercises?

According to thefreedictionary.com, to let (something) go has the meaning of

  1. to stop having something
  2. to stop trying to control something
  3. to not take action

Whereas to chuck (something) away has the meaning of

  1. to push or shove something out of the way quickly and roughly
  2. to throw something away
  3. to dispose of something

I think the person designing the exercises of “learning to let go” wasn’t quite able to differentiate between letting go and chucking away. By letting go, you don’t push things away, sometimes the thing that upsets you might even still be there, with you in the same room, but you just let go of the struggle, stopping the control… Because pushing it away, throwing it away involve a lot of control too. And most people do find that the more they try to get rid of something off their mind, the more likely the thing returns (have you tried the “try not to think of a pink elephant” exercise?).

In other words, let’s say you were holding on to your problems, if you want to let go, you open up your palm, whether or not the problems leave you, it’s not up to you, but at least you stop the struggle of holding on to it. So no, I don’t think the above exercises are helping people to let go, even if they succeed, the upsetting events are likely to bounce back (still, it works for the short terms, sometimes for the long terms). A good way of practicing letting go is being mindful, being in the here and now (you may learn how by reading this book). You may also try leaves on the stream (remember not to chuck your problems into the stream, but just let them go, let them flow down gently).

Introducing “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy”

Got this book from Kinokuniya, Kuala Lumpur in September 2015 (RM101.84).

By Steven C. Hayes

By Steven C. Hayes

I’ve been mentioning a lot about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, see here for all the related posts), now finally, it’s an ACT workbook.

It’s written for the general public (especially those with pain and suffering), hence considerably readable though a lot of times it may go against your common sense. It talks about human suffering (why do we suffer? If we don’t struggle with the pain, is it still pain?), why and how language leads to suffering (do the birds or dogs think that they’re suffering? Or do they just feel it?), “experiential avoidance”, acceptance and willingness (how?!!), being the observing self (I really like getting in touch with my observing self, this is something that I tried to explain to my sister when we were much younger, it was a struggle because we didn’t have a term for it back then, but she got me), values (life direction) and committed action etc.

This is a workbook so there are plenty of exercises (meditation, mindfulness, getting detached from your thoughts/feelings, letting go, metaphors etc) in it, you will almost definitely find some that you like and some that you don’t quite like.

I’d recommend it to anyone, and especially to stick to and really hands on the exercises and practices (otherwise there’s no point to just “read” a workbook). If you have some suffering/pain that you’ve really been struggling with in your life (or in your mind, in a sense), it seems easier for you to practice the workbook. Nevertheless, if you’re like me – thinking you’re fine in general – it’d still be beneficial to go through and work on it.

Watch Your Thought Come and Go

Meditation Exercise: Leaves on the stream (by far my favourite and what I practice most)

This is an eye-closed exercise. First read the instructions and then when you are sure you understand them, close your eyes and do the exercise. (Or you can use the recordings at the end of this post)

Imagine a beautiful slow-moving stream. The water flows over rocks, around trees, descends down-hill, and travels through a valley. Once in a while, a big leaf drops into the stream and floats away down the river. Imagine you are sitting beside that stream on a warm, sunny day, watching the leaves float by.

Now become conscious of your thoughts. Each time a thought pops into your head, imagine that it is written on one of those leaves. If you think in words, put them on the leaf as words. If you think in images, put them on the leaf as an image. The goal is to stay beside the stream and allow the leaves on the stream to keep flowing by. Don’t try to make the stream go faster or slower; don’t try to change what shows up on the leaves in any way. If the leaves disappear, or if you mentally go somewhere else, or if you find that you are in the stream or on a leaf, just stop and notice that this happened. File that knowledge away and then once again return to the stream, watch a thought come into your mind, write it on a leaf, and let the leaf float away down the stream.

(It doesn’t matter how vivid or clear the imagery is, as long as the concept is there, that you notice your thoughts, and let go of your thoughts once you notice them)

Continue doing this for at least 5 minutes. If the instructions are clear to you now, go ahead and close your eyes and do the exercise.

(Continuing reading AFTER the exercise)

You can think of the moments when the stream wouldn’t flow as moments of cognitive fusion, while the moments when the stream does flow are moments of cognitive defusion. Many times we become fused to a thought without even being aware of it. Thoughts about this exercise can be especially “sticky”. If you thought “I’m not doing this right” or “this exercise doesn’t work for me,” these too are thoughts that you may become fused to quite easily. In many cases, you may not even notice them as thoughts. Other particularly sticky thoughts are emotional thoughts, comparative ones, and temporal or causal ones.

A recording of the exercise in English (starts after 5 seconds):

Leaves on the stream - 12 minutes

Leaves on the stream – 11 minutes (starts quicker, less guidance towards the end)

A recording of the exercise in Mandarin: