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Living in our fast-paced and technology-driven city, finding moments of peace, clarity, and focus is becoming increasingly challenging. The constant bombardment of information, distractions, and hectic schedules can leave us feeling overwhelmed and disconnected from ourselves and those around us. However, there is a powerful practice that can help us navigate the chaos and rediscover a sense of inner calm and balance – mindfulness. In this article, our LocalHood Website Volunteers Saravanan and Renee will talk about what is mindfulness and the challenges you can face when you do start practicing mindfulness. We will then have a quick look at how you can kick-start your journey to start practicing mindfulness as well as some of the venues that offer these sessions for FREE. Mindfulness involves bringing one's attention and awareness to the present moment, non-judgmentally and with acceptance. It is about intentionally tuning into our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and the environment around us, without getting caught up in the past or worrying about the future. So basically, mindfulness means being in the moment and not wandering off in your thoughts. Sounds pretty easy to do right? WRONG. Practicing mindfulness takes a lot of practice and takes time to learn, understand and incorporate into a daily routine in our already hectic lives. It's challenges include finding the time for informal mindfulness practice, staying awake during meditation, external distractions, becoming bored or uncomfortable and having difficult thoughts are some of the challenges you will face when you start your journey to practicing mindfulness.

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So one might ask, why would you want to start something so different when your life is already busy, to begin with? Research shows that practicing mindfulness promotes metacognitive awareness, decreases rumination via disengagement from perseverative cognitive activities and enhances attentional capacities through gains in working memory. These cognitive gains, in turn, contribute to effective emotion-regulation strategies. Basically, it allows you to regulate your emotions and be in the moment and expands your attention during the moment. Incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives is a transformative endeavor that requires commitment and practice and here are some practical ways to begin your journey to cultivating mindfulness: 1. Mindful Breathing: Take a few moments each day to focus on your breath. Simply observe the sensations of inhaling and exhaling, allowing your breath to anchor you in the present moment. 2. Mindful Eating: Slow down and savour each bite during meals. Pay attention to the tastes, textures, and smells of the food. Engage your senses and appreciate the nourishment it provides. 3. Mindful Walking: During a walk, shift your awareness to the sensations in your body, the movements of your muscles, and the environment around you. Notice the sounds, sights, and smells as you move through space. 4. Mindful Technology Use: In a world dominated by screens, allocate specific times to detach from your digital devices. Be present and engaged in conversations, activities, or hobbies without constant interruptions. 5. Mindful Reflection: Set aside a few minutes each day for self-reflection. Observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment. This practice helps develop self-awareness and cultivates a compassionate attitude towards yourself and others.

To conclude, we will be looking at some of the locations around Hong Kong that offer mindfulness sessions for free in our ever-busy city. The first location would be the Kadampa Meditation Centre located in Sheung Wan, you can click here for the website. The Kadampa Meditation Centre offers an English Meditation class every Tuesday evening. Though the class is run for free, they do appreciate donations and no bookings are required and all walk-ins are welcome. The course provides the Buddhist philosophical, psychological and meditative approach to expanding the attendees' awareness and allowing them to shift their view of themselves, life and the world.

The second location would be The Asian Institute of Applied Buddhism, also known as Plum Village Hong Kong. Plum Village is a tradition of Buddhism originating from Vietnam, where it was founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh originally founded Plum Village after being exiled from Vietnam during the Vietnam War to France. His hope for Plum Village was to spread the practice of Buddhism and mindfulness to the West so that everyone would be able to enjoy life in a conscious manner while also working to reduce the suffering of others in society.

In Hong Kong, we are lucky enough to have our own outpost of Plum Village on Lantau Island, next the Buddha. Every Sunday, the monastery opens itself up for an entire Day of Mindfulness retreat that is completely free and open to any member of the public. You can click here for more information.

The Day of Mindfulness is led by the monks who live at Plum Village, and their sole aim for the day is to help visitors understand more about how to practice mindfulness in daily life. The program starts at 9:30 am, but visitors are allowed to arrive and leave whenever they like. However we recommend that you arrive as early as possible to enjoy the lovely Walking Meditation around the grounds of the temple and the surrounding Ngong Ping Village.

Be sure to arrive before lunch, which is a fresh cooked vegetarian meal lovingly prepared by the monks using fresh ingredients grown on their vegetable farms on-site. During the Eating Meditation, you’ll be able to notice how the food simply bursts with flavour while also enjoying a quiet moment of peace to yourself. After all, it’s quite rare for us in Hong Kong to sit and have a meal quietly without staring at our phones or chatting to somebody!

The Day of Mindfulness at Plum Village has been getting more and more popular, so be sure to sign up as soon as you can. Each week, sign-up begins on Monday night and ends on Friday night. This is a must-do experience that allows you to discover a whole new side of Hong Kong while also discovering a new side of yourself! As a bonus, on every 4th week of each month the monks hold a Children’s Program which allows parents to leave their little ones with the monks for engaging activities (think a little bit of farming or a hike up the mountain behind the temple!), while the parents quietly enjoy meditation practice.


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