Mindfulness Benefits Interview

How you can benefit from mindfulness



What is mindfulness?

Being mindful can be defined as paying attention to the present moment on purpose and in a non-judging way. Mindfulness of the mind is becoming aware of what is going on in your mind – using your mind as the object of your attention.

People don’t do that?

Actually no, there is scientific evidence that we only pay attention to the present moment in roughly 50% of the time.

See, nowadays we are facing lots of distractions, we all have demanding jobs, setting and maintaining boundaries for our work-life balance are a real challenge and people easily lose sight of what they actually want to do

There is information everywhere, we get interrupted and overwhelmed with news, signals, alerts, messages, email, media and games

Many of us find it increasingly difficult to focus

Why are you teaching it?

It started when I was a participant in a course on mindfulness-based stress reduction. After only a few weeks of practice I felt more calm, in control, concentrated and my wife told me that I was a better partner. she found I was much more aware and kind.

Then followed more programs, lectures and workshops and an inspiring course at Hong Kong University, because I wanted to fully understand the foundations and the philosophy of mindfulness, which is rooted in eastern tradition.

What can clients expect from being more mindful?

First thing that comes to my mind really is STRESS-REDUCTION. in so many ways. Better sleep, healthier immune system, increased memory, higher and longer concentration, sharper focus.

Second thing is all around developing healthy and helpful ATTITUDES for life. For example: Being able to let go of things that bother you; having the courage to be patient and mastering the art of not making bad things worse

Do you use it in therapy?

I frequently use it with individual clients, but also with couples and of course I like teaching it to groups of people. In groups there is more sharing and interactive experience going on, which often helps people to learn better.

How does that work in therapy?

Mindfulness is a meta-cognitive approach and therefore can be used in combination with cognitive-behavioural therapy  (CBT).

That means that I choose interventions on different levels. I can look at patterns of behaviour and into beliefs and negative thoughts on one level; but also learn how to take a step back and bring some distance between me and my thoughts.

The second thing is a SECOND thing

Another thing my clients learn is how to keep and maintain their focus of attention.

Let’s say you need to look up an email on your phone. You push the home button to switch on the screen and key in your security code or use you fingerprint login. The next thing you see is the landing screen of your phone. There is a red batch on one of your messenger-apps with a number in it, that indicates that you have some new messages. You click on it and read the messages. You reply to some of them immediately. Then you switch of your phone and the screen disappears. In that moment – or much later – you remember that you actually wanted to look up an email.

  • Where was your focus?
  • Where was your awareness?
  • What just happened?

You just got distracted. That means you did not do, what you actually wanted to do. Some call this waste of time. The keys to productivity are prioritisation, focus, clarity and relaxation.

IMAGINE! It is the last day at work before your long awaited vacation. Let’s say your flight leaves at 9pm. In the morning it becomes clear to you that you need to check-in by 7pm which means that you need to leave the office at the very lastest by 6pm. Now you are planning backwards. You decide that there are two phone calls to make, three things you can finish that day and one meeting you can attend. That’s it. Otherwise you will not be able to catch your plane.

This short planning ahead all of a sudden enables you to say “No” to people, to NOT attend meetings where your attendance is not absolutely necessary, to postpone non-urgent items, to delegate important tasks and stay focused on the things you decided to finish. Having a plane to catch apparently helps a lot of us to plan and prioritse, to stay focused, be clear about what you want and need to achieve and to be relaxed enough to say NO with a smile!


Here is a list of international publications on mindful ways to enhance your life in many different but very mindful ways. Each of these sources looks into typical issues of our modern lifestyle: the need to DO, electronic distractions, attention deficit, multitasking and many more.

You will also find mental strategies and tips to change your thinking which help you tackle your day-to-day challenges in better ways – less mental and emotional energy consuming.

In my Lan Kwai Fong practice I teach, explain and help you apply a huge repertoire of strategies, techniques and tools to harness the merit of mindfulness. In my upcoming courses and learning groups on Lyndhurst Terrace Central Hong Kong Island I will introduce the basics of mindful living for beginners and refreshers as well as the science behind WILLPOWER. Click here for more information and updates!

I hope you find below helpful and enjoy the reading, Sebastian.

Mindful Magazine: Are you addicted to doing?

Strategy Driven: Be more productive now – mindful strategies for increasing performance

American Management Association: 5 strategies to overcome busyness and enhance performance

Berkeley University: Greater Good Science Center: How to thrive in the attention economy

800 CEO Reads: 5 mantras for mindful leadership

Manager Mojo interview: One second is all you need to become focused 

Investors Business Daily: mindfulness practice increases executive results

Wharton Business School / Princeton University: Five ways to use mindfulness to manage your email

Forbes.com8 ways to enhance your work performance with focus

Vault.commindfulness training tips google nike and microsoft use

Odgers Bernson Observe Magazine: mind the game

Irish Times: Review of “One Second Ahead”

Mentioned on Entrepreneur.comhttp://www.entrepreneur.com/article/252165  

800-CEO Reads promotion: here

The working harder trap

Many people working in the services industries on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories are chronically or temporarily overwhelmed – yeah swamped – with work. Facing an avalanche of tasks, to dos and deadlines often leads to the belief, that working a bit harder for a while will calm the monster. What might seem like a short term solution for the occasional emergency or priority project can easily become a BAD HABIT and thereby end up becoming overtime by default. And with it might become a social norm or even worse company culture (“that’s the way we do it here”). In my years as a business manager people used to joke “Hey Seb, are you taking half day off?” when I left the WanChai office at 7pm after 10-12hrs of work. Looking back, I find that sad – not funny. We know that there is no increase in productivity. People just get used to the norm of “sticking around”. Time spent in the office becomes inflationary.

Popular and unhealthy Efficiency Myths

  • The try-harder illusion
  • Multi-tasking
  • Unrelenting (and silly) standards
  • Doping (caffeine, sugar, supplements)
  • Cutting back on sleep

Each of the above would be worth exploring in a separate feature. I will explain the first one here. Many of my clients in Central, Causeway Bay, Taikoo Place and Quarry Bay have fallen into the Try-Harder-Trap: People seem to believe that by just putting another hour in they will be able to solve their problems and to accomplish more. While occasionally doing so might help, doing so on a daily basis will just raise the bar and the effect vaporizes short after. I help clients identify when and where they fall into the try-harder-trap. In this trap you are trying more of the same of what you are already doing. Only harder. You put in an extra hour over lunch or in the morning. And then also after a while in the evening. And of course sometimes on the weekend. Then maybe every weekend. The dynamic resembles an addiction: more, more, more. Increased frequency and/or higher dosage. Same with email. Same with meals. Same with space: working not only in the office, but also at home, during the commute, on holiday, during a theatre performance, …

Albert Einstein said: Insanity is, when you are doing the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome.

You need to learn how to work smarter, not harder.

Mini Retreat for Maximum Silence

Can you be silent for one day?


Introduction to Qi Gong, Tai Chi & mindfulness practices

Sunday 1st march 2015 9am – 3pm

CropDOSImagine a day without emails, phone calls, computer screens and social media. Not even talking. Instead you will be walking, sitting, standing, resting and eating with yourself and in a group of likeminded people.

You will learn to be mindful and experience the settling of your mind while following guided Qi Gong, Tai Chi and other foundational mindfulness practices.

In addition you can try an easy to apply device which measures the outcome of your mental workout. For free. Ha!

Venue: Central HK & Hong Kong Botanical Gardens. Cost: HKD 280.- to cover room & lunch. RSVP with Sebastian

Guided introduction to Qi gong & Tai chi
Various guided mindfulness Practices
Outdoor walking and sitting (depending on the weather)
Delicious Vegetarian lunch from Pure veggie house
Green and relaxing surrounding


Stanley Cheung is a Traditional Chinese Practitioner who graduated with a Master degree from Chengdu TCM University in China, and has been an accomplished Tai Chi Quen and Qi Kung Master for more than 20 years.

Sebastian Droesler is a Counselling Psychologist and Life Coach. As a mindfulness facilitator he trained in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, Cultivating Emotional Balance and studied Early Buddhism at HKU.

The Conveyor Belt

You arrived. Physically. Sweat runs down your neck, because you had to be first at immigration. Well done! Now you have to wait. Endlessly. Uselessly. You need to get out. You must get the train. The bus. Taxi? Forget it. What needs to be done next? What was good and what was bad about the flight? And why did your ID card got stuck in the e-channel? The conveyor belt starts turning. The more pieces of heavy luggage drop out and into your sight, the more you get caught up in following each single one of them. To some you pay only short attention. What an ugly piece! Oh no, Hello Kitty, again! Some others you have to follow until you see who picks it up: An umbrella? who the heck checks in an umbrella? You must see which idiot checks in an umbrella. And this tiny lady? Your are sure she will pick up the biggest piece. It seems that the whole thing starts spinning faster now. So many things are going on. Each piece of luggage catches your attention. Takes some of your energy. Oh! Is that your bag? or the other one? You always wanted one of those cool aluminum cases. But it’s expensive. That makes it even more worth to possess. Not every moron has one of those. Like this nerd there, next to you. Looks like a Yoga-teacher. You bet the old handmade hippie-bag belongs to him. Ha, Bingo! why is he smiling at you. Now he starts making conversation: “Hey man. We were checking in together, remember? didn’t you say, you were traveling with hand-luggage only? Enjoy your stay!”


Dipabhavan Meditation Centre, Koh Samui, Thailand

You might be interested in silent retreats to deepen and broaden your practice of mindfulness meditation, but can’t seem to push yourself for the usual routine.

10-Day retreats seems to be the standard lengths in buddhist terms with lots of temples and centers for example in Thailand offering exactly this or even longer retreats up to 21 Days.

Many practitioners find 10 days off work difficult to arrange on a regular let’s say annual basis – being constrained by limited annual leave, family commitments and let’s face it, not willing to be offline for ten consecutive days due to business demands and other responsibilities.

So you want to find shorter silent retreats in Asia, but expect the same “quality” as the 10-day ones. And by quality I mean: 24hr noble silence, insight meditation and guidance, rules and agenda aligned with buddhist values and principles (i.e. vegetarian food, donation based, simple accommodation).

The Insight Meditation Society (www.hkims.org) offers short retreats on Lantau Island here in Hong Kong. They usually split the participants into English and Cantonese groups. Get onto their mailing list to receive the latest updates!

Together with my wife I attended the 4-day silent Vipassana retreat at Dipabhavan Meditation Centre (link) on Koh Samui, Thailand. The Centre provides a clear standardized schedule and experienced guidance in English featuring mainly sitting and walking meditations and well presented Dharma talks – partially held by international monks.

Things that make us want to go back to attend their 7-day retreat next time are:

the tasty vegetarian food

the beautiful lush green location

the clear and easy organization (incl. pick up and drop off)

the talks with explicit references to latest neuroscience articles

the two units of daily yoga exercises

Note: This is not a luxury resort – there is very limited electricity and no running water and you will sleep on wooden planks under a mosquito net.

Tip: Go during low season – yes its slightly warmer – but you will benefit from smaller groups and hence easier handling of bathrooms, kitchen and meals and less distraction during

Transport: We found the flight times with Bangkok Airlines extremely convenient – and were happily surprised by their red rice meals onboard.

Mindfulness for Hong Kongers

A selection of useful English-speaking information online and in Hong Kong

Free Reading and listening – online

Where to find formal training in Hong Kong?

Where to find regular practice and retreats in Hong Kong?

  • Hong Kong Insight Meditation Society http://www.hkims.org
  • Plum Village Hong Kong: http://www.pvfhk.org
  • Facebook: Mindful Hong Kong (“I like”)
  • Integrated Medicine Institute: http://www.imi.com.hk
  • Smartspace at Smartcells: free morning meditation open group contact sebastian (at) counsellinghongkong.com

Institutions which promote mindfulness within a broader scope (Find more on news, lectures, workshops and retreats and contact them to join their newsletters)

  • Centre for Buddhist Studies, Hong Kong University  www.buddhism.hku.hk
  • Centre on Behavioural Health, Hong Kong University http://cbh.hku.hk
  • Centre for Religious and Spirituality Education, Institute of Education

Here a short sample from my favorite Intro text “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana:

“… Take worry. We worry a lot. Worry itself is the problem. Worry is a process. It has steps. Anxiety is not just a state of existence but a procedure. What you’ve got to do is to look at the very beginning of that procedure, those initial stages before the process has built up a head of steam. The very first link of the worry chain is the grasping/rejecting reaction. As soon as some phenomenon pops into the mind, we try mentally to grab onto it or push it away. That sets the worry response in motion. Luckily, there is a handy little tool called Vipassana meditation which you can use to short-circuit the whole mechanism.

Vipassana meditation teaches us how to scrutinize our own perceptual process with great precision. We learn to watch the arising of thought and perception with a feeling of serene detachment. We learn to view our own reactions to stimuli with calm and clarity. We begin to see ourselves reacting without getting caught up in the reactions themselves. The obsessive nature of thought slowly dies. We can still get married. We can still step out of the path of the truck. But we don’t need to go through hell over either one. …” (you can download the pdf version at lots of places online – see above – on a donation basis – it’s worth it!)