On the evening of 20th and 21st February 2020, Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association held its first sharing session at NTU and NUS since the DORSCON alert level in Singapore was raised to orange. Despite the outbreak, a total of 18 youths from different faculties took time off their busy schedule to learn more about contemplation and mindfulness and how it can be applied in their daily lives.
Creating Positivity through Contemplation
“How is COVID-19 similar to the previous epidemic like Ebola?”
“How can contemplation help us overcome this pandemic?”
“What is contemplation?”
The speakers of both sessions quizzed the participants. From the speakers’ sharing, it allowed the youths to self-reflect and recollect their experiences with regards to the outbreak and most importantly, understand themselves better. Brother Lee Wen Jie, a Tzu Ching senior stated, “This outbreak is not all negative and bleak, there is also some positivity and hope in it. Many protests around the world like in France and Hong Kong come to a halt because of the virus.”
Lim Jun Hong, who was unable to attend the sharing session, shared a similar opinion over face-time, “It was indeed heart-warming to see Japan sending medical supplies and reliefs to China despite their history. And on a smaller scale, people are also showing more care and concern to one another.”
“How should we view those that were desperately hoarding groceries or profiteering from this incident?”
During the sharing, this was another question that set the participants thinking. Brother Alex Chen reminded the participants by saying, “We should show sympathy and compassion to those affected instead of shedding a negative light on them. This is a good time for us to practice mindfulness and contemplation as we need to know how to differentiate between right and wrong, and also distinguish the truth from and the lies.”
Indeed to the youths, there was a general consent that this is the time for them to step up and put what they learnt into helping those affected. Another Tzu Ching, Phua Yiyin added, “During this period, I will contemplate and clarify before sharing what I see online to minimise unnecessary panic among others. Also, contemplation and responding logically with awareness is the best way to go about this current situation.”
Mindfulness, A way of life
“In this information-overloaded era, we must understand ourselves better and make more informed decisions than what artificial intelligence can,” shared Brother Er Chern Han, a Tzu Ching senior. “You can choose to be a gold bar stored away in a protected environment or be a brick to serve a cause,” he added.
And indeed, the enthusiasm of the group of 18 youths and Tzu Chi volunteers led to a memorable sharing session. After watching a news by Channel News Asia news on the origins of COVID-19, the youths took turn to share their experiences and takeaways of the day with each other. Dipasukha Edbert, a Year 1 Statistics student, said, ''During this period, we must be mindful of what we share online and also stay tuned to reliable news sources.”
After watching the news clip, he also shared, “We must be mindful with what we eat now. As such, I hope to slowly adapt to a meatless diet and also hope to encourage my peers to join me by asking them out frequently for meals and show them the benefits of having a meatless diet.”
Another participant, Robin Chandra, a Year 3 Chemical Engineering student, who was evicted from his hostel as it was converted to quarantine facilities shared, “We should still be mindful with our daily actions and take necessary precautions even though the mortality rate of the disease is low and Singapore government is making every effort to contain the outbreak.”
Just before the end of the session, he also revealed that mindfulness should be part of our daily life, as it could be a way of having a positive impact on somebody else's life.
The Tzu Ching sharing session not only served as a reminder of the world current affairs for the youths but also enabled them to realize that mindfulness can easily be put into daily practices from the heart and it is also something that many need during this troubling period.
“Look, listen and act mindfully and what we learn will benefit us throughout our life.”
This is a Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen that is familiar to most. Everyone needs to start from themselves and seize every moment with utmost mindfulness.