There are many forms of therapy. Coincidentally, I encounter five different types over the span of 36 hours, before & after my night shift. Of course, you may be too polite to ask when you review the photos. The answer is, yes I’m wearing the same dress. Insert blushing emoji here.
It’s the school holidays. My children are reveling in freedom from structure and generally running amok. This morning, I tell them we are going to a different sort of classroom, to their collective dismay. However they perk up when they realise it is an art class as they both love to paint. We find Himapan Studio hidden away in a warehouse on Pasir Panjang Road. The coach, France, gives each of them a lotus leaf board and some acrylic paints.
Over 2 hours, M5 uses brushes & sponges, employing a variety of techniques to create an organised symphony of colours. She even adds a couple of golden dragonflies in counterpoint to the lotus leaves. While France guides M5, she doesn’t make any decisions for her, so the work is completely hers.
In contrast, M4 decisively completes his masterpiece in 15 minutes. He covers his lotus leaves with renderings of Pokemon and lopes off for breakfast. Regardless, he has a great time and asks if he can have another lotus board. As I am considering returning for a session myself, I tell him he can come again with me.
The Healing Power Of Friendship
Later that afternoon, my good friend, Jenny comes over with her family. Our daughters are growing up quickly. Every photo with them over the past year looks so different. We celebrate some wonderful news and chat about some challenges. Just talking through them makes it seem so much better. I suppose you could say our sharing session is akin to group therapy. By the time they leave, I truly believe, as they do in the Lego Movie, that everything is awesome.
Scentsational Dinner: Aroma Therapy X Food Therapy
That evening, I make my way through torrential rain to Siri House on Dempsey Road for a unique experience featuring scents.
Dinner at Jam is immersive & interactive. Chef Ming Tan & Douglas Little from Heretic Parfum, introduce each dish together. They describe how the edible perfumes enhance the flavors of our meal. We begin with a salad that we throw together into a toureen as a group activity. As we combine the kale, broccolini, edamame, quinoa & apples, we spritz a complex rose-scented spray that adds sweetness.
There are three main dishes. The first is my favourite. Crustacean cream sits on a salted egg chiffon cake, topped with oscietra caviar. We add a heavily textured, caramelised honey with jasmine. Immediately, I recall sticky fingers from eating delicious crab served in “zichar” restaurants accompanied with jasmine tea. Unfortunately I’m unable to fully appreciate pandan parcel chicken with salad, whose flavor profile is brought out by apple martini. However as I’m working later, I decline the martini. The coffee short ribs is so lovely I hope they put it on the regular menu.
Dessert is Chef’s rendering of fruit loops; essentially, croutons flavoured with dehydrated berries. We enjoy this with earl grey ice-cream and a spritz of bergamot. To complete the experience, we rub our hands with coriander perfume, that surprisingly smells of a cardboard cereal box. I love the details. For instance, how the “fruit loops” are served in little packets exactly like those made by Kellogg’s. It is still drizzling by the time I leave the party for night shift. However, as my mind & body are rejuvenated by this therapeutic dinner, I don’t mind a bit.
EQUAL: Equine-Assisted Learning
The next morning, the kids fetch me from the hospital to a workshop on mindfulness. Today’s mindfulness workshop incorporates EQUAL, a programme I chaired in the first years of its inception. I remember attending EQUAL meetings while nursing M4 and later, M5 whom we refer to as our EQUAL babies. In fact, I am the anchoring author of a paper about the benefits of equine-assisted therapy, along with the team from IMH & Duke-NUS. You can find our paper published here: https://www.cogentoa.com/article/10.1080/2331186X.2017.1334430.
Today, Dr Belinda Khong is teaching various forms of meditation. In one of the mindfulness practices, we label a feeling and acknowledge it subjectively. For instance, I feel exhausted after night-shift. Then I experience it throughout my body and focus on my breath before letting the feeling go. It works and I feel restored for the time being.
Later we go to the stables and my children, myself and fellow board members experience equine-assisted therapy. The children understand that the horse a sensitive prey animal. Hence they have to be mindful of their actions around the horse. This is exactly why I believed in the programme which we started with Northlight school years ago. Not only do the children learn valuable habits of mind, they also use them in their personal lives. My children ask if they can return to learn to ride horses and I tell them it is a wonderful idea.
After this combination of various forms of therapy, I feel invincible. Unfortunately, reality bites. My next shift is riddled with tears.
Thankfully, I run into colleagues who lift my spirits. I realise that mindfulness is easily done in class but quite tricky when faced with vindictive emails & professional stress. Hopefully, with practice, I can be aware of each feeling and experience it as it is, without needing to react to it. I’ll keep you posted on my journey to wellness. What Does Wellness Mean To You? Let me know if you have any tips on meditation & mindfulness.