Practising mindfulness

A series of workshops invites people to learn about ACT therapy and how to live in the present moment

Gain Metacharunon, creator of the three-part programme 'Wisdom Of Self', with Collective Cycle Of Pure Impermanence by Jood Jung.

Ae* was diagnosed with a serious illness which required surgery. He was reluctant to tell his parents about his condition because he worried they might become stressed. But after Ae participated in an expressive art therapy workshop titled "Mission On Wisdom", he understood about being in the present moment. He decided to tell his parents about his illness and it was an emotional experience, and after that, he was able to let go and enjoy a meal with them.

Onraya Himakorn, a registered psychotherapist who created "Mission On Wisdom", said there is no guarantee every participant will have a similar experience to Ae.

The "Mission On Wisdom" workshop is a three-part programme and the first, "Wisdom of Self", is currently being held at 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok. The programme contains three sections -- an art exhibition "Wisdom Of Self", an expressive art therapy workshop titled "Mission On Wisdom", and a three-course conceptual dining experience, "Timeless Truth".

Onraya said she has a special interest in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). One of the most famous psychotherapists in ACT theory is Dr Russ Harris who has released many bestselling textbooks and self-help books, including The Happiness Trap.

An acrylic painting, Floating Heart, by Juli Baker and Summer. (Photos: Somchai Poomlard)

"ACT emphasises accepting ourselves, our feelings and experiences. We must understand the values in our life and what makes it meaningful. Then, we must take action that will lead to a more valuable and meaningful life," Onraya said.

"Also, ACT emphasises being in the present moment and remaining unattached to anything specific. ACT encourages people to embrace that feelings will pass like waves in the ocean. ACT helps people understand that we do not need to run away from bad experiences, but learn to appreciate both negative and positive experiences," Onraya added.

Hence, the art therapy workshop "Mission On Wisdom" aims to help participants achieve self-acceptance and a sense of inner peace and calmness, a discovery of their ideal self, and finally, an ideal direction of how to start living up to their true self. The activities include choosing archetype cards, automatic writing, candle carving and forest bathing mindfulness.

Alan Watts, an English philosophical entertainer.

"In the workshop, participants will choose two archetype cards from almost 80 cards. Each card has both positive and negative attributes. The first card reflects them in the present while the other card represents their ideal self. Participants will write about their thoughts on seeing their true self and ideal self from the two selected cards," Onraya explained.

"Then, participants will choose a candle by looking at its colour, aroma and size to represent their true self. Participants will carve on the candles to represent their ideal self and what they want to add to their present self."

At the end of the workshop, Onraya gives participants an assignment for seven to 14 days. Participants will write a diary about what they do in order to become their ideal self. Onraya said feedback after the workshop has been excellent since many participants achieved a better understanding of living in the present and chose to do what is important to them in the present.

Onraya Himakorn, a registered psychotherapist. (Photo courtesy of Onraya Himakorn)

Curated by Gain Metacharunon of Brand Experience Consultant for Bangkok Art Biennale, the "Wisdom Of Self" art exhibition features nine artists and philosophers of multiple disciplines, including video lectures, paintings, shibari-bondage and interactive art.

Gain, the creator of the three-part programme "Wisdom Of Self", believes that no one dislikes art, but people may not come across an art piece that inspires them. When Gain spoke to Onraya about psychology therapy, he was surprised that modern-day psychology has similar theories to Taoism, an ancient Chinese philosophy. Gain later created this programme because he hopes that people who come for other activities such as an art therapy workshop and dining will keep an open mind towards the art exhibition.

"The art exhibition connects art, philosophy, psychology and Western religions. The exhibition was organised during the early period of the Covid-19 pandemic. People felt frustrated and/or trapped. I gave the exhibition the title 'Wisdom Of Self' because it helps viewers understand more about themselves and discover self-wisdom. People can break free from their feelings of entrapment," said Gain.

In the workshop, participants carve on candles. (Photos courtesy of 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok)

The first presentation at "Wisdom Of Self" consists of video lectures by Alan Watts, an English philosophical entertainer. Gain chose to present Watts at the exhibition because his interest in Taoism was triggered by Watts, an English philosopher who spread Eastern philosophy to Western countries.

Each painting implies philosophical messages from simple to complicated. Two abstract paintings with same title, It's Perfect To Be Imperfect, by Alongkorn Lauwatthana express important messages concerning self-wisdom.

"Perfection does not exist. Some people try hard to appear perfect on social media, but no one is perfect. If people understand this, they will try their best and not feel frustrated at being imperfect," said Gain.

An acrylic on canvas, Floating Heart by Juli Baker and Summer depicts a smiling naked woman against the backdrop of nature. Gain interpreted that the woman is in a safe space which could be a field, a swamp or the sky.

"The safe space also can refer to artworks. It is her safe zone where she does not allow anything negative to enter. In this painting, it depicts a 'flow state' where people fully focus on what they are doing. It is similar to mindfulness, but everyone can reach this flow state during their routine activities," said Gain.

'Duality'. (Photo courtesy of 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok)

Each archetype card has both positive and negative attributes. (Photo courtesy of 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok)

Interactive art Collective Cycle Of Pure Impermanence by Jood Jung is a white paper circle where visitors can draw or paint their own circles that represent their state of mind. Jood Jung explained that in her interactive art that nothing is permanent and change starts from within.

Gain also named the three-course dining "Timeless Truth", but hotel executive chef Maxim Baile created the details of the dishes. The first course, "Perfection Of Nature", brings together pickled enoki with sake-egg yolk sauce and oyster cloud to represent the harmony of nature.

"The next course, 'Duality', was inspired by yin and yang philosophy. 'Spicy Sauce Diable' represents the devil while sour cream symbolises the goddess. In this dish, there are also foie gras and truffle.

"The final course, 'Beginning', presents blackberry Pavlova. It is the beginning for visitors who understand themselves and have self-wisdom," he said.

"With more wisdom, we can build better experiences and memories. I hope that every participant will understand imperfection, being in the present and the flow state. People who understand themselves can better handle their difficult situations," added Gain.

* not his real name

  • "Wisdom Of Self" art exhibition runs at 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok, Sukhumvit 39, until Sept 23. Admission is free.
  • "Mission On Wisdom" will be held on Aug 20 in English and Sept 3 and Sept 17 in Thai. The fee is 2,600 baht per person with seats limited to 15 persons per session.
  • "Timeless Truth" is available on the same days as the workshop, but a reservation is required. The fee is 1,490 baht for food and 1,990 baht including alcohol pairing.

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