Morning Meditation At DP Architects
By Gerald Chew • May 2019
For 20 minutes every morning, DP Architects staff members who wish to meditate assemble in a comfortable office sitting room specially designated for morning meditation.
A bell is softly-sounded to signal the start of the session at 8:35am. Silence engulfs the room as staff members sit still on chairs in meditation. At 8:55am the bell sounds again to signal the end of the session. And the work day begins at 9am.
These daily meditation sessions have been held at DP Architects’ office for over two years. Between ten to fifteen staff members are regular meditators.
DP Architects is the largest architectural firm in Singapore. It is also listed as the world’s tenth largest architectural practice in 2019 WA100 (World Architecture 100), an annual global survey.
How The Daily Meditation Practice Started
In January 2017, CEO Angelene Chan invited Benedictine Monk, Father Laurence Freeman, to conduct a 4-part meditation workshop at the firm.
The workshop was well received, with some 120 to 150 DP Architects staff members in attendance. Following the workshop, a smaller subgroup formed to continue the meditation practice daily at the office.
An Oxford University graduate in finance and journalism, Father Laurence initiated a course on Meditation and Leadership for MBA students at the Singapore Management University.
More famously, Father Laurence taught meditation to the late Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew who, late in life, wanted to learn to meditate.
Father Laurence’s meditation workshop at DP Architects was recorded, transcribed and eventually published in a book titled Good Work – Meditation for Personal and Organizational Transformation (“Good Work”).
“Meditation can truly help us
put selfless attention
on others and work”
Angelene, who initiated the four-part meditation workshop for the benefit of her colleagues, feels strongly that meditation is the answer to a stressful life.
“As architects, we face tremendous amounts of stress, dealing with clients, contractors and associates. We also have to deal with the challenges of driving creativity alongside business and profits. We work overtime… late nights, weekends to deliver projects on time,” said Angelene.
“Meditation can truly help us put selfless attention on others and work; and balance ourselves to maintain focus whilst remaining healthy,” she added.
For Angelene, the starting point of her interest in meditation had to do with contemplative leadership, greater clarity of purpose and peace of mind.
Meditation helps her feel that all problems are within her resolve and control. It also deepens her faith, which in turn inspires her to persist in the practice.
The Power of Group Meditation
“I find that when
we come together
to meditate in a group,
it is very powerful.”
Angelene believes the group sessions are an important part of sustaining the meditative practice.
In an interview with HappyHappy in May 2019, she said, “I find that when we come together to meditate in a group, it is very powerful. There is also the support that we give one another to continue the practice, which I think is important. I’m happy that it is still running after more than two years. This means that the practice has taken root in the group.”
Meditation As An Essential Skill
an essential skill that
you have to learn as a leader”
On the day of the interview with HappyHappy, Angelene invited Peter Ng Kok Song, the National Coordinator of The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) in Singapore, and a leading teacher in meditation globally, to lead the morning meditation session at DP Architects.
The former CIO and Managing Director of Government Investment Corporation is a familiar face at DP Architects, having co-hosted the four-part meditation workshop together with Father Laurence in January 2017.
That morning at the meditation session, Kok Song led the assembled party through a series of exercises that included body alignment and sitting in stillness, culminating in a ten-minute meditation.
Kok Song also advocated the silent chanting of a mantra “Ma-Ra-Na-Tha” to focus mind, body and inner being into a state of calmness and heightened awareness so that meditators emerge ready to begin the day with the right energy and perspectives.
“Meditation is an essential skill that you have to learn as a leader,” wrote Kok Song, in Good Work. “It is the way I have found to rebalance my being. In the course of your day, you are bound to run into challenges, problems, both professional and personal, the practice teaches you to approach the day differently, allowing you to restart, reset and rebalance yourself from these challenges, big and small.”
Meditation In The Corporate World
Father Laurence who is a central figure in the transformation of individuals and companies that embrace meditation as a positive force in business believes that it sends a strong signal to employees when their leaders consciously set aside time and place in the office for meditation.
In his book Good Work, Father Laurence wrote of Angelene and Francis Lee, Chairman of DP Architects, whose “desire to introduce meditation to the work place illustrates the quality of their leadership, and in itself offers an insight into what ‘good work’ means and how it can be achieved and sustained. By ‘good work’ I mean work that brings out the best in the people who do it and brings enduring benefits to those who are influenced by it.”
“…desire to introduce meditation
to the work place illustrates
the quality of their leadership,”
Kok Song added a personal perspective on what it takes to have a successful corporate career: “You can learn and master technical or business expertise but the one critical component is the ability to master yourself, your own life; how to build a life of wholeness – in body, mind and spirit. Only then can the human person realise his or her fullest potential. Then one’s personal and professional life will have a sense of meaning and purpose.”
“Meditation helped me undergo a major mindset shift in understanding leadership,” Kok Song further added in Good Work. “Rather than an exercise in power over people, controlling them to get them to do what I want them to do, it taught me about selfless attention – which means letting go of your own thoughts, ideas and desires and paying attention on the other. You begin to see things from the other person’s point of view.
“In this way, a leader realises that he or she is part of a larger world- you realise that leadership is not about the exercise of power but taking responsibility for the people you work with, your organisation and for how your work affects the world.”
Kok Song, Father Laurence and DP Architects have collaborated to convert a monastery in France, Bonnevaux, into a meditation retreat centre which will be the home to WCCM and a place that promotes peace on many levels, from the internal and local to the global and geo-political.
The intention is for Bonnevaux to provide a focal point not only for interested meditation practitioners worldwide but also for corporate executives, leaders of industry, professionals and people from all fields who want to discover the benefits of meditation.
Nourishing The Human Mind
As people become truly aware of how exacting corporate life is and the toll that achieving material and economic success takes on physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, meditation becomes more and more compelling as a way of attaining a healthy balance.
Nourishing the human mind is key to all these endeavours.
DP Architects Staff Members On Meditation
Toh Bee Ping: The daily morning meditation session helps me to start the day with the right attitude and frame of mind. Of course, there are days when plans become unraveled, but we start fresh again the next day.
Raymond Chan: I constantly have a stiff shoulder but thanks to meditation, the relaxation of my mind and body helps to relieve the pain on my shoulder.
Joyce Law: Meditation is an avenue for me to let go of frustrations and seek calmness. It is a positive experience to counter any difficulties in life.
Ada Ang: Meditation gives me inner peace and calmness. I find meditation helpful to overcome any challenges that come my way.
Yong Chin Hwei: At work we are often besieged by interruptions and distractions. Meditation helps me stay focused on the issue on hand.
About the Writer
Gerald used to pursue a moving goalpost of ‘excellence’, whatever that means, in the arts, entertainment and communications field; but has since appreciated the importance of balance and temperance in the service of being ‘happy and content’. He also feels healthier, enjoys more sleep and appreciates the value of friends, family and relationships that matter.