Teaching Koru Mindfulness in Viet Nam

Jane Terrell, a New Zealand-based Koru teacher, has been living and working in Viet Nam this summer, helping support an energetic team of emerging adults who are building an innovative new enterprise. Jane, in consultation with the Koru Center, chose to offer the team some training in mindfulness to help combat the stress from their high-pressure jobs. She was delighted to find how well the Koru model adapted to the unique culture and situation. Jane’s report on her experience is below. She graciously agreed to let us share her story here. 

Last Monday I led a sort of “Koru-light” mindfulness workshop for a group of 7 “emerging adults” I am working with, here at a resort in beautiful Hoi An, Vietnam. I’ve been here for 6 weeks, living and working with the Hoi An team of a start-up company that’s been going for 2 years providing accommodation and tours in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) as well as Hoi An.

As with any workshop planning, there were some logistics problems we had to solve in order to bring Koru to this context:
SPACE – temperatures averaging 37 degrees with high humidity – my weather app told me “feels like 47 degrees” – and no airconditioned room available
TIME – a time allowance of one workshop of 90 minutes
TEXT – the Kabat-Zinn book is too high level English

Amazingly, the day before we were due to give the workshop I was showing some people around the resort, who asked about our empty “shack” by the fishpond – when we stepped inside, I knew we’d found our Koru space. Its open design and position by the river and fishpond meant it caught every breeze – it was the coolest spot around.

A Lovely Spot to Learn Mindfulness

A Lovely Spot to Learn Mindfulness


Inside the Koru Mindfulness Classroom

Inside the Koru Mindfulness Classroom

Adaptations: To fit with the time available and language skills of the team, I adapted the first two Koru Basics classes to fit with the first pages in Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step”, and Matthew Johnstone’s “Quiet the MInd”, and:
Taught belly breathing, chicken breathing (not in TNH!) and gatha

Used laminated pictures of the rushing river, mindfulness muscle and busy puppy metaphors

Used illustrations from “Quiet the Mind” for posture and technique

Worked closely with 24-year-old Tram, the company’s HR person, to provide simple notes in English and Vietnamese, and translate a little during the class

Used the notes to remind them of the skills, and refer them to the appropriate pages as well as the Koru website for free meditation resources

Encouraged them to download the Koru url to the homepage of their phones for easy access

Left copies of the texts at reception for the team to browse in quiet moments – books are hard to get and expensive in Vietnam.

Not exactly a rushing river, but perhaps a gentler pace more suited to this climate!

Not exactly a rushing river, but perhaps a gentler pace more suited to this climate!

The Fishpond

The Fishpond


Tram and I were pleased with the team’s openness and willingness to try everything. I was touched by their serious attitude and immediate reports of feeling calmer. To get this group off their phones for 90 minutes was a miracle in itself: their jobs mean this team are on their phones 24/7. A recipe for rushing thoughts if ever there was one!

Tram explains a point - note our locally crafted bell, of brass recycled from US weapons of war.

Tram explains a point – note our locally crafted bell, of brass recycled from US weapons of war.

Evaluations show this experimental workshop was well received – translations of comments below.

Buổi workshop cũng như nội dung truyền tải và đối tượng truyền tải rất ổn.Tuyệt (ít nhất là đối với tôi) 🙂

The workshop as well as the content is very good. Great (at least according to me) 🙂

Buổi workshop rất hữu ích cho mọi người. Đôi khi chúng ta bị lạc trong sự xô bồ và hối hả của công việc hay cuộc sống nên sau buổi workshop này có lẽ sẽ có nhiều người tìm ra được cách để làm mát tâm hồn mình, vứt bỏ lo lắng, sống hạnh phúc và dĩ nhiên,làm động lực để đem lại niềm vui cho mọi người. Chủ quan mà nói, buổi học khá tuyệt, nó giúp tôi nhận ra được việc phải điều tiết và cảm nhận hơi thở của mìn

The workshop is very useful for everyone. Sometimes we will get lost in the busy at work or life so after the workshop maybe people will find a way to water their soul and release the worries, live happily and of course be the inspiration to bring joy for everyone. Personally, the workshop is great. It helped me realise we need to keep the balance and feel our breath.