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Building mindful and compassionate public servants

In the age of technology and fast-paced globalisation, mindfulness is a new concept everyone is trying to adopt. It has been proven to change lives – be at home, in schools or at work places.

The Royal Civil Service Commission’s collaboration with a global non-profit organisation, Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, to train teachers on ‘Search Inside Yourself’ neuroscience-based mindfulness and emotional intelligence curriculum is a good start.

We need emotionally intelligent, focused, resilient and compassionate teachers, as they deal with young minds. Understanding youth issues and responding to it through soft skills is the need of the hour, especially when youth today are more vulnerable and less resilient.

Youth related issues are getting complicated today. Times have changed, children are fed to, like a social media comment said, almonds and other dry fruits to improve memory, not lopon Dorji’s leather whip, like in the past.

Bhutan is developing at a fast pace. There is not enough time taken to keep things that are important – the values, beliefs and social organisations – in the rush to join the global world. There is an increasing number of people coming forward to seek interventions and medical help on mental health issues. We have drugs and alcohol problems. Recent figures show that more than 1,500 youth are imprisoned for drugs-related offences.

Developing a mindful society could help in tackling the issue. We need parents who could understand how their actions affect their children. Our teachers should not only teach lessons in classes, but also be able to identify personal issues students are grappling with. We need public servants who are empathetic to those coming for services.

The training, therefore, should not be confined just to the teachers but everyone in society. Knowing ourselves and understanding the need of others will strengthen everyone’s service to the nation.

Through softer skills of empathy and compassion, our service providers could help improve service delivery. For instance, it is a good service, if an official helps a farmer find the right office and officer instead of the cold ‘I don’t care’ look.

A mindful community will also debunk the general belief that we need good relationship with doctors or health officials to receive good healthcare, judges and court officials to avail justice and officers to seek police services. The sight of the policemen should ensure security, not fear.

But the challenge lies in how effective the trainings are or what skills trainees acquire and how it would be implemented. This is not the first time an initiative like this was taken. The education ministry initiated meditation for students a decade ago but it did not gain momentum. Only few schools implement it today.

We have always claimed to be different. If we cannot be professional service providers, let us be compassionate and empathetic public servants.

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