Dr. Kathirasan K: World-renowned Mindfulness Practitioner & Teacher

Top 10 Most Influential People in Training & Coaching, 2023

Dr. Kathirasan is the Founder CEO of the Centre for Mindfulness based in Singapore. He is a Certified Mindfulness Teacher – Professional (CMT-P) and a Qualified Supervising Teacher of the International Mindfulness Teachers Association (IMTA). He has practiced mindfulness for over 20 years and is world-renowned for being a scholar-practitioner of the ancient Indic traditions of Meditation and Philosophy. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Meditation, a master’s degree in business administration (MBA), and is a certified Yoga Instructor.

​In 2016, Dr. Kathirasan developed the Mindfulness-Based Wellbeing Enhancement (MBWE) program, a hybrid of MBSR and MBCT, coupled with the philosophy and intentions of Positive Psychology. Since then, he has brought secular mindfulness beyond clinical settings and continues to promote its appreciative value. In addition, he focuses on developing the skills of mindfulness teachers to adapt to different cultures/settings and remain ethically committed. Since 2017, he has trained and certified many Mindfulness Teachers.

Dr. Kathirasan’s Journey into Mindfulness

Dr. Kathirasan, the founder of the Centre for Mindfulness, was born and raised in Singapore. Before establishing the Center in 2015, he had co-founded Positive Performance Consulting, an Organizational Development and Training company, a year prior. He had also accumulated 18 years of experience working in large organizations in various industries, such as Defense, Telco, and ICT.

It was in the mid-1990’s while being in the military that he discovered mindfulness when he chanced upon a book on his Seargent’s bookshelf. And the rest was history as he met many visiting meditation teachers and eventually had his tutelage with a teacher from Himalayas from whom he learned mindfulness as a practice and read its Sanskrit source texts with him. Years later he discovered how mindfulness can be taught as a secular practice without any religious or spiritual subscription and learned under the supervision of Shamash Alidina.

Dr. Kathirasan is the author of following books:

  • Mindfulness in 8 Days (2017)
  • Mindfulness-Based Leadership (2018)
  • Mindfulness for the Family (2020) and
  • Introducing Mindfulness-Based wellbeing Enhancement (2023)

Today Dr. Kathirasan is known for delivering engaging and clear presentations on secular mindfulness, Indic philosophies, and other applications. He has been teaching mindfulness since 2008 and taught audiences from around the world, including USA, Australia, UK, India, China, and Brazil.

“Mindful leaders consider themselves as a blank screen on which all their mental and physical activities take place. this is one reason why mindful leaders have greater resilience and control – they are detached observers rather than involved actors.”

Creation of the Centre for Mindfulness

The Centre for Mindfulness is a highly regarded training center from Singapore with operations in India, Malaysia and Vietnam. It offers a wide range of mindfulness-based programs, courses and certifications globally. Dr. Kathirasan K, the Center’s founder, spent over two decades developing and refining his expertise in designing and delivering mindfulness programs. The Center’s programs help individuals cultivate mindfulness skills to enhance their well-being and quality of life. These programs are suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds, and they cover a wide range of topics, including stress reduction, emotional regulation, and therapy.

One of the Center’s flagship programs is the Mindfulness-Based Wellbeing Enhancement (MBWE) course. This unique eight-week course integrates Mindfulness and Wellbeing to realize human flourishing and the attainment of happiness. This 9-session course, conducted over 8 weeks, enhances wellbeing, happiness and quality of life through self-understanding and self-awareness. The course includes meditation practices, gentle yoga, reflective exercises and group discussions.

Corporate Mindfulness Training

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. As a result, our minds are constantly busy, jumping from one thought to the next, often leaving us feeling stressed, anxious, unhappy and overwhelmed. This is where mindfulness comes in.

Mindfulness is the practice and disposition of awareness, attention, and acceptance, and it allows individuals to live in the present moment. The founder of secular mindfulness, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as “paying attention particularly: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.”

Employees who practice mindfulness report being happier, kinder to oneself and others, less reactive and engaged with purpose. Inspired by these findings and experiences, the Centre for Mindfulness teach secular mindfulness to corporations so that employees at all levels can learn to take care of themselves as well as others. The Center seeks to offer programs that cultivates the daily practice of mindfulness for individuals to achieve the benefits mentioned earlier. Moreover, it is an accredited mindfulness teacher training center certified by the International Mindfulness Teachers Association (IMTA), allowing them to teach, mentor, and empower mindfulness teachers.

The Centre of Mindfulness also offers corporate mindfulness training programs tailored to each organization’s needs. These programs help companies to improve employee well-being, reduce stress and burnout, and enhance overall productivity without losing focus on ethics.

Dr. Kathirasan says, “We do not limit mindfulness to stress or anxiety reduction, which we believe is overrated, as stress can arise from small or large events in life. Instead, we focus on enhancing an individual’s whole being and life. We have curated and designed various mindfulness programs for diverse audiences and distinct life stages, and we also conduct mindfulness retreats at different locations in Asia.”

Although Dr. Kathirasan did not intend to create anything unique at the outset, his life experiences and insights from practicing mindfulness led to the development of the Mindfulness-Based Well-being Enhancement (MBWE) program. Unlike other mindfulness training programs, the MBWE focuses on utilizing mindfulness strengths to promote happiness and enhance well-being rather than just reducing stress or depression relapses.

Dr. Kathirasan’s firsthand experience with mindfulness, combined with supporting evidence, inspired the presentation of mindfulness as a skill and disposition that facilitates the possibility of ‘being’ happy, which he calls the ‘happiness paradigm.’

He and his colleague, Dr. Sunita Rai, co-authored a book entitled ‘Introducing Mindfulness-Based Well-being Enhancement: Cultural Adaptation and an 8-week Path to Well-being and Happiness’, published recently documenting the MBWE approach. Mental health professionals and mindfulness teachers can use this book as a valuable resource to promote human flourishing through mindfulness. Dr. Kathirasan has written two other mindfulness books and co-authored another.

Benefits of Mindfulness

Research has shown that consistent mindfulness practice can significantly reduce stress, increase happiness levels, and enhance self-awareness. Mindfulness programs also promote holistic well-being and ethical behaviors such as empathy, compassion, kindness, and community pro-social actions. Here are some benefits of mindfulness:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety: Mindfulness is a practice that lowers cortisol levels, the stress hormone in your body. It can help you manage stress and anxiety more effectively. If you’re stressed out by work or life, try practicing short mindfulness practices like breath meditation or breathing space for five minutes each day before bed. Regular practice can help individuals manage stress and anxiety more effectively.
  • Improves focus and concentration: Mindfulness meditation can help build your attention muscles. The more you practice, the stronger your ability to concentrate on tasks and ignore distractions will become. Mindfulness is not just about focusing on one thing; it’s also about being aware of everything else around you – the sounds, smells, and sensations that make up the present moment. This awareness helps people notice when their minds wander off into other thoughts or feelings (which happens often), so they can gently bring themselves back into focus again.
  • Enhances emotional regulation: Mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of their emotions and learn to regulate them more effectively. As a result, it can lead to better dynamic control and more excellent emotional stability. It’s important to note that mindfulness meditation isn’t about suppressing or ignoring emotions; instead, it’s about observing them from a distance so that they don’t overwhelm you or prevent you from doing what needs to be done at any moment.
  • Increases self-awareness: Mindfulness meditation can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. This increased self-awareness can help individuals make better decisions and take more intentional actions. It is like the rear-view and side-view mirrors of a car. Would we drive a car without these mirrors? Self-awareness helps us in a similar fashion as we go about living our lives.
  • Boosts immune system function: Mindfulness meditation can boost immune function by increasing natural killer cell activity, which helps to fight off viruses and tumors. It means regular meditation can help improve your body’s ability to defend itself against illness and disease.
  • Improves sleep quality: Mindfulness meditation can enhance sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms. By practicing mindfulness before bed, individuals can calm their minds and bodies, leading to more restful and restorative sleep.
  • Reduces symptoms of depression: Mindfulness-based programs can be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and improving overall mental health. Mindfulness helps individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions and develop a more accepting and non-judgmental attitude toward them. It can lead to greater emotional control and less reactivity, which can help break the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions that can lead to depression.
  • Increases cognitive flexibility and creativity: Mindfulness meditation increases cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to switch between different ways of thinking. It can lead to greater creativity and problem-solving skills as individuals become more open-minded and less rigid.
  • Improves relationships and social interactions: Mindfulness can improve interpersonal relationships by helping individuals become more present and attentive in their interactions with others. By practicing mindfulness, individuals can become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and those of others, which can help them communicate more effectively and build stronger connections with others.
  • Enhances overall well-being and life satisfaction: Regular mindfulness practice can lead to greater well-being and fulfillment by helping individuals cultivate a more positive outlook on life and a greater sense of purpose and meaning. In addition, by becoming more aware of one’s thoughts and emotions, individuals can be grateful and appreciate the present moment, leading to greater happiness and fulfillment.

“Mindfulness helps leaders to constantly be aware of the culture they envision and to align their thoughts, words and actions with that desired culture.”

Dr. Kathirasan’s Philosophy

Dr. Kathirasan’s philosophy is based on compassion, prioritizing society’s well-being over competition, and ensuring that work aligns with personal values. He believes that success has multiple dimensions, including achieving personal life goals and positively impacting the shared mission of his team.

He emphasizes the importance of embracing new experiences and avoiding jumping to conclusions prematurely. He attributes this mindset to his study of philosophy, psychology and mindfulness. He believes these disciplines can help individuals develop self-awareness and emotional regulation, leading to greater well-being and a more fulfilling life.

Definition of Success

Leaders often measure their success by typically evaluating how successful their organizations are based on the bottom line. For Dr. Kathirasan, success has multiple dimensions, including achieving his personal life goals and positively impacting the shared mission of his team. It also involves how he treats the planet, people, and everyone he interacts with.

Dr. Kathirasan says, “I do not see success solely caused by me. People often celebrate goal scorers in a soccer match for directly contributing to the goals. However, before the ball reached the goal scorer, many passes, including passes from opponents, led to the scorer’s foot. When the goal is scored, fans forget the many passes that led to it. Success is often attributed to those closest to the result, but I am grateful for everything and everyone that contributed to my success, whether remembered or forgotten. Success is less about “I” and more about “We.”

Valuable Life Lessons

Dr. Kathirasan firmly believes that challenges strengthen individuals. Overcoming challenges and learning from them provide valuable insights that become strengths. These strengths can help individuals tackle future challenges with confidence.

The biggest roadblock Dr. Kathirasan faced was entering the world of training, coaching, and people development. His last stint in the corporate world was in the technical field. He was trained in engineering, and transitioning into an entirely new industry took determination. Carefully preparing for this transition by trusting his wisdom balanced with the experience of others taught him great lessons.

Pursuing an MBA and drawing on his corporate experience helped him contextualize his work experiences with business theories. He leveraged these insights in his entrepreneurial journey, allowing his business to grow organically based on the response from his activities rather than charting a predetermined course. This experience taught him to embrace new experiences and slow down to increase speed in the long run.

Balancing Personal and Professional Life

The lines between personal and professional life have become increasingly blurred today. It was evident during the Covid-19 pandemic when many people had to work from home. As an entrepreneur since 2014, Dr. Kathirasan understood this reality very early in his entrepreneurial journey. He works across different time zones, and the work hours can extend from morning to late at night. Therefore, he cannot separate his personal and professional time very rigidly. Instead, he schedules personal activities and priorities alongside his professional commitments and that way he gets to be always his whole self.

He gets his motivation to do what he does by keeping in mind his purpose all the time. In fact, he consciously reminds himself of his purpose every day after his meditation. To keep his team motivated, Dr. Kathirasan emphasizes the shared purpose of their business: to bring well-being to our customers’ lives. However, he also recognizes that this can only happen by ensuring the well-being of his team members.

During regular check-ins and one-on-ones, he inquires about his teammates’ personal and professional well-being and encourages them to pursue initiatives that interest them. He believes their work quality improves when individuals seek what matters to them. He prioritizes his team’s well-being for its own sake, knowing that work will take care of itself when this is achieved.

“With wisdom, we do not see ourselves as a master or ruler of the world in any way. Rather, we see ourselves as part of the world, an interconnected and interdependent systemic whole.”

Core Values of the Centre for Mindfulness

Compassion is one of the core values at the center. Dr. Kathirasan often reminds trainers and trainee teachers to prioritize compassion when unsure what to do during mindfulness training. They are encouraged to bring compassion and self-compassion into the room, as it is always a safe bet when working with participants and trainees who know why they are there in the room learning mindfulness.

Dr. Kathirasan believes that competition can be healthy and unhealthy. He acknowledges that losing is natural, and we cannot avoid it. The Center does not prioritize winning or having the most significant market share. Instead, they focus on their strengths and even recommended competitors’ programs to potential customers when the Center’s program times or dates do not fit the customer’s schedule. The Center values the embodiment of mindfulness in thoughts, words and actions as the way to bring well-being to society. The need to walk the talk is more important than talking the talk.

Responsibilities at the Centre for Mindfulness

Dr. Kathirasan describes himself as a “contemplative leader,” taking time for deep thought and reflection before making decisions. Solitude is essential to his process of generating new ideas and reflecting on personal values. This contemplative approach informs his actions, ensuring they align his work with his values. He has written more about being a contemplative leader in his book ‘Mindfulness based Leadership’.

His typical workday begins with a mindfulness practice, then organizing and prioritizing tasks that align with strategic and tactical objectives. He collaborates with his managing directors across different territories to develop strategic and tactical plans for his organization. He guides the process of creating tailored mindfulness programs for clients and at times speaks at events to promote applied mindfulness in academia, organizations, and society.

Vision & Future of the Centre for Mindfulness

Dr. Kathirasan’s vision is to promote human flourishing by positioning mindfulness strategically. He believes mindfulness can be a practical approach to personal growth and well-being and positively affect society. He commits to promoting mindfulness on a global scale and training the next generation of mindfulness teachers who can teach mindfulness for the purposes of human flourishing. He believes mindfulness can help individuals develop self-awareness and emotional regulation, leading to greater well-being and a more fulfilling life through clear purpose.

Also, he encourages organizations to adopt mindfulness practices to create empathetic and human-centered workplaces. To help organizations achieve this goal, the Center also aims to develop certification programs for workplace mindfulness facilitators.

Dr. Kathirasan says, “I want to continue being human, despite being a leader. I am not saying that the two are mutually exclusive. Rather, I want to stay anchored in being human first and then a leader. I remind myself that the role of a leader I play is temporary, and one day this role will end while I continue to be a human being of awareness and consciousness. One is temporary like the clouds, while the other is a constant like space that witnesses the clouds come and go.”

Message For Aspiring Leaders

Dr. Kathirasan’s message to aspiring leaders is that being human is not optional but a choice they must make. He advises that leadership and humanity are not mutually exclusive, and being a leader should not result in losing one’s humanity. He suggests one should “be” a leader rather than “becoming” one, using one’s humanity as a foundation.

As leaders execute change in their team and organizations, it is important to be aware of how this change is made. He believes there are two types of change – forced and inspired. Inspired change is preferred because it is organic and comes from within naturally. He says that most professionals, including psychologists, therapists, coaches, and change management consultants, would agree that there must be an impetus for change for it to be successful in organizations or within oneself. However, this impetus for change should not be from a place of fear but from calm and clarity. He believes this happens when people feel the need to change naturally, not reactively.

He philosophizes that the world changes every second, and that change should be compelling and natural, like iron filings attracted to a magnet. He refers to this as ‘inspiring change,’ which occurs when people know constant change is the nature of the mind and body and therefore naturally embrace it. He mentions Appreciative Inquiry as a change management model that promotes this kind of change.

In conclusion, Dr. Kathirasan K is a highly respected mindfulness expert who founded and currently leads the Centre of Mindfulness, a well-known mindfulness training center founded in Singapore serving clients globally. With over 20 years of experience in the field, he has trained many individuals, including corporate leaders, mental health professionals, and aspiring mindfulness teachers.

He continues to conduct research on mindfulness, focusing on its effects on human flourishing and wellbeing. And speaks on mindfulness at conferences and events worldwide.

“Attempting to remove thoughts from your mind is similar to expecting a highway to be empty of cars. The highway is meant for cars, and we shouldn’t expect it to be otherwise.”