Thida Aung lives in Austin, Texas and provides remote life coaching to Burmese clients, helping them adopt concepts of positive mindset, personal development and effective communication to build better relationships at work and at home.
Thida talks about her own personal development journey and the importance for young Burmese people to adopt mindfulness in order to improve their life at work as well as in day-to-day relationships.
We speak half the show in English, and the other half in Burmese. We discuss some of the core concepts that she has learned and currently teaches.
Listen to the full conversation (Part 1 in English and Part 2 in Burmese) or read a selected excerpt below.
➤ Can you tell me a little bit about your business your online business what do you do?
Okay now I’m working on online mindfulness courses, you know launching at the end of this year or maybe even earlier because my target is the Burmese community, in Myanmar language. After that I might think about online courses in English language. So i’m working on that.
And right now I am coaching people, one-to-one coaching on relationships and mindfulness. The audience and the clients are from my country. They are burmese speaking people and they need support because there is a lot of stress going on there, they don’t know what to do next in their life, so I give support and [try to be] helpful to them right now.
➤ So relationship coach and life coach for Burmese clients. Do you think it’s important for Burmese people to understand mindfulness? The reason I’m asking is because it’s a very Buddhist country but mindfulness is not really the same as Buddhism, right?
Not really. Yeah buddhist philosophy, you know based on the buddhism, that’s where you can name it or you can say it. But overall mindfulness is awareness and practice, you know – consciousness. Mostly people forget about that.
They have no clue how to distinguish: why they’re upset, what are their thoughts and what are their emotions? All these young people are interested in living in happiness, everyone looking for happiness and joy in their life but they have no clue how to practice or where to start.
➤ Why don’t they have a clue where to start? What’s stopping them?
There’s no guidance there. There’s no suggestion or advice from anybody yet. Yeah the culture is very much, you know, one package – they sit in the same thing and influence one another, hand over to one another but there’s a clear path. So that was missing. That’s what I think. I might be wrong but I see that everybody is asking me these questions.
They don’t know what to do, they’re confused. So I just ask a question to them and they start to create the possibilities themselves and what is missing in their life. I see that people are very happy with me right now. They say they will do whatever I say – that’s what they said. Because they got freedom from my guiding.
They are willing to accept who they are or who they are not, you know. Also they start to accept their parents for instance. And the way they are not. So they got freedom from that.
➤ In Asian cultures, the parents and the elders – it’s such a big influence. How do you see that fitting in today in modern culture?
Modern culture is very [conflicted with traditional Asian culture]. It used to be that in our generation and the [previous] generation, whatever the parents would say the children would listen, right? Even if they don’t like that, they are pushed to listen.
They might not say no or yes, they just follow, but inside they have something they’re holding back. That’s the thing they’re unhappy about but they don’t say that. These days it’s different because of internet, you know. The country is open so children have so many messages they can listen to.
➤ Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Because you’re saying before the internet when you’re a young person, you listen to your elders.
Whether you like it or you don’t like it you listen to your elders and inside you hold it in and you feel anxiety and you don’t feel good. But now, are you saying that the internet is making people more rebellious or what’s happening?
This internet lets them see that there is not only one way, you know. Not one point of view. There are so many points of view. So many things they can do and now they know. So I would say I think humanity should be happy, everybody should have freedom, you know. They come to this life, they should be happy with what they’re doing instead of [doing] what they’re told.
If your parents say don’t do this, don’t do that and you’re holding back, you started to have anxiety and then you start to hate your parents or hate the way they are, right? You resent them. So we all can ask ourselves, ‘Do we want to be happy?’ and then we will see authentically how we feel about it and then fully self express ourselves so we all have freedom and life and happiness.
So that’s the way I want to support any human being. It doesn’t mean they should talk back to their parents, doesn’t mean they’re rude to their parents. They’re just authentically communicating with their parents.
➤ Are you saying in the old days before the internet people were less happy because they had to listen to their parents? Is that what you’re saying?
Yeah I have to say, what is very obvious is that they’re holding back and they cannot express their feelings. You know, they cannot express their emotion and they have to withhold and then you know they don’t share.
➤ So that’s many generations of people holding in their true feelings and emotions right until they leave the parents house until they get married and they leave.
Yes but still the habit of doing their holding back and [not sharing], they bring it with them and then they marry someone they add the same thing because, human nature you know, our brain catches our habits, always put in the memory.
➤ Then you can’t lose them anymore, the habits are stuck.
Unless you transform or you find something else you know, you set it to transform your habit, the negative to positive. You have to teach the brain again and then brain will lead you later on.
➤ Can you give me an example of some of your clients and some of the common problems that they face and some of the solutions that you give them?
Yes, I always share with my own life first. So when I talk to them, they say they don’t know what to do, they have anxiety going on and sometimes they want to even kill themselves. They don’t even want to live you know? They don’t see the possibility of living.
Mostly, I speak to 23 or 24-year-olds and they want to be good business people. They want to build businesses. They want to make money and you know, they have problems with their parents and they don’t know what to do. Parents are telling them not to do this and that, you know, all kinds of things.
The young ones always think they are depressed, and that there is something wrong with them. So I tell them, ‘Nothing wrong with you. The only thing wrong with you is the way you think, “I’m a depressed person and there’s something wrong with me.”’
➤ It’s really difficult to stop seeing yourself as a victim. How do you change that mindset? How do you help somebody change the mindset from being a victim to being their own boss?
Yes, so you know I let them talk and when I hear it, I pointed out, ‘You’ve been playing as a victim. Are you happy?’ So they say no. ‘When you’re playing as a victim you’ll be miserable yourself and you make a people around you also miserable, do you want that?’ They say no.
So you know at that point and you have a choice to give up being a victim and then you start to look at it and create something bigger than who you are. You know the young kids are very smart. They wanted to transform, they listen. But when I talk to older age, it’s more difficult!
➤ Yes, can you give me an example of older age clients – what kind of problems are they facing?
They always come up with that you know, ‘Oh we cannot do that because uh we’re not Buddha,’ or you know, ‘Buddha can have an enlightenment right but we’re human, so that is our fate,’ or something like that.
➤ So they’re even more victim-minded, like they’ve accepted that they are a victim and they’re not going to change.
Yes I think it’s very cute. I listen to them so I just smile and then I keep pushing a little bit so I can go the other way around asking questions. So whatever they say, I agree with them because [it’s good that] they’ve agreed to even have this kind of conversation, you know.
There’s a group of people who are listening who live just like that so they find it relatable. So I agree with what they’re saying but I can bring something else on the side so I can show them [something more.] So they can see and compare [and choose] who they want to be.