【Cubic Zine Issue 32】Chow Wai Yin Integrates the Research Achievements of Education, Religion and Psychology, Promoting Peace Education and Enhancing the Mental Health of Youth and Communities

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Last year, the Education Bureau reported the highest number of student suicides in five years. According to recent survey results announced at the “Healthy School Forum” by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the main factors affecting students’ mental health include poor sleep quality, poor physical health, unsatisfactory academic performance, and high expectations from parents. It is urgent for all sectors of society to pay attention, as some interviewed students showed moderate to severe depression.

The long journey of life is full of twists and turns as well as ups and downs. Will it lead to clarity or a maze? In light of this, the Cubic Zine interview team followed the footsteps of Dr. Chow Wai Yin, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts, CUHK, to the first Labyrinth established in a university in Hong Kong, a collaboration between the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) and the Chung Chi College. Dr. Chow mentioned that the Labyrinth is not only a physical space but also a place for spiritual rest. Here, we can temporarily escape the hustle and bustle, have a dialogue with our souls, and embark on self-exploration, achieving a balance and growth of the spirit.

With a focus on the well-being of youth, Dr. Chow will share how to combine spiritual wisdom from religion, teaching through narrative approach, and social enterprise operations, to create a mutually inclusive community through the power of peace education.

Inter-Disciplinary Research and Exploration Among Education, Religion, and Psychology

Dr. Chow exudes a simple and elegant temperament. It turns out that the moments that bring her the most spiritual happiness are when she is reading. Since childhood, she has enjoyed observing the world and has been curious about the origins of human beings. Her curiosity prompted her to read books about the mysteries of the universe and the human mind. “In fact, I also enjoy hands-on activities, such as assembling electronic applicants and building blocks. Starting from scratch and assembling the components into a complete product gives me a great sense of satisfaction and has become my endurance training for pursuing a Ph.D. later.”

Image: Stepping into Dr. Chow’s office, the four shelves are filled with books, indicating her love for reading. Reading has opened the door to her spiritual education, and as a book lover, she continues to guide others and establish a teaching framework applicable to secondary schools.

Dr. Chow chose to study education, religion, and psychology, three seemingly distinct disciplines, influenced by her father. “It is rare for a father to encourage his daughter to go out and explore the world, but my father often encouraged me to ‘travel thousands of miles rather than reading thousands of books,’ to engage in exchanges in different places and step out of my comfort zone.”

“When I was little, I enjoyed imitating my father reading the newspaper. Whenever he opened the newspaper, I would mimic his actions, although I didn’t truly understand the content at that time. Actually I was just pretending to be his actions, haha! One day, I was captivated by a short article on evolution in the newspaper, which sparked a great interest in humanity and human life. Initially, what interested me was the learning methods of people. I noticed that I preferred reading books over listening to them, while some classmates preferred taking notes as their learning method. Through these observations, I realized that people have diverse learning methods, which became one of the reasons why I chose to major in education at the University of Stirling in Scotland.”

Over time, Dr. Chow’s interests expanded to how people seek meaning in life and their life goals. “I discovered that many different religions attempt to guide people to reflect on their own values and life perspectives and establish the meaning of life through a sacred and transcendent perspective.” In search of answers, Dr. Chow pursued a master’s and doctoral degree in Divinity at CUHK.

“Do people put their values and life meaning into practice once they become aware of them?” This question led Dr. Chow into the world of psychology. During her studies in psychology, Dr. Chow became particularly interested in neuropsychology, further exploring the brain’s response to religious behaviors (such as gratitude and meditation) and which behavioral patterns can bring about a sense of happiness.

Driven by her relentless pursuit of knowledge, Dr. Chow integrated several disciplines. “I was delighted to start teaching at CUHK in 2010, sharing some of my research findings with the public, hoping to bring positive impact to the people and communities around me.”

Knowledge Transfer to Bring Changes Through Education

Dr. Chow, due to her work and volunteering, noticed that many teenagers are troubled by their physical, mental, and spiritual health. “There are various reasons, including academic pressure, family issues, peer relationships, and the overall social atmosphere. It is worth noting that according to the Trust Barometer, there is a widespread lack of trust between individuals, as well as between individuals and social and authoritative organizations. At the same time, research has found that many teenagers express a lack of sufficient knowledge and resources to cope with the challenges, anxieties, and even depression they face in life.

“I enjoy volunteering. During my visits to children’s homes, I discovered that these children lacked trust in society and were unhappy. When they reach the age of 100, will they still be unhappy? Is there anything we can do or any actions we can take to help teenagers maintain their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, develop their interests and potentials, and contribute to the community?” Turning these ideas into tangible actions is indeed not an easy task.

However, during her academic journey, Dr. Chow was inspired by Prof. C. N. Hawkes, who said, “Education should be ready to bring changes. Whatever we do, we should use our knowledge to bring about some changes for ourselves, others, or the community.” These words became her motto, inspiring her to constantly explore ideas for bringing about transformation for individuals and communities.

Image: Dr. Chow started the social enterprise SouLight Spiritual Education Center. Tutors will visit secondary schools instill knowledge in students. The class format is very lively, such as singing bowl sound therapy, role play, and poetry reading, which are very popular among students.

In 2022, Dr. Chow successfully obtained funding for a Knowledge Transfer Project Fund (KPF) through the Office of Research and Knowledge Transfer Services (ORKTS), CUHK, launching the “Peace In and Peace Out: Narrative Approach to Peace Education in Hong Kong” program. This year, she further established a social enterprise, the SouLight Spiritual Education Centre, through the Sustainable Knowledge Transfer Project Fund (S-KPF). The goal of the SouLight Spiritual Education Centre is to enhance self-awareness among teenagers through narrative approach, using the structure and patterns of stories (religious stories) to help them deeply understand and become aware of their own values and those of their surroundings. Teenagers learn to identify emotional reactions to external environments, gain new perspectives, channel anger, soothe fear, and transcend worries to find inner peace. Through this process of spiritual transformation, they develop effective language and behavioral expressions for active listening, compassionate communication, conflict resolution, and negotiation, thus building a common good that fosters inclusivity and sustainability within the community (read more in the side article: Balancing Inner and Outer Peace, Healing the Minds of Adolescents).

“Modern education tends to focus more on individual intellectual development, academic performance, and even employability. Peace education, on the other hand, is like a ‘supplement’ that inspires the power of personal, mental, and spiritual growth towards goodness, practicing the ‘common good,’ and promoting inclusivity and peace.”

“During the KPF phase, we applied the teaching models we researched to peace education courses. We initially thought that young people might be hesitant about listening to ‘preaching’ from adults, but to our surprise, they really enjoyed it, and the schools even asked if we could continue. After the KPF project ended, we had no funding, but thanks to the full support and encouragement from colleagues at ORKTS, CUHK, we were able to apply for S-KPF and achieve our dream.”

“Soul Friend” Beyond Work

Modern psychology has discovered that being human entails questioning the meaning of life, asking profound questions about existence, such as “Who am I? What is the purpose of my existence in this world? Where will I go after death?”

“Although there have been thousands of religious beliefs throughout human history, those that have withstood the test of time and continue to exist today are often the ones that can carry and explain human experiences, representing the crystallization of human wisdom. Human culture has always preserved the understanding of the meaning of life in religious scriptures, guiding people to think and explore.” These ancient wisdom traditions have become a shared focus for Dr. Chow and her student-cum-friends.

Image: Although Dr. Chow has a small stature, she describes herself as a “challenge solver” – the more difficult the challenge, the more she is drawn to tackle it.

For Dr. Chow, religious studies provide a fertile ground to meet a group of student-cum-friends who are eager to explore the realms of the mind, body, and spirit. Cheetah Chak and Pamela Suen are colleagues at SouLight, responsible for frontline implementation work, promoting peace education in various schools. They are not only colleagues but also friends who engage in heartfelt discussions on spiritual topics. They affectionately call Dr. Chow “Ah Chow.” For them, religious studies are not just about theory; it is a way of life. Through their exchanges, they nourish each other’s wisdom and inner qualities, and then venture into the community to drive transformation (read more in the side article: A Trio of Peace Educators).

“Kindness Conquers All, and a Drop of Water Can Penetrate a Rock”

When SouLight tutors enter schools, they often witness students quarreling and creating noise. Dr. Chow points out that conflict among classmates has always been an issue in schools in Hong Kong. “Research indicates that students in Hong Kong experience a high rate of bullying compared to other regions in Asia and even other countries. Adolescents also struggle with not knowing how to deal with bullying and violence, which affects their mental well-being, leading to feelings of frustration, powerlessness, and psychological distress.”

For Dr. Chow, the driving force behind the SouLight team, resolving conflicts on campus is not simply a matter of techniques; it involves the inner state of the soul. In fact, during her service at the Children’s Home, Dr. Chow already understood the principle of “Kindness conquers all, and a drop of water can penetrate a rock.” She shares, “Some tall and strong boys in the third or fourth grade would often resort to aggression. But engaging in a physical confrontation would only result in both parties getting hurt, and as a small person, I naturally couldn’t match their strength. A smile is a universal language; it can convey to others that we are not enemies but can attempt to communicate.”

Dr. Chow continues to share that she attended a Catholic school known for its strict discipline. However, her father taught her a different perspective on dealing with things. “My father followed the philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi, embracing a carefree and effortless way of being. When I couldn’t find my stationery and felt anxious, he would tell me, ‘If you stop looking, you will naturally find it. It’s not a big deal if you forget to bring something; if you miss it this time, you will remember next time.’ In his later years, my father suffered from various pains, but he always wore a smile. He taught me to maintain a calm and positive mindset in the face of certain situations and to face them with a smile.”

Thinking Good and Spreading Beliefs

After decades of spiritual practice and study, has Dr. Chow found the meaning of life? “In psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs, self-actualization needs, situated at the top of the pyramid, are classified as a growth need. This implies that humans are in a constant process of seeking, improving, and transcending their own life’s meaning. It is an endless exploration. Life is like a deep cup without a bottom, allowing for a continuous influx of new things, encouraging deep thinking and exploration. For those who seek self-discovery, this journey of life may be challenging, but it is also incredibly precious.”

Growth has no boundaries. Dr. Chow has responded to the needs of many individuals struggling with emotional distress by exploring alternative therapies. Recently, she has studied alternative therapies, such as natural herbal remedies, to understand the chemical components of different essential oils and their synergistic effects, thereby exploring alternative treatments for emotional distress.

“We believe that young people are like precious gems. If they are provided with a nurturing environment, they will discover their own potential and creativity, learn how to make choices, find balance, and grow through resolving conflicts. This is immensely beneficial for both themselves and the communities they belong to.”

However, looking at society, it’s not just young people who face spiritual distress. The SouLight team will develop various innovative projects to be applied in hospitals, social welfare organizations, and end-of-life services, bringing peace and healing to those struggling with mental and spiritual distress. “People can coexist peacefully, establish trust, and communicate with one another. By honing these skills and applying them to self-care, family, and communities, we welcome dream makers who can join us in dreaming and help us spread our ideas.”

Image: The Labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool, and the Labyrinth at CUHK is located on the fourth floor of the Pommerenke Student Centre. “The Labyrinth is not a maze; the path in is the path out.” It is constructed with winding circles, and walkers can follow the path to reach the center point and then retrace their steps back. You are welcome to enter the Labyrinth and learn to return to your inner self, rejuvenate your mind and body, and cultivate your spirituality.


Zhou Dunyi, the founding master of Neo-Confucian school in China, discussed the concept of “reaching the balance of rigidity and softness as well as goodness and evil.” Human nature consists of five qualities: rigidity, softness, goodness, evil, and the middle. By accepting the guidance of teachers and elders, one can understand good and evil and actively correct oneself until reaching a state of harmony. People have different reactions to things, but the most important thing is to find the middle ground and respond with a balanced attitude.

Dr. Chow believes that in a society that has experienced conflicts, it is like a broken vase with shattered pieces scattered on the ground. We need to communicate with patience, repair the wounds and gaps in our souls through peace education, and listen and express ourselves in a gentle manner. It is by understanding different thoughts, perspectives, and values that we can achieve mutual coexistence, social harmony, and sustainable development.

As Dr. Chow eloquently shared her insights on enhancing psychological well-being, the Cubic Zine interview team felt a sense of tranquility. Her wise words awakened our concern for mental health. In schools, families, and workplaces, conflicts are inevitable. As long as we understand the diversity of human nature, approach others with sincerity, and cherish the connections between individuals, we can achieve a peaceful mindset and a liberated life.

Image: Group photo of InnoPort Team, Inno Ambassors, Social Innovation Team and Dr.Chow‘s team

Chinese Text: Alice Fong (Office of Research and Knowledge Transfer Services)
Translation: Huang Xiang Jun

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