How to Write Mindfully

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

How to Write Mindfully

Postby PaulGar » Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:33 am

I work as a freelance writer so this means that I spend about ten hours a day hammering away on the keyboards. I find that for most of this time I'm lost in thought and not very mindful at all. I’ve been wondering about the possibility of writing mindfully; in fact I've been trying to do this by using the feel of my fingers on the keyboards as an anchor. What I'm finding so far is that it is not easy at all; it is actually taking me longer to get the work done. I'm not sure if this is because the act of being mindful is getting in the way of the flow of ideas, or that I'm just not used to it yet. Of course if I could work more mindfully it would be bring practical as well as spiritual benefits. I wonder if anyone else has any experience with this type of mindfulness? I know that we should be able to do most things mindfully, but is it possible in this case?
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:43 am

Hello, PaulGar,
I approve of your attempt! It's worth persisting with, for both practical and spiritual benefits, I think.
You seem to be equating 'mindfulness' with monitoring your physical state. That is something I try to be aware of, and it has improved with time: if I slouch, I now notice and fix my posture fairly quickly, for instance, and that will have practical long-term health benefits as well as the shorter-term benefit of making me less tired.
But the other part of mindfulness, for me, is more important: to monitor my mental state. Writing when dull, bored or too tired is worth avoiding, simply because the result tends to be dull, boring and/or tiring to read - mine does, anyway! - and it needs to be heavily revised or re-done completely. That's not very efficient, is it? Writing when angry or upset is even worse. Again, I'm making progress.
But I do have the luxury of writing part-time and basically doing it when it suits me. Your conditions may be harder to deal with, but I'm sure you can make some progress over time.
:namaste:
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby zavk » Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:58 am

Hi Paul

My work too involves writing. I would echo what Kim suggests. For me, the biggest challenge is knowing when to take a break, when to let go. Sometimes I find that I am clinging and obsessing about writing rather than doing any real work. During those moments, the mindful thing to do is to let go. I must admit I'm still working on this. It's a bad habit really. I've felt the benefits of taking short 5 minute breaks whereby I just sit at the desk or walk up and down the hall or outside my office to re-establish a degree of mindfulness. Yet, I don't do it quite enough. Thanks for posting this. It is a good reminder for me.

:anjali: :smile:
With metta,
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby PaulGar » Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:04 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:Hello, PaulGar,
I approve of your attempt! It's worth persisting with, for both practical and spiritual benefits, I think.
You seem to be equating 'mindfulness' with monitoring your physical state. That is something I try to be aware of, and it has improved with time: if I slouch, I now notice and fix my posture fairly quickly, for instance, and that will have practical long-term health benefits as well as the shorter-term benefit of making me less tired.
But the other part of mindfulness, for me, is more important: to monitor my mental state. Writing when dull, bored or too tired is worth avoiding, simply because the result tends to be dull, boring and/or tiring to read - mine does, anyway! - and it needs to be heavily revised or re-done completely. That's not very efficient, is it? Writing when angry or upset is even worse. Again, I'm making progress.
But I do have the luxury of writing part-time and basically doing it when it suits me. Your conditions may be harder to deal with, but I'm sure you can make some progress over time.
:namaste:
Kim


Hi Kim, I've been experimenting with returning my focus to the physical state because it seems to be easiest to keep track of. I think you do make a good point about keeping an eye on these mental states; I'll experiment with this as well. I probably wouldn't get away with stopping work when I'm bored or feeling dull - I wish I could. I do hope that I can make progress with this becasue I expect that it would give my general minfulness level a huge boost.

zavk wrote:Hi Paul

My work too involves writing. I would echo what Kim suggests. For me, the biggest challenge is knowing when to take a break, when to let go. Sometimes I find that I am clinging and obsessing about writing rather than doing any real work. During those moments, the mindful thing to do is to let go. I must admit I'm still working on this. It's a bad habit really. I've felt the benefits of taking short 5 minute breaks whereby I just sit at the desk or walk up and down the hall or outside my office to re-establish a degree of mindfulness. Yet, I don't do it quite enough. Thanks for posting this. It is a good reminder for me.

:anjali: :smile:


Hi Zavk, I too find knowing when to take a break a problem. On some days I have to almost glue myself to the chair, but on others days I lose productivity becasue I've forgotten to take a break.
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Jan 26, 2011 10:52 am

Coming from a different angle- the Buddha said we need bodily and mental rest as a prerequisite to develop the meditations. So if there was a way to reduce your workload -or a tleast plan for it for the future, that might be a good first step.
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby Nibbida » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:03 pm

This is an excellent idea and very worthwhile to post, in my estimation.

Of course, simple physical tasks were the meditation object of choice of Buddhist monasteries (e.g. Zen monks raking sand). So, just like you said, you can pause to have mindfulness of the sensations of typing or the posture of sitting. You could also do mindfulness of seeing as you look at the computer screen. That's more subtle and harder to do, but it's a possibility. It's so ironic that mindful activities doesn't mean doing anything different physically but is just a shift in the quality of attention. The fact that some tasks are taking you longer is probably due to the fact that you're doing extra mental work. But with practice, I think it will get easier to do and your speed will return to normal (plus you will be reaping the benefits of meditating while doing work, which is an enormous boon for one's practice.)

Another way to approach this is to be mindful of the thinking process itself as you are writing. Mindfulness of thinking is much harder to do, which is why Zen monks rake sand instead of doing long division problems. But on the other hand, if you can manage it, it's an even greater benefit because our minds chatter all day long. To be able to be mindful of that in real time, in real-life situations would be extremely helpful. Bigger challenge, but bigger payoff.

Here's how I do it. I use Mahasi Sayadaw-style noting. Every so often, I note "Thinking is occurring," while working at the keyboard. So there's two levels of awareness here: the thinking about the content (e.g. whatever you're writing about), and a higher-order level of awareness that the thinking is occurring. Again, with practice, this takes place simultaneously and need not interfere with the activity itself.

If you try this out and have any results, please post them here. I'd be curious to know how others manage this, or whatever ways they are able to make it work for them.
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby andre9999 » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:21 pm

Wouldn't it make more sense to spend less time thinking about the feel of your fingers on the keyboard, then use that saved time to do something else... taking breaks, finishing early and meditating, etc.?

Granted that I'm fairly new to Buddhism, but it seems to me that you're being the opposite of mindful by not truly focusing on what you're doing.
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby Hanzze » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:45 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Wed Feb 02, 2011 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby PaulGar » Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:12 am

Nibbida wrote:This is an excellent idea and very worthwhile to post, in my estimation.

Of course, simple physical tasks were the meditation object of choice of Buddhist monasteries (e.g. Zen monks raking sand). So, just like you said, you can pause to have mindfulness of the sensations of typing or the posture of sitting. You could also do mindfulness of seeing as you look at the computer screen. That's more subtle and harder to do, but it's a possibility. It's so ironic that mindful activities doesn't mean doing anything different physically but is just a shift in the quality of attention. The fact that some tasks are taking you longer is probably due to the fact that you're doing extra mental work. But with practice, I think it will get easier to do and your speed will return to normal (plus you will be reaping the benefits of meditating while doing work, which is an enormous boon for one's practice.)

Another way to approach this is to be mindful of the thinking process itself as you are writing. Mindfulness of thinking is much harder to do, which is why Zen monks rake sand instead of doing long division problems. But on the other hand, if you can manage it, it's an even greater benefit because our minds chatter all day long. To be able to be mindful of that in real time, in real-life situations would be extremely helpful. Bigger challenge, but bigger payoff.

Here's how I do it. I use Mahasi Sayadaw-style noting. Every so often, I note "Thinking is occurring," while working at the keyboard. So there's two levels of awareness here: the thinking about the content (e.g. whatever you're writing about), and a higher-order level of awareness that the thinking is occurring. Again, with practice, this takes place simultaneously and need not interfere with the activity itself.

If you try this out and have any results, please post them here. I'd be curious to know how others manage this, or whatever ways they are able to make it work for them.


I like the idea of noting. It would likely be cumbersome in the beginning and a bit hard to manage, but maybe after awhile it would become easier. Thanks Nibbida for some useful tips.

andre9999 wrote:Wouldn't it make more sense to spend less time thinking about the feel of your fingers on the keyboard, then use that saved time to do something else... taking breaks, finishing early and meditating, etc.?

Granted that I'm fairly new to Buddhism, but it seems to me that you're being the opposite of mindful by not truly focusing on what you're doing.


Hi Andre, I think what I'm trying to do is to break down the barriers between my life and my meditation practice; the eventual goal would be to be mindful as much of the time as possible. People in other occupations seem to be able to do this. I seem to remember that Luang Por Teean would be fully focused on his work in the fields - this was before he became a monk.
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby Hanzze » Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:41 am

Dear PaulGar,

it is good to observe the sitting position all the time, not only for the physical benefit, it needs also a big amount of mindfulness. Also to observe once own breath is a good training. Special in Theravada the focus is not on sitting meditation, one can/should train mindfulness all the time.
As soon as you realize that you are not sitting well, just adjust your self back. I guess it is a very good training.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby PaulGar » Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:10 am

Hanzze wrote:Dear PaulGar,

it is good to observe the sitting position all the time, not only for the physical benefit, it needs also a big amount of mindfulness. Also to observe once own breath is a good training. Special in Theravada the focus is not on sitting meditation, one can/should train mindfulness all the time.
As soon as you realize that you are not sitting well, just adjust your self back. I guess it is a very good training.


Thanks Hanzze, I can see how observing the sitting position could definitely be very useful.

What I've found so far by trying to be mindful is that my mind really does do its own thing. I'll be working and the next thing I know I'm surfing the web and not working - I've started to do this automatically. Trying to be mindful has meant that I've caught this reflex to leave my writing for the web, and hopefully that will reduce the number of times I do it dramatically - that alone would make the practice worth it :-)
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby alan » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:00 am

I'd agree with andre. Schedule regular breaks if your main desire is to be mindful. Long blocks of writing will suck you into thought-world. No way to get around it.
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby lucky-2012 » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:42 am

I have had similar struggles with computer programming. What I have found helpful initially is to adopt a system for taking breaks. There is a technique called the 'Pomodoro Technique' which can help with this. It also suggests tracking interruptions, both internal and external, to what we are 'supposed' to be focused on.

Regarding mindfulness when working, I would echo the comments of others. In addition I have found that yoga has helped with posture, and sometimes mentally noting each action I take, e.g. "Clicking the menu bar", "Minimizing the window", "Coding", etc.

Great to read about this and other "real-world" dhamma experiences!

:goodpost:
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby bodom » Wed Jun 20, 2012 1:20 pm

Just released:

The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life

Going a step beyond typical "how to write" books, Moore illuminates the creative process: where writing and creativity originate, how mindfulness plays into work, how to cultivate good writing habits, how to grow as a writer — and a person! — and what it means to have a life dedicated to the craft of writing. There's not a writer alive, novice or master, who will not benefit from this book and fall in love with it. Cover to cover, this wise little book is riveting and delightful. Readers will turn to The Mindful Writer again and again as a source inspiration, guidance, and support.


http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... n=&image=1

The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life
http://mindfulwriterbook.com/

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: How to Write Mindfully

Postby lucky-2012 » Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:51 pm

Added to my list of books to maybe possibly one day read! :)
"Make it your sport — watching the defilements and making them starve, like a person giving up an addiction"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... ensed.html
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