Meditation on Daily Tasks at Desk Jobs

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

Meditation on Daily Tasks at Desk Jobs

Postby Buckwheat » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:32 pm

I find that for physical tasks, I can incorporate elements of śamatha-vipassana and my mind will calm to an awareness of my activities, and planning the next activity becomes almost automatic. However, when working with a computer, I have zero skill in remaining mindful. With a desk job, it seems the mental gymnastics required get the motor humming and it becomes very difficult to develop a more meditative type awareness. Do other's find difficulty with desk jobs in this regard? Does this mean physical work is more conducive to daily mindfulness?

Edit: edited title to more accurately reflect the subject.
Last edited by Buckwheat on Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Meditation on Daily Tasks at Work

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:40 pm

If someone goes to the gym do they pick the easy weights, or the ones that are a bit difficult?

Yes, it's difficult to succeed when doing non manual work but it's not difficult to practice, practice is about doing it again and again no matter how much you fail until it becomes continuous.
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Re: Meditation on Daily Tasks at Desk Jobs

Postby Buckwheat » Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:18 pm

Goofaholix wrote:If someone goes to the gym do they pick the easy weights, or the ones that are a bit difficult?

Yes, it's difficult to succeed when doing non manual work but it's not difficult to practice, practice is about doing it again and again no matter how much you fail until it becomes continuous.


First, as a counter to your point, the Buddha found the forest more conducive to practice and therefore chose to live in the forest instead of the city. And the reason is pretty similar to the reason that I am stating a physical job may be more conducive than a desk job: the mental stimulus of urban/desk life is directly counter to some of the goals of practice.

Second, your point would only be relevant if I was asking for permission to give up trying. I am not looking for an excuse or some other thing you seem to imply. As I think of this as a place for support in dealing with practice difficulties, I wanted to see if others in the community felt the same way as I do about desk work (maybe more accurately "neuroses stimulating" work). What are some of the coping strategies people use? How does one absorb into work-related tasks without losing the ability to take a step back to keep perspective? I can do this when the work is physical, but seem to lose the ability when the work is more calculating and tech oriented. Anybody else in the same boat?
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Re: Meditation on Daily Tasks at Desk Jobs

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:53 pm

If the mind is busily engaged in conceptual activity its hard to practise mindfulness. Nevertheless, you never stop breathing, and your body is always in one posture or another.

Try to maintain mindfulness of your sitting posture, and all major movements of the limbs, getting up from your seat, reaching for the phone, etc.

Just learning to sit up straight while working will improve your breathing and alertness, while reducing the risk of back injuries, etc.

The medical advice is that sitting for long periods is very harmful — try to get up at least once an hour, at least to stretch your limbs.
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Re: Meditation on Daily Tasks at Desk Jobs

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:38 pm

I currently work as a custodian, which is relatively conducive to satisampajanna. The work is repetitive, mostly simple physical chores, and I often find myself reminded of that Zen anecdote about sweeping the corners of the mind. It's also not a very socially engaged job (custodians are often 'invisible') which is supportive of the practice as well.

But I've had mentally/verbally taxing jobs as well. From call center work to teaching introductory courses to college students, those jobs were largely obstacles to satisampajanna for me, since they mostly seemed to foment & reward papanca-sanna-sankha. It was still possible to sneak mindfulness in, but it felt spotty and inconsistent.
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Re: Meditation on Daily Tasks at Desk Jobs

Postby Buckwheat » Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:06 pm

Dave, Bhante,
:anjali:
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Re: Meditation on Daily Tasks at Desk Jobs

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:34 pm

Hi Buckwheat,

You have some good advice here. I'd like to repeat what I said on this thread about a discussion with my teacher at the end of a retreat:
viewtopic.php?f=41&t=11240
mikenz66 wrote:One interesting observation came out when I asked him about how to maintain mindfulness in "normal life". His reply I reword/summarise as:

The point is not so much to be trying to take techniques from those suitable for retreat training in continuity of mindfulness, etc, but to use the wisdom gained from retreat training.

i.e. on retreat one can carefully observe to determine what is skilful (or not). That's ideally what one should be doing at all times. Techniques such as doing everything slowly and deliberately are not so practical in normal circumstances, but its the quality of observation, rather than some particular technique, that needs to be carried over.


My job has recently become much more stressful, and it's clear that this is disturbing, and a hindrance, to overall mindfulness. The only solutions, is seems to me, are to either stop what I'm doing, or make sure I have longer formal meditation periods to allow some calming down to occur. Living out in the world is not easy.

:anjali:
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