practicing at work

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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/19/09 8:25 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/19/09 8:25 PM

practicing at work

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: okir
Forum: Practical Dharma

I work as an editor, and spend a lot of time staring at a computer at words and sentences, checking grammar, proofreading and editing, etc. So much of my life is spent at work. I wonder if anyone has any tips for how I can carry on a meditative practice while doing this kind of work? So far have just been trying to watch the action of my mind as it goes over the text, and noting when it veers off into daydreaming, etc. It's hella difficult, though, because there's a lot of thinking, and practical, solitary, work-oriented judgements that have to be made in the process of editing. I can't do a one-pointed thing...I have to look at things sort of peripherally. See my profile for my meditation background if necessary.
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Emory Smith, modified 13 Years ago at 5/19/09 8:53 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/19/09 8:53 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 43 Join Date: 5/20/09 Recent Posts
hello okir,

you might check out the discussion of "triggers" in this thread:

http://dharmaoverground.wetpaint.com/thread/2744697/Losing+steam+while+trying+to+gain+Access+Concentration

i use a similar strategy (an itunes playlist with randomly spaced "beeps") ... great for stuff like daytime dream practice ("is this a dream?") or gurdjieffian (is that a word?) self-remembering. not sure how well this would go over with in the office though. theres a meditation timer for the iphone that makes for a less intrusive interval reminder if you put the phone in your pocket on vibrate (no randomness though). if you work at home, might try just turning on a metronome and trying to hear every beat (though this is quite demanding and makes it hard to do much of anything else). also, earplugs are a huge help for me in "keeping the thread going" (even in quiet environment).

-emory
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Vincent Horn, modified 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 2:26 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 2:26 AM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 211 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Hi Okir,

There's definitely something to be said for bringing mindfulness to work, etc. That said, I really don't think work is the proper environment (at least when one is formally doing their work) to be busting out strong meditation practice. That is why formal practice time (whether daily before or after work) and/or making time for retreats are so common amongst the different meditative traditions.

Work, in my experience, is really a time to do work well (or joke with co-workers), and I would say that if you really want to dive deep into the meditation practice, you'll need to prioritize it highly enough so that you're able to gain some momentum outside of your work context.

That said, I see from your profile that you've had an on-and-off practice for a few decades and are planning a retreat. I also see you've been through, what sound like several A&P events, following by (in your word) "dark periods". If you're able to skillfully navigate those dark periods, w/o quitting, I suspect you'll be able to get through the dark period and finish up what you started back in your early 20s. Please let us know how it goes! :-D

Best,

-Vince
PE Ong, modified 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 4:00 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 4:00 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 3 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Okir,

You will find many good suggestion in "Chap 18 - Living on the Edge: Mindfulness in Daily Life" of
Ven Sujiva's book "Essentials of Insight Meditation Practice".

You can download from www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/essentials.pdf

- peong
Trent S H, modified 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 5:02 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 5:02 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
A couple of quick pointers:

Take a break for 15 minutes but stay at your computer, use headphones with holosync and do some sort of Kasina like "hard" concentration practice. Just pay very very close attention to whatever you're paying attention to. This can help practice incredibly if done correctly. No one will know you're not working either, cause you're "reading" and "listening to music," right? Nice. Most people can only get 4-5 hours of productive work into one day, anyhow, might as well get some real work in!

Lunch break is a great time for a half hour sit. Spacing out practice throughout the day in this way, say: morning, brunch, lunch, after work, before bed, will really power up the whole process. Even if the sits are small, they help you "reset" your mind into a good place when it may need it.

Could talk about this all day long but have to run, maybe more later!

Trent
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 5:31 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 5:31 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
I second Trent's tips.

I can't tell you how many important milestones I reached while practicing in an empty conference room during my 15 minutes breaks or lunch breaks. Any amount of practice is infinitely better than Zero practice. Make use of whatever time you have. If you sit 30 min in the morning, 15 minutes late morning, 30 minutes around noon, 15 minutes afternoon, and an hour in the evening, you're getting somewhere. Retreats are best, but if you're like me and can't really get away from work and family obligations, get creative emoticon
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 6:33 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 6:33 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: okir

Emory -- that "triggers" post was great. Thanks for pointing me to it. Some of those ideas would be useful, and help to make meditation more "fun" for me, as I think that for most of my rather "on-off" practice over the years, when I do get into it, I tend to go at it a bit too doggedly. I mean, with perhaps too much seriousness, and not much sense of pleasure. I suspect the metronome would not work for me. ;-) I mostly concentrate on my breathing when I'm doing formal practice. I don't work at home, unless I'm free-lancing, which hasn't been much lately. No, I work in your basic corporate office cubicle (with an image of the Buddha in one corner).
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 7:00 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 7:00 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: okir

Vince, thanks for the response. I do think you have a good point there, that the work setting can't very well accomodate "strong" meditation practice. One needs to be really into the work at hand, and remain flexible enough to be able to, yes, joke around w/co-workers, as well as deal with problems that come up, etc. In fact, I think that's probably why it's been, as I mentioned, "hard" to carry on a meditation practice in that setting. Well, yes, obviously that would be difficult.

I do think, however, that it may be good, every once in awhile (at work) for me to sort of check in with myself (a mini-break), and note what's going on physically. Recently I've been noticing a lot of muscle tension and restlessness, even when I'm just sitting there, typing.

I do appreciate your reminder to prioritize highly my formal practice time at home. And this is what I'm trying to do. I'm also using Daniel's suggestion to use a "resolve" ("for this period, I resolve to focus as much as possible on the rising and falling of my breath," etc.) before meditation. This has been very useful. Lately, my concentration has not been so great, but I notice that my dreams are already becoming much clearer, and I remember more of them when I awake. I still have strong intent to hold to my meditation practice this time, and I've been through enough challenges in my life by now that I don't have much fear of "dark night" situations. But I expect there will be surprises in store. I'm ready...
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 7:16 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/20/09 7:16 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: PaulMarshall

If you use Firefox, this might be a useful add-on - a mindfulness bell that rings at random intervals: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4997

Might not be ideal for use at work if you are not alone, but certainly useful at home.

Paul
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/21/09 5:19 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/21/09 5:19 AM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: WayneWI

Cool FireFox tool Paul!

Practice at work? That is when I am listening to Buddhist Geeks! ;)

I like the distinction that Vince has made. A certain momentum seems to be gained from regular, formal practice so I do not suggest using triggers or any other "daily life" applications of mindfulness as a substitute for formal time that is set aside for practice. More like a vitamin rather than sustenance. I hope you feel encouraged and motivated to develop and maintain your practice and if triggers help you do that, I am beside myself with joy emoticon

You might like this: http://www.superwisdom.com/ If you follow the links to the podcast site, they offer some kinesthetic awareness exercises in a few episodes that I have found helpful. These guys do not advocate a tradition and are not geeky about maps but I have found their information to be helpful to my practice. Actually - they get into the Bible and other "mystical" teachings in new ways that opened me up to truth in places I did not expect to find it. There is also a free e-course at the bottom. In there, you will find cards you can print "now statements" (I think these were developed by Vernon Howard) and I keep a couple of these in my planner (along with suttas that I am excited about at the time). This way I see them regularly and I think they are a pretty cool way to find the present whilst immersed in the chaos daily life. I establish my breath every time I read one of those.

Cant beat the advice Trent and Johnson offered. 10-15 minutes to "reset" seems to be a powerful tool in this practice. Keep it fun and keep it regular emoticon

I hope this is helpful to your practice, cheers!

Wayne
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Jeff Grove, modified 13 Years ago at 5/21/09 3:30 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/21/09 3:30 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 310 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Luckily I live an hour from work and catch an express train. One of my favourites is to be aware of the sound made as the train goes over each joint in the track. So there is just hearing, the awareness at the source and awareness and me in my seat. On the In breath there is just smelling and awareness of it. Then there is also appears to be smelling out in front/forward and hearing and awareness. On the out breath there is taste and then the touching from my feet on the floor and so on. It is all fresh and crisp and clear and empty a great way to start the day.

About triggers mentioned I heard that there is a similar technique used in Christian Monastries where there is a bell on the hour to remind a call to prayer and in Taoism one of my teachers suggested setting a watch to alarm on the hour, closing my eyes when it alarms catching the Shen returning/checking in
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/21/09 6:26 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/21/09 6:26 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: okir

Wow, what a fund of practical knowledge you all have! Thanks for the reading suggestions (Peong and Wayne), and to everyone, I appreciate your generous ideas, whether they are mindfulness bells, holosync, using my breaks, or what have you. There are so many ways to trigger awareness - I'm just trying to find what works for me. Because I work in a very "social" environment with long periods of focus on editing work, it seems there's little chance of acting upon triggers, and actually "going anywhere" with it. Trent and Hipster, I may try utilizing my break times a little more often for some "lite" practice, although I know it can't substitute for the formal. Once I get home, a nice trigger for me, before or after meditating, are the crickets (I live in a rural area, so there are a lot of them), and various birdcalls, especially hawks -- or the rustling of leaves, which feels like breathing when the wind comes up.

Since I've started this thread, I am already noticing how formal meditation seems to set up a rhythm and momentum of its own, and although I don't practice much (if at all) during work, the momentum of formal practice at home or in the sangha does seem to carry through during my day in various ways -- just in terms of things that I notice while driving home from work, being more aware of sensate experience, sounds, space, etc.

Jeff, for some reason I don't feel like I have much differentiated experience of the breathing yet -- it all seems kind of mundane, rising and falling, for now. But I'm trying to hone it on it. From following Shinzen Young's instructions, I do have some experience of pain (I used to get migraines for years, but pretty much gone now) breaking up into "particles" and transforming from intense hot misery to cool streams/"droplets" of light, and I hope I can get that kind of specificity in my experience of breathing.
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Emory Smith, modified 13 Years ago at 5/21/09 11:04 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/21/09 11:04 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 43 Join Date: 5/20/09 Recent Posts
sorry if im straying off-topic a bit, but wanted to comment on differentiation between in-breath and out-breath, which was a major breakthrough for me.

specifically, the notion that the majority of "new" thoughts arise during the in-breath. i forget where i read this (zen and the brain i think), but incorporating this into my practice made (and continues to make) a huge difference. i think of it kind-of like swimming through waves out into the ocean, where if i can just swim hard enough through the breaking wave (in-breath), then i can relax and coast down the back side of the wave (out-breath) without worry. not sure how true this really is (that thoughts present during the out-breath are simply a continuation of thoughts that arose during some previous in-breath) as i dont think my observation of mental events is yet acute enough to pinpoint exactly when a given thought arises, but it certainly seems to be true enough in my experience. and while it might seem from an objective point of view to simply cut the work in half, it really feels in my experience like a much better ratio than that, since you get a full half-cycle of rest and preparation before having to face the next breaker.

-emory
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 5/23/09 8:59 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/23/09 8:59 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
thats a nice way to put it, emory. do you notice, as well, if your mind tends toward spacing out on the out-breath? how is it for you? what are you doing (or what are you noting) during the 'rest and preparation' period?
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Emory Smith, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 4:08 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 4:08 AM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 43 Join Date: 5/20/09 Recent Posts
funny you should ask that ... its really the crux of the matter i think. was discussing this with wayne yesterday and here is what i sent to him:

one thing that makes a big difference for me is making sure to be prepared *before* the in-breath begins. so like, im cruising along in rest-mode through most of the out-breath, but just towards the end i have to remember "ah, here comes an in-breath" and reestablish my balance *before* the next wave hits. whenever i get distracted, i can almost invariably trace it back to having wandered into an in-breath while still cruising along in "out-breath mode".

so i guess i might say its sort-of like "relaxing mindfully" than spacing out. like letting off the gas as i cruise downhill, but without actually taking my foot off the pedal, and with the explicit intention to step on it again just before i hit the bottom of the hill. (this might be especially vivid for those who have run out gas at 2am while driving across rural montana ...) so i dont worry if my foot drifts a little while cruising, as long as my intent (i sometimes call it "remembering to remember") is sufficient to get me back on the dot in time.

(cont)
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Emory Smith, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 4:12 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 4:12 AM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 43 Join Date: 5/20/09 Recent Posts
and speaking of metaphors, the swimming metaphor is not entirely to my liking since it implies a very "active" sort of behavior. a more accurate (though not nearly as exciting) image is that of being pulled out through the waves by a boat with a long rope hanging off of it. so rather than having to swim, the challenge is simply maintaining one's grip on the rope, and allowing the process to proceed on its own. the breath differentiation comes in to play here with the realization that between waves, i can loosen my grip without slipping too much, and thus avoid getting worn out and dropping the rope altogether.

but the beauty of the situation (in the ocean or on the cushion) is that the breaking waves only go out so far and once you get past a certain point, they turn into mellow rolling waves. for me, this was an amazing discovery, that all i have to do is *get through the breakers* and then it gets easy. was also a bit embarrassing to think of the months i spent floundering around in the breaking waves for an hour at a time when a few minutes of hard, well-timed swimming (or roping) could take me right through to the gentle land of bobbing up and down.

(cont)
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Emory Smith, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 4:14 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 4:14 AM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 43 Join Date: 5/20/09 Recent Posts
sorry if im rambling here with all the metaphorical stuff (now you guys know how i spend my less attentive sessions), but getting back to tarin's question, i find that "spacing out" only starts to become a problem once you get past the breakers. for me, its been sort of like (in terms of shamatha map stages):

1 - jump in ocean, get washed up on beach
2 - find rope, wave hits, get tossed, find rope ...
3 - hang on like hell until exhausted, wave hits, get tossed, ...
4 - relax between waves and i avoid getting worn out
5 - get past the breakers and then i can chill

that is, until i reached the "tamed attention" stage, spacing out wasnt too much of a concern (it was all i could do just to keep my head above the water). but out in the rolling-wave territory, there arent any breakers to keep me on my toes (well, maybe a few here and there) so its easy to just let go of the rope altogether and enjoy bobbing. according to wallace, this shift from "excitation" to "laxity" as the primary obstacle, calls for a shift in strategy, from "relaxation" to "arousal". in terms of the ocean metaphor, i think of it like going from "hang on tight, relaxing your grip when possible to avoid exhaustion" to "hang on loosely, but tighten your grip frequently to avoid slippage".

for me, the key in either case is remembering to use the waves as a periodic reminder (pun intended), either to let up a bit or to push a little harder on the gas, and this means being able to clearly differentiate in-breath from out-breath.

well, i could go on and on with this stuff ... but im afraid i might start drawing waveform diagrams of the breath (sin t) superimposed on distractibility (cos t) and this would begin to look less like a discussion and more like a page out my meditation journal ... so best to stop now i think.

-emory
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 2:50 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 2:50 PM

RE: practicing at work

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: okir

emory, I tried your boat/rope towing metaphor yesterday, and found it to be pretty useful and natural, esp. since I live near the coast. Thanks for your thoughts on that. So, as I wrote in my meditation journal, "Settled pretty quickly into a nice round of soft attention to the breath, with occasional flashes of thought, and visualizing the ocean wave boat/rope metaphor that emory had mentioned; but after a few minutes ...mainly of the noting...e.g. “thinking about arising,” or “thinking about silence at end of breath,” noting that I was thinking about noticing. Breath fairly soft and flowing, and quiet. Fairly focused, enjoyable."

Then my cell phone rang; I forgot to turn it off, but had to answer because of refrigerator issue. And when I came back, I was in choppy water, so I found my self bobbing around rather roughly, but still managing to hold on (just), despite frequent immersions in thinking, planning, and unsatisfactoriness, etc.

I do wonder sometimes to what extent the metaphorical stuff can get in the way, though...but then I suppose thought is largely metaphor...I think (trying to remember from linguistics class). Oy. Yes, I think we are getting off the "practicing at work" thread.... ;-)

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