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I will try to fit that in a question so it will make sense in this forum: What are the resources a Buddhist can use during very hard times?

Currently I'm working 12h a day under a lot of pressure, everybody is so stressed out, on their limits, that it is easy to see all kinds of bad things: Anger, gossip, divisible speech, blame game, fears... we are living a serious economic crisis and no one wants to lose their jobs, people are terrified, this is the background.

Despite the hard times and the very long and stressful hours at work (that are killing my meditation practice) I'm trying, with not much success, to avoid bad kamma and protect my mind from this crazy situation, hoping it will pass next year. The problem is: I recognize I'm losing the battle, I'm being dragged by these things around me. So, what Buddhist tools can I use, assuming I will not have time for a decent meditation, assuming also the environment will not change and I cannot quit the job. Any advice?

  • There is a saying from Ajahn Chah : If you have time to breath, you have time to meditate. Use the breath as the guardian of your mind when those stressful situation arise. Watch the breath, make it calm and comfortable and do your best at handling the situation skillfully – user4878 Jul 24 '15 at 8:06
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This answer is based in the Mahasi Sayadaw Tradition.

Do you have any regular breaks during your day? Like short minute breaks or lunch breaks. If so you could use these breaks as "stations" for re-centering yourself before going back into the storm.

With 12 hour working days it's understandable that there is not much time for formal meditation. The best advice i know of is to carry the practice into your daily life, i.e. to work on staying mindful during the working day. Then how do do that in the middle of a storm?

It's about finding that still-center inside the tornado. In this center there is quiet and silent. That center is your abdomen. The rising and falling of the abdomen will take you back into the present. It will enable you to see things as they are and not to extrapolate on them, e.g. if a stressed out collague of yours decides to yell at you or say something infuriating then by noting it as "hearing, hearing" will let you see this as just being sound. If one is not mindful the mind begins to identify and take ownership of phenomena. It begins to extrapolate on phenomena and based on that cultivate a respons which might be to yell back or take revenge, thereby only adding to the suffering of oneself and others.

To try to avoid these situations and when things get hectic and begin to spin out of control then try to remember to bring your attention back onto the abdomen. Just a few seconds is usually enough to ground oneself in the present and thereby getting a hold of oneself. From there you can then decide how to act accordingly to the situation.

By remembering to center yourself throughout your working day you will be less likely to be tossed around by the waves. When mindful one is interacting instead of reacting to reality.

So to sum up. My best advice is to use your abdomen. Make a firm determination before going to bed in the evening, before going to work in the morning and throughout your working day (that's the hard part) to remember to center yourself by placing attention on the rising and falling sensation of the abdomen. Then note "rising, rising" or "falling, falling" accordingly to the motions of the abdomen.

Back when i was a student i would have stressed out days and a lot of engaging with many people on a regular basis. At these times it would be difficult to remember being mindful. So every morning i took a pen and drew a little "M" on my wrist. I drew it there because i usually looked at my hands during daily activities so then i would see the "M" and instantly turn mindful. It's a great tool to use until mindfulness are so powerful that one does not need it anymore.

I think this method could maybe help you out too.

Then you have 3 methods now.

First one is to make a firm determination to center yourself in evening, morning and throughtout the day. Second one is that you perform the actual centering throughtout your day, e.g. in the shorts breaks or better yet during activites and third one you have a safe guard in form of that little "M" on your wrist in order to remind you to center yourself.

I wish you the best of luck with your practice and your busy day. Remember all phenomena are impermanent. So hang in there and this situation will end too some day. Also never beat yourself up about not having time to practice. Practice accordingly to what your capacity is at a given time. A little practice is better than no practice.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions to what i wrote please let me know.

Click on photos for full size

image 1

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    Thanks! Loved the answers! I am listening to Dhamma in my car (going to work and when returning home), practicing a little meditation when I can and I will also use some ancor like your "M", great idea. Thanks! :) – konrad01 Jul 23 '15 at 16:57
  • Glad it was of help to you. I forgot to mention that in some lines of work they don't like visible tattoos and the little "M" could look like a tattoo. So if that is the case you could maybe draw something else like a telephone number or something less tattoo-ish. Important thing is to make a tag that will serve as a mindfulness-tool. – Lanka Jul 23 '15 at 17:04
  • Im adding in my laptop cause I stare at it 11h per day :) – konrad01 Jul 23 '15 at 18:34
  • I often advice my patients (those that are office workers) to get a yoga mat or an exercise ball for their office. Then they should replace their normal chair with the exercise ball for a couple of hours a day. This builds great strength in the core, increases circulation and blood flow and it keeps you mindful since you need to balance a bit to keep your posture. Like this: livestrong.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/… – Lanka Jul 23 '15 at 19:52
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In the movie "The Forbidden Kingdom", the main charactrer Jason expressed his fear and anxiety about a dangerous journey of crossing the desert to get the mountains. He shared his thought with the Silent Monk:

Jason Tripitikas: We're not going to make it are we?
The Silent Monk: [No response]
Jason Tripitikas: What if I can't handle it? What if I freeze?
The Silent Monk: [Monk slowly turns and smiles] Don't forget to breathe.

Excellent advice! On a physical level, maintaining a nice and calm breathing pace makes a direct positive impact on your mental state. So do it as often as you can. On a deeper psychological level, the monk suggested to be mindful of what's going on around you, which the other post already gave some good advice. Mindfulness always reduce any stressful situation level by at least 50%. Why? Any stressful situation requires 2 negative mental states: one of the other person, and one of yourself. While you cannot control what other people think, say, or do, you CAN control what you think, say, or do. Being mindful takes care that half on your part, hence the automatic reduction of suffering by 50%. Lastly, don't forget to go outside. Just take your 5-minute break and get out of the office building. Take a quick walk and breathe deeply the fresh air outside. Again, that mutual relationship of mind/body..

  • Good answer Santa. I like the quote from the silent monk. – Lanka Jul 23 '15 at 16:43
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I can sympathize with this difficult situation. I work in an industry where downsizing is done regularly and it takes its toll on people. You've received some good suggestions. The only thing I can add is to remind you that your formal sitting meditation can become a refuge from this stress and may be worth losing sleep to resume. Formal meditation before you go to sleep can help you relax and sleep better. In the morning it can help you steady and calm yourself for another challenging day. We can sleep less when we meditate so you won't necessary feel sleepy for having traded sleep time for meditation time; you may even feel more energized and focused which can only help. Best wishes. :)

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You should speak with your boss about having a meditation break added into the work day for all employees. This would definitely increase productivity if everyone was given the opportunity to calm their mind and re-focus their attention.

  • And probably a reduction in sick leave and absences from work due to stress and other conditions. – Lanka Jul 23 '15 at 23:50

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