I have read this question but I'm seeking more advice.

So it is quite obvious in the activity of software programming that we cannot help but think about programming concepts and also end up creating objects as concepts (as in Object Oriented Programming) and make something work.

Now, I understand their usefulness in the context of what I am working on.

Invariably, I get flustered and frustrated sometimes when something doesn't work because I am lost in the process of creation of that thing which I am currently working on, the cause being I am not mindful. Because mindfulness means there is an observer observing the mind and thoughts, which may lead to emotions. But in this activity the mind is busy creating things which would work on a system.

Also, sometimes work is incomplete, and you do get an urge to work on something but also you could spend the time to do samatha or vipassana. How to decide efficiently in these cases?

How to balance mindfulness, be equanimous and pursue this kind of creative activity at the same time? Or is this a curse that you cannot do it effectively in the process of creativity?

I would like to know if someone dealt with this and how? Thank you.

  • 1
    learn to walk in two directions at once
    – Ryan
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 12:27
  • A beginning would be to give his skills, what about programming and doing art for those who are walking the path, or are interested to walk it. As for livelihood, let it be livelihood, just doing your task and avoiding to harm others as well as your self with you. As for the practice after you have fulfilled the first step generosity, the second virtue, concentration: there is no place for creativity at all. Creativity it's just needed to fight against of all what is an obstacle for the path., Mr/Mrs BlackFlam3. So what comes up that hinders you just to make your duty or just to give?
    – user11235
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 5:56
  • @SamanaJohann I think what you're saying is a good simplification . Since my job involves creativity, there might be hindrance to mindfulness. Anyway. I understand what you said and I think that's good enough.
    – esh
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 6:20
  • 1
    There is seldom a livelihood that does not requires creativity aside of walking the holly live as a strange beggar. So let the job be the job and just observe what is going on and why. Changing ones livelihood it not so easy even it is the end of the virtue path and entrance of the concentration path. It does not mean that it is not the best to make live one, also not to work just like a robot. Its a fine ans step by step work, like making a Buddha image, the same is with the creativity to make your self perfect and it would not always work. Would you give up?
    – user11235
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 6:29

6 Answers 6


Yes it's a problem.

To some extent an impossible problem, in the sense that ...

The Difficult We Do Immediately. The Impossible Takes a Little Longer.

Quote Investigator also gives that as,

"If it's possible, it's done. If it's impossible it will be done.

I get flustered

Anyway, I read "I get flustered" as saying that when the going gets difficult then you suffer a crash.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance talks about this (which can happen as the result of some "set-back") as a "gumption trap" or "loss of gumption".

The way I perceive it as that I need to use my head for storage: my head is meant to be running (or at least simulating the running of) the software, simulating input data (possibly several data, all possible data), keeping in mind the expected output, comparing my model of the needed software with my observtion of the actual software, understanding the "steel threads" while using hygienic techniques to sanitize any errors paths. If there's a setback (e.g. an emotional setback) then I might lose all that and it takes a while to reconstruct it. If I'm (emotionally) unwilling then the afflictive emotion is what occupies (clouds) the head. And repeated setbacks might tend to train you to feel aversion (which is a vicious cycle).

See also Are mindfulness and flow related -- I wanted to find the answer[s] to that useful, but haven't yet.

My little understanding of flow is two-fold:

  • If you use a scanner (perhaps an MRI) to look at brain activity, they say a a brain in 'flow' state is less active than unusual, i.e. there are various parts of the brain which aren't active; perhaps that's like, those other parts of the brain are distractions, or like, various flaps and spoilers and undercarriage and so on is folded away when an airplane is cruising.
  • Flow state happens when the difficulty of the work is in a Goldilocks zone: not too easy (which is so boring that it doesn't hold your attention), and not too difficult (which a mind that wants to experience success might be averse to).

Consequently, two bits of advice:

  • Avoid distractions
  • If the work is too difficult then simplify it (e.g. analyze it, write it down, automate testing, etc.).


  • If you stop working because you care too much, because you identify with the failing software, then try to be a bit more dispassionate
  • Conversely if you stop working because you care too little, then maybe reflect a little more on the (real world) consequences

A technique which can help is incremental development: take it from one working (satisfactory albeit non-final/temporary) state to the next ... perhaps like Tai Chi walking where you maintain balance during and after each step, or like rock-climbing where you move from one safe hold to another.

and frustrated sometimes when something doesn't work

It's not going to "work" until it's 'finished'. The majority of your time is with it unfinished and therefore in a non-working state ... so you can't afford to get too personally upset about that, perhaps like a doctor couldn't afford to get too upset with everyone's illnesses (or a garbage collector with people's garbage).

Perhaps ideally you'll see that "not working" as a fault of the software (not a fault of you), and identify what and how to add to or remove from the software (including, your model of the software).

However the dissatisfaction you feel with non-working software is why they're paying you (to work with it) and why you're motivated to fix it: the subjective experience needn't be entirely pleasant all the time.

I guess that I may be more of a "feeler" than a "thinker" (than most other programmers are) on the MBTI, so I use my feelings (e.g. "satisfying" or "not satisfying") as a tool which gives me feedback of whether the software is working. I can't wholly recommend that (it has drawbacks) but that's maybe what I have to work with.

If you're aware you've become "frustrated" then a change in pace or situation might help (see also "the aha! moment"); I won't recommend you go for a cigarette, but maybe take a walk outside.

How to decide efficiently in these cases?

A traditional way to do that is with a clocked schedule:

  • "For the next hour, I'm going to be working"
  • "I'm going to work from 14:00 to 17:30 with a short break each hour"

Whether that's "efficient" I can't tell you. Some other people swear by "being in the zone" at irregular hours.

I would like to know if someone dealt with this and how?

Perhaps it's obvious they do. Maybe they master it, continue to practice it, and experience its "three characteristics" too.

  • Another "Feeler" programmer! Yay! The thing I tell my students most is that programming can be very frustrating...
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 17:46

I get frustrated when something doesn't work ... the cause being I am not mindful ... which may lead to emotions.

Frustration is a good example of Dukkha (the painful feeling of wrongness). It is generated from mismatch between "how things are" and "how they should be". If you look carefully once you are already frustrated - you will see this mismatch right in front of your nose. Then it's up to you to let go of "how they should be" idea. If you let go, the dukkha will subside. If you keep grasping, the dukkha will keep getting generated. Sometimes the right choice is to pay with dukkha for something bigger. But most often accepting "how things are" is a wiser choice, even if it goes against our foolish heart.

Also, sometimes work is incomplete, and you do get an urge to work on something but also you could spend the time to do samatha or vipassana.

Same problem. You have a conflict between "is" (work) and "should" (meditation). Let go of this conflict and you will be good. That is the real mediation, the higher kind of meditation.


This is a good question, because in the modern world, we mostly create benefit by using our minds, and most people cannot simply become immersed in traditional mindfulness practices and retreat situations most of the time. We need to discover the "one mind" in our little minds, while minding what we do, without minding what happens along the way. Mind you, this is a lot to ask.

I was a programmer for 12 years, creating complex things that got used commercially. I am familiar with frustration, and elation. Now I teach programming to adults making a career change, and I tell that that programming is frustrating! But, as my Guru says, "There is no 'problem'. We are the problem." You are frustrated. As you say, there is observation of this fact. With observation and reflection come the possibility of awareness and knowledge. So you are on the right track.

It might seem that using the mind to create mental models and concepts (such as in programming) is somehow more ensnaring than other types of work. Perhaps. But if your observer sits with you and helps you remain connected inwardly, then this gets better. There is no fundamental obstacle to conceptual work being also mindful. Eventually, your observer has done a good enough job and dissolves. Then there is no one to get ensnared, frustrated, or wonder if it is being done correctly. (This is nonduality.)

For your other question, deciding what is best to do, how to balance work, practice, rest, etc: that is more practice. Make a decision, observe what happens, reflect. There is no way out of this, it is how life is. Good luck!

ADDITION: Whew, this is a thicket if I ever saw one. Related questions about Mindfulness and so on swirling like a storm of words... Here is how I experience all of this, if it does not clear it up for you, perhaps your mind simply functions differently than mine.

My consciousness is a collection of points of view. I see the functioning of the mind as a bunch of "bubbles of awareness" of varying sizes, more or less known to me at any given time. In an alpha state, or perhaps a nondual state, it feels as though my entire consciousness is a single, silent point of view, but of course small bubbles are constantly arising below awareness and causing small effects, which might grow and distract me again. One cannot live one's life in an alpha state! My model of multiple points of awareness in the mind has scientific backing, but I came to it from my own experience.

My mind includes 4 past life personalities (which I no longer have a view on whether they are "true" or not, they are relics of earlier in my life). A few years ago, I created about 5 "personality facets", based on my understanding of the Archetypes, in an attempt to develop more areas of my abilities. I have other experiences of "voices" and things going on inside that I will not attempt to categorize. To me, all of this is just the simple functioning of a creative mind. We can model other minds, so it is obvious that we can model and construct personalities in our own minds. This is the basis for part of Transpersonal Psychology. (I found out about that long after I created my facets.) Also, I have one "Accompanying Voice" which I do not see as part of myself at all. I learned what it was once, but the understanding was so powerful that my mind halted and rejected it. (So I can't tell you what it is.) My facets and past lives comment on my life, have emotional reactions (often two or more of them at once), converse with each other, paint, write books and do other things. It is like living in a busy household. This is my normal state. Everyone I have described it to understands and finds me sane, although different from themselves. I call it, being a Creative Person.

I have long thought of my mind as my "experimental laboratory": I get to try things out and see how they work. When we come to questions like "who is watching the watcher" etc, I see these as just silly. Consciousness is "whatever it does" and does not need a definition from us. However, it did not come with an Owner's Manual, so we need to discover how it works as best we can and learn how not to fall in to error. Some ideas are approximations, some are tools, some are crutches, and many are crippling.

Krishnamurti's Master when he was a boy said: "You are not your mind, but it is yours to use." Have fun!

  • 1
    I'm grateful you will answer this. The core of the solution you propose seems to be the 3rd paragraph: i.e., "your observer", and "being also mindful". Re. the latter, I'm not sure what "mindful" means: mindful of, i.e. remembering, what? Or if mindfulness is an egoless/involuntary state of attention (e.g. "remaining mindful of the software without being distracted") then maybe that begs the question: how to do that, what or who does that, isn't the need to decide that itself a distraction (e.g. in the way that this site has a separate "meta" site)? What technique will overcome "frustration"?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 0:06
  • As for the former, maybe "(distinct) observer" implies some personified detachment ... should I assume that "observer" is not observing the software, but is supervising "you" to ensure you are "keeping your nose to the grindstone"?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 0:09
  • Perhaps ^ this was my question more so than pursuing creative activity itself. The "observer" observing the mind. The extra layer that is installed. What does it do when we are off creating these complex concepts?
    – esh
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 2:19
  • 1
    @Chris I hope that the Addition I made will question all your answers. Stop. Reverse that... Wait. Got it right the first time. Proceed.
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 15:09
  • @BlackFlam3 I hope that the Addition gives you some things to consider. I cannot propose my way as "the best way", it simply works for me. To answer the question in your comment "^": the Observer functions without doing anything. Think of how you behave when you know people are able to see you (in a cafe) vs alone. Do you pick you nose in public? To paraphrase Rumi: the intensity of the (feeling of being observed) does all the work. It is very simple. Some day, all the awarenesses begin to fuse, and it gets very exciting (the Neo state), and later it all burns up and goes away. Inevitable.
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 15:23

Vedana is also a cetasikacetasika (mental concomitant). When the Buddha says, sabbe dhamma vedana samosaranasabbe dhamma vedana samosarana, it means that the experience of all mental concomitants includes and is inseparable from vedana.

Why Vedana and What is Vedana?

Whenever you are doing creative activity it creates sensation or mental stimulations which are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. In situations like this you have to keep equanimity and knowing the arising and passing nature of the sensations. The following answer has more detail.

  • Good link about Vedana. Need to read more. Thank you and +1
    – esh
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 6:42

Actually very unsuitable, not only because IT-section and virtue are two different worlds, but because steady focus on reaction, requiring a lot of resources and do not easy give mindfulness on the foundations place. Also the use of the most stuff produced is not really for beneficial objectives but focuses on binding others and so one get"s of cause bound as well.

As less programmers actually really know their job at the base, but take form here and there, all the time, a great punch of debts is always co-created.

Huge and fantastic concentration is required, great if capable in such, yet one should think about ones potential to use it for something that goes toward lasting.

If caught in such a livelihood, one should put much effort, like always, into developing right view, resolve and right virtue (ending with right livelihood).

The IT-ideas are a good sample how unwise people thought of giving others more independence and in effect make all more and more defuse depending on each other. Think on the relative clear dependency of a ordinary painter or brick-layer, someone who had learned a skill by a master, something that IT-world is totally void of and therefore huge physical and mental problems in this area with fast growing tendency.

(Note: Not given for trade, exchange, stacks or other that binds to the world but for liberation and beyond)


Its a major problem but .I think if you do it unconsciously it comes with the frustration of not working rightaway as well as finding out later that you've been short sighted and hasty .But doing it consciously lets you respect the size of the work and direct your effort wisely .

Unconscious mind works like parallel processing it has a rewarding effect in finding creative solutions through relations between seemingly unrelated information and sometimes if you are attuned you can work so fast thats why you and I get attached to it in the creative process sometimes you don't even know how you solved the problem but if it takes over the mind completely it will be chaotic undirected and your programming will be narrow and shortsighted.

This is where the conscious mind comes in it works like serial processing it takes one piece of information after another sends feedback with instructions to the unconscious like you input values to a calculator then the unconscious produces a solution to it back it works in a loop and the unconscious gets hardwired to doing the operations in the process.So it essentially programs the unconscious.It is slower than the unconscious because its not automated but it is open to new information and acts accordingly.

So in understanding the relationship one should be conscious/mindful about the thoughts received from the unconscious by first giving instruction asking a question .Ex: "what can I do to solve this problem ?" .then watch whatever that arises and know its there its quality and according to that information you ask another question correcting the direction of your work as you go on.

If you became advanced in this then you reach effortless effort where you become aware of the thoughts mentally real-time this is the ultimate mastery.

This is the best I have understood so far hope you find solace in your seeking.

Now let me finish with this quote

In the cognized there is only the cognized lord Buddha

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