One of the several advertised benefits of listening to audiobooks is that it is an ideal activity to accompany those many chores, such as washing the dishes, doing the laundry, running outside etc., that considered all together subtract a considerable amount of free time.

For normal people doing this may look like a great idea, but as a meditator and buddhist practitioner I also see which dangers are there in relation to the mindfulness practice. In particular, I am afraid that by listening to audiobooks or, more generally, by conducting too many activities all at once, I may easily undo the effects of concentration meditation and mindfulness or lead my mind too astray.

Even though I'm planning to do the experiment myself, I would nevertheless like to ask: have you ever been able to integrate your mindfulness practice with doing multiple activities at the same time? What have been, specifically, the results regarding listening to audiobooks, provided you have ever tried this?

  • 1
    In my experience, multi tasking is really hard. I can't do any but the simplest of tasks while listening to an audio book without taking away some of the joy of listening to it. When running, I need to concentrate on the ground and my feet and all of my body and I couldn't do that with headphones. But I'm not sure this can or should be generalized to all people. Best just try it for yourself.
    – Nobody
    Sep 11, 2016 at 17:36

6 Answers 6


In my experience, though I'd hardly call myself a mindfulness expert, I don't feel audiobooks and the small level of multitasking they allow me to take on really negatively affect my mindfulness.

I guess, truly, the challenge is to resist the temptation to multi task or listen to books when you SHOULD be being mindful. I suppose everyone's mileage varies, but I became an avid audiobook listener before beginning my mindfulness practice.

Mostly I listen to these while driving or if I'm doing some menial tasks like cleaning. These aren't exactly places and times I find myself practicing really being present anyway.

Just my 2 cents. Hope it helps someone. :)


No, I wouldn't recommend a practitioner to multi-task while working. As Alan Watts explained,

"Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes."

Your job as a practitioner is not to think about anything while working. It is through work that mind-body falls away. What does that mean? While washing the dishes your job is to only concentrate on washing the dishes. No aim, no goal, no thoughts, no expectations, no Buddha but washing dishes. This is your practice. No thinking, "I am washing the dishes" or "I am not thinking while washing dishes" because you're not allowing mind-body to fall away. Simply wash the dishes with non-thinking. Here's a quote by Bodhidharma,

"Not thinking about anything is zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is zen.

Finally, I want you to consider why you're wanting to multi-task? Does your mind get bored? Are you trying to avoid certain sensations? Is it hard to concentrate? Does your mind get frustrated in the silence? Why are you wanting to entertain the mind? This is your practice.


What matters is how you want to do a particular activity and how important it is to you in the worldly context. You can take your Buddhist practice to an activity that you are doing and do it with as much focus as possible, like you and your mind don't exist. Only the activity is happening. That's how it is done. Choiceless awareness of the activity.

This mindfulness word has been marketed or thrown around a lot. It doesn't mean anything apart from a latest marketing fad. It is not a proper translation of any Buddhist term like Jhana or Dhyana. This may be my opinion but I have shut off all this marketing terms or practices and listening to audiobooks (or whatever people like to dump their mind with garbage from society).

Keep things simple, do one thing and do it fully. Nothing matters but the awareness of the task at hand. That's the essence of activity in Buddhist terms. If you look at Zen, you'll understand what they are getting at.

Now it depends on you.

  • "mindfulness has been marketed...", well said and good observation! i totally agree with u :)) Feb 12, 2017 at 7:22

When you multi-task you do not give the fullest attention to what you do. Also you may think that you are multi-tasking, but in reality you are not. Just see how the following things happen so quickly when our five senses comes in contact with the related one of the outside? For instance, when body, tangible object and consciousness come together, there arises contact. With the arising of contact, simultaneously, there arises feeling (vedana) – feeling born of body contact. Since feeling is conditioned by contact, feeling differs in accordance with the change of contact. Then, there is the recognition of perception. This is called sañña (perception). These things happen so quickly when our five senses comes in contact with the related one of the outside, that only a highly developed and ‘quiet’ mind can differentiate the time difference.

Jhana can be said as a sense of wellbeing and stability you can develop from within. For this one has to close all other doors, and have open only one sense door – leaving no room for ‘multi-tasking’. Only inside Jhana, can the sapta bodhyanga (Seven factors of enlightenment) can be fully developed. For this one has to practise Samatha and Vipassana properly. Then a different kind of ‘multi-tasking’ takes place. When you are practicing concentration, you are developing several factors of the Noble path at once. There’s right resolve, the resolve to renounce sensuality, to find a pleasure that’s not involved with sensual passion; right mindfulness, which is the theme of right concentration; and right livelihood, looking after your needs in a skillful way.


Multitasking or engaging in activities like listening to audiobooks is not an issue for mindfulness. What is needed is Wise Attention, i.e., being free from unwholesome roots, hindrances and Vipallasa.

On hearing a sound with the ear,
one investigates the sound that is the basis for mental joy,
one investigates the sound that is the basis of mental pain,
one investigates the sound that the basis of equanimity.

Dhātu Vibhaṅga Sutta similarly in Titth’ayatana Sutta

Also be aware of your reaction to the content agreeable or likable, disagreeable or unlikable, indifferent. These are what leads to the sensations of joy, pain or equanimity above.

So what ever you hear know impermanence of the sensations what arise with it and be equanimous. Being equanimous displaces aversion and craving and seeing impedance displaces ignorance. [Pahāna Sutta] Having Wise Attention all 8 Path Factors develop automatically. [Yoniso Manasikāra Sampadā Sutta]


When you visit & stay in Buddhist centers, you listen to audio talks about Buddhism while you meditate. Deep meditation & listening to audio can occur at the same time. Therefore, I doubt listening to audio information impairs meditation. I listen to as much audio information as I can (rather than read books) since I have never been partial to reading books.

As for multi-tasking, meditation can help a lot there. A nibble mind can multi-task better.

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