I realized that my use of social media always involves doing something else, and if I am on the internet I might also be on social media. Thus, I am always multitasking seemingly.

How does the mind process multitasking? Is it possible to be mindful of each task (e.g. social media and writing a text) one after the other, or is such a thing impossible?

EDIT: By one after the other I mean for a short amount of time, going back and forth between the tasks.


6 Answers 6


Mindfulness(Sati) and one-pointedness(Samadhi) are 2 different things. Technically speaking, the mind cannot take multiple objects at once. So there is no such thing as multitasking with the mind. You feel like you are multitasking because the mind keeps switching so fast. So it is possible to be mindful while you are on so called 'multitasking'.

On the other hand, in the realm of mindfulness, the internet does not exist! Social media does not exist! 'I' does not exist! There are only four types of mindfulness: mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of sensations, mindfulness of mental activities and mindfulness of phenomena. So be careful of what you consider as 'mindfulness'.

  • Exactly correct what you've said sir! "So there is no such thing as multitasking with the mind." +1 Sir, I've heard that more bhavanga citta are arisen in between citta veeti in an ordinary being. That's why we feel we are slower than others who are spiritually in a higher level than us. And also I've heard that Lord Buddha was/is/will be able to switch between two Jhana with one bhavanga citta in between. That's the reason for only Lord Buddha can do Yamaka pātihāriya (The Twin Miracle). Am I correct?
    – Damith
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 3:08
  • Not sure about that @Damith. But I've heard that the Buddha is able to attain the Jhanas between each word he speaks. Bhavanga cittas are results of your birth Karma. So I'd think that the quality of the Bhavanga cittas and the level of intelligence you possess at birth has something to do with the strength of the birth(janaka) Karma. But that is something we cannot change now. So I would say Panca Nivirana(five hindrances) are the main reason to slow down a person's spiritual progress. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 6:29
  • I'm just wondering: what exactly is entailed by 'phenomena' for that type of mindfulness?
    – user7302
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 10:36
  • Buddhism aside, your representation of human mind is nonsense. You basically claim that the brain is a single CPU doing time sharing based multitasking. This is completely and utterly wrong. Human brain is a massively parallel system, more similar to the Internet than a single CPU. It ABSOLUTELY does not work by assigning time slices to individual thoughts, it is running millions of process independently in parallel.
    – Davor
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 11:49
  • @Eggman 'Phenomena' here refers to 'Dhammas'. There's no completely accurate English word to capture the meaning of this word. You could also translate it as realities. This category contains many groups of mindfulness objects. Ex: the 5 hindrances, the 6 senses, 5 aggregates, 7 factors of enlightenment etc. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 13:34

I'm multitasking right now, spinning disks on Dharmawheel Media Music thread, and writing on one of my favorite topics. Multitasking puts things in a stereo or synesthesia effect, it's why you can't remember even how you got there later, it's the conjunction of several streams of experience at once. It's got an important value at the opposite end of the spectrum and is maybe just as important as sati in my opinion.

Sati, often translated as "Mindfulness" actually only means "remember". Remember the breath. Remember to look both ways when crossing the street. Remember your order of operations in maths. It's not a mental function we don't already possess. What's unique in Buddhist meditation is remembering what? The object of meditation. It's a single thing. It's using the object to exercise the remembering. This is how rigorous training in sati leads directly to insight and Wisdom, because it trains us in remembering the Dhamma, and it's lessons. Useless to an untrained mind.

But back to multitasking for a minute: it is the corollary of play, what we did as children. When we were children, we exercised the ability to lose ourselves in play, which is essentially shedding the ego. Nothing in the Dhamma is without the elements we have in ordinary life, but it is having them discipline us in skillful means. Gradually, everything becomes the Path, because it is the Path.

In the Rose-Apple story, both sati and play are elements leading to jhana. Eventually, Siddhartha remembered this.

MN 36 PTS: M i 237

Maha-Saccaka Sutta: The Longer Discourse to Saccaka translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

"I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.' I thought: 'So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?' https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.036.than.html


The mind can't take multiple objects simultaneously. But the ordinary mode of the human mind is to try to do everything at once, be restless and go to the future as soon as possible. That's why ordinary human mind is in the confusion mode and is stressfull, suffering most of the time. Humans must do simpler things and must do things slowly. Humans are living in such a way that is completely out of the ability of human body and mind, that's why human suffering is increased in the last centuries and especially with the internet and with the increase of using technology. The abrupt climate change with it's catastrophic results is also a great proof that the "normal" way of living is insane and not suitable for humans and the world.

Mindfulness is knowing that ordinary human mind is crazy, therefore, do one thing at a time without trying to finish it.(If the desire to finish the task arises then observing the desire to not get into the restless mode again).

Also mindfulness leads people to take part of their attention to within body(but it transcends the "physical" body because the physical body is just a concept)-no matter what they are doing. In the high spiritual stages this becomes continous and is natural/spontaneous but it can't be described as multitasking because it is the most natural/ordinary thing and it must be all of the humans ability-in order to get out of the ordinary human suffering mode and to have peace and happiness all the time.


Honestly, I don't believe so, because the concept of multi-tasking is fundamentally at odds with the concept of single-pointed concentration. It's impossible to truly be mindful of the present task if at least part of your focus is on whatever the other task(s) are. (If you could be, then you wouldn't really be multi-tasking.)


I read elsewhere that, when you're supposed to be doing something and you do something else instead, then the cause for that (doing something else) may be an unwillingness or inability to handle a "bad mood".

For example:

  • You're supposed to be "on-task" (whatever that task is).
  • Something happens -- e.g. you reach a difficult or repetitive bit of the task, or something you tried didn't work, or a subtask which you were enjoying ended, or you start on a new bit where you risk failure
  • That "something" threatens a bad mood -- e.g. anxiety, failure, boredom, social conflict
  • To avoid that you switch to something else (e.g. social media) which you find (or used to find) easy and relatively or reliably "rewarding" -- e.g. because you enjoy it, or because it's non-threatening

If that's so, then doing social media -- in order to unconsciously avoid a mood like anxiety or boredom -- maybe wouldn't be considered "mindful".

And it's not "multi-tasking", it's "half-tasking" -- i.e. instead of staying on-task full-time, you switch away or switch off frequently, in order to try to replenish or to sustain your mood with input from (i.e. depending on) interacting with social media.

Also, in a Buddhist context, the word "mindfulness" might imply a mindfulness of something -- "mindfulness of breathing", for example. I find that if I'm absorbed in a task then I don't notice, I'm not paying attention to, other things. If you engage with social media perhaps that's instead of being mindful of whatever it is you ought to remain mindful of -- for example the main task, and/or some Buddhist doctrine, and/or breathing -- if you're engaged in a task and encounter an emotional setback, e.g. some anxiety, perhaps it's better to keep breathing for a little while, than to turn your attention to social media.

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    Supposing one multitsasks with social media from loneliness, would waiting things out make such socially-oriented states pass?
    – user7302
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 10:37

From DN22, we have:

Furthermore, a mendicant acts with situational awareness when going out and coming back; when looking ahead and aside; when bending and extending the limbs; when bearing the outer robe, bowl, and robes; when eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting; when urinating and defecating; when walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, waking, speaking, and keeping silent.

In this manner, one can practice Right Mindfulness in situations encompassing many tasks.

First consider that if I am studying a sutta while driving, that would be wrong mindfulness.

However, if study the sutta by simultaneously searching many websites, having conversations on different forums with many people that all converge towards the goal of right understanding of that sutta, then that would be right mindfulness.

In this way multi-tasking is fine in some situations.

  • good point but I am not convinced. But is difficult to me to elaborate the reasons why I do not fully agree, Maybe would be better find a priority and be in that priority and then select one web site per time Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 22:26

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