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In one of Eckhart Tolle talks (can't find the exact one yet) he mentions how most people "loose themselves" at/during "work". i.e. - lose awareness of body, emotions and thoughts.

For me this seems to be true - "digging deep", my consciousness becomes completely enmeshed in the academic or work at hand.

Although similar to this question, I see this answer of mindfulness as a general way of working.

But more specifically, is it possible for those fewer moments of very new, complex and complicated learning, to be like this?

I cannot see how they can coexist.

What would that look like and how is it done/practiced specifically?

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Awareness is your most natural or primary form of existence, and it is always in existence effortlessly throughout your experience.

When you are deep in work that is familiar to you, you get immersed or in a "flow" state because your mind agrees with the work for one reason or another, and therefore it is at ease being identified with the work. This clears the way for you to fully take the seat of your natural state of awareness and experience its effortlessness. Any relevant thought flows freely out of this pure awareness. Your mind and awareness are at one with the work. 

When the work is new, surprising, or complicated, your mind takes the lead and begins to identify with the challenge, trouble, or effort it is experiencing. This identity is cemented through conscious or subconscious thoughts like "I have to figure this out!" or "I can't figure this out!". This creates an energy of effortful strain that blocks the feeling of flow that you experience when you are fully in the seat of your awareness.

In order to fully take the seat of your effortless awareness while doing complicated work, you need to see that the work has nothing to do with your true, purest identity, which is the awareness itself. The attachment to "having to figure it out" must be let go so that you can relax, be open, and in acceptance of any possible outcome whether or not it may be deemed favorable.

While this may seem simple conceptually, it's not necessarily easy because of the habitual nature of the mind to create or attach to an identity that is not awareness. It often does this when it is taken off guard by high-contrast / reactive situations.

Meditation is a great way to confirm through experience that you are not your mind, thoughts or effort, and to build your mind's trust that it can detach from any other false identity. This will allow you to fully take the seat of your most pure identity, awareness.

Occasionally try looking directly at your awareness - become aware of your awareness - and try being aware of it in the context of your thoughts and identification tendencies.

This direct experience or "seeing" will gradually (and sometimes quickly) change the mind's habitual nature so that it won't react because of its identification position relative to the work. This trust within the mind will eventually draw you fully into the seat of awareness without a meditative exercise. This will enable you to undertake the thought process with great clarity and without a strenuous feeling, no matter the complexity of the work or situation.

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  • Very helpful thank you. Im trying to do it now as I write this comment, it is weird, like I ma here and not here? haha, will have to practice.
    – P.S.
    Mar 13 at 19:40
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I cannot see how they can coexist.

That's true. They can't coexist. Studying, doing academic work etc. is a mental activity. Practicing mindfulness meditation is also a mental activity. They can't coexist. One can be mindful of e.g. reading or thinking but that happens after the phenomena took place, not during.

The general advice is to try to take breaks during long hours of e.g. studying and practice mindfulness meditation during those breaks.

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Eckhart Tolle is not a Buddhist therefore his teachings are not related to Buddhism.

Buddhism instructs to have mindfulness & clear comprehension with whatever task you are doing.

If the task is immoral or wrong, mindfulness & clear comprehension will abandon doing the task.

The term 'clear-comprehension' ('sampajanna') means to understand how what you are doing fits or does not fit into the Buddhist Path. 'Sampajjana' is a factor of wisdom rather than a factor of zombie concentration. This video by a senior and intelligent Buddhist monk explains mindfulness & clear comprehension clearly.

Therefore, if your complex learning task is about creating new Green technologies that help the world, it can be done with mindfulness & clear comprehension, because it is clearly comprehended the task is not immoral & the task is beneficial.

But if your complex learning task is about creating new Nuclear or Drone Weapon technologies, it cannot be done with mindfulness & clear comprehension, because it should be clearly comprehended the task is immoral & should not be done.

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  • hmmm, that is interesting on the how it fits...Im not sure if all of s sudden very complex material would be easier to stay mindful with if it was for only good, but perhaps there is something to that...
    – P.S.
    Mar 13 at 20:29
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    the word "mindful" does not mean what you are inferring Mar 13 at 20:55
  • okay, probably not the right word, not sure how to describe it...maybe just the opposite of getting in flow state, but without strain
    – P.S.
    Mar 13 at 21:01
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Being exclusively task-focused can be improper:

AN10.61:2.13: I say that lack of mindfulness and situational awareness is fueled by something, it’s not unfueled.
AN10.61:2.14: And what is the fuel for lack of mindfulness and situational awareness?
AN10.61:2.15: You should say: ‘Improper attention.’

A clear example of this is thinking about a math problem while walking into a lamppost. Ouch!

Yet even if we are thinking deeply about the Dhamma while walking, we should not run into lampposts. We need to be situationally aware, and not obsessed. In particular:

DN34:1.6.73: ‘This immersion is peaceful and sublime and tranquil and unified, not held in place by forceful suppression.’
DN34:1.6.74: ‘I mindfully enter into and emerge from this immersion.’

A key benefit of walking meditation is its cultivation of situational awareness.

So where mindfulness inclines to task, situational awareness inclines to context. Getting stuck at either end or even in the middle isn't advisable:

AN6.61:11.1: ‘The sage has known both ends, and is not stuck in the middle. He is a great man, I declare, he has escaped the seamstress here.’Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”
AN6.61:12.2: “Yes, sir,” they replied.
AN6.61:12.3: The Buddha said this:
AN6.61:12.4: “Contact, mendicants, is one end. The origin of contact is the second end. The cessation of contact is the middle. And craving is the seamstress, for craving weaves one to being reborn in one state of existence or another.

In summary, pay appropriate attention and don't consume anything larger than your head. Learn incrementally, gently and in harmony with the rest of your life.

For those uncomfortable with the term "situational awareness", please substitute the Wikipedia definition of Sampajañña.

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    Situational awareness as in the widening of the visual field? Is situational awareness dependent on the senses, does it need form to occur?
    – Max
    Mar 10 at 16:24
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    @NeuroMax mindfulness and situational awareness relate to contacts and their origin. Grasping at either or both is suffering.
    – OyaMist
    Mar 10 at 23:19
  • Situational awareness is a ridiculous translation of sampajjana Mar 10 at 23:34
  • @Dhammadhatu, thank you. I've updated answer with Wikipedia link. Please restrain your negativity. Your feedback is valuable, but divisive.
    – OyaMist
    Mar 11 at 16:27
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    "don't consume anything larger than your head" - I think that would be womderful, but it seems to survive in the academic and business world this is the normal...or drinking from the fire hose as they say. How do we work with that reality ? Push back, like in Zen Programming?
    – P.S.
    Mar 13 at 20:32

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