Meditative Awareness at the Art of Data Entry

Last night I spent a few hours organizing the entries for What’s Up Yukon’s Food to Fly For contest, in which a lucky winner will be sent to Frankfurt courtesy of Condor Air.

Contestants wrote short essays on European cuisine worth hopping the Atlantic to experience. The deadline was April 30 and we received more submissions in the three days leading up to the deadline than we did in the previous three months.

Human nature, I suppose.

When the dust settled, we had collected approximately 60 essays and the job of consolidating and accounting for them fell to me.

There were two distinct aspects of this operation.

First, I had to transfer a given contest entry from my email inbox to a folder we had created in a computer program called Dropbox; I had to locate the relevant email, open it, download the attachment containing the Food to Fly For story, rename the document according to our agreed-upon coding system, and then save that document to the above-mentioned Dropbox folder.

Then I had to gather the name of the contest entrant, the title of her article; her email address and phone number (if one was provided) and plug all this information into a spreadsheet.

Then I did it all over again for the next entrant. And again after that — ad nauseum.

There is nothing difficult about any of the computer procedures listed above and the whole thing amounted to run-of-the-mill data entry. Still, I did not relish the perceived monotony of the job and procrastinated fervently (an oxymoron?) before finally settling down to brass tacks.

What I didn’t anticipate was the sense of calm I would derive from the ever-repeating operation.

True, the first half-dozen cycles were annoying. I had yet to nail down my proper cadence or establish a consistent order for all the tiny steps that contributed to the larger task.

But soon enough I started to feel it; a rhythm pulsing through my finger tips into my keyboard. The repetitive nature of the operations became trancelike; I grooved on it.

Would I sound like an idiot to say I was dancing with data? Most likely — so I won’t.

But I do have a few things to say.

Number one: peace of mind can strike at odd times, for odd reasons. Go with it.

Number two: the line between sheer boredom and meditative awareness might be fuzzier than we think.

And so it came to pass that on a Wednesday night like many others, I finished cataloging all of our Food to Fly For entries and went to bed with a calm disposition and a mysterious feeling of connectedness.


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