John Alexandra, author of The Wisdom of Being, doesn't say that what we do is meaningless, but brings an entirely different aspect to the question.
You are a respected chef. You work long hours at high intensity and suffer from the volatile temperament and high blood pressure this entails.
Or you are a business factotum, fighting deadlines while competing with others who want your job. In this burn up and spit out environment, you're holding your own, but just.
Or you're an academic, cushioned against life, but in a tenure that's low-paid and uncertain. The others in your department are bitchy and panned your last publication.
Does what you do matter?
To you, at least, it does.
But in a few years, you'll be gone. No one will care or know you existed and your life and work will be as inconsequential as dust.
There's a far greater problem.
You don't exist now!
To come at this from a different angle—it doesn't matter what you do. It matters how you do it.
But even that doesn't convey it.
What matters—let us say—is if you are there in the midst of the process of doing it. (I can guarantee you're not.)
An example: I am sawing wood with a handsaw. My head is full of thoughts, not about what I am doing but about the woman I'm going to see tonight. Then about the thing I'm making. Then what I have in the fridge to eat. And the emotions kick in, too. I'm bored with the sawing. My arm is getting tired... In fact, I'm in a constant mechanical daydream, doing anything but attending to the job. And even if I were more careful—tried to keep to the pencilled line, put less effort into the thrusting and let the weight of the saw do the work—became a better workman—it would still be automatic.
Because where am I in all this?
I don't exist.
We live our lives like this. We never do one thing well—that is to say, wholeheartedly, with the whole of us—but live in our daydreams, resentments and regrets.
We never do anything.
We are done.
We're simply a series of chaotic reactions. A process.
In other words, we never exist in our manifestations.
Even that is not stated clearly enough.
We need to live behind them.
Is there, somewhere, a small part of me that could do this?
If there were, and I could remember it, in the midst of all my activities, of everything, of every setback and so-called success, it would utterly transform me and my life. And even the lives of others.
But I can't.
The only possibility would be to find an anchor. Something in me that could anchor me. Again, such a task is impossible. Because I'd forget it every moment. But if I'm serious enough to find a way out of the prison of myself—that won't deter me.
Ready to attempt the impossible? Ready to begin?
Baby steps first. Be aware of your posture. That is to say, be mindful of it. Don't think 'be aware of the posture'. That's not it. And don't try to alter the posture to something more acceptable. Don't change anything. That's not the exercise either.
Be aware of the position of the head sitting on the spine. The position of the arms and legs. Not externally aware of them but from inside in a wordless watching way. Are you trying it? Now, whatever you do, stay with that.
Of course, you'll forget every moment—which shows you exactly where you are. Unable to resist the outward distraction for more than seconds.
I'm asking you to be in two places at once.
Put most of your attention on the posture and let the rest go on more or less automatically. Try it with small repetitive tasks first—sweeping the floor or raking leaves. Not while driving or using machinery. You don't have enough attention yet for that.
Try that honestly, consistently, and you'll begin to understand the joy of not being caught by your life. The advantage of remaining behind everything you do and everything life can throw at you.
If you get that far, you're already at the threshold of something.
When you have thoroughly tried this task over weeks and understand the advantage of it, I suggest you read The Wisdom of Being.
(And if you are still interested in this inquiry—if it desperately matters to you— you may then, and only then, write to me at email@example.com.)