Thursday, November 3, 2011
Some time ago, I tried a challenge for myself- I did my best to try to go for a week, I believe it was only a week, without multi-tasking. Like I said, I believe it was only a week. It felt, however, like an eternity. I was inspired by an article I read in which the author tried this challenge for a month. I was inspired also by troubling multi-tasking habits that I had developed. Eating while being on the computer was the big one. It seemed that I couldn't eat alone without being in front of the computer. I was so bored when I would eat by myself. It was really difficult. But eating while looking at the computer was taking away from my really tasting my food. So I tried my hardest for a week to uni-task only. The challenge felt like a failure. It served to make me more aware of my multi-tasking tendencies, but it did little to change them.
I recently spent 5 days in silence at a meditation retreat. As I drove myself home from that extraordinary experience, I did simply that. I drove. No radio. No thinking about my day, no rehearsing that conversation that I wanted to have with a certain someone. No planning my next dance class. No filing my nails. Yes. I do that. Name a massage therapist who doesn't. But on this drive I didn't even think about doing any of those things. I simply drove. And as I drove I noticed how many people I passed who were clearly driving with divided focus- talking on their cell phones, eating, texting. I recently queried my friends about what they have witnessed drivers do behind the wheel. Shaving. Reading. Eating cereal. Putting on makeup. Brushing one's teeth. That one bears repeating. Brushing one's teeth. (And spitting out the window!)
For a few days after the retreat I actually lost the ability to multi-task. Arriving at friend's house a bit early, I caught her finishing up a some computer work, so I just sat in silence while she continued. I was very content just sitting. She offered up music, but I was happy with the silence. Anyone who spends any time with me knows that I have a tendency to grab my phone impulsively if the person with me picks up his or her phone, or if they leave the room, or if there is simply a lull in the conversation. Must See If Someone E-mailed Me. Must See If Someone Liked Me On Facebook. Must See If I Am Loved. But, I didn't even have that urge. I just sat there. And I was content. In fact, I was way more content, way more filled up, than if I had checked my smart phone and discovered that 42 of my friends and God himself had liked my status message. That moment, just sitting there, felt very full to me. Nothing more was needed.
My favorite result of being so mindful for so many days, is that I get a lot more pleasure out of eating. Right after I got home I helped myself to three dried cherries. Three. In the past, I would have taken a handful. Why not? They are small! But all I wanted were three. In the past I would have eaten them while I worked. Why not? But this time I just ate them. One at a time, chewing slowly. The flavor was incredible. It was an extraordinary treat. The best dried cherries I ever had.
Now a few days post retreat, I am listening to music again. I even had the news on the radio playing for a few minutes before the sound of it got on my nerves. I do get an occasional impulse to check my phone to see if I am loved. The stirrings of mulit-tasking are starting to come back. But, right now, they are only hints of an impulse. I am determined to be mindful as I go about my day- to really pay attention. I think that is the secret of living fully. Not doing more. Doing less. But doing it more mindfully.
Wishing you balance,