Summer Time, and the livin’ is…Busy?? Ok, so here we are, coming out the other side of a pandemic that forced many of us to slow way down, or even come to a complete stop. That was weird, right? Remember the uncomfortable and alien sensation of being asked to Sit and Stay, especially at the beginning? Many of us stopped working for a time, limited our social interactions, cancelled travel plans, and made any number of alterations to our hectic schedules. And now that the world is opening back up, it feels like we’ve got to make up for lost time. Get Busy, Folks…There are places to go and people to see and fun to be had!!! There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of the things.So in a misguided attempt to do it all, we turn to the doomed art of multi-tasking, too distracted to notice the hole in the life raft.
I know some of you are saying, “Wait! I’m an excellent multi-tasker!” Most of us have been functioning this way for years. We can ride a unicycle on a tightrope while juggling chainsaws, chatting into a headset, planning the dinner menu, and making huge life decisions, without messing up our hair. We are masters of efficiency, super heroes of productivity, and damn proud of it. The problem is, as we furiously check things off our to-do lists (two or three at a time, Thank You!) we are also starving our relationships, churning out sub-par work, eroding our health….and missing out on life’s sweetest blessings. How’s that for multi-tasking?
According to the ancient wisdom of the Yogis, we can cure the distress, depression, anxiety, and confusion born of our overburdened lives by focusing on one thing at a time. (PYS 1.32) When we slow down and lend our complete attention to whatever task, situation, or person is in front of us, every aspect of out lives improves and flourishes.
Trying to do too much at once damages our HEALTH by overtaxing our nervous systems. We take on way too much, thinking it’s still not enough, and end up overwhelmed and exhausted. Our self-care often drops to the bottom of our to-do lists. We skip exercise because we are too tired or don’t have time. Or when we do find time we over-do it, trying to get more bang for our buck. We reach for toxic convenience foods instead of preparing healthy nourishing meals. We fail to make time to rest and recover from all of the business. Constant distraction leads to carelessness and avoidable accidents. Our furiously busy brains never quiet down enough to hear the whispers of brewing dis-ease in our bodies, so eventually our bodies start to yell. Something as simple as taking a long walk in the sunshine, noticing the feel of the breeze and the beauty around you, can deeply nourish, calm, and invigorate your body and mind. (Leave you phone at home, please!)
While it may seem counter-intuitive, multi-tasking causes our WORK to suffer. We try to frantically knock out tasks, convinced we are getting somewhere. But when we are running on fumes, we make unnecessary mistakes. We will never do our best work when we have half a mind trained on everything else that needs to be done. The Yoga Masters did one thing at a time and were notoriously prolific. The calm energy they created through loving attention to their yoga practices gave them unlimited clarity and vitality. Sri Krishnamacharya, for example, studied Sanskrit, mastered and taught all aspects of Yoga, practiced Ayurvedic Medicine, wrote several books, and earned advanced degrees in Philosophy, Logic, Music, & Divinity. Inspiration germinates in stillness and silence. Try slowing down and fully engaging with one individual task, before thinking about what’s next. Not only will your work improve, but you might even start to love it again.
Multi-tasking is particularly detrimental to our RELATIONSHIPS. When we are in a constant state of overwhelm, eventually we either lash out or shut down. We only half listen to our partners, children, and friends…with one eye our phones or computers, and end up missing important cues and subtleties. Our distraction leaves our loved ones feeling rejected and unimportant. We sacrifice precious time with the people we love in the quest for greater “success”. If you want your relationships to thrive, give them your complete attention. We can all feel when someone is fully present with us. Attention is love’s currency. Spend it freely, and watch your investment pay off in deeper intimacy, understanding, and trust.
We will never be able to do everything, but we can make ourselves sick trying. The nectar of life is found in its individual moments. What if, for one week (or day, or hour) you experimented with pouring your full and loving attention into whatever is before you. What if you just tried on the belief that your worth is based not on how much you can get done, but rather who you are in each individual moment. You might be amazed to see how fully your life blooms. Beautiful gifts are everywhere. We find them when we stop the frantic search and offer ourselves completely to the moment we’re in and the people we’re with. Step off the hamster wheel, take a deep breath, and love whatever and whoever is in front of you with your whole, undistracted being. Your joy is waiting for you there.