We tend to think of meditation in only one way. But life itself is a meditation. Raul Julia
I’m sure we all remember the days of cancer driven single-mindedness. Cancer was our only thought, our only question, our only focus. I went to bed at night and fought for sleep through a barrage of cancer thoughts. When I awoke, I resisted consciousness because it put cancer front and center again. Cancer, cancer, cancer. It was the sum total of my existence.
There is a big difference between single-minded anxiety and mindfulness. Once the days of cancer diagnosis and treatment waned, my ultimate goal was to return to “normal.” But since cancer, I’ve learned that my “normal” multi-tasking thoughts are no better for my psyche than single-minded anxiety. If I want to reduce stress in my “normal” life, I have to learn to be mindful.
It’s an uphill battle because I love to multi-task. Or maybe I should say I think I love it because I’ve trained myself so well over the years. My work as an attorney started my multi-tasking practice. I moved into hard-core multi-tasking with the birth of my first child. With children in the house, there is no ability to stick to a plan of action because there are always interruptions. I learned to start a project, interrupt it to start another project, and so on and so on. By the end of the day, I was surrounded by unfinished projects. Because they would all eventually get done, I deluded myself into thinking multi-tasking was the path to productivity.
Now my children are older, but I can’t stop multi-tasking. I’m still working on three things at a time, while thinking about the four other things I should be doing. The operative word in that sentence, I just realized, is “should.” It’s the pressure of thinking that productivity proves validity that makes it so hard to just be in the moment. Every “should” that grabs me, stacks on another task that adds to that pressure.
Enter the example of a child. How wonderful it is to watch a child explore the world, so engrossed and focused in the moment! I saw my children apply that exponential degree of attention and wonder to their worlds. I was also that mindful, once. Of course, I also had all my needs provided for by others. While we certainly can’t live our adult lives as children, because we have jobs to do and others to nurture, there is a happy medium. It comes to us adults through meditation and breathing.
A few Meditation Mondays ago, I posted about tea meditation. While it’s great to take break from work to stop and savor a cup of tea, mindfulness isn’t limited to break time. In fact, I think it’s just as important, if not more, to be mindful while doing the laundry, writing a post, working with a client, or talking with a friend. I’m learning to stop my multi-tasking “shoulds” by simply taking a long breath. It recenters me and returns me to the moment at hand. I find the more aware I am of my multi-tasking tendencies, the more often I find myself stopping them cold with a deep breath.
Whatever you are doing, if you are wholly present, then that is a meditation, a blessed moment of being. In that moment, your life becomes itself a meditation.
I’d love to hear from my fellow multi-taskers! Has being a cancer survivor affected how you approach your life as a multi-tasker? Has it made you more aware of the stress that multi-tasking puts on you?