Nowadays it seems as if multitasking is the norm. We grab a sandwich or a coffee on the go, while working, checking emails or texting. We check texts and emails compulsively while talking on the phone or ‘having a conversation’ in person with someone. We don’t just walk and savour the moment; we rush, eyes down, shoulders hunched, head forward checking our phones and worrying about what we have to do.
Multi tasking can be very stressful and, as everyone knows, stress can threaten our health and happiness.
It can also feel very unsatisfactory. Instead of doing several jobs at the same time with efficiency and a sense of achievement, we are constantly giving tasks only our partial attention so it feels unfulfilling -as if we are not doing anything properly.
The same goes with our connections with other people.
It feels amazing when someone gives us full attention, really listening to what we have to say using eye contact and and showing a genuine interest as they listen with the heart -even remembering what we have said some weeks later and enquiring about something we mentioned, the next time they see us.
I am as guilty as anyone of only giving half-hearted and partial attention to what other people are saying, as my focus is too easily taken up elsewhere, but it seems to me that full attention or complete concentration is a marvellous concept.
Ancient yoga philosphy calls it ‘dharana’ -fixing the attention on one point and taming the ‘monkey mind’. It isn’t easy- especially nowadays when there are so many distractions. Even thousands of years ago taming the mind was recognised as being difficult. In the Baghavad Gita, Arjuna says to Krishna, “The mind is restless, turbulent and strong, as difficult to curb as the wind.”
One well-known definition of yoga is found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: “the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.” ‘Dharana’ or concentration is seen as an important concept which leads to meditation.
Yoga teaches us to calm an active mind, listening to the body, paying attention to the breath and staying centered and focused.
Sometimes it is impossible to avoid multi tasking in daily life – getting the children ready for school, meeting deadlines at work – but it can become a hard habit to break. Maybe it can make us feel better, happier and more fulfilled overall if every so often we practise concentrating wholeheartedly on one task at a time.
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