I was reminded yesterday in meeting for worship of the quote, “What you focus on flourishes.” I’m not sure where it came from but it resonated for me. Where that takes me this morning is musing about the difference between multitasking and monotasking. There have been several articles lately claiming that, in opposition to the model of work where people are expected to accomplish many different things at once, humans are actually more productive—and healthy, if they focus on one thing at a time.
The Buddhists have known this for a long time, of course. Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of enjoying each moment, living in the present: “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” His words are in stark contrast to the way many people live their lives, rushing from one thing to the next. One day last week I went to three different meetings, one right after the other. At the end of the day I felt exhausted and depleted, although each meeting, taken alone, was worthwhile and should have energized me.
There seems to be a growing awareness, at least in some quarters, that mindfulness practices in schools and workplaces can help people focus and do their work more joyfully and productively, as the work emanates from a centered place within. A friend recently retired as counselor in a challenging school. During her tenure there she introduced mindfulness practices to children in this school, many of whom come from troubled family lives. My friend reported that allowing children the space and time to center quietly at several points during the day made a huge difference in how they functioned in their classrooms. She even heard from a couple of parents that the children were practicing these centering moments at home. They would say something like, “My amygdala is over stimulated right now. I need to take a few moments to center.” Pretty amazing.
For me, the practice of centering down comes through Quakerism and is a spiritual practice, but I am heartened to know that it can be practiced anywhere, regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof.