Sunday, 1 May 2011

Mindful Multi-Tasking

At various times I have been known to work out my diary schedule, plan a food shop and devise a holiday itinerary whilst meditating!  Brilliant pieces of mindful multitasking although the great teachers would quite rightly frown.  For the goal of formal practice is maintaining controlled focus, say on the breath, and minimising being waylaid by internal or external distractions.  Sitting mulling over the current special offers at the Co-op or planning Sunday lunch does not cut the mustard.

Practitioners of mindfulness practice also advocate giving full attention to one task at a time in everyday life.  A nice idea that may suit the lifestyle of some and indeed I find that this is a good exercise to practice intermittently to slow down the pace of life.  But  this is  impractical to implement consistently if, like me, you're a working mum.  That time it takes, say, waiting for a kettle whilst making a cuppa can be put to good use.  I'd dearly love to heed the process of the water boiling, watching the patterns of condensation on  metal as the temperature rises or watching out for the first wisps of steam but I'd be missing an essential pocket of time in which I can get something else done, unloading the dishwasher, taking rubbish out or indeed making that shopping list that didn't get produced whilst I was sitting around meditating first thing in the morning.

But I do believe that it is possible to multitask in  a mindful way by giving consideration to activities that meld well together. It can be about combining tasks that have a good fit because they contain inherent gaps or doing things at the same time to avoid untimely duplication.  Batch cooking is a great example.  Forward planning and maintaining focus on the tasks in hand helps the headless chicken syndrome to be avoided.  Running around trying to do many things at once but not getting anywhere definitely constitutes being mindless!

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