Multi-tasking: On the Mat

Like any proud father I was delighted when my daughter worked hard in high school and was accepted into the top tier college of her choice. After graduation and a short business career she went to graduate at a top MBA program. Lately, as her career has grown many of our conversations are about her work and more specifically the difference between my time in ‘corporate America’ and hers. Many things are the same but the one place we seem to hit up against each other is when the concept of “multi-tasking” comes up. (Of course it came up when I was talking to her on the phone and realized that she was also ‘sort of’ watching TV while also typing on her computer!) Her explanation was that life is fast paced and you need to learn to do more than one thing at a time just to keep up.

 While she and I agree to disagree about multitasking it raises an important question: Is it necessary to multitask to get ahead?

 Let’s start with martial arts practice. I’m sure your think that multitasking is absurd in that context. “When I’m on the mat I don’t talk on my cell phone, or carry on conversations”. Good point. Of course you don’t, it’s not allowed and you most surely would get hurt. However tell me you’ve never been practicing and looked at the clock to see how much time is left in the practice period or entertained possibly thoughts like, “wonder what’s for dinner?”  Do these thoughts show up routinely while you’re actively practicing?

 Switch now to Zen. Meditation is a cornerstone. In the Zendo, there are usually no extraneous noises let along talking, moving, and ringing cell phones. You’re cool, right? Just ‘sittin’ there counting your breath. What’s the big whoop? Have you ever wondered if the meditation clock is broken and the 30-minute practice period is certainly in its 3rd hour? Or maybe, “I’m sure my legs are paralyzed and the pain is excruciating beyond anything anyone else in the history of meditation practice has experienced” or, “hope lunch includes some of that yummy homemade bread”? A perennial favorite is, “maybe that cute man/woman will sit at my dinner table tonight” Finally, “Is this really only Wednesday morning?”

Both situations are similar. It’s extremely difficult to be 100% present on the mat or in the Zendo. That’s part of these two practices that need to be overcome—minute by minute—moment by moment.  

 If one is to be focused in the present, which these two practices clearly require, then how can it possibly be different in the workplace, while you’re talking to your kids, chatting with your neighbor or petting your dog? Finally, aren’t these two practices, and everything else we do   every moment simply similar roads up the mountain of, “I want to lead a more authentic life.”

 Just breathe and focus…moment by moment. Be present and find out who you truly are.

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One Response to “Multi-tasking: On the Mat”

  1. Thank you. I think that one of the greatest gifts we can give another is our full attention.

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