Where is your mind?

Chances are, you aren't fully paying attention to me right now. It's OK, I know it's nothing personal. We are an attention-deficient society.

But hopefully at least part of your mind is reading this post. Another part might be running a previous conversation in your head, or half-listening to your kids or spouse, or thinking about when to put the chicken in the oven.

Chances are, your mind is rarely one hundred percent focused on any one thing. And unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few years, you’ve heard a lot lately about how bad multi-tasking is. In fact, aside from automatic tasks that require little attention, there is no such thing as “multi-tasking”—we are just rapidly switching back and forth between different things, wasting astronomical amounts of time while bragging about how efficient we are.

As a work-from-home-and-homeschooling mama (yes, it’s as nuts as it sounds, but also awesome), I know I am guilty of this often, and I’m not particularly proud of it. I know that I half-listen to the kids while quickly firing off a work email, and I’ve been known to cook a meal while taking a business call and opening jars of Play-Doh for my daughter. We’ve had many burnt dinners and wet laundry molding overnight because of so-called multi-tasking. I even put ground turkey in the microwave to defrost once, and found it there the next morning.

And I should know better.

I know I shouldn’t do these things, but I do. I know I’m on my phone way too much, and I know some of you are already judging me, or at least laughing at me. (That’s OK. I like making people laugh.)

Case in point: even as I’ve been writing this post—on mindfulness—I’ve read and replied to at least two not-at-all-urgent texts. Ridiculous.

And I do know better. I know that when I’m writing, I need to turn off the WiFi and all alerts and ringers, and focus. I know that when my husband is speaking, I need to look at his face and listen to his words and not just think of what I’m going to say next. I know that when my kids need me and I’m in the middle of an email, I need to stop and look right at them, instead of saying, “Yes?” while continuing to type.

I know these things. And so do you. So why don’t we do them? (Bing! Beep! You've got mail! Look at all the shiny things!)

I had an Ayurvedic practitioner tell me a few weeks ago that we should only work to fifty percent of our capacity. That sounded insane to me, to tell you the truth. (And a bit lazy.) But I kind of see her point. She was telling me not to grind myself into dust at the altar of efficiency and accomplishment. She was telling me to take a breath, to see my kids and husband, to have fun, to work less.

So I have a challenge for you all. Pick one person this week, and commit to listening to this person mindfully every single time he or she speaks to you. Put down your phone and turn off the alerts. This will be harder than you think, and the other person may wonder if you are unwell.

That person will be surprised by your attention, and you will be surprised at how hard it is. And this is another tough lesson: we are so often lost in our own internal chatter that we don’t actually pay attention to other people that often. (Another case in point: forgetting someone's name two seconds after they tell it to you. Because you weren't listening.)

But I for one would love to hear what you have to say. And I promise I will put the phone down.

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