I used to boast about my ability to multi-task, proud that I could get so much done simultaneously. Performing numerous activities at one time seemed to energize me and keep me more aware. I just didn’t know what I was missing and it never struck me that the anxiety and depression I struggled with had anything to do with the way I was living my life.
One of my favorite quotes by Jon Kabat-Zinn is “We are human be-ings, not human do-ings.” At that point in my life I was living like a human do-ing.
Now, as I drive and talk business on the phone, or when some other tasks converge at the same time, I notice an almost imperceptible disturbance. It’s a very subtle awareness of how I am not present in all that I am doing, and I don’t like it. I have felt I can feel this disturbance in my brain, although I thought I was imaging these sensations until I read this quote by neuroscientist Sara Lazar in the article Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain:
“We found long-term meditators have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex. Which makes sense. When you’re mindful you’re paying attention to your breathing, to sounds, to the present moment experience, and shutting cognition down. It stands to reason your senses would be enhanced.”
I believe that the disturbance I describe above is actually recognition of my senses being overwhelmed as well as a diminished quality of my experience. So, while there are still times when I multi-task to some extent it is rarely to the Olympian standards it used to be and when anxiety or depression creep into my life I take time to sit with these states of being, which then quickly pass, instead of becoming larger than life, swallowing me up.