One thing at a time


“A weakness of all human beings is trying to do too many things at once.” 
—Henry Ford

There's no such thing as multi-tasking 

The ocean waves do not try to reach shore at the same time. 

The leaves on a tree do not try to change color at once. 

Each wave, each leaf is a unique manifestation of an unfolding process of living experience. Human beings moving through space and time are also unfolding processes of living experiences. 

But the human mind? Especially with gazillions of distractions here in the early 21st century? We are so easily distracted that we miss much of the beautiful unfolding process of life. 

I make this claim with confidence because I am one of the most easily distracted people I know. 
I practice meditation briefly every day but nothing, no meditation I have come across, calms and focuses my attention like drawing or painting. It may not be for everyone but it sure works for me. 

In my experience, multitasking is a myth. Trying to multitask, or even expecting yourself to be able to multitask, can leave you dizzy, drained, overwhelmed, ungrounded. You may think that you are working on several projects simultaneously but, in fact, you can only take action on one thing or think one thought at a time (no matter how brief that time may be).

Expect yourself to do one thing at a time and plan for that. It's a sure way to sanity. 

"Two things cannot happen at once; it is impossible. It is easy to imagine that two things are happening at once, because our journey back and forth between the two may be very speedy. But even then we are doing only one thing at a time. 

"The idea of mindfulness is to slow down the fickleness of jumping back and forth. We have to realize that we are not extraordinary mental acrobats. We are not all that well trained. And even an extraordinarily well-trained mind could not manage that many things at once--not even two. But because things are very simple and direct, we can focus on, be aware and mindful of, one thing at a time. That one-pointedness, that bare attention, seems to be the basic point."

— Chogyam Trungpa, from "The Four Foundations of Mindfulness Meditation"

I have a long list of reasons why I continue to teach drawing and watercolor after 20 years. One reason is that the process allows people the opportunity to quiet their minds and practice focusing on one task at a time.

Practicing drawing and watercolor is mindfulness training on steroids.

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