I’m taking a stand today for what I call Uni-Tasking.
The Yoga Sutras describe yoga as ‘a training of the mind to focus and sustain that focus on one object’.
When our mind behaves like an unruly monkey, our body often interprets that as a Stress Response. No Bueno for our health and happiness, and it reduces the quality of our work and relationships.
Could you use a moment to slow down and regroup?
I thought so.
Monkey mind is common (bad news bears!) But more and more research is showing that we can indeed change our minds and rewire our brains for healthy, more resilient patterns. First step, though, is becoming aware enough to interrupt the old program so we can give ourselves an upgrade.
More good news – we can create new neural patterns through neuroplasticity in as little as 8 weeks with short, but frequent, meditation practice.
I’ve outlined 4 easy steps below help you get out of overwhelm and multi-tasking and return your mind to a pure, potent focus ~ so you can do your best work and be present in your body.
Provided you’re not driving and you’re in a safe place, press the proverbial PAUSE button on whatever you’re doing. Put your phone down, look away from your screen and gaze out the window, or at least several feet in front of you.
If it helps, place your hands on your head and tell yourself Pause. Pause. Pause.
Now let your eyes soften and close.
Everything else can wait for a few minutes, and trust this practice will help you take more skilled action, when it’s time. Before we can expect change or feel progress, we gotta interrupt the overwhelm, distractions and old programs bogging down our system.
Bring your attention into your body, noticing your current baseline.
What sensations do you feel? How does your breathing sound or feel? What parts of you feel connected to the ground, your chair, supported?
Before we can do anything to change our experience, we must be able to have an experience in the present moment. Notice if your mind likes to pass judgment immediately on what you feel or don’t feel, or if your mind starts telling the body what to do. Pause the mental chatter and let your mind observe, so you truly know and feel what you’re working with in this moment.
Now that you’ve observed your baseline, slide your hands down from your head, massage your jaw, stroke down the sides of your neck. Let your hands rest in your lap, palms facing upward.
Give the mind the ONE task of following your breathing.
Inhale through the nose, steady and smooth. Then exhale like you have all the time in the world. Exhale quietly through the mouth until you feel complete. Let the breath follow it’s own rhythm and keep your attention engaged with the full release of each breath out. Each exhale empties you of distractions and calming your nervous system, each inhale fills your mind with clarity.
Touch each fingertip to count – less by thinking, and more by feeling the warmth of your own touch. The inhale makes your fingertip contact grow lighter, and you change to the next fingertip, pressing them together gradually as you exhale.
At the completion of 8 breaths, zoom your attention out to your whole body to have a moment to compare how you feel now.
Do you feel any changes?
Before you come out of this experience, acknowledge yourself with gratitude – Thank you for pausing the mental chatter and multitasking. Thank you for reconnecting. Before you open your eyes, give yourself a clear ‘uni-tasking’ directive, described below.
Decide on one task that deserves your full attention next – make it very specific and clear.
Silently say it to yourself:
“When I open my eyes, I will respond thoughtfully to Jane’s email.”
“When I open my eyes, the first thing I will do is call ______ to ask _______.”
“When I open my eyes, I’ll gather my things and leave the house for my next appointment so I’m early.”
This strategy often works well when we have to shift gears from one type of work to another, or transition into a new environment.
“When I return to my office, the first task I’ll complete is _______________.”
Before we do anything, we want to enter into a state of calm, clear creativity so we can do our best work. Same applies to our relationships – before we ‘do’ a bunch of stuff or talk someone’s ear off when they just walked in the door, it can be useful to become present with ourselves first, so we can treasure the connection and quality time we spend with them.
If you’re applying this strategy to your movement practice, spend 2-3 minutes to observe your whole self and get a clear ‘read’ on your baseline. What you perceive when getting present, first, will help guide your choices and address your true needs that day.
Many times, we think if we just do the right practice or ‘get our practice in’ that we will experience the shift or fulfillment we seek. I’ve often heard students say matter of factly, “Oh, that practice didn’t do it for me.” Or they switch from one hobby to another, another groupon or new studio, new teachers, wanting to find ‘the right one’ to meet their needs. The fundamental flaw here is when we believe something or someone else will fix us. There’s wisdom in novelty – especially when talking neuroplasticity – we can learn different things about ourselves when we try new things.
The tangible magic, however, does not necessarily live in the techniques or external forms or exercises we do – it’s the quality of our attentiveness and care, our skilled presence and action, no matter what we do or practice, that creates real change.
We are in charge our own experience.
When you can get an accurate, present baseline, instead of going through the rote motions of your practice, you’re clearing the way for the experience you desire, discerning the changes you actually need (versus acting out of habit or assumption), and cultivating the presence your body and spirit crave.
I hope this meditation left you feeling potent and powerfully focused!
Leave a comment and let me know how you feel or what your prioritizing next.
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