We are all so used to doing it now, that I wonder if we forget what it is, and if it has settled into the collective blind spot…. Just a habit at this point, and one that we are training ourselves deeper into every day when we skip around on the Internet, or watch tv, or get on our phones while at the dinner table.
I don’t watch much tv now, but I remember as a kid scrolling through the channels and jumping around between them. It was when the commercials came on that I’d try to jump ship – just enough – and then hop back.
The timing never works perfectly. You end up with two separate half-experiences instead of one full one. Or you get the ‘jist’ of what you’re watching but not the full depth of it in its continuity, start to finish.
I feel woozy and anxious writing about this, because I think this is what we are doing with our actual lives when we multitask. When we are thinking (or getting on our phones!) instead of being where we are, only tuning in when something exciting happens… we miss all the subtleties that make life extraordinary.
I didn’t mean to sit down and think about multi-tasking today, but lots of interesting insights have been coming to me lately all because I’ve been trying to learn to eat more slowly. When I try not to eat so fast, I realize that I am always eating while doing other things. I eat while I work. I eat while I drive. I eat while I think, read, check my phone, talk ….. and all those times, when I eat while doing other things, I eat fast. As if I don’t want to miss anything. It’s like switching the channel back real quick hoping you will miss the commercials and not any of the actual show.
Life isn’t like tv, though. We think there are things we can tune out of, moments that are less important than others… but it’s not true! It’s just evidence of our own perspective being lopsided. I think a lot of the imbalances of our life can be traced back to where we don’t want to put our attention. Those are our blind spots. They are the parts of life we don’t see value in.
I tried to sit down and eat tonight without distracting myself with other things, and I felt guilty. I felt the pressure of time, of the other things I wanted to do tonight. Sometimes I feel like the clock is hanging over me, like I just can’t keep up. So I gave in, halfway. I ate slower than *usual*, which is still pretty quick. I washed dishes. I anxiously ate more snacky food, while typing on my phone and standing in the kitchen. I took a bar of chocolate back to my room with me to eat while I typed. I finished it before I even sat down.
I gave in to the multitasking, to the mindlessness, to my anxiety.
Why did I do it? When I know I’ve been seeing so much benefit already from the small but earnest effort towards ‘slowing down’?
As logical as we can be, we are governed by the force of time behind us, by the momentum generated by our past actions, our habits. I have found comfort in mindless eating for most of my life. And I think as I’ve become busier, in college and now just as an adult with a lot of different pursuits, it’s given me the illusion that I’m giving all of myself that I can to the tasks I need to do. As time goes on, I see that as more self-sacrificing than necessary. I’d like to value myself enough to budget time for relaxed meals, you know? I also am seeing more clearly now that it’s been a lie all along. I don’t actually save time by eating the way I have been. I just think I keep up the appearance of efficiently using my time… to anyone who would be looking over my shoulder judging me. It’s a shadow fear of mine that unconsciously guides these actions, the fear that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not good enough, that I’m taking up too much space.
One thing I see more clearly lately is that the way I eat is both a result and an influencer of my relationship with myself and life. It influences my stress levels greatly when I only eat by multitasking. I think my body – the being that is being nurtured and sustained by the food I eat – receives the message from me that there isn’t time for eating. That eating has to be snuck in real fast in-between other, ‘more important’ things. The net impact on my state of being, from multitasking-eating, is stress, not satiety. A part of me is desperately unsatisfied by it, which is why I can mindlessly eat the whole day away sometimes – and those are the worst, most soulless days for me.
On the flip side, when I slow down to eat – and just eat, without letting my other obligations crowd into that time – part of me actually relaxes. I give myself space! Ahhh, breathing room! And I can give more of my attention to the eating process itself. I can feel the food in my mouth, practice gratitude, pray. I can be deeply in the moment with what I’m doing. It gives my body and mind a chance to have a real break, and to digest. And it’s in that kind of space that we can actually be really intuitive with our eating, hear our body’s signals about what it does or doesn’t want, and when it’s had enough. I’m so used to just imposing my mental will on my body when I eat. I think it really takes slowing down to learn to shift that, from being in my mind about my food to being in my body and intuition.
Sometimes taking space for myself like that triggers my fears and insecurities, which is I think what happened tonight. And it’s okay. I can feel compassion for myself. It’s not going to all change overnight, and I wouldn’t actually want it to be that way. There’s too much to enjoy in the full process. That’s what life is.
I feel tired now. Another day of spending myself. I try so hard sometimes. Too hard. But I learn to be patient with myself, and to take joy in the process. Sometimes joy comes in small, subtle moments. Moments you have to look for, that are so easy to miss when you’re distracted. When I drove to jiu jitsu today I made a point to just drive. I was blessed with so many interesting thoughts and insights. That’s when I started thinking about multitasking. And I am just really feeling joyful about the ways that I’m seeing benefit from trying to eat slowly – and I’m not doing it perfectly! I think that’s the difference this time around. In the past I tried to do it perfectly, and I gave up too soon. There’s really something to be said for small, consistent effort. Patience. Faith.
Thank you for reading. I hope it’s given you something.