September 17, 2014

One Thing at a Time

At a recent meditation retreat, the teacher advised: "do one thing at a time." These words, which I'd heard before, stayed with me. I sensed a cover-up, a story I tell myself: I am focused on whatever is in front of me; it's part of my practice. Unconvinced, I investigated my story. Here are a few examples from my daily life:

On the toilet, I look at my planner.
On the phone, I prune my plants.
Unloading the dishwasher, I hold multiple dishes while opening multiple cabinets.
Pouring water from the refrigerator, I grab a coffee filter.
Waiting for my photographs to upload, I check my email.
Driving, I reach for something in my purse.
Researching a mindfulness topic, I open 30 tabs in the browser.

This investigation was sobering. I wasn't doing one thing at a time. Yet it was also helpful. I saw how multi-tasking related to my mood. When doing multiple things, I feel irritated and burdened. Or, in reverse view: when I feel anxious, I strive and push. I carry too much in my arms.

To do one thing at a time, I must be truly present. I must attend to whatever arises--in me, in others, in my surroundings. It's not always comfortable, but it's my path to freedom.


  1. This will stick with me. . .

    I needed to read this. . .

    Thank you.

    1. summer, you are so welcome. i'm glad this post resonated with you. it's always a treat when you stop by.

  2. there are times that I really do focus on doing just one thing. I use to find myself on the phone, talking to someone and playing a game on Facebook when it dawned on me just how rude this was. But I still talk on the phone and unload the dishwasher.... maybe I need to rethink this.

    1. it's great to hear from you, cathy. i like your realization about the rudeness--not giving someone your full attention. here's a question: are you ever rude to yourself in this same way? that's a question for us all. :)

  3. your list made me smile. i know these things. lately i am feeling a change. one thing at a time. step by step. you are an inspiration, joy. x o uta

    1. uta, i'm so glad you stopped by. more importantly, i'm glad you feel a change. hugs to you!