The Tao Te Ching tells us:
If we had the highest wisdom,
We would walk the path of Tao.
The path of Tao is simple,
Yet people take many detours."
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 53
"The path of Tao is simple"--but not easy.
Many of us live by multitasking, trying to do two or three things at once, our days filled with detours and distractions. But research has shown that our brains lose vital information when we shift back and forth between tasks, that multitasking actually makes us less efficient.
This is especially true in relationships. At work, have you ever caught yourself checking your email when talking on the phone? Or seen a couple at a restaurant, each staring down at their cell phones? Or tried to talk to someone whose attention was divided, distracted by an electronic device?
It takes intention to be present. Like a Zen archer, we must be focused. Our intention, like the arrow, must be aimed at one target, one task at a time. When our minds are focused, we cannot miss the mark.
Each day our minds are assailed by the messages around us. Family members, neighbors, advertisers, entertainers, politicians, newscasters, employers, and corporate officers are constantly sending us messages, telling us how to think and what to do. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a longtime student of Eastern philosophy, realized how such outside influences can become authoritative forces threatening to reduce us to childlike subservience. "You will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it," he warned.
Yet as citizens in a democracy, we cannot surrender to outside influences. We must think for ourselves and be present to those around us. This means coming back to center, knowing where to focus, where to aim our intention.
What about you? How do you navigate your way through the maze of messages around you? How do you remember who you are and why you are here?
Take a moment now to return to center.
Close your eyes.
Take a deep, mindful breath and slowly release it.
Feel your body relax,
Feel the rhythm of your heartbeat.
As you focus your attention
To be right here
Then slowly open your eyes.
Add this simple practice to your leadership toolkit to help you become more centered, more balanced, more whole, and to share your center of presence and peace with the people in your world.
Some information in this lesson appeared earlier in Dreher, D. (1996). The Tao of Personal Leadership. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
The Emerson quote from "Self-Reliance" in Emerson's Essays (1926). New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell, p, 38. Originally published 1841.
For insight into how multitasking affects our brains and makes us less efficient, see Foerde, K., Knowlton, B. J., & Poldrack, R. A. (2006). Modulation of competing memory systems by distraction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103, 11778-11783.