From Multi-Tasking Excess to Relaxation: Finding the Stillpoint

Article by Make The Days Count Contributor Marie Monroe


The word “multi-tasking” has become a common verb in our world.  It reflects an experience now well known to most of us.  We usually take pride in our ability to multi-task and many times, the word itself carries a decidedly positive tone.


It describes how we are on top of our game, how efficient, how important, how skilled or how clever we are.  It is also a powerful interpersonal boundary. It will stop our colleagues in their tracks when we say, “I am multi-tasking right now.”  Our loved ones, and even strangers, will also pause.


Not exactly a polite way to communicate, but effective and efficient.  Having had this experience themselves, people know how consumed we are at that moment and how intensely we have to concentrate in order to continue our tasks.  They also know that we are at maximum speed and capacity – that we can’t handle more at the moment.


A Multi-Tasking Hangover

Multi-tasking says “I am on the verge of crisis and will be in crisis if I drop one of these balls!”

Actually, however, in the realm of human functioning … where adrenalin pumps, where internal and symbolic plates are spun … we are driving, calling, eating, thinking, planning, hoping, dreading, reading, faxing, typing and being paged.  In short, multi-tasking is not being on the verge of crisis. As your body and mind experience it, multi-tasking is being in crisis!


Ask the body.  Ask the mind.  Survey the emotions.  They tell us clearly: multi-tasking is crisis.  We are on alert and in survival mode.  This is the biological equivalent of having jettisoned all food and comfort gear to keep from sinking.  One doesn’t relax, enjoy, rest and restore when the biological ship is going down … because the brain believes the ship is going down.


At the end of a successful multi-task binge, the body, mind and emotions are still in crisis.  Even after rest, we may have a multi-tasking hangover.  While our tasks may be in better order, we most likely are not.  Usually we have internalized the crisis and then need, when all is done, to ease down from that adrenalin rush.


Our Stillpoint

Multi-tasking (or any other “crisis”) clutters the brain – not just with a list of chores, but with its equivalents of signals and sirens and chemical dumping.  We don’t have to think about it.  It’s automatic.  When this happens, we need to do a little repair work to get back to some true internal stability and rest.  We need to find our stillpoint Learning to find the stillpoint in ourselves will turn off the alarm and help bring us back to equilibrium.


The stillpoint is many things.  It’s the eye of a hurricane.  It’s the point of balance at the end of massage or before the dive.  In the mind, it’s the observer, the witness of all activity.  It is mindfulness and benign detachment.


Practice Finding Your Stillpoint

At our stillpoint, we are not the hurricane.  We are as balanced, cohesive and relaxed as the well massaged body.  If you have ever received a great massage, you know the relaxation that it brings. You also know that that where the well massaged body goes, so go the mind and its emotions.   Most likely, you will also yearn for it as you read this, too.  


When we remember, we are using full body memory.  It helps us to find and re-find the stillpoint whenever we have lost it.  Even in the world of multi-tasking, we can get there.


To find the stillpoint daily, and at will, requires three things of each us:


1.    To experience it once with mindfulness;

2.    To remember it fully with all the modalities of memory we can conjure;

3.    To practice.


Practicing Relaxation

We can accumulate many relaxation experiences to evoke later in our search for stillness.  Besides remembering a great massage and its experience, the possibilities of where to collect these full-body memories are endless.  Let’s consider another example that illustrates the process:


Imagine standing in a pleasant wind – one strong enough to engulf your body, to bath it in a warm movement, with a force strong enough to confront you but still gentle.  Hear it.  Feel the sensations on our skin.  Feel the movement of your hair and clothing.  Feel the emotions of this encounter. These are the details of the body’s total memory.  This is an experiential immersion that encodes itself into the body’s memory.  Imagining this experience is helpful, but actually having experienced the wind is far more powerful.   The memories are easier to access through imagination if we have actually stood mindfully in the wind before.


Other experiences that can be similarly ‘encoded’ are the still moments of perfect relaxation.  For example:  Relaxing before a fire; the experience of floating in water while fully relaxed; lying on the ground to become lost in the clouds


“Relaxation Multi-Tasking”

The key is to “multi-task” your full relaxation experience.  Feel the emotions, listen to the mind, and attend to the skin, sounds, temperature, images, muscles, breath and heart rate.  This type of “meditative multi-tasking” will override the rush of anxiety and will convince the brain that all is well again.  This is because our brain remembers this previous all-is-well experience.


As we practice finding our stillpoint through this relaxation technique, our mind will help us to remember whenever we want.  Our mind will respond, turn off the alarms, and enjoy more balance until our next multi-tasking binge.


“Some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles.”
-Washington Irving, The Sketch Book, 1820


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Posted on 18 December, 2008 in Goals, Productivity, Simplify
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One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Micah
    December 19th, 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    Judy I appreciate you putting multi-tasking into perspective. Nice post. Seems like so many people brag about how they are multi-tasking all the time. But I think that it gets in the way of a lot of good solid work too. There’s no way people can give the same level of focus and detail to work when they are doing 2 or 3 things at a time. I think we need to take a step back and put more Productivitiy 2.0 into practice.

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