Single tasking in a multitasking world

A Christian Science perspective.

Smart phones and tablet computers are world-changing technologies. They bring us capabilities and a connectedness that we would never have dreamed of just a few years ago. They can be great assets to productivity, can enhance communication, and provide instant access to information wherever we happen to be.

We’re able to conduct and improve relationships with others in ways that were out of reach before. We have the world’s information at our fingertips, anytime and anywhere – information that helps us and that helps us to help others. We also gain insights into world events that present us with plenty of new opportunities for prayer.

While the newfound flood of information and communication can make us feel connected and needed, it can also overload us. The ever increasing number of issues that we need to process mentally can create urgency and anxiety. 

And the quantity and speed of that information are increasing with no end in sight. At the recent Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, it was reported that more data was transferred over the Internet in 2011 than all the information sent over the Internet in the years prior – combined.

Multitasking is a term we hear almost daily. The pressure to do as many things as possible at the same time has become the “new normal.” But are we really more productive when multitasking? Or are we just feeling more important and connected as we process vast amounts of information – at the expense of peace?

As a Christian Scientist, I’ve found two practices that have helped me find and maintain spiritual peace in a world of multitasking.

First, there’s the need to demand – and even schedule – moments of quietness for myself. Jesus, who was confronted by multitudes of people “thronging” him for help (talk about multitasking!), frequently stepped away from his daily demands to find spiritual refreshment. To me this indicates that it is important to take the time, even in the midst of extreme demands, to refresh oneself with spiritual truths that are often in opposition to what we are presented with materially. For Jesus, the Bible doesn’t record those moments of refreshment as simply contemplative walks in the park, but as moments of deep prayer.

In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:6, New International Version).

Jesus retreated to mountaintops, gardens, boats, the seashore, and to private homes to pray. After concentrated, quiet times of prayer, he was able to peacefully return to any demand presented to him.

I’ve found it important not to treat the process of prayer like a battery – charging up and then using the power until it’s time to re-charge. Rather, it’s more like staying plugged in all the time – connected with the Christ, the goodness in our experience that’s always available.

And that leads to the second step: learning to stay in resonance with God – developing the self-discipline to carry a graceful, prayerful approach with us moment by moment, all day long. As the Bible admonishes, “Be instant in season, out of season” (II Tim. 4:2). Connecting with others and accessing information through technology are wonderful, but they don’t offer the lasting satisfaction that comes only from connection with God.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote, “To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 160). Think of that! To keep our thinking in constant resonance with God is to bring infinite power into our individual experience. What a wonderful admonition.

When we focus on God, we are really getting back to the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Nurturing the discipline to put God first in our every thought, word, and deed opens the way to discover how to “single task” in a multitasking world. The result will be lasting and impermeable peace, and harmony in every nuance of our experience.

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