Early in her book, Sharon Salzberg talks about the slippery slope of multitasking. It wasn’t until I started sitting that I realized how addictive the ability to do numerous things at once could be. Sometimes when I’m on a roll, I almost feel a rush, an inexplicable high that I’m getting so much accomplished in a short time.
One of the things you are expected to be able to do efficiently when you become a police officer is to multitask. New officers will wash out if they can’t drive, listen to the radio, look for suspects, witnesses, complainants, victims, criminal activity, monitor the mobile data computer, look for addresses, figure out where they are going and a myriad of other things that can compete for one’s attention. And that doesn’t take into consideration the millions of thoughts flying through your brain about the job, the spouse, the house, the family, the friends, the community, what’s for lunch, dinner, does my trainer like me/hate me and am I’m going to screw this whole thing up and end up flipping burgers at Billy Bob’s. So, you train and train at the academy and then hit the street and it can all go horribly awry if you can’t multitask. And by ‘awry’, I mean ‘in death.’ And like so many things in this career, it is difficult to give up those habits/skills when you take off the uniform. The challenge for me (and I suppose others in law enforcement) is learning to let go and focus on one thing at a time when not on the job.
What learning to meditate has done for me is allow me to re-capture that childlike quality of concentrating on one thing at a time. Rodney Smith, a teacher with the Seattle Insight Meditation Society, spoke recently about how children can look at something for the first time and just appreciate it for what it is – not bring to the experience a story from the past associated with the object. I try to do that as often as I can by looking at something as though it has never been defined for me before.
I can’t promise to forsake Twitter, Facebook, email, Words with Friends and Angry Birds (wow, that’s an embarrassing list…) but I can start to be more mindful about when I do use them. This daily exercise I am establishing has become less about pushing beyond my limits and more about accepting those limits one task at a time.