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Monday, March 5, 2018

M & Ms ... Sweet!

You thought I meant candy, didn't you? Those sweet round morsels covered in chocolate. But, no. I meant "multitasking and meditation."

Dan Harris is a broadcaster with ABC. He’s done field reporting, guest hosted Good Morning America, (GMA) and has been the host on Nightline. It was on a GMA program in the spring of 2004 that the unthinkable happened.

Dan Harris had an unexplained panic attack while on national television. As he describes it, “It felt like the world was ending. My heart was thumping. I was gasping for air. I had pretty much lost the ability to speak.” Terrifying. And in front of an audience of millions. You can see clips of this on YouTube.

I can relate in a more limited way to Dan. My first panic attack happened at the age of 19. Certain circumstances would trigger them. Being unable to remove myself from a situation was a baseline trigger.

So, while in Iceland working as a television sportscaster for American Forces, I was on camera nightly. I could manage my panic issues most of the time. A studio remodeling created a more difficult situation. I had to work inside of a small room the size of a closet while staring into a TV camera with a very warm light focused on me. A few times, this inescapable box caused my panic to elevate...but I could not leave.

Interestingly, the panic mode of Dan Harris took him on a search for answers. And this journey has led to several books describing his pursuit of relief and peace. His most recent is titled, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book.

Two aspects of his journey are worth considering. One involves meditation. The other focuses on our mistaken perception of how we multitask. The two are connected.

Dan Harris has his own approach, which emerged from a study of religions. He follows a method taught by a monk. To keep himself from thought overload, he’s learned to stop multitasking. As Dan tells it, “The term 'multitasking' is a computer term. Unlike computers, we humans only have one processor.” He adds, “We can’t multitask. So we do it to our own detriment.”

It’s interesting that many in Silicon Valley find great relief in meditation. They learn to remove the constant flow of information from so many levels that clog up the brain. Have you been there?

That’s why Dan has re-programmed himself to approach life differently—disciplining his focus to one thing at a time. When someone comes into his office, he’ll turn off his computer and pay attention to just that conversation. Look at what people do today: text while walking, read and send emails during meetings... and the same at lunches or dinners even with our loved ones. Bottom line: we can all take steps to avoid a multitask-driven life.

Dan Harris has become a zealot for the meditation cause. He started a company he calls “10% Happier” which uses an app to teach people how to meditate. The app features meditation teachers and scientists delivering a variety of lessons on the subject.

As a Christ-follower, I believe there is a healthy and an unhealthy way to approach meditation. Bluntly, any form of meditation that emerges out of false religious practices is risky. Emptying the mind would be an example of this. (I’ve included a link below with thoughts by theologian Dr. Albert Mohler on this.)

As Dr. Mohler explains, the Bible teaches that we SHOULD meditate. But with our focus on spiritual truths. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3, ESV) And the Psalmist writes, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” (Psalm 119:15, ESV)

If you struggle with peace of mind, step away from multitasking and give the Creator of the Universe some focused time. I think the investment will give you a better than 10% happiness return.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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