May 9, 2010 at 12:59 am , by Louise Sloan
“Look, Mommy, look!” my three-year-old son often says, as I charge ahead, my mind on whatever’s supposed to happen an hour from now. I’ll look, and there will be something mundane yet magical that I walked right past. An anthill, maybe, or a bike rack that looks like the letter W, or a crack in the sidewalk that resembles the splintering glacier from his favorite Dora and Diego video. When I focus on it—Scott usually hopping up and down with excitement—I always have to agree, it is pretty cool.
One of the things I love about being a mom is being forced to bring my attention back to whatever’s happening right now. Scott doesn’t let me miss a thing and I’m so grateful. As the psychology editor at LHJ, I’m constantly reading about the benefits of mindfulness—i.e., staying focused on the present moment. It can help lower depression and anxiety, boost your immune system, increase your ability to concentrate and even relieve pain. And I was just working on our upcoming feature on memory, which talks about how multitasking and doing things on autopilot—the opposite of mindfulness—causes absentmindedness. (Who, me?)
Bottom line, mindfulness=happier, healthier, smarter. Multitasking=stupid.
I got a literal taste of that equation a few nights ago. A friend came over for dinner. I poured the wine, set out the cheese and opened up a brand-new package of 3-seed flatbread. Then, with my mind already on the remaining preparations for the main course, I snapped off a shard of cracker, topped it with a slice of Manchego and popped it in my mouth as I turned toward the stove. Then came the familiar cry: “Look, Mommy, look!” Scott was jumping up and down, pointing to the cracker I’d set out for him. My friend was laughing in a way that I did not like. Time slowed down. I stopped. I looked closely. I was mindful. Five crucial seconds too late.
Cue the music from the shower scene in Psycho. There were shiny little black seeds. And the cutest little black bugs doing figure eights around them. Beige seeds. And a dozen little beige larvae squirming for another bite of cracker. I have seen infested food before, but this was the worst. There really wasn’t anything left in my mouth, alas—I’d unwittingly taken part in a stunt straight out of Fear Factor—but I starting spitting like Daffy Duck anyhow as Scott bounced around me, laughing hysterically.
All’s well that ends well—a couple of swigs of wine later, my shudders had subsided and I was teaching him the classic tune, “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna go eat…” You know the rest.
But you do indeed miss a lot of important things when your mind strays from the present moment. First one’s greasy, slides down easy, second one sticks to my tongue. On this Mother’s Day, I am thankful for my mindfulness coach!