Sacred Single-tasking

We can’t multitask and there’s a load of research that shows that when we try to we don’t end up with great results.  And yet in our age of distraction, it is hard not to do it.  We sit down to write, our phone buzzes with a new message, we look down, we skip a song on Spotify, we go back to writing–it can get complicated fast.  Our brains are changing because of these habits and somehow I suspect its not for the better.  As Christians, we have a call to contemplation–this may not be a call you’ve heard of before, but it is the center of who and what we do.  Contemplation is simply attentive loving–it is being present with God first and then with others.  It is what good human lovers do or did, before they started sitting across the table from each other texting.

The monastics, who have committed their lives to prayer and contemplation, have a tool that helps them achieve this kind of loving attention.  They call it statio.  It is really just sacred single tasking–doing one thing, stopping with a pause, and then turning to the next thing.

Today see how well you can single task.  Do one thing, be present with it, and then turn to another.  If you’ve been conditioned by the multitasking of our world you will find this difficult, but keep with it.  No one runs a marathon without a run-walk to start training.  This is our run-walk toward the deep loving attention of a true engagement with God.

About Ragan Sutterfield

Ragan Sutterfield is a writer and Episcopal seminarian sojourning from his native Arkansas in Alexandria, Virginia. He is the author of Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us, Farming as a Spiritual Discipline and a contributor to the book Sacred Acts: How churches are working to protect the Earth’s climate. Ragan’s articles and essays have appeared in a variety of magazines including Triathlete, The Oxford American, and Books & Culture. He works to live the good life with his wife Emily and daughter Lillian.


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