Anyone who practices yoga knows the feeling. You’re in a balancing posture — even something as simple as standing on one foot on your way to tree pose. You start to wobble, and the instructor tells you to focus on one spot on the floor. You focus on something — the instructor’s foot, a water bottle, something just outside the window, even a weird speck on the floor — and miraculously, you find your body stilling, balance suddenly possible.
This practice of focusing on one spot in yoga is called drishti. As with everything yogic, there are multi-layered philosophical and spiritual implications to this concept — but the most important aspect for me is the notion that when you focus your gaze, the energy and alignment of your body follows. As the writer in that link puts it, “a steady, intentional gaze provokes the same steadiness in the body.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about drishti in a broader sense over the past few weeks. Most of my work is about helping people define an overarching sense of purpose for their work, for their lives, and to help them use that purpose to stay steady when there’s a lot of noise, to make decisions when they have to pare things down.
I had a really cranky week last week, for no obvious reason except that I’m super busy with work, which is more fatiguing in zoom than when there’s more incidental movement. And <waving hands and gesturing vaguely at the world>. But I found myself externalizing that crankiness in not-so-generative ways, culminating in a weird argument with my building manager about his habit of wearing his mask under his nose (we have a bylaw about masks in public spaces in our condo building). And then engaging others on my building’s facebook page about this. Which went about as well as you’d expect.
This? Not my best moment. Not my best self. Of course I’m “correct” about the fact that he’s not complying — but was that really the hill to die on? Was it really something I needed to throw my energy into?
Last week, I lost track of the things that are most important to me right now, the things that are my metaphorical drishti: build community; be present to my clients; get my work done with minimal fuss; keep moving my body; be present to my friends and loved ones; do some things that give me a sense of play. And when I lost track of them, I started to flail.
One of my clients made a comment yesterday that “it feels like it’s been a long pandemic.” The phrasing made me laugh — like “pandemic” is now a unit of time, an era. But I feel her comments on a spiritual level. March was a long time ago, and the days are getting darker and colder, where I live. Usually, travel plans for the winter keep me going through the Fall — and clearly, that’s not going to happen. It’s easy to lose my balance. But awareness — that’s the key.
The weight of all of this lifts a little when I see it, when I consider the greater intentions of drishti: Through drishti you can cultivate a deeper level of concentration, improve your alignment, and tune into the inner sensations of the body in every pose, so that you’re practicing the way the ancient sages intended—with full awareness.
I don’t know about the intentions of ancient sages, but I do know the value of full awareness, of concentrating on what I’m trying to do here. On the focus that will keep me in balance over the next few months: presence to what matters, and letting go of what doesn’t. Community, work, play and movement.
That feels better already.
What about you? What’s your drishti? How can this concept help you stay in balance?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and tries to stand on one foot in Toronto. Here she’s practicing tree in her standard zoom work outfit — photobombed by Emmylou.