Meditation Mantra of the Month; Drishti — focal point / direction of gaze / direction of attention
All month long I have been playing the same drishti game with myself. This is how I play it…I’m staring at my phone reading an article or watching a clip of Stephen Colbert and look UP from my phone at my kitchen wall and I am AMAZED by how my eyes adjust and take in such a more expansive sight. (This sounds so ridiculously basic that I haven’t written about it and am having all the self-doubt right now.) The sensation of my vision, and even more, my attention adjusting and focusing in and out is so satisfying to me.
My desk used to face a window on the front of our house through which I could look at the street, then the house across the street, and then backyards and houses of the neighbors directly behind them. I could get a wee bit lost in bringing my attention to the streetlight directly in front of me, then to the fence line on the other street all while still having the street light in my line of vision… over and over using different markers of my attention. I moved the desk and now I only partially look out a window on the side of our house through which I see our gravel driveway and the side of my next-door neighbor’s house, which is mostly a fence. I also look at a wall where I put a calendar with dates of yoga retreats, preaching schedules, and any other dates I need to remind myself of often. The adjacent wall has a dry erase board for those things that must be written down or drawn immediately before they slip into the deep unknown of forgotten things. I often have to turn around and look out the front window to satisfy my need for some distance, when the wall in front of me feels too close or I have to visually check in with that fence 2 yards over.
This set up is much more functional, work-wise, for me. I more easily focus on what I am doing, when I am at my desk. Kind of like how good “sleep hygiene”, you are only supposed to be in your bed for sleep or sex. In order to train your rascally brain into sleeping well, you can’t read, talk on the phone, watching movies, scroll Facebook — you can’t do all the awake things in bed. You are only in bed for one of two reasons (previously stated). With my desk facing a small-view window & wall, I don’t sit at my desk aimlessly much anymore. When I’m feeling restless and fidgety I tend to walk around or go somewhere else because the desk doesn’t work for that – it’s not that comfortable. When I sit, I’m ready to get some stuff done and that’s it. When I am in need of slowing down, practicing yoga, and shutting up (what some might call prayer or meditation) I definitely face the window with a much wider & longer, more expansive view. It makes such a difference.
The direction of your gaze & attention also makes this big difference when practicing yoga. Sometimes I’ll cue the focal point – like when I suggest in a seated forward fold; “bring your big heart to your big toe”. I don’t literally mean for you to bring your heart to your toe, but that you draw your attention from your heart towards your toe. Left to your own devices, most of you will drop your head, straining your neck and back, and try to touch your toes with your hands. This changes the shape and focus of the pose significantly. The focus and direction of your attention make a huge difference. Not that the crack on the wall or your big toe makes a difference – but the nature of your attention makes a difference. Do you know what I’m talking about? Can you can feel it?
I think we need different kinds of drishti. There are times when we need the long range vision of across the street. Other times our attention needs to be up close on our big toe. There is no one perfect focal point or better than others — but figuring out what makes it possible for you to SHOW UP as needed. So, maybe we need to play more drishti games with our attention….be a fly on the wall kind of attention or maybe focus on the pen in your hand attention. When you pull your attention way back and then go in close, what changes? What is the sensation of adjusting your focus? What is the drishti that you need for the situation at hand?
That’s all I got folks. Now I’m going to get up from this desk, go to the kitchen, and stare inside the refrigerator for a while.
Peace on your head, whatever that is you’re focusing on.