There’s a little thing called dristi that we use in our practices that makes an enormous difference.
I was a little off this morning. Sort of that “day late and a dollar short” feeling. My mind was wandering all through my practice. Thinking about the rest of my day. Thinking about various people I needed to speak to. Thinking about some coffee. That’s typical, though. Often I will begin with a little mental chatter going on, but it usually abates pretty quickly.
The difference was that I wasn’t really focusing on my dristi the way I normally do.
Dristi is the specific gaze point we use for each posture. For each asana, there is a certain spot where you focus your gaze. It reminds me of the spotting you do in ballet, when you look at one spot in pirouette, so that you don’t get dizzy or all over the place as you spin. We don’t think of our eyes as having such a large control over the rest of our body, but it’s true: where you train your gaze is going to have a large impact on where you go.
So, I finished my practice. Got the kids off to school. Did a little bit of editing and then decided I wanted to take a shower. My mind, my internal dristi, was still all over the place. I was thinking about a trip coming up. Thinking about phone calls I needed to make. Thinking about all sorts of things instead of what I was actually doing. And then I thought, you know, that lotion I just got is out in my backpack in the car. I think I’ll go grab it so I have it for after my shower.
And then there was a mishmash of really not thinking anything through: car’s right outside the garage door; half-way pulled in. I can just run and grab it. I’m not going to bother to get re-dressed. It’ll just be a second.
So, I grabbed the lotion, still kind of running tip-toe because it was cold and I wanted to get back inside and then I turned the doorknob from the garage into the house: locked.
So, I headed frantically back into the car searching through my glove box for the spare key that I really hoped I didn’t imagine leaving in there. Success.
I headed back in feeling foolish and cold and spent my long, hot shower wondering what I had been thinking.
I hadn’t been thinking any one thing, and that was the problem. I wasn’t present. Even for such simple things, being completely present makes a big difference.
I shared my debacle on Facebook, much to the amusement of my friends. I feel like it’s just as worthwhile to share our silly mishaps as it is our triumphs and our complaints of the day. It’s all part of who we are—why only announce when you’ve done well? Sharing our vulnerabilities, our screw-ups, our fears…all of these things bring us much closer together than just sharing our successes.
But there is still a bigger point here: how can we get where we want to go when we are unfocused? We can’t.
My practice was off-kilter, not because of anything I was doing with my arms or legs, but because my gaze was not focused where it needed to be. My morning was upended for a bit because my mind was going in a million different directions. This isn’t something unique to me. Multitasking is out of control.
As a remedy of sorts, to rein my day back in, I spent some one on one time with a cup of tea. It is a practice I highly recommend, especially if you’ve been overly busy:
1. Put everything else away. No phone, no computer, no books or papers.
2. While the water boils, prepare the cup and wait. Just stand there.
3. Pour the water over the tea and lower your face towards the steam so you can inhale the fragrance as it changes from the ozonic pure steam scent to blend and dance with the scent of the tea.
4. Hold the tea with both hands and notice the changes as it steeps.
5. Remove the tea bag (or however you’ve steeped it), but don’t pick all your other activities back up.
6. Soften your gaze and experience the tea with all five senses. Enjoy the feel of the cup. Taste the tea slowly, like a fine wine. Breathe in its fragrance. Notice the richness of its color. Listen to the quiet and notice the furthest sound you can hear before you bring your attention back to the tea.
I like to do this at least once a day. We are such busy people. We forget that it’s good to just do one thing. We lose our dristi, our focus, and when we lose our focus, we lose our direction. At best, we will end up nowhere. At worst, we will end up somewhere we don’t want to be—or miss out on where we had hoped to go.
So, as silly as it was, it was a good reminder: by keeping our gaze focused in our physical practices, we set our intentions and strengthen our alignment. By keeping our gaze focused in the rest of life, we stay on our paths and better serve the people in our lives (and we don’t end up locked out, cold and naked).
May you look at life with a soft yet focused gaze. May you share your triumphs and your vulnerabilities equally, so that you may be truly known. May you make a space in your day to be still, to do just one thing and to let it nourish you completely.
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