“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.”– Rumi
Do you find yourself “going through the motions” in your daily life, on auto-pilot? In this new year, new decade, this is a time to engage in a deeper and different way of being that supports your focus to live your big dreams.
An approach in yoga is called drishti (the method of softly gazing at a focal point in yoga practice) can help you draw your outward-looking eyes—and busy mind—inward, so that your asana practice or yogic postures becomes a moving meditation. 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.
Drishti as a ‘living principle’ can support you in your personal and professional life to strengthen awareness, concentration, and direct your energies toward what matters most. It becomes a code of soulful living, directing you toward an inward and natural focal point that supports alignment of your inward values with your outward actions.
Researchers Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert note that as humans we spend a lot of time thinking about what is not happening. We are focused on the past or the future and seldom in the here and now. Indeed, ‘mind wandering’ is the brain’s default mode. A human mind, according to Killingsworth and Gilbert, is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.
Here’s a three step simple yogic posture that can help develop focal attention.
Assume a comfortable seated posture with the legs outstretched. If your hamstrings are tight, elevate your hips by sitting on a folded blanket, or bend the knees slightly and use a strap around the feet—these modifications will allow the body to safely release into the pose. Spiral the thighs inward, point the toes upward, and extend through your heels.
Gently cast your gaze toward your toes (this form of drishti is called padayoragram drishti). Then, instead of pulling your torso forward with your arms or a strap, soften your gaze so that the lines between your toes and the floor begin to blur (almost as if you’re looking beyond or through the toes). By gazing in the direction of the stretch, your body will naturally move in that direction. With each inhalation, allow the spine to elongate in the direction of the drishti.
On each exhalation, allow the body to soften and surrender into the stretch while maintaining an open heart and keeping the gaze softly fixed toward your toes. Notice how the awareness of the body intensifies when you steady your gaze and eliminate visual distractions.
Try this practice to focus your attention in daily life:
Find a quiet place and time. Bring your attention to your breathing. Take a few deeps breaths. Notice how you are breathing and notice any thoughts and then bring your attention back to your breathing.
Move your attention from your breathing to the sounds around you and again notice any thoughts and bring your attention back to the sounds.
Explore going back and forth for one or two minutes, becoming aware of the flexibility of your attention: from your breath to the sounds around you.
When you are ready, close this practice with a stretch.
To get the results you need and want from life and work, focus is critical. Strengthening your drishti can support you in developing greater focus to live your best life.