Regaining Focus, Heart Over Mind
I've been taking a lot of pictures lately. I've always loved photography so I use a sophisticated camera (don't get too impressed, I don't know even a tenth of what this sophisticated camera can do) so that I can play with the shutter speed and F-stop.
The camera, on automatic settings, decides what the focal point of the picture will be. It decides how dark or light the image should be as well.
Photo: Alex Holyoake, Flickr Creative Commons
What I learned a long time ago is that even the most sophisticated camera is not nearly as sophisticated as our eyes.
Very often, while on automatic, I think I'm getting the image I wanted to capture in the photograph, only to find out when checking afterwards that I had not. Seeing afterwards that the camera had overruled my vision of the photograph and focused and captured something entirely different.
I've noticed that happens in other places in my life as well.
Am I the only one who starts to drive somewhere and goes on automatic pilot? I've driven to my mom's house so many times over the years that I barely think about it.
Leading with the Heart
Here are a few reasons that I've started to think when I go onto automatic pilot.
One, sometimes I forget where I'm going! On a familiar road, is it my mom's house or the ski mountain? Is it Yogaspace (oh, how I love going there!) or is it the grocery store? When I go onto automatic, I sometimes forget to pay enough attention to make crucial decisions about turns and other navigation.
Two, I let my brain take over. I don't notice the unbelievable show the world is putting on if I just use the presence of heart to notice. Not the presence of mind, the presence of heart. The sky is exquisite, the light changing all the time. Even familiar, unbelievably familiar routes, shine with the inevitable changes that occur in every new moment. We live in a world of believable, exquisite changes. Watch the rain sometime. Notice how it gets heavier, lighter, changes direction, the sun peaks through, a bird speaks through it.
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Focus. Obsession. The first is what many of us strive for, the second, what we try to avoid. How wide is the dividing line between the two?
Lately, in my own yoga practice, distinct and different than my teaching, I have been exploring focus. If I had a nickel for every time I heard the word used in class, I would be a very wealthy woman. It’s not only part of the language of yoga; it’s a term that I hear more and more frequently in many different places.
My personal take on focus has been inward and outward at the same time. Focus can be where you lay your eyes or your heart or your mind. Or your breath. Or your anxiety. And so on.
In yoga, where we lay our eyes, our visual focus, is called Drishti. A definition of Drishti is below:
Drishti literally means “perception”. Drishti is the specific point at which to look or focus the gaze when practicing yoga. Looking at the Drishti focuses the mind and brings the concentration inwards.
I’ve heard Drishti discussed, by David Swenson, an Ashtanga guru, as looking out into the infinite as a way to see into the most inner part of ourselves. That the gaze (or Drishti) looks infinitely out and infinitely in. This is me, paraphrasing what I have heard from David. These are not his words; they are my understanding of what he has said. Below is part of a poem by Kahlil Gibran that is on David’s website. I feel that it gives me permission to give my understanding of what David said, regardless of the words that he actually spoke.
Coming back to focus, to Drishti, to infinitely out and in, to obsession. My Drishti has moved to the front of my practice lately. My breath feels reliable and available and while I continue to have it be the moving force behind my practice, I feel ready to let in other layers of my practice.
My Drishti becomes my entire universe. Whether it is a small blending of light and shadow on a leaf on a tree, or a smudge on the wall, or the smallest piece of the carpeting, I see it and feel it as my entire universe. Letting everything else fall aside, bringing the focus into the tiniest piece of something that speaks to my heart and brings my balance into place.
In those moments, my focus could be considered an obsession. Fierce determination with a soft heart. Letting all other pieces fall away, letting only what I am gazing at matter in any significant way.
Our focus can become our obsession. And there are times that it is appropriate and necessary for that to happen. I know that I need to be very precise about that depth of focus. I know that, for me, that level of focus is highly elevated; it’s something that I am just starting to experience. Gazing at a tiny spot, feeling my breath, heart and mind know that it is the entire universe. Where everything else becomes, not blurry, but non-existent. The entire universe.
And I am starting to awaken to what is not the entire universe. When focus is softer and not even close to that which could be considered obsession.
I’ll talk on Monday about how this relates to infertility. Join me before that with any comments that you might have. When have you been over the edge? Wanting information, perhaps? Results? Answers? When have you seen, absolutely known, that your focus has become an obsession? Please, join the conversation. I need more minds than mine to examine this.
A weekend thought for you:
Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path to the soul.”
Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line; neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.