A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to travel for a weekend trip to Arizona to celebrate my daughters 10th birthday. It was a special time shared with a close friend and her daughter (who was born 1 day after mine in the same hospital in San Francisco). The girls have been friends ever since (and the moms too) even though we now live on opposite Coasts. It was the usual poignant memories shared and lots of laughter. Laughter is such amazing medicine. However, it was also an opportunity for introspection as I reminisced with an old friend and we celebrated the last 10 years as moms.
I walked away from that weekend with clarity and a clear vision of what needs to come next for my family and I. Maybe it was the beautiful red rock or the beautiful company but I connected to what was in my heart and any doubt I had was gone. It was my internal Drishti and I am so grateful to have re-connected to it on this trip.
The Drishti is loosely translated as “the gaze”. It is used to describe where one should look in each pose as it effects the stretch you receive. In side angle (Parsvokonasana) when the top arm reaches forward over the ear and the head turns up towards the sky, the chest and side body find space. If you were to gaze down in that pose, the same would not be true. However, as with many things, it is not that simple, once we learn where our head should turn and where our eyes should look, we then have to learn to NOT get DISTRACTED by what we are LOOKING AT. Therein lies the practice.
On our mats we practiced not just cultivating our external gaze but our internal Drishti by learning how to connect into the heart and work from it and not our ego. Both on and off the mat, at times we let the outside world dictate what we think we should see, and what we think we should be, when often what we are seeking requires us to look inside.
As we flowed in our practice committing to our Drishti, we tracked the eyes slowly up and down in the appropriate poses and allowed the commitment to the gaze to slow us down and be more present in each pose. As we moved from Warrior Three to Half Moon Pose we started with the gaze down and then slowly unfolded the gaze up to the sky, not getting attached to what we were seeing, rather using it as a ladder to get to our final destination. Once the gaze was to the sky then perhaps the arm lifted towards there as well but it didn’t really matter. The Drishti took us where we needed to be.
I offered my students the chance to close their eyes many times during their practice, to better find the internal Drishti, to practice from their heart and not their ego. In Tree Pose, by closing the eyes, we found that internal focus and Drishti helped our bodies stay balanced. It was the true practice of using our internal guide to dictate our external actions.
It takes energy to commit but not get attached to the Drishti both externally and internally and there was a clear fatigue in the room as the practice was winding down; a sign of how deeply the students did just that. And the stillness in Savasana was deep. I asked my students as they closed their eyes and let go of the external Drishti, to commit fully to their internal Drishti. Once they found that deeper connection to the truth in their hearts, they could let go of the ego and truly practice from the heart off the mat.
As I watched them rest and go inside, I too took a moment to go deeper. What I found was true gratitude. Gratitude for the amazing quality time with my daughter and close friend, gratitude for the introspection and inspiration that my internal Drishti provided me and gratitude for this wonderful practice and the gifts it offers every time I step on my mat and out into my world. Namaste.