The other day I was standing at the check out of a Duane Reade, and I couldn’t stop looking at everything. My eyes were darting from one bright shiny thing to the next, trying to read the cover of the gossip magazines to see who’s cheating on who, glancing at the new gum flavors, to the twizzlers, scanning the counter for the last minute impulse buy, and trying to pay attention to the person charging my credit card. Now this may sound like a minor and unimportant occurrence for you, however, this same thing can happen in any aspect of your life. We are constantly bombarded by ads, noises, people, cars, buses, and everything within your periphery. We might not even realize that our attention is being dragged in many directions, but generally unless we are making a conscious effort to be one pointedly focused then we are probably letting our eyes wander.
Where our eyes go our attention follows, so if we have our eyes darting in many directions our attention is split and unable to focus. Even as I am writing this piece I have 6 programs running in the background, people trying to chat with me, and every little while checking my email. So in order to stay focused it is important to be aware of what task you are working on, and what other things are not necessary to be in your visual arena. The simple step for me to take is close all other programs and just write. When I was at Duane Reade the other day I could have made the conscious choice to keep my eyes gazing in one direction.
Drishti is a sanskrit term for a gazing technique that develops concentration, and teaches you to see the world as it really is. We can practice drishti during our asana practice. Rather than allowing your eyes to roam around the room control and direct your eyes to one point, and then your attention will follow and you are practicing drishti.
As visual creatures we can be easily distracted and taking class in a large group or one-on-one can give your eyes many chances to roam. Skimpy clothing, odd outfits, dirty floors, loud breathers, loud talkers, and music are some of the many distractions you may encounter when you are trying to be present with your yoga practice. Our eyes take in everything we see and assimilate it, and when we are constantly distracted our ability to see the world clearly is clouded by unnecessary data.
The drishti is not a forced gaze, but a soft gaze where your attention is guided to that one point. You could easily be staring off into space and still not be aware of what is happening so take care to notice when the mind wanders. This practice of drishti teaches us the skills for consistent ekagraha or single pointed focus. Being able to come to a single pointed focus reduces stress, calms the mind and the body.
Tratak or candle gazing meditation is a simple meditation practice that brings the mind to a one pointed focus. Where the eyes go the mind follows, so as you bring your eyes to fix on one point your mind also fixes on one point. For this meditation you will need a candle, matches, and blankets. Seat yourself onto two blanks in suhkasana (easy posture) or a chair. Have the candle lit in front of you. This candle gazing meditation is inviting in ekagraha (single pointed focus). Allow your eyes to have a soft gaze on the candle flame, with your attention guided to that one point allow the breath to flow evening in and our your nose. Practice this meditation every evening for one week for 5-15 minutes.