The edge of the bullseye

focus at the center, then feel the periphery

“Doing anything with attention to how you feel is doing yoga.” 

-Jean Couch

I have been feeling so scattered lately, I shouldn’t even be writing this. But then again, maybe I am just the person to write it as I remind myself again and again to simplify my life and find my focus. Even before I became a mom, I spread myself too thin all the time; there were always 25 things I wanted to do and then I’d do one or two of them and lament that there was never enough time in the day to all the things I love. Becoming a mom sometimes makes this tendency worse! I’m sure every mom can relate. 

There are times that I need to do three things at a time if I want to get any of them done; for instance, I cook dinner and chat with my daughter and load the dishwasher at the same time. That’s not so complex, is it? 

Even so, I find it so profound to take even just a few minutes a couple times in the day where I either do nothing or slow down and focus on one thing, like my breathing or the feeling of my butt just relaxing in my chair. I swear, it recalibrates my brain and mood (and probably my physiology, too). It’s actually pretty easy. The hard part is remembering to do it and really doing it with 100% of your attention. It’s all fine and good to pause and notice your breath, but doing it while scrolling through my facebook feed or sending a text message is just more multitasking when I could be fully relaxing. Here, I’d like to quote Shawn Fink, a.k.a. Abundant Mama as she writes in her book Savoring Slow, “Do one thing, or do nothing.”

But it’s always just a moment where a yogi finds that laser-focus before melting back into the overstimulating current of the average person’s day. So, like any transformative practice, it has to be repeated, recreated, revisited. It’s cyclical and mamas generally know all about cycles since we embody them.

So what is this cycle of focus and distraction? There’s the yogic practice of finding your drishti while holding a posture. An example: maybe you’ve heard a yoga teacher say something like, “fix your gaze on your thumb, or your right hand,” or “look up toward the sky.” Drishti focuses the mind, creates discipline, and aids balance and alignment. But instead of thinking of it as something I should do on the yoga mat, I think it’s actually more of a catalyst for a more complex process on the mat. I focus my eyes on a given point, then feel my breath moving; or I focus on the drishti, then feel that focus lengthening down through my feet, out through my hands, and up through the top of my head. My attention goes from very small and spreads out to the periphery of my being. My attention breathes - expands and contracts - along with my lungs!

In other words, your drishti is a sort of bullseye, but in yoga, that bullseye is just the beginning of the game. After that laser-focus, you expand your awareness through the sense of touch and sometimes that calls for a brief moment with the eyes closed. It’s not just the bullseye that counts in yoga, but the person aiming for that target, and how they are poised as they do so.

Try it. Find a pose you like to do, find your drishti, then expand your awareness to your breath and the rest of your body. If that feels hard to do on your own, take some cues from a blog post I wrote last month for Kidding Around Yoga on how to teach kids to find their drishti.

For now, here’s a few ideas on how to focus on your drishti, then expand out into your periphery on the yoga mat.