In yoga we use a technique to keep from toppling over in balancing poses: we focus on a spot somewhere in the room. Having our eyes trained on something – called our dristi, Sanskrit for fixed gaze – helps us find the solidity beneath us and the just-right arrangement of muscles and bones to stay in the pose.
The trick with the dristi is to avoid going overboard. We want to practice finding the way that is not too tight and not too loose. If we make our focus rigid we lose touch with the fullness of our hearts; if our gaze is too soft we abandon our concentration and find ourselves spacing out. The dristi that helps us find grounded calmness is the one that manages to bridge the two extremes, and is almost effortless.
Not too tight and not too loose. A helpful way to think about holding the reins of your life, no?
Dristi’s are just as useful off the yoga mat. In fact, without a dristi you may find yourself down many a rabbit hole (thank you, Internet) and feeling dissatisfied with the way you are running your life.
So how do you use a dristi in your daily life? By setting intentions, and then finding ways to focus on them. Intentions are not goals, to-do lists, or compilations of “shoulds”. Intentions come from deep within and don’t have particular outcomes attached to them. Intentions are reflections of who you are and how you want to celebrate your you-ness.
Intentionality is a way of living your core values and honoring your gifts.
When my coaching clients begin talking about what they want to take on next, I ask them to name the intention that’s beneath the project, the shift or the challenge. What is the experience they long for? How do they want to feel? And the intentions they name are very simple and pure; they highlight the qualities they most cherish right now. The intentions prepare the ground within which their dream/plan/goal will grow, and from there a dristi can guide and direct action that flows from the intention.
Here’s an example from my coaching practice. When Susan was trying to figure out how to transition from her career as an artist to more socially engaged work, she set the intention “I am creative, deeply interactive with others, and profoundly content”. As she explored possibilities and further examined her calling, she found herself able to identify areas where she felt creative, engaged and satisfied. She then allowed these clues to help her identify what that might mean in terms of career choices. And her discovery process began.
Some other examples of intentions are:
I cultivate vitality and gentle strength.
My work is an expression of my creativity and relentless curiosity.
I enjoy satisfying relationships with my family which are based on respect, honesty and love.
Notice that these statements lay claim to states of being, rather than specific outcomes. The intention opens up the possibility of many many outcomes, and your non-attachment to that outcome determines your fulfillment with what ultimately comes of your intention.
Try it on for size in your own life. Set an intention that comes from your values, your deep longing to experience what you love. And then locate your dristi. If you remember to keep it not too tight and not too loose you’ll find your intention opening doors to all sorts of possibilities.