In yoga, the Sanskrit word drshti (drishtee) is seeing, or inner vision. It also refers to the act of gazing at a focal point. Practicing drshti can be as simple as choosing a spot on the wall to look at to help maintain our balance in a yoga pose. Eventually this external gazing turns into gazing inward, perhaps concentrating on our intuition or heart center. To focus means to steady ourselves, to direct our attention, to concentrate.
Concentration is a limb of yoga (Dharana). It’s just as important as practicing asana/postures. Without concentration, we cannot meditate, and we lose out on the first goal of yoga, which is to steady the chitter chatter of our minds.
To concentrate, we reduce the distractions that surround us. Through drshti, we temporarily narrow the scope of our vision. We temporarily put on blinders so that we can have a deeper experience with one thing rather than a broad experience of many things.
In yoga asana class, discipline yourself to keep your drshti gaze, no matter what posture you are in or how you are moving to / through them. Be aware of the room and other practitioners, yet narrow your focus, keep your eyes still and relaxed, gazing at one spot. Work to also keep your body still between postures and during postures. Lessen your fidgeting – for yourself, and also for other practitioners. Yogis work to limit our negative impacts on others – our movements, our words, our actions. Be rigorous, self-disciplined, and compassionate with yourself.
In this way, we begin to direct not just our attention, but also our lives. The more we practice concentrating and paying attention, the easier it becomes. We learn we can sharpen into focus, and then go back out broad with our level of awareness. We become very efficient, because our minds stay still while we perform the task at hand. We begin to tether ourselves to this deep well of peace within us, no matter how hectic things are around us.
Intuition is soul guidance, appearing naturally in man during those instants when his mind is calm. Nearly everyone has had the experience of an inexplicable correct “hunch” or has transferred his thoughts effectively to another person.
The human mind, free from the static of restlessness, can perform through its antenna of intuition all the functions of complicated radio mechanisms – sending and receiving thoughts and tuning out undesirable ones. As the power of a radio depends on the amount of electrical current it can utilize, so the human radio is energized according to the power of will possessed by each individual.
All thoughts vibrate eternally in the cosmos. By deep concentration, a master is able to detect the thoughts of any mind, living or dead. Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted; a truth cannot be created, but only perceived. The erroneous thoughts of man results from imperfections in his discernment. The goal of yoga science is to calm the mind, so that without distortion, it may mirror the divine vision in the universe. – Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda
Soul guidance, intuition, is achieved through a calm mind. Calm mind is achieved through distancing ourselves from the chitter chatter of our minds. In yoga, we learn 95% of our thoughts are misperceptions – why on earth would we rely on our thoughts for our answers, especially when intuition is accessible to us? To tap into intuition, the mind is still, no waves. We need extreme discipline of the mind, and our actions, to tether ourselves to our intuition. Is our society, in all of our petty grievances, truly mirroring the divine vision in the universe? What can we do individually to allow the pendulum to swing towards, rather than away from, this divine vision? Take ownership and responsibility for our minds, meditate, practice pranayama and asana, limit our intake of unnecessary or unproductive information and conversations, maintain a Drishti gaze, practice staying in the present moment as if we are training for an iron man, compassionately yet firmly, directing the mind back each time it wanders.