The idea of a drishti, that soft gazing point that grounds and centers the practice, is really quite parallel to that of dharana,the sixth limb of Ashtanga yoga, the notion of one-pointed concentration that is part and parcel of meditation. If we truly aspire to live our lives in a dedicated fashion, mindfully, consciously directing our energies, our prana, toward that which is life-giving, life-creating, removing-of-suffering, we can find this meditative drishti in everything we do.
My mother used to sit in church, all of us lined up like ducks in the back pew, and make her Sunday shopping lists while my pastor father preached. I think of that sometimes when I strive to be present in a yoga practice or even in a conversation. Put the list down. Put the phone down. Be there. Listen. Guide all your attention to that gazing point. Let your drishti—whether it’s another person, your teacher, the play you’re watching, the book you’re reading, the music you’re playing—really receive all of your attention.
I like to practice this when I’m folding laundry. I do a lot of laundry, you see, what with teaching yoga, and most days there’s something to be folded. It’s tempting to multi-task, to knock out some phone calls while I fold, to listen to music while I hurriedly stuff socks into drawers. And part of the practice of really finding that one-pointed concentration is to sit down in Hero Pose, or Half-Lotus, and slow my breath, turn off the music, and turn the folding into a seated moving meditation. The drishti goes to the leggings, the long-sleeved t-shirt, the yoga skirts. And before I know it, the swirling thoughts and to-do lists and fears have all slowed down, assuaged, softened, there at the hands of fresh yoga tanks smelling of mountain air detergent and maybe a little laundry softener.