focusing your drishti

Drishti (IPA: [ d̪r̩ʂʈi ]; Sanskrit: दृष्टि; IAST:dṛṣṭi), or focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention

Is there someone (a different ‘you’) that you believe you are supposed to be? Does this dream of who you want to be set your heart a-flutter? Do you think about being able to be this person, this authentic you, in the quiet moments when your heart can speak its truth? If you do, then my advice is to not let that idea of that person go. Keep hold of that dream, that desire for authenticity. Harness that feeling of living your truth and direct your drishti, your focus, to embodying this person, fully.

A drishti is called upon in yoga to direct the gaze or focus, usually between the eyebrows to the third eye, to help cultivate concentration and withdrawal of the senses for deep meditation. For the sake of this blog post, I will use the word drishti as a metaphor – as the intense, unwavering focus we can apply in our lives towards achieving and living out our dreams, our greater purpose, our true authentic selves.

Do you ever feel like you are working towards a greater purpose or are destined to be/become something more? And I don’t mean ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ someone superficially, like ‘being’ a state: better/happier/skinnier, or a title: dr/mrs/manager, nor do I mean it in terms of achieving material worth, money or status. I mean ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ in a deeper sense. Without the ego. Being more authentically you.

authentic living

Ask yourselves, who do you want to be, truly?

This question might hit hard. You might not feel you can be your authentic self. Or you might not know; ‘How can I can be someone other that who I am now? Huh?’ If you don’t know yet, that’s totally fine. But I want to float the question in case there are those of you who believe that underneath the ‘person’ you present to the world is in fact someone else entirely, someone more you.

For those who have an inkling that there might be someone else, a you you really truly want to be, embody, and express, then I urge you to feel empowered to honour that person, that authentic you, and let them come into the world.

Does what you do in your life bring you joy and align you with who you really want to be? Or is there something else you’re not expressing, some other you that you’re keeping bottled up inside…

I have discovered over the last year and a half, thanks to my eye-opening travels, countless conversations with Lucas and hours of doing and breathing yoga, is that living here, living a life that nourishes me in mind, body and spirit, and in an enivornment where I can truly appreciate the beauty of the world is where I can live in my authenticity, practicing yoga and teaching yoga, too. But that wasn’t always the case. The ‘me’ that is now wasn’t even imaginable when I lived in London, no way Jose. I felt so disconnected from everything and was living all in the ‘I’, the ego.

That yoga would play such an integral part in unravelling this ‘authentic living’ I only realised about a year or so ago. Before then, yoga (asana) had just been something I liked to ‘do’ physically but it was during those quiet hours in practice that would allow me the connection to my authentic self. At the time I didn’t realise its significance and my drishti, my focus, was on something else entirely. I was all ego and all external. But over the last 18 months, the deeper I have dug within myself and asked myself what really makes me feel like ‘me’ and makes me feel more ‘whole,’ and the more I began to deepen my practice, the more I found clarity: yoga (union, the eight limbs) was part of who I wanted to be; it was tied to being able to fully express and live in my authenticity, and live a life that nourished me, and so it became the target of my metaphorical drishti.

My (loose) ‘focus’ previously had been climbing the career ladder in London, like most people’s are. I was blinded and numbed by the distractions of city life running at a hundred miles an hour, overloading my senses, which was definitely keeping me separated from any sort of authentic being.

My focus next moved onto travelling the world, quite a leap from corportate life to a life of leisure! It was from the toxic ego-driven city environment that I was slowly peeling off the layers, and inching off the shroud, that hid away who I really wanted to ‘be’ while unlearning those years of conditioning that had come part-and-parcel with living in today’s world.

Now, many of those layers have been shed (and some are still a work in progress) and my drishti is on point. There’s nothing to distract me from who I want to be. I already ‘am,’ I’ve become this person more than I’ve ever been. I am living the life that I want to and in it I am incomparibly happy. I am driven to stay aligned with this life, to supporting my authentic being, my authentic living through yoga. I practice yoga, I teach yoga, I live a ‘yogic’ lifestyle as best I can; we eat organic food, we live in the jungle and breath fresh jungle prana every day, and we are surrounded by a community which uplifts us and offers endless opportunities for growth. Here, and through yoga, I can find greater purpose while living a life I love and being my truest and best self.

Now, this isn’t to say that I am a mental off-grid, gluten-and-dairy-free, straight-edge vegan, t-total crazy person. Don’t be silly. My drishti is inclusive, not exclusive; it includes things like chocolate and wine. Who am I kidding, I’ll never give those up! It aims for balance with nourishment and challenge.

By living in inclusivity and not exclusivity allows me to keep a better and much larger perspective and keep an unwavering focus on the bigger picture developing in the background, on my authenticity and being the real me. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I’ve binged on all the fun and bad things, squashing and silencing the the real me, blinded by overindulging on things to heighten or dull my senses, and it has thrown me off completely and, no surprise, that led to dissatisfaction, frustration and unhappiness in myself. And long term, what does that achieve? Instead, holding a steady gaze, keeping my drishti consistent while finding balance is a much better strategy.

find focus in your life

So who is this person that, when you think about this ‘you,’ lights you up and makes you want to get out of bed every day and be that person? Be someone empowering. Someone who makes you feel whole, someone who you feel nourished by, fulfilled by. Then all you have to do is focus that drishti of yours on being this authentic you, all the time. Focus, focus, focus.

Again, I’m just sharing my experience; there’s no pressure to figure out this ‘you’ and direct your drishti one way or the other if you’re not ready or not sure of who you want to be, of if you have absolutely no idea about what I’m talking about. As I said, we’ve been conditioned to follow certain paths (careers, marriage, kids) and follow conventional rules set by society (job, house, pension), so digging deeper and listening to the little voice within telling you who you really want to be and what you really want to do might be a scary thing to do. Hey, it took me nearly 30 years to figure this out and still, who knows, in a few years’ time, my drishti might be pointing somewhere else and my ‘authenticity’ looking a whole lot different. But for now this is it and I welcome in change, too.

What I would like you to ask yourselves is what can you do to start becoming more true to yourself? Can you look outside your ego and into who you really want to be? Where can you direct your drishti to embody this truth? Honour that little voice that might have been silenced.

Allow yourself to start believing in the authentic you.

 

 

 

*Drishti definition by Wikipedia.

 

journalling

When I was younger I used to keep a diary. I remember it had bears on the cover and a padlock that I locked religiously to keep my brothers out. I used to write all sorts in there; which boy I fancied at the time, whose house I was sleeping over at – deep stuff – but also things I wanted to manifest, my deepest desires (usually to go out with the boy I fancied) and other wishes and goals important to a pre-pubescent.

I fell out of the habit of writing in my diary during my teens when I didn’t think it was ‘cool’ enough, I suppose. But what a shame.

It’s taken me a long time to get back into the habit of writing, personally, intimately, for noone else but myself. I write my blog, but that’s different, I’ve written for magazines, for my work, all for other people, but I found it hard to write for a reader closer to home: me.

For years I have noted down thoughts, inspirations, quotes, and intentions on my phone but putting pen to paper and striving for a consistent journalling practice, for some reason, was so much harder to do. I didn’t think it was important enough, I guess.

journalling - dharma dreaming

Recently, that’s changed and I’ve tried my hardest to make it a routine – surprisingly, it actually came quite easy. Now, I take the time, usually each night before bed or during a quiet moment in the hammock, to write. To release. Whatever comes out; stream of conscious, zero censor, verbal diarrhoea, to be crass. It’s not all gushy ‘Dear Diary’ dreaming, some days I’ll have nothing to say – as much as I try. Others I’ll surprise myself and write pages and pages at a time cramping up my hand. There are also days I’ll be more attuned to my emotions, deeper needs and higher Self; there are also days I feel uninspired and unmotivated and the only thing I can think to write about is what I had for dinner. But that’s ok. It’s the process of writing that’s the point – and sticking to it.

Journalling is cathartic. You’re releasing, no matter what you write. Some people even go back and make a habit of rereading their entries to chart their growth or changes in their life – not a habit I do, personally. And not for any reason in particular other than I don’t feel the need to. If I’ve released, I’ve released. But maybe I should. One day.

So my question to you is: when was the last time you wrote anything that wasn’t a shopping list or a to-do list? Did you have ‘Dear Diary’ days like I did as a kid? If you did, I challenge you to try and rekindle that habit of writing, of journalling, and to look within. If you didn’t, I still challenge you to try. Humour me.

I want to encourage you to start writing for yourself. About yourself. About what inspires you. What scares you. What ails you. Even if it feels like escapism rather than release, it doesn’t matter.

What you write doesn’t have to be an essay-length entry, just a few sentences at first. You can even start with what you did that day. Then move onto observing how you’re feeling. Maybe try putting into words your deepest desires, goals you want to manifest. Later, you can reflect on how you are moving forward to achieve these goals.

Allow your journalling to be a stream of conscious; an uninterrupted flow of words, thoughts. It’s ok for your mind to be on one track and then suddenly switch to another, like that game of lateral thinking. Just keep writing. And whatever you write be truthful. Write honestly. There’s no judgement between these pages. Use your journal as a place of 100% transparency. It’s only you who will be reading it – and maybe not even at that.

journal and ritual

Once you start, you might find you enjoy journalling so much you keep your journal in your bag or take it out with you in case you feel called to write something down spontaneously. Even if you don’t have it with you when you need, jot your thoughts or inspirations down on your phone or a scrap of paper to remember for later. Sometimes if I’ve had a burst of inspiration I literally stop myself in my tracks and get out my phone to write it down then and there. If I don’t, I forget – the curse of a colander brain.

Your journal – physically – doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I bought mine (a bright yellow exercise book for school kids now water damaged from the beach) in the sale at the supermarket. Classy. It doesn’t have a padlock on it either, like it used to, and I no longer hide it away under my pillow or stuffed deep at the back of my drawer. Usually it’s lying open, pages to the sky, beside my side of the bed. [My boyfriend will never read it. That’s an unspoken rule.] You can get a fancy journal though if it helps you cultivate this ritual and a feeling of sacredness. Also, if you feel like you want to keep yours more private and secure then do whatever you need to do. What happens between you and your journal is your business.

Ok, then what? It might help to have a nice bath or enjoy a contemplative yoga practice or meditation beforehand. Next, sit down, open up a clean page and try muster up a few sentences. See how it goes, even if what comes out seems forced or a little twee at first – it doesn’t matter. Then, can you can dig a little deeper… What are you really feeling. Be honest.

Don’t be afraid to let your pen run away with you. And remember there’s no wrong answer.

You’re just doing this for you.

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Some questions to kick off your journalling practice:

  1. How did I feel today? (Or: How do I want to feel today?)
  2. How did I step out of my comfort zone? (Or: How can I?)
  3. What am I avoiding?
  4. What am I taking for granted?
  5. How can I grow?
  6. What can I let go of?
  7. How can I show more compassion (to self and others)?
  8. Who can I appreciate more?
  9. What did I learn from today/yesterday?
  10. What is my goal (short or long-term)?
  11. And if all else fails – What did I have for dinner?

[image credits]

yogini on the road

It’s been a while since my last post (5 months and a new year!) and I don’t have any excuses other than we’ve been having far too much fun. But, to be honest, I was lacking the motivation to write as I was busy dedicating my time to my yoga journey.

Recently, my life has taken a more focused turn – and turn for the better. For those who don’t know, I’ve been dedicating myself more fully to my yoga, both in practice and in life choices. Recently, I completed my 200-hour Teacher Training in a permaculture farm in the jungle of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. It was a transformational experience – not just a ‘yoga teacher training’ – and one that’s given me a giant kick up the butt (ahimsa, yogi style, obvs).

shala

Myself and 21 other goddess yoginis (their only all-girl group!) were immersed in the jungle for a 3-week intensive where we were up with the howler monkeys for a morning practice, followed by hours of technique, anatomy, philosophy; lectures on wom(b)en wellness, our menstrual cycles, our intimate relationships with the moon and mother nature, learning – and sampling – the magic of plant medicine; we did a cacao ceremony, had many, many, MANY healing and releasing exercises in catharsis… the list goes on. There were wounds opened (and healed) that I didn’t even know were there. I cried tears I hadn’t cried in years and sang more than I’d ever done my whole life in kirtan, ceremony and mantra. We ate delicious farm-grown food and produce locally sourced from Costa Rican organic farmers, all meals vegetarian or vegan, gluten and dairy free. Oh, and we stayed in upcycled shipping containers and pooped in compost toilets. Saving the planet, one go at a time!

But rewinding a bit. Before my training, way before, I’d felt something was missing. For a while. I felt misaligned. I felt lacking, spiritually, and I felt like I was going in a direction that didn’t fully serve me. Travelling was/is great, but it wasn’t enough. All throughout Asia I missed my yoga practice terribly (which had started a few years back, first in freezing cold gym halls, then in Uni on the floor of bouncy karate crash mats, later in London in fancy – and overpriced – hot yoga studios, and finally under the wonderful instruction of my Mum who is a yoga teacher herself).

In Asia I easily found reasons (excuses) as to why I wasn’t practicing: not having a mat, being hungover, it being too hot. The thing is, I could have gone to yoga classes here, there and everywhere if I’d have made the effort. I just didn’t – and then punished myself for it, mentally, guiltily, after.

I knew I needed a reset, falling victim to the temptations of travelling like late-nights, crap food and copious amounts of alcohol, so I took myself off for a retreats in Thailand and Sri Lanka to reconnect with my practice, and myself. Aside from those two retreats I’d lost my yoga, my ‘union’, and really, the connection to myself – though I didn’t know it yet. As soon as I would step back on the mat, my whole outlook on life, on myself, would change. It was as if an electric current had been shot through me, sparking me alive again. What was I doing? I asked myself. Why wasn’t I making my practice – myself, my wellness – a priority? I got so (SO!) much from yoga, why couldn’t I sustain it in my day to day nomadic life; didn’t I have all the time in the world? But again, I was making excuses.

Something had to change.

Later, when we were travelling in Europe, I decided I had to start practicing again. It was time to reignite my passion and reconnect with who I was and what I wanted. The next year would involve more travelling (we were already in Europe and had planned out the next 6 months and a skeleton plan for the 6 after that) so I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to find a way to make yoga and travelling work. I couldn’t’ feel ‘meh’ like I did in Asia, I’d procrastinated for 8 months too long and enough was enough. And yes, it was worth schlepping my mat, another item of hand luggage, around for the foreseeable future, without a doubt. Why hadn’t I done that in the first place? (The beauty of hindsight…)

I remember the day I first rolled out my travel mat in our Airbnb in Amsterdam. We were cat-sitting, too, and I was watched with curiosity from my suspicious feline companion. It was a rusty practice, but oh it was so good to be back. The next time I managed to roll my mat out was between our two single beds in Slovenia (FYI, a country keen on separate sleeping arrangements) so you can see I was still working up to a regular routine! Regardless, whenever I managed to find time, and space, it gave me wonderful moments for self-expression, self-reflection and just time to myself, which is precious when you’re travelling with someone 24/7. Those moments are like gold dust.

Not used to practicing without instruction, usually having followed the lead of a teacher, I was getting to know how to move by myself, for myself. I was nervous to practice in front of Lucas so would have to banish him from the room or make him turn around. I was also easing back into my body after so long, it was like working with a long-lost friend. My back was still a niggle from the disastrous cliff jumping experience, so I was also learning how to move more cautiously, with modifications, but it was ok; bodies change and I was learning accept that. Now I have a whole list of clicks and cricks that come with getting older!

yoga bled

As we were travelling over the summer I was able to practice outside, too, in the dewy meadows after sunrise in the long grass, or out on a balcony overlooking the sea. I tried to make it a routine, to practice daily (which realistically worked out at 3-4 times a week) and Lucas would often join me, after I got over my shyness, as I tried to teach him the basics of a vinyasa flow. It was then that the lightbulb moment happened.  I had already (re)realised the joy I got from yoga was not worth giving up again, changing my travel routine to include yoga, but now I wanted to make something more of it. I realised I wanted to learn to teach. I wanted to help people experience the joy that I felt in my practice with theirs.

I remember the moment I committed to this idea, in Bosnia & Herzigovina, and placing the deposit for the teacher training with a beating heart. I’d done it. The money was spent. I’d committed. This was back in August last year. The training was in March this year. In Costa Rica. So, there was a leap of faith to be made; a) that I’d still want to do it in 6 months, and b) that we’d make it to Costa Rica! Or at least I had to!

Within just a few months of reigniting my passion, and stepping back onto the path of becoming more ‘myself’, I had decided to turn yoga into more than just a lifestyle and a practice; deep down I knew it was what I’d been waiting for. Yoga was now more than just something to wake up for and ‘do,’ now I was trying to align it with my dharma.

From that day I dove into preparing for my training: watching videos, lectures, reading books on Eastern Philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita, the Sutras, e-books on the chakras, teaching myself the Sanskrit words for the poses. Everything. I felt alive again. I had a purpose. Whenever I could in the morning I’d roll out my mat first thing and flow. Feel into my body and create sequences inspired by previous mornings, other classes, Instagram videos, or muscle memory. I’d move differently every morning and give myself compassion for the ebbs and flows. Yes, some days I did more than others, some days nothing at all. I also had to be lenient about the days I would have to miss a practice by being stuck on a bus, or staying in rooms that were, literally, too small to swing a metaphorical cat let alone roll out a yoga mat. I’d often feel bad about it, like I was cheating myself of something, almost like I wasn’t feeding myself by missing a meal, but I would try to let it go and read instead, or mediate on-the-go. I didn’t want it to become an obsession. Non-attachment, one of the key practices in yoga!

My new routine stuck throughout our travels around Europe and Northern Africa – Lucas and I even went on a retreat in Croatia and Morocco together – and I only became more and more dedicated to my practice and to living with integrity in the run up to my training. And now, fast forwarding to May, I’ve done it. I’ve completed my 200-hour training to become a yoga teacher. The 6 months of preparation all paid off. It was worth every penny, every drop of sweat, every tear shed, every wound opened, picked at and healed.

But then what? Trying to align travelling with living a yogic lifestyle had its challenges. I knew that before, but it got to a point that I decided I really had to start putting myself and my yoga first. It was time to start becoming the person that I wanted to be; the best version of myself. It was time for a change. While travelling was/is SO nourishing, so educational, so inspiring, and so challenging, I needed to challenge myself, nourish myself, educate myself and inspire myself in different ways.

roof yoga

After a conversation over dinner one night in Nicaragua, Lucas and I – mutually and excitedely – decided that it was time to hang up our backpacks for a while and focus on how we want to live; sustainably, environmentally-conscious, healthily, and spiritually. More inline with our core values, which had taken a back seat in the many months we were on the road. We chose a spot to call home and have settled down for the foreseeable future in a small town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, where I completed my training, to try and live a (relatively) ‘normal’ life and live the way we believe will nourish us.

It was time; I missed community. I missed sangha. I missed having options to eat well. I missed treating my body well. I missed self-care not being a priority. These things seem so ‘duh’ but when you’re on the road, seriously, it’s hard to prioritize yourself and your wellbeing when things like brown bread and fresh fruit are hard to come by, or beer is cheaper than water! And you can probably guess which option we would go for.

We’ve only been here a week or so but I’ve already managed to find jobs teaching, we’ve shopped at the organic food shops and the farmer’s market, there are volunteering opportunities in permaculture farms Lucas is considering, women’s circles that I want to join and, of course, yoga, yoga yoga! Everything we had wanted to find in one place seems to be here. I’m excited to take my yoga journey to the next level, both in personal practice and living a yogic lifestyle, and also to have a job that I want to wake up for every day. Basically, having the option to do the things that will align me with who I want to be.

It’s time to adult again and put myself (and my wellbeing) first. After all, whose cup can I fill if I’m not filling up my own?

 

Stay tuned for most posts on my yoga journey, yoga on the road, and other yoga-related tid-bits and tales.