Thirty Years Before Mindfulness
Finding Focus through Tactile Sensations
“The brain is the hardest part of the body to adjust in asanas”
From the time I was very little, my uncle used to always applaud how tactile I was. Everything, for me, was about how it felt, or how it made me feel. Every little thing…from the tags in my clothes to the finest seeds in my foods, these sensations had the power to ignite feelings of lightning bolts shooting through my nervous system. When my son was born, I noticed this infant seemed hypersensitive to every kind of stimulus around him – from puppy murmurs to the hum of the lights. This complex and overactive ‘sensitive’ gene had been duplicated, and it was at that moment that I knew why this child found me.
Being perceptible to touch is really about a communication signal. Animals communicate using signals, which can include stimuli that are visual, auditory, chemical, and tactile. Communication behaviours can help animals find mates, establish dominance, defend territory, coordinate group behaviour, and care for young. As humans, if we can tap into this kind of awareness, we are more capable of making transformative change occur. Eugene Gendlin, a well-known psychotherapist during the ’50s, called this “felt sense”: When your body knows more about situations than you are explicitly aware of, and the body picks up more about another person than you consciously know. The sensations, and all the ‘feels’ you have, are part of an internal dialogue that your body and mind are having.
So, from a yogic perspective, how do we train our ‘monkey minds’ to stay focused long enough to identify a felt sense, so ultimately, we can create a felt shift? On average, people experience about 70,000 thoughts a day. Practising Dhāraṇā, might just be the key…the practice of Concentration (Dhāraṇā) teaches us to ‘zoom in,’ so we’re able to focus on one thing alone. Much like any network, Dhāraṇā needs its sidekick Drishti to be successful. Your Gaze (Drishti) is one point of focus, a non-moving point in front of you that is your sole focus when practising your yoga poses. This Drishti will not only aid in your postural alignment, but will support your mind’s ability to concentrate.
On average, people experience about 70,000 thoughts a day. Practising Dhāraṇā, might just be the key…the practice of Concentration (Dhāraṇā) teaches us to ‘zoom in,’ so we’re able to focus on one thing alone.
Drishti is the yin to Dhāraṇā’s yang, for both asana and meditation. Simply put, Dhāraṇā means to concentrate without interruption from internal or external disruptions. This is helpful in an asana practice because without Drishti and Dhāraṇā, the mind chatter runs wild (What did she just say? My muscles are starting to shake. When can we release? Boy, it’s getting hot in here! Remember to pick up milk on the way home. Hmm, wonder when I will be able to walk the dog. Did I fold the clothes in the dryer?). Seriously, I’ve been there!
Finding your Drishti in each pose will guide you towards deepening your posture by virtue of your focus and concentration. This will allow you to zero in on the meditation in action, and the transformative changes will be on your horizon. Your deepened sensations will now guide your journey to a place where more focus is attainable, and your yoga becomes the medicine for the unsettling and restlessness of the mind. Namaste