Setting a Drishti for the New Year

December 29, 2016    BY Amber Burke

I expect there are people who make New Year’s resolutions, stick to them, and better their lives because of them. Given the wide array of human dispositions, such people must exist. Whoever and wherever they are, they deserve celebration.

I have never been such a person. To me, a resolution feels like another “should” in a life full of shoulds—a demand for more effort in a world already requiring so much fortitude. It can even feel like a kind of self-aggression.  

The first few months of every new year I’m often filled with guilt for not attending to my resolutions—which typically involve getting up earlier, being less cranky, and doing more (okay, any) cardiovascular exercise between yoga practices. By setting multiple resolutions, I’ve often felt the chances of one sticking were greater. But all resolutions would eventually and inevitably slip my mind, leaving me only with a lingering sense of failure.

To me, a resolution feels like another “should” in a life full of shoulds—a demand for more effort in a world already requiring so much fortitude.

What if there were a way of taking the edge off our resolution-making, beginning the new year with a little more ease? One of the definitions of resolve—along with the more common “to determine a course of action” and “to solve a problem”—is “to turn into a different form when seen more clearly.” The Oxford Dictionaries offer lyrical examples: “The orange light resolved itself into four roadwork lanterns”; “The spidery script up its side resolved itself in just a moment to form a word”; “Before them was a hint of glimmer that slowly resolved itself into a stripe of blue: the sea.”

In this kind of “resolving,” an object distinguishes itself from the muddle—something that was not clear comes into focus. This implies a softness and a receptivity. You don’t make the light turn into lanterns, the letters become a word, or the glimmer turns into the sea. These things happen on their own, perhaps with a measure of magic. For this kind of resolution to happen, all you have to do is set your drishti, or “gazing point,” keep looking with sustained interest, and then wait for what is already present to reveal its true form.

What if this year, instead of setting a resolution, we set a drishti of sorts, deciding what we want to spend our time looking at rather than declaring what we must do or what we must change about ourselves. We could train our mental gaze on a spot of our own choosing, and then see what resolves before our very eyes.

For instance, instead of resolving to practice yoga every day, or to work our way into hanumanasana this year—or even to finally get those toes to spread, goshdarnit—what if we set a drishti on a certain aspect of our practice? “This is the year I’ll set my focus on my toes’ tendency to clench,” or “This is the year I will channel my awareness to what my knees are up to,” or “This is the year I’ll make my breath the object of my attention.” Without forcing anything, we could resolve to look in these directions, with sustained interest and patient curiosity, watching to see what takes shape.

Instead of “I resolve to make more time for myself,” we could try, “I resolve to set my drishti on the time I already have.” Our eight hours of sleep and eight hours of work still leave us with eight hours that we sometimes don’t even notice, hours that blur right past us. What if we paid a little more attention to those hours—would their luxuriousness and possibilities come into focus?

Instead of “I resolve to be more adventurous,” we could try looking at the adventures we undertake, every day, one after the other. Look long enough at what we’re doing, and perhaps the vibrancy of these daily experiences will become clear.

Of course, sometimes changes do need to be made in our attitudes or our lives. But instead of commanding ourselves to “be more appreciative,” say, what if we redirected our gaze away from the source of our complaint—toward something that might be more pleasing or engaging? Is there something perfect, or pretty close to it, about this imperfect person, imperfect experience, imperfect moment, or imperfect self that we might focus on?

Instead of “doing more for those less fortunate,” what if we set our drishti upon how, in every moment, we might be of service? If we attune our gaze to the opportunities around us, chances are that we will see them looking back at us from behind every tree.

Instead of “I resolve to take criticism with a more open mind” or “I resolve to be more confident,” what if we could focus on the valuable part we are playing in every moment, in each exchange, and in this world? If we keep an eye out for evidence that we are valued and even loved, I bet we will see it. Perhaps openness and confidence will follow.

Instead of “Be nicer to other human beings” or “Be more loving,” what if we set our attention on what is irresistibly lovable in the people around us? As their lovability “resolves,” we might find that we’re naturally more loving.

Instead of trying harder at our yoga practices, our jobs, and our passions, what if we set a drishti on what it is about these processes that’s rewarding for us? Perhaps, as a pleasant corollary, we’ll end up trying harder as a result of our renewed connection with the things we spend our days doing.

I’m hoping that once we train our gaze, our world will change.

Sometimes I focus on what’s hard about something I’m doing. I register the weight of the world on my shoulders. This year, I’m thinking of setting a drishti on what’s easy and what’s fluid. If, as a result, I should become less cranky, so much the better. If I get up early this year—and I’m by no means committing—I’ll keep an eye out for any ease that accompanies the dawn. Perhaps I’ll find that, in the permissive quiet before the whole world wakes, thinking is much easier. If I add running to my life—and I’m not saying I will—I will look toward what (amid the heart racing, the lungs burning!) might be easy about it. Maybe I’ll discover how easy it is to pump my arms, to lift my knees, to see magpie in the winter trees, to hear the snow crunch under my feet, and to smell the spicy smoke from the chimneys as my neighbors light their morning fires.

I’m hoping that once we train our gaze, our world will change. Perhaps what comes into focus as a result of an extended practice of drishti, is something we’ll begin to see easily and everywhere. After all, you learn the name of a new bird, and suddenly the whole earth seems full of magpies you can’t believe you’ve been missing all these years. You learn where the feral cats like to hide, and suddenly you see their eyes gleaming at you from under every bush. You learn the shape of a constellation, and there it is, every night, flickering its stars at you.

Perhaps by setting my drishti on ease, ease will begin to proliferate. Ease may even get me up early and come running with me.

Amber Burke
Amber Burke lives in Coyote, New Mexico, and teaches alignment-based and restorative yoga at Body in Santa Fe. In her classes, she aspires to a precision of language and detail that will not only create sustainable poses but also guide students inward, toward an ever-deepening self-awareness. She is a graduate of Yale, the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars MFA Program, and two yoga teacher trainings through Yogaworks in Los Angeles, and has been registered with the Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour... Read more>>

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