While on a plane where I was reading a book, listening to music, and responding to emails, a kind woman leaned over and introduced herself to me. At first I was annoyed, couldn’t she see I was in the middle of something, or rather somethings? I started to turn away, but quickly realized I needed to stop what I was doing and engage in conversation with an actual live person. Immediately, I liked her. Phyllis. Not only did she have the same name as my grandmother, she had her sweet and caring disposition. Unlike so many people with whom I interact, Phyllis wasn’t initiating a conversation to talk about herself; rather, she wanted to learn about me. She was asking questions and actually listening to my responses. She was engaged in a conversation with a complete stranger for no reason other than pure connection and curiosity.
When it was my turn to ask the questions, I learned that Phyllis is a yoga teacher. She began to talk about what she was teaching her students, and, interestingly enough, she was talking about the concept of “Drishti.” For those of you who regularly practice yoga, you will be familiar with this term. For those of you who don’t practice, and perhaps have no intention of ever doing so, there are many real life applications for Drishti as well. A Drishti is a specific point that you focus on when holding balance poses or during meditation. Drishti is used to keep the mind engaged and focused, and although crucial in holding a Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3) or Garudasana (Eagle Pose), it can be very beneficial in daily life. Phyllis had “interrupted” my multitasking to teach me a lesson about focusing on one particular task instead of multiple things at one time.
She said that when she tells her students that they must practice Drishti daily, they are initially reluctant. Multitasking is a way of life for most of us. At any given moment I could be editing a document on my computer, shopping on my phone, scrolling through a recent By Grace sale on my iPad, cooking dinner and making weekend plans with my girlfriends. We are all guilty of spreading our attentions amongst different tasks, different electronics, and different parts of our lives. One of Phyllis’s students is a chef, and claimed that practicing Drishti would be impossible when at work because he oversees several sous chefs, multiple ovens, grills, and stove tops. Multitasking is the only way he can do his job. However, a couple weeks after his initial objections to Drishti, he came back to her class and said that he was working better and more calmly after applying the principals of engagement and focus to one specific point or task. Phyllis further explained that Drishti doesn’t mean not being involved with many undertakings at once; rather it is more about giving your full attention to whatever you are currently working on. If you are currently cooking a piece of salmon, focus on that salmon. If you then need to switch your attention to the soufflé, then do so, but focus your attentions completely.
I am never going to run a kitchen at a Michelin starred restaurant (I still burn grilled cheese), but I do write donor letters while watching a TED talk or file my monthly sales tax reports while Facetiming my best friend. Since meeting Phyllis I have tried to streamline my attention. When I am writing a blog, I try to focus on that, even if only for 15 minutes at a time. I find that I am not only producing higher quality work, I am also finishing my to do list much quicker. This is not easy for me, and I know it won’t be for many of us. But in the modern day where we are connected to our friends and family, our work life, and a consistent feed of current events from the comfort of our couch, I feel we need to work harder to focus and be truly present in whatever moment or task in which we choose to engage. I surely am glad I decided to engage with Phyllis.
Until next time,