In yoga practice, the balancing poses usually occur sometime after the standing poses and flows in a vinyasa. They come before we move to the floor and snake through stretches leading to savasana. During the balancing poses (tree, dancer, bow, eagle), the teacher will often instruct us to focus our gaze on one point in the room; something that doesn't move. (So, not yourself in the mirror.) This focused gaze is called drishti in Sanskrit. It's a place that you can send your thought and energy while you allow your body to balance itself. Drishti is a necessity to maintaining poise and grace during the balancing poses. It's also a powerful concept to apply to larger issues with balance in life.
I suffered a major setback in the last few months. I was rejected for a doctoral program at Stanford. It makes me feel like a real idiot to even write that, because . . . most people get rejected from Stanford. There is nothing special about me that makes me different or unique because this happened to me. There are a thousand idiosyncratic reasons this could have happened, and perhaps there is really just one salient reason: I'm not qualified.
But it still just sucked. Rejection is so unbelievably hard, especially because I tend to take others' dislike or indifference for me as a challenge to show them how much they secretly love and need me inside. (Analyze that one for a little bit!) I have a very hard time flouncing and detaching in these scenarios. Rather, I tend to double down on convincing the party who rejected me that I'm actually the choice they want. They just don't know it yet. This kind of persistence has generally yielded great results in my life, but at significant personal and emotional cost.
When I shared about my experience of rejection from Stanford, my old friend Andy Piper popped up and reminded me of something I had shared with him during a challenging time in his life many years ago. He said, "You once told me that in times of distress, you "zoom out." I have thought about that nearly every single day since then." Zooming out has indeed been my strategy of choice for escaping the pressure cooker. It's like a release valve. I picture myself floating up from the dense underbrush of whatever is entangling me. I begin to see a pattern from the tree canopy. As I get further away, I see that the dark tangle is just a little blip. The forest is so beautiful and rich. There are gorgeous areas just beyond whatever I was struggling with. The way things are won't last forever - I can escape the dangerous endlessness that threatens to overwhelm me.
"Feeling are intimate, but not infinite." My best friend Amanda shared this with me a few months ago. Yes. It's so true. Finding perspective and zooming out, fixing your gaze, using drishti, is terribly challenging in times of disappointment and distress. But it's a skill we have to cultivate if we are to maintain any kind of balance in the poses.