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This is the sign that hangs by our front door.

peace-sign-on-wall-122516It says:

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

As I walk out into my days, I appreciate the reminder that skillful thought and action does not come from a state of panic. Relaxing my eyes, mind, and heart does not mean acquiescence, surrender or blind obedience, but rather finding the true power of calm and peace.

This week’s post revisits one I wrote on November 1, 2015. In these days of darkness, it’s helpful for me to reconnect with how I’m using my eyes and my vision — both literally and figuratively. As we look toward a new year, I’m practicing staying peaceful even in the face of discomfort, fear, and anger. Since it is only from peace that peace will happen.


It’s my favorite yoga class of the week: Sunday noon, 90 minutes of Power with Kelly. But I walk in all jumbly and rattly. As I pull out a block and unroll my thick blue mat, even as friends walk in, I feel jagged around the edges. I can feel my eyes strain as they dart around the room. Who’s that? Ooh, that’s a cute top. I wonder what the story is behind that tattoo?

eyes panic 102915

Oh girl, I think. If you keep up with the darty eyes, there will be no peace for you today.

I see it in my students sometimes, too. They walk in and look around to figure out if they belong or not. Did I wear the right thing? Am I the right age? Is this a thing for hippies and weirdies?

Oh friend, I think to the nervous newbie, relax your eyes or there will be no peace for you today.

In yoga, it’s called the drishti, the gaze, where we set the eyes and align the head, but more than that, how we direct our energy and attention. Every posture has a particular place to focus the eyes: Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), between the big toes; Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), front middle finger; Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana), up at the thumb. We practice steadying the drishti on something unmoving. By letting the eyes rest on one spot, the body and mind can focus letting our alarmed busy-ness drop like fall leaves.

Yogis know that when the eyes dart around, so does the mind. By settling the gaze on a steady point, we have a deeper access to our internal experience. When in the midst of an uncomfortable situation, whether it’s a long hold in Side Plank, (Vasisthasana) venturing into a new class, or driving in a downpour, my darting eyes only rattle me, stir up my mind, disperse my attention. Settling and relaxing my eyes invites patience with what’s actually happening instead of the distractions around me and in my own little head.

eyes patience 102915

One of my favorite online yoga teachers, Philip Urso, says that yoga helps us practice “going from panic to patience and from patience to peace.”

We are such visual creatures – from the moment we awaken, we are taking in the visual scene around us. We use our eyes so much that we are rarely even conscious of them (until we get something under our contact or we can’t read the print on the menu). Intentionally using the eyes instantly offers a way to connect the body and mind, and break the pattern of unconscious looking.

A soft eye relaxes both ocular muscles and active brain to allow the literal and figurative peripheral vision to expand. Suddenly, I can see that I’m really okay, that any intensity is temporary, and that I am part of a larger experience. An intentional gaze allows us to be fascinated with what is happening without becoming bewitched.

Like in yoga, in Nia we use the eyes to integrate body and mind as well as to stimulate healthful alignment and safe head movement. Perhaps more essentially, intentional use of the eyes trains us to go beyond superficial looking to seeing deeper, to what is so. Intentionally seeing the space, the other movers, and ourselves in the mirror allows us to shift from the panicky small mind through the patience of presence to the peace that really is available in every moment.

No matter what your practice – whether it is yoga or cycling or gardening or parenting – you can use the physical eyes to relax the brain and shift toward peace. Look with intention, to both relax the physical and mental bodies.

And in a bigger way, when we vision our lives and our world, we can also set our gaze on something unmoving, something steady. By setting our drishti on that which matters to us most, we can find a steadiness that moves from panic to patience, and from patience to peace.

eyes peace 102915

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eyes panic patience peace 110115
Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

We use our eyes from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep, so it’s easy to forget about them (until they stop working!). By intentionally using our gaze, we have clearer access to our internal experience — undoubtedly helpful in all circumstances but is a big reason for using a gazing point or drishti in yoga. Even beyond this, though, are many big benefits — for body, mind, emotions and relationships — in bringing awareness to how we use our eyes.

1. Balanced Body – Resting the gaze is particularly helpful when looking for physical balance. Experiment with standing on one foot and look around the room. Then stand on one foot and gaze at an unmoving object. BONUS: Give your balance extra challenge by standing on one foot with one eye closed or both eyes closed!

2. Brain Challenge – Play with breaking brain habits by moving your eyes. For example, turn your head left but slide your eyes right and vice versa. Tilt your head up but look down and then the other way. In yoga, challenge yourself to use a different gaze or drishti, just to see what happens. In Nia, instead of following your hand with your eyes, look away from your hand. If it feels awkward and messes you up…perfect! BONUS: The Feldenkrais Method engages the eyes in most exercises with the philosophy that the whole system needs to be included to change movement patterns. You can read more and play with some exercises here.

3. Settled Mind – The eyes can help bring balance to the mind. In unfamiliar or uncomfortable circumstances, the eyes will often dart and flit around in a counter-productive effort to gather information. If you’re feeling rattled, let your eyes soften on something that is unmoving and let them relax. BONUS: Sit in meditation and experiment with eyes closed and eyes softly resting on an unmoving object. See what feels best to you given your energy levels (for example, if you’re sleepy, see if eyes open and softly gazing works better; stressed out? See if closed eyes feel better.).

4. Stay alert – Ever notice yourself walking with narrow attention and your eyes on the ground? Experiment with walking with your eyes broadening your view – noticing the details of what and who is around you. You can also do this in the car if you find your attention narrowing down, by looking through the whole wind shield and using all your mirrors (even the side mirror on the passenger side!).

5. Conversational Support – Play with how you use your eyes in a conversation. We all have habits about where we look when we’re talking to someone, so start by noticing what you do. (I notice that my eyes often start on the person and then lift up and look away.) Then use your eyes with intention in conversation. Different people have different tolerances for connection. For some people, the best way to connect is having a conversation when we are not looking at each other (in the car, cooking together, doing a puzzle or a project) and for others, the best connection happens when we are looking directly into each other’s eyes. Notice what you do and what offers the best communication (and that might NOT be what feels easiest).

6. Connected Heart – Eye gazing is a deep way of connecting to yourself and to another. Simply relaxing and gazing into either your own eyes in a mirror or another’s eyes (I find it works well to gaze at one of my partner’s eyes to avoid the back and forth flitting) can be a transformative practice. Gazing softly for 5-10 minutes can allow us to see beyond the surface of roles and images and expectations. You can find out more about eye gazing here.

And remember that even if all you do this week is appreciate your eyes and all they allow you to do, that’s a powerful practice!

It’s my favorite yoga class of the week: Sunday noon, 90 minutes of Power with Kelly. But I walk in all jumbly and rattly. As I pull out a block and unroll my thick blue mat, even as friends walk in, I feel jagged around the edges. I can feel my eyes strain as they dart around the room. Who’s that? Ooh, that’s a cute top. I wonder what the story is behind that tattoo?

eyes panic 102915

Oh girl, I think. If you keep up with the darty eyes, there will be no peace for you today.

I see it in my students sometimes, too. They walk in and look around to figure out if they belong or not. Did I wear the right thing? Am I the right age? Is this a thing for hippies and weirdies?

Oh friend, I think to the nervous newbie, relax your eyes or there will be no peace for you today.

In yoga, it’s called the drishti, the gaze, where we set the eyes and align the head, but more than that, how we direct our energy and attention. Every posture has a particular place to focus the eyes: Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), between the big toes; Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), front middle finger; Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana), up at the thumb. We practice steadying the drishti on something unmoving. By letting the eyes rest on one spot, the body and mind can focus letting our alarmed busy-ness drop like fall leaves.

Yogis know that when the eyes dart around, so does the mind. By settling the gaze on a steady point, we have a deeper access to our internal experience. When in the midst of an uncomfortable situation, whether it’s a long hold in Side Plank, (Vasisthasana) venturing into a new class, or driving in a downpour, my darting eyes only rattle me, stir up my mind, disperse my attention. Settling and relaxing my eyes invites patience with what’s actually happening instead of the distractions around me and in my own little head.

eyes patience 102915

One of my favorite online yoga teachers, Philip Urso, says that yoga helps us practice “going from panic to patience and from patience to peace.”

We are such visual creatures – from the moment we awaken, we are taking in the visual scene around us. We use our eyes so much that we are rarely even conscious of them (until we get something under our contact or we can’t read the print on the menu). Intentionally using the eyes instantly offers a way to connect the body and mind, and break the pattern of unconscious looking.

A soft eye relaxes both ocular muscles and active brain to allow the literal and figurative peripheral vision to expand. Suddenly, I can see that I’m really okay, that any intensity is temporary, and that I am part of a larger experience. An intentional gaze allows us to be fascinated with what is happening without becoming bewitched.

Like in yoga, in Nia we use the eyes to integrate body and mind as well as to stimulate healthful alignment and safe head movement. Perhaps more essentially, intentional use of the eyes trains us to go beyond superficial looking to seeing deeper, to what is so. Intentionally seeing the space, the other movers, and ourselves in the mirror allows us to shift from the panicky small mind through the patience of presence to the peace that really is available in every moment.

No matter what your practice – whether it is yoga or cycling or gardening or parenting – you can use the physical eyes to relax the brain and shift toward peace. Look with intention, to both relax the physical and mental bodies.

And in a bigger way, when we vision our lives and our world, we can also set our gaze on something unmoving, something steady. By setting our drishti on that which matters to us most, we can find a steadiness that moves from panic to patience, and from patience to peace.

eyes peace 102915

eye energy eye closeupFew are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts. ~ Albert Einstein

My husband, Frank, and I are moving house. Last month we sold our beautiful and beloved work of Frank Art and next month, we will leave it. We are happy about the move and the process requires lots of letting go. It’s healthy and challenging and sometimes I have to put my head down on some packing materials.

Over the past few months, we’ve been purging the eddies in our house: the closets and cabinets and drawers where we mindlessly stick things until they stack up like a jumble of sticks and leaves on the swirling edge of a stream.

One of those eddies was my Nia and journal cabinet. This precious cabinet held every notebook and journal from every Nia training, meditation retreat, and workshop I’d attended in 15 years…although I’d almost never gone to it. When I swung open the cabinet, I felt my heart clench, “I NEED all of this. I don’t want to lose what I’ve learned.”

To placate my rising panic, I promised myself that I would collect all the wisdom in a Word document so I could keep the insights but let go of the dozens of spiral notebooks.

carlos has an ear for every instrument

To my shock, when I read through my Nia notebooks, I didn’t feel the need to capture much at all (although I did scan a couple of doodles like the one above). Almost everything I either knew in my bones or wasn’t relevant. In the end, out of all those journals, I entered precisely two lines into the Word document. They came from a Blue Belt (the second level of training focused on communication, relationship, and intimacy) from my teacher, Carlos AyaRosas:

~ Can you let go of the need to check the outside world to see if you are doing okay?
~ Can you use your eyes to look out and stay in your body?

Ah. Yes. Right. This, I want to keep. There is more to learn here.

In yoga, it’s called the drishti or gaze. In the Hawaiian Huna tradition makia means “energy flows where attention goes.” In Nia, one of the 52 Moves is Head & Eye Movement. As highly visual creatures, the way we use our eyes affects body, mind, and emotions. Eyes are movers of energy and how I choose to use them has a direct connection to where my energy goes, how much I have available, and how much I give away.

Tomorrow, I’ll look more closely at Carlos’ two pearls. Keep an eye out for it.

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