Gina Molinari yoga, wellness, travel and coaching
If only I could consider my ridiculous focus on how much my bleeding, chapped lips hurt to be a practice of dharana, or single pointed focus.
I so often hold something in my mind and remain unwaveringly conscious of it: my crammed schedule for the upcoming day, hangry hunger, frustration with the driver who cut me off 2 miles ago. It weaves itself into my mind and my breath, boosting itself up as if to say, "Yes! Look at me! KEEP looking at me! What do you think about me?". These one-pointed obsessions leave no space for Love, Truth, or even a simple breath. I'm completely wrapped up and thrown around by the thing itself rather than being present to witness the thing.
The practice of dharana as the sixth step of Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga requires us to draw our attention to a single object without interruption, even when that object is no longer there. Imagine watching the flame of a candle and becoming aware of the flame so deeply that when you close your eyes you can still "see" it dancing in front of your eyes. Often this "object" on concentration is isvara, which can be very loosely translated to "God", but really meaning something higher than ourselves. For me, isvara is Oneness, the great connection between and within all things. I look at the candle's flame and see God (when I'm not focusing on my chapped lips, that is!).
So what's the work for me here then? To find isvara in my chapped lips? Well, maybe I can actually use my chapped lips as a single point of focus, but I need to drop all the judgments I've surrounded it with. The difference between obsessing and dharana involves presence. My teacher Daniel Sitaram Das Shankin once led a meditation wherein we actually sat with the pain our bodies felt from sitting in meditation. The goal was not to forget the pain or make it go away, but rather to just sit and be present with it without judgment. Draw the senses inward to that object and quiet the mind. My back pain became my vehicle towards dharana.
After all that, my cracked lips still hurt, but maybe I can just let that be...
Focus vs Obsession
Presence vs Judgment
Acceptance vs Control
For an entire year I had been anticipating that I’d be in Haiti building a children’s school right now. I spent 5 months fundraising, 3 months getting ready for the trip, and a year talking about it. I had promised everyone that the day I left for Haiti was going to change my life and I wasn’t going to return to the one I was leaving.
Unfortunately, a week and a half before we were set to get on a plane, our trip was postponed. Haiti’s presidential elections have caused violent turmoil in the country and traveling there is no longer safe. So with my bag halfway packed and my plans cleared for the week, I slumped back with a mixture of emotions that starkly contrasted the excitement I had been feeling. Frustration, anger, disappointment, confusion, fear, sadness…
I had been imagining a spark, something that was to set my “old life” ablaze as it transformed into something new and brilliant. That date of January 31, 2016 held the promise of everything I’d been hoping for for the past 5 years. So when the date became just a passing Sunday, I was forced to sit back and observe all that I’d hung on it.
For me, this trip to Haiti was more than a service trip. It was the life event to mark my transition from full-time office employee in a job that sucked my soul, to a purpose filled and aligned life of doing work that actually felt good. The thing is, I did actually quit my job (with the last day being on January 29). I did witness the Universe placing blessings and opportunities in my path as I proudly walked along it.
All of the brilliance was already in motion, but I was waiting for some big event to actually acknowledge it all. I was waiting for Haiti.
How often do we hang our transformations and transitions on some opulent Big Bang? Maybe I had already walked into my “new life”, but I was still observing it from the outside as a faraway land. Like reading the travel guide on Paradise instead of looking up to see I was already there.
Fortunately, my Highest Self wasn’t waiting for a silly date to dive into alignment. This postponement has given me that chance to step back and look at what I’ve already created so that I can be grateful and proud of it all.
I didn’t need a date, a trip, a critical event to make a shift. In fact, I’d already done it - I just hadn't allowed myself to revel in the celebration!
Ramblings, insights, & motivation