This has been an exciting week for me -- first Skydiving (Freefallasana with a mantra of wheeeeeeeeeee) and then a day at the spa. I guess it makes sense to follow exhilaration with relaxation. In addition to doing a whole heck of a lot of relaxing (and napping in the "Relaxation Room") at the spa, I also did a little thinking.
After a soak in the Roman Bath and then 20 minutes in the sauna, I headed to the shower to cool off. A woman was exiting her shower stall at the same time I was walking into the shower area. Directly across from the shower stalls are mirrored cubbies. The woman exiting the stall practically walked right into me, as her eyes were locked on her reflection in the mirror opposite her. I'm not sure if she even realized I was there, her attention so focused on her reflection.
Then there's the whole Sauna/Steam Room/Roman Bath scene...some women go in au naturel (that would be me) while others go in covered by a bathing suit or towel. Again, eye contact was severely limited because everyone seemed to be focused on everything below the neck.
Hmmmm...what's with the preoccupation with everyone's body?
I know, I know -- the media, airbrushing, etc. Still, I was a bit taken aback by the external focus.
Which brings me to Yoga class. I know folks like to practice in front of mirrors for alignment purposes, but UCK -- I hate practicing in a studio with mirrors. Again, it draws the attention to the external. Of course if there are no mirrors, there's always the option to check out your fellow practitioners on their nearby mats for external stimulation.
What are we looking for? Are we looking in judgment or comparison, or are we looking in love? Why are we looking?
I've been asking myself questions like these lately, as I've been evaluating how I spend my time. I realize that I live in 2012, but my focus is too external for my taste (and my emotional health). Yes, I gave up my TV about 5 months ago, but I find myself on the Internet a bit too much. I constantly remind myself -- more sitting, less Web surfing. When my focus is too external, my internal goes a bit wonky. I'm slower to acknowledge (or even recognize) my feelings; I'm out of touch with my desires; I'm a bit more scattered; I'm a little less happy, as I end up spending less time on/with the things/people that I value. The more time I spend tapped into my internal world, the more attuned I am to myself and others.
I have a friend (actually I have a few friends like this, so consider this a combination of many people into one) who runs from one thing to another. This person's life is a cycle of work, volunteer work, social obligations, and errands. A mutual friend of ours commented on this person's seeming hamster wheel of a life and asked: "What makes her run? What's she running from?" Emails and phone messages go unanswered as she runs from one thing to the next. I thought she was happy with her lifestyle, as she's made certain choices in order to have it, yet one day her frustration boiled over and she exclaimed, "When do I get what I want to do? Hell, I don't even know what I want!"
Perhaps she needs a little internal focus to balance our her extreme external focus?
Some years back when I was getting my Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy certification, I found myself flummoxed by my sessions with one particular practice partner. Every time we got together to do a session, he expressed excitment over how much he enjoyed the work we did together. And yet every time we did a session, he fell asleep. The first time it happened, I figured he was tired (ironically, he too, had a packed schedule). The second time it happened, I wrote it off to yet again to lack of sleep. By our third session, I brought it to my mentor. She responded to my query by saying that often people use sleep to avoid something. In this case, the yoga therapy sessions my partner and I were engaging in brought up a lot of emotional stuff for him. Perhaps he was sleeping in order to avoid what came up during a session?
It's very similar to external focus -- it's a way for us to distract ourselves from what's going on inside. In essence, we are sleeping because we are ignoring what's inside and instead, focusing on the amusements outside.
Monday's skydiving experience was captured on film (for posterity and bragging rights, I suppose). Often people ham it up for the videographer -- there are a lot of funny faces and hand gestures. I, on the other hand, was totally oblivious. I only looked at the camera only when it was literally in my face. I was too focused on the amazing experience of freefalling out of a plane, seeing the view, feeling the cold air against my skin, hearing the loud sound of falling out of the sky in my ears. My focus was totally locked into sensory mode and I was soaking in the whole experience, the videographer forgotten. I suppose you could say I was much like that woman in the spa -- I was enraptured. Except I was enraptured by the experience, not by the static going on around me.
Try as I might, I don't always live my life that way. I, too, get distracted by it all. Let's face it, there's a lot to be distracted by. And there are always those folks who pshaw the whole thing: "What, are you going to move to a cave and meditate all day? That's not real life! And all of that contemplating your navel makes you a bit selfish, don't you think?" Funny, I find that when I don't do my so-called navel gazing, I'm a lot less in tune with the folks around me. I'm too distracted to notice subtle emotional cues and the like.
It sort of reminds me of sharing a tea/lunch/dinner and conversation with a friend who is more focused on what's going on around her than on our interaction. It's a bit disconcerting when you find someone's attention wandering to his cell phone or his eyes darting back and forth taking in the social scene around us rather than our conversation. Being on the receiving end of this a time or two myself, I endeavor to be careful about where my focus is when I'm out with someone.
Where's your focus? Are you focused "out there" because you want to avoid what's inside or because you don't know any better or because you're simply sloppy?
They say happiness is an inside job. I'm inclined to agree. Of course if you never go inside...(you finish the rest)