In Yoga, Drishti is a focused gaze and relates to the sixth limb of yoga, Dharana (concentration), bringing us to the here and now in reality, as it truly is. There are actually nine Drishtis and one night, I cycled through them all, with danger being the vehicle.
Back when the Breakfast Club was still in theatres, our martial arts school held its annual Christmas Party in a local parks & recreation gymnasium. Part of our set-up included a big banner that was to be hung from the rafters. Two of our elder students were seasoned steeplejacks; you know, those crazy people who climb cooling towers, church steeples, and the outside of tall buildings to do repairs.
They got a step ladder to gain access to the basketball rim on each side of the court and climbed the retractable framing system up to the steel truss that spanned the width of the building, some thirty-five feet above the floor. The truss was a zig-zag frame, that provided just enough crouching space for a very small contortionist. But these two 40-something grown men, made it look easy.
After the event, most of the guests had left as well as the two steeplejacks. But, there was the banner, still hanging. I was seventeen at the time, which means I was basically a super hero. I thought, “If those two old guys can do it, so can I.” And no need for a step ladder. I was able to grab rim back then. I pulled myself up and began the ascent into the rafters without much thought.
As I was untying the first string of the banner, I slipped just a bit and caught myself. Suddenly, it all became very clear as to where I was. Adrenaline flushed through my body and I froze. My vision was like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. You know; the dolly zoom camera technique where the periphery gets distorted and stretched, while the focus point becomes closer and sharper.
I couldn’t turn around and go back because, well … I didn’t have the skills of a steeplejack. My fingers and forearms hurt from the grip and my legs were aching from squatting. I was sweating and shaking, wide-eyed and heart thumping.
The floor looked like it was a hundred feet down and the distance to the other side might as well have been a mile, but I couldn’t stay here. I had to move, but I was stuck. There were people down on the floor, but they didn’t seem real. No one seemed to notice me and I didn’t yell for yelp. Not sure why.
Juke Box Hero began to play in my head, “It was a one-way ticket; only one way to go …” Yeah, songs and movie scenes play in my head at the oddest times.
I closed my eyes, focused on my breath, and embraced the suck. I looked up and the other side didn’t seem as far. I can do this. Hand, foot, breath, other hand, other foot, breath: I moved slowly and deliberately with my Drishti (s) being just inches in front of me.
When I came to the other end of the banner, I untied it and let it drop to floor, without watching it fall. There was no way I was going to go through this without accomplishing what I came up here for. Done.
At the other end, I climbed down the retractable framing of the backboard and did a hang-drop from the rim to the floor. I looked up, took a mental picture, turned and walked away.
Nothing focuses us and puts us in the now like fear. As scary and intense as that experience was, every part of me was alive and focused down to my mitochondria. Everything inside me was united towards a single goal. Quite exhilarating actually, but I don’t recommend it.
There are better vehicles than danger.
Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash.