In the spring of 1989, Tommy "Vinnie" Vincent asked me to his senior prom. He was the 6'4" star center of our high school basketball team and I walked past him and his friends every day on my way to chemistry, but up until the moment I received this critical communique, I hadn't given Tommy a second look. But, apparently I had his attention--and that changed everything.
Let's try a little experiment. Close your eyes and just observe your breath. Don't change anything about it. Just notice it without interfering with it in any way. What happens? (Pause here and actually freagin do it, k?)
For me, when I direct my attention to my breath, it automatically seems to shift and deepen. When I notice that change and try to settle back into to my day-to-day rhythm, it then seems like I almost can't breathe, and my observation is actually getting in the way of being breathed. I get kinda freaked out. "You're not getting enough air," one thought says. "Hey, why ya holding me back?" says another, "Get out my way." Then I realize that by trying to 'get back' to my regular breathing I'm actually restricting the natural expansion that happens when we pay attention to anything--and anyone. Our awareness changes not only our perception of the thing, but the thing itself.
This is phenomenon is known scientifically as the Observer Effect. This means the act of observing changes that which is being observed. If you submerge a thermometer to measure the temperature of water, the temperature of the thermometer itself (the observer) compromises the true temperature of the water. Similarly, humans and animals behave differently if they know, consciously or subconsciously, they are being watched. In fact, physicists on the leading edge of their field claim that elements of quantum phenomenon can only be measured and are thus called into existence only when they are being observed. So, the conundrum for scientists is this; how are we to ever know the true nature of anything if we are only able to measure it in relation to another phenomenon?
First of all, let me just say this kind of shit turns me on. And apparently, so did Tommy. His observation of me altered me forever. The light of his awareness flipped my switch, and now I saw him as more than an awkward Korean-Italian boy-man standing in a badly lit hallway in the middle of lily-white small town USA. His attention alerted me to the power of attention itself and ultimately the meaning of love.
Perhaps its a stretch to equate my experience with Tommy to the observer effect. But, there is more than one way of knowing. We can use our senses, apply reason and employ language as ways of understanding the world around us, and each of these has their inherent strengths and limitations. Tommy showed me how our emotions are also a valid way of knowing and that attitudes, people and even civilizations are irrevocably changed because of this often scoffed at source of wisdom. His attention concentrated through the lens of his big blessedly-beautiful heart allowed me to acknowledge, accept, appreciate and be in awe of first love.
Who might I have been without Vinnie? I don't ever care to know. One school of thought speculates that because of him and his observer effect, I will never decisively 'know' my true nature. I don't believe it. Instead I believe because of him I 'know' myself with even more clarity because it's only in relation to another that I can truly experience my own humanity and thus my enigmatic essential self. How's that for a paradox?
So, where have you directed your attention in your life? Just imagine for a hot second who or what you have changed because of it--even if ya don't know it? (Again, pause here will ya? Take the time cuz it's worth it.)
In Yogaville, we call this drishti, or vision. In Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga it is the first pillar of our practice. Physically, drishti is focusing your eyeballs on one point to steady your body and central nervous system and then relaxing your balls to take in the periphery in order to become aware of and receptive to possibilities. Off the mat in our big badass life it's having a higher vision and seeing possibilities all around you. So, it quite literally takes balls to do the work in this practice, just like it takes balls to ask a stranger to your senior prom. Yes, it's all about the balls.
Balls, balls, balls...balls, balls, balls, does it even sound like a word anymore? That's because it's energy disguised as a word and words create consciousness. I embrace the energy of balls--the energy of bold attention and creation, the energy of knocking down the rough edges until we experience our perfect smooth wholeness under all the shale, the energy of vulnerability and humanity.
Balls woke me up this morning, how 'bout you?