Here’s a nifty mind and awareness expanding exercise you might should try. It really is ‘sense expanding’. It’s one ‘we’ used to do as a small child. Try it sometimes. Do it over a week or two and you might find you are changing your mind and senses. Expanding your horizons. Quite literally. And you might find yourself more in the ‘now’ when you do it, when you pay attention to it. It can be peaceful and good for when we get upset, but need to pay attention to what’s in front of us. It can make you a better driver and pedestrian as well. A better observationalist, as my father would say. A person who can sit casually observing . . . from the corners of his eyes. While never every exactly looking.*
Look at the photo below. What do you see? CLICK on it so you can get the “full view”, then come back.
Now the fact is, this is how you see everything: in panoramic vision. Your field of view is approximately 160 to 180 degrees in the horizontal, and 100 degrees in the vertical***, depending upon you, the human being. Your binocular ‘width’ (which you use to determine depth of field) is about 120 degrees (horizontally). But the fact is, most people only pay attention to a narrow cone – what is directly in front of us. So what you are actually noticing as you walk down this strip is a narrowing tunnel – narrowed down to focus what you are looking at, and often not noticing anything else. This is called “selective vision”.
This is part of the brain’s attempt to reduce the amount of information getting ‘in’, the amount of detail, thereby reducing the information load you have to process. It’s called saving energy and directing your attention. That is normal, that is human. We all do that thing – especially given there are no threats to our survival to make us ‘see’ and pay attention otherwise. You have to train your mind to the task of seeing everything around you without looking. (Of course that doesn’t count behind, but you are always checking.) Detail becomes sharper in a survival situation; that is just a part of you looking for an ‘out’, a way to survive.
As part of ‘my’ childhood warrior training, I often had to focus on a task in order to ‘accomplish my mission’. It was also to escape a beating, mocking, or humiliation or worse – all three most of the time. It was up to me to defend myself and be aware of my environment – all the time. To learn to improvise with anything I saw. They had a way of correcting u:. Sometimes a hand would reach out from behind you into your field of vision, and if you weren’t quick, it would slap us upside the head hard enough to sending you spinning. Or a fist to the lower ribs from the side – always where you could kinda see it and you would have an instant to react – dodging, or guarding it. If you weren’t paying attention you could find yourself picking yourself up off the floor, gasping and moaning and holding your side, the breath knocked out of you. Or out in some field, brushing grass off your pants – head humming and hurting so loud that your eyes were watering, but you couldn’t cry. Not when there was a mission going on. Blurry vision doesn’t help towards a lot of things, including some that we were in on. It could get you hurt. Quite literally. Just a little bit of the training we were on as a nuclear child.
There was a lot of strange training like that. And it added to my flinch reflex so bad that I became useless for sparring – my opponent could never hit me. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t let him – I couldn’t. I kept involuntarily guarding. Can’t help it. Even now some.
But this shouldn’t be nearly as violent. It can make an improvement to you, for you. It can make you more aware and comfortable in your surroundings. It can calm you down when you need to go. It can expand your field of view by teaching you to use it – pay attention to those things in the corners. Details and things.
It can even save your life sometimes. (Frowning, remembering. But it was good. We saved a lot of men in the end. Including ourselves sometimes.)
So as you walk along, start paying attention to those things in your field of vision. This means keeping your eyes staring straight ahead but paying attention to the buildings and cars slipping by – sliding by, sliding past behind you at the edges of your vision. At first it might be hard – you are going to want to keep your focus (mental, physical, and social) on that tunnel in front of you that you are used to seeing, and that’s okay! It takes some practice to get this thing down. (And I love it; that sensation I get when things go sliding by out of the corners of my vision . . . it’s kinda cool, like seeing three things at one time – the view in front of you and at the corners of your eyes, sliding by . . .
You will find yourself paying more attention to the things all around you. This we used to call “situational awareness” and covers everything in your field of view – from top to bottom, down to your feet (you should see them, or at least the toes thrusting forward as you’re walking). You should the sky and the ground at your feet, both at the same time – vision extending from shoulder to shoulder, all the way around, and encompassing all in front of you.
You will find you cannot pay ‘attention’ to just one thing without ‘focusing’, which helps in staying in the ‘now’, nor can you allow yourself to be distracted by something that’s sliding by – and yet you still notice it. Keep yourself safe! The first few times you might find yourself tottering, suffering from vertigo (especially if you are older) as your brain adjusts to this ‘new way’ of looking at the world and things. Later on as you get ‘used’ to this expanded vision, you can try things which will help you in multi-tasking, such as doing something with one hand on the left side while looking at something in front of you – while the right hand is busy doing something, too. I urge you to use caution at this; start easily – simply picking up a pencil off the counter without looking at it can be a chore. However, it is useful when you ‘master’ the talent of using both hands – and your whole field of vision – and you will accomplish amazing things in the eyes of your peers (such as working on two separated items or projects while studying the plans for a third). It used to amaze people I could do things like that. (“You’re scary!” said more than one engineer, laughing nervously while taking his plans and hustling out, “And you’re scary fast!” they would comment before leaving. I never broke a deadline, and usually came in earlier than what I said (or they wanted, sometimes, LOL’ing).
Anyway – just another way of looking at things, this time quite literally. I think if you try it you might find it can come in useful sometimes. You can learn to turn it ‘on and off’ for when driving or paying attention to one thing – expanding your field of view and horizons, expanding your mind sometimes.
Good luck with it. Hope to be ‘seeing’ you. 🙂*This was part of our training as a child for espionage, and used for spying. Walking along the front of a building – eyes front! – while secretly noting entrances, guards, their guns, and any hidden cameras – or loose features we could sneak in . . . or sitting at a sidewalk cafe’ . . . watching the soldiers go by . . . and counting them while noting equipment and gear in our mind – while staring at something different – a bird on the ground, or bitter expresso laced with milk and cream and sugar . . . ** I am a master of improvisation; the Marine Corps found that trait quite useful. So did the Army later when I worked as a “contractor” for them. How to do that: focus tightly on the task at hand – while paying attention to all the others. A bit of a problem sometimes, I’d get overwhelmed, but in civilian engineering I was handle up to twenty-five projects at a time, and never less than fifteen a day. *** Wikipedia, “Field of View“, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_of_view