Friday, September 11, 2009

Seeing more.

Photo from Liesl Pimentel

Howdy Folks!
I hope you are doing well and getting outside and enjoying the weather. The seasons are getting ready to change this month providing us with a wonderful opportunity to experience a bustling of activity, regardless of whether you are headed into fall or spring. Animals are either preparing for winter, or getting ready for the abundance of spring. Today we are going to dive into increasing our awareness so we can experience the changing of the seasons with greater detail.

In our daily routines we are exposed to a wide range of stimuli which can be almost overwhelming. The sounds from television, computers, vehicle horns, music, air traffic, etc bombard our ears on a consistent basis. We encounter smells, both pleasant and nasty, along with hundreds of things touching our skin every hour. And our eyes receive millions of images everyday, often generated by televisions and computer screens rather than by nature.

As a result of this over stimulation, we tend to filter out various components of our environment, and develop the habit of selective awareness. We are aware of only what we think we need to notice. However, in doing this we often miss the wonderful show nature is providing us.

So, today we are going to work on increase our awareness. Today we are going to focus on our eyesight. We will get to our ears, noses, skin, and mouths at another date.

In our rush to get through our days we tend to operate in tunnel vision. We focus only on what is directly in front of us to the exclusion of a great deal of other things. To improve our visual awareness, we are going to work on seeing with our "Owl Eyes".

First, stand up straight, and look forward. Now raise your arms out to your sides, and hold your hands with your palms facing front. Next, keep looking forward and wiggle your fingers on both hands. Adjust the position of your hands, forward or backward, so that you can see only the tips of your fingers moving with both eyes at the same time. Relax your eyes and do not try too hard.

When you can see both hands at the same time, your are seeing at the range of your peripheral vision. This is how most predators hunt. They move about using their peripheral vision until they see movement. Then, and only then do they shift there focus to look closer at the movement. A benefit of using owl eyes, aside from seeing more, is it actually takes less effort than focusing our eyes, thus causing less eye strain over time.

Once you and your kids have found the range of your peripheral vision, sit or stand quietly and gaze out with your owl eyes. When you see movement, draw your attention to the movement and see what it is, then shift back to using owl eyes. I challenge you to switch your vision from tunnel vision to owl eyes several times a day. Try it when you are taking a walk, in the office, while running, and any other daily tasks.

Try using your owl eyes when playing hide and seek with your kids, you might be surprised at how much harder it is to hide. Play a game with your kids and see who can see movement outdoors first. A little healthy competition ( striving together) can help you develop your owl eyes.

Next time: Deer Ears: Get ready to hear more!

Nature Nugget:
An owls eyes are large in order to improve their effectiveness, especially in low light conditions. And in fact, the eyes are not actually eye balls, like ours, but are actually elongated tubes. Because of this, an owl cannot "roll" or moves its eyes, it can only look straight ahead! An owl more than makes up for this by being able to turn its head around, and almost upside-down. It is able to achieve this by having a long and very flexible neck. An owl's neck has 14 vertebrae, which is twice as many as humans. This also allows the owl to turn its head through a range of 270 degrees measured from a forward looking position.

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  1. You taught me this a decade ago in one format or another and it's still a great tool for anyone (especially my kids) to understand how our eyes are more useful than seeing directly ahead. In sniper school in the Marine Corps (wasn't there but have a friend) they use this very same technique to teach young Marines to become aware of their surroundings.

  2. Hey Mike! Good to "see" you here! It is a wonderful skill for increasing your vision in all sorts of conditions. Just 10 minutes ago as I was walking home from another house here on camp and I was using owl eyes to help my eyes adjust to night vision. I had gone about 30 feet and I caught a slight movement out to my left. I looked over, and there were three deer walking along the bush line! A mother and two yearlings were not 20 feet from me!