Friday, July 10, 2009

Open Your Eyes: Practice Seeing More

Our natural way of seeing the world is to focus on one thing. While you're reading this blog, you are tuning out your peripheral vision. It's an either-or proposition.

The thing is, if you spend all of your time in nature in this kind of tunnel vision, you may miss out on the opportunity to see some interesting things. Here are three exercises we have learned to practice seeing in different ways.

Shift your focus. With this method, you keep your focused vision, but you move your focus a lot more than you would naturally. Consciously force yourself to shift: near, mid range, and far; treetops, eye level, and ground level. I often make myself do this when I find I've had my eyes looking down on the trail without really thinking about it.

Soften your focus. With this method, you bust open your vision to incorporate a full 180-degree sphere. You will not see specific things as well, but you will find that you can spot motion much more easily. We often use this technique to spot birds we're looking for. To practice, hold your hands out in front of you, shoulder-level, and wiggle your fingers. Now move them apart from each other, to each side, until you can just barely see both of them at once. Put your arms down, but keep your eyes softened in this way. It's a whole different world.

Savor it. Rachel Carson wrote, "if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century or even once in a human generation, this little headland would be thronged with spectators." Open yourself to wonder, she said, by asking, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?" Perhaps you'd look a little longer, a little closer. Go ahead and do it now.

Do you know other tricks for opening up your vision? Have experiences to share with one of these? Post a comment!