Now that people are so focused on devices and screens (like I was, while writing this and you are right now reading it), we have lost a lot of our natural awareness.
People have been killed while walking and texting because of the “awareness zero” factor we have all become accustomed to seeing these days.
This focus, totally takes away from one’s biggest natural defense, the sense of sight. Since humans can’t smell, or hear as well as other animals, we need to rely on our sight and awareness to keep us safe. Safe from other humans looking to do us harm and safe from getting run over by a bus while texting.
This is not meant to be an article on super awareness and paranoia. It is however an article on how you can increase your awareness for your own personal safety and to see great things you would normally miss out on in life.
Will this technique allow you to maybe spot a suspicious person and excecute a quick avoidance strategy? Yes, it will.
Will this strategy also allow you to see things that you would normally miss, like wildlife and shooting stars? It sure will.
One of the things I learned when I read Tom Brown Jr’s “The Tracker” many years ago was the concept of splatter vision. This technique was first used by Native Americans long ago to track game. This is basically the same tactic that animals themselves use to spot movement and/or danger.
This is a technique where you let your vision “spread out”. You look toward the horizon while expanding your peripheral vision.
The trick is to not focus on any one thing in particular. If you are doing it right, your vision will seem a little fuzzy and since your eyes are not focused on any one thing, they will be more sensitive to movement.
A good way to see how this works is to go outside on a starry night and look up at the stars. Look at the whole sky at once without focusing on one particular star or group of stars. Once you find the right peripheral focus point, you will start to see more shooting stars than you ever did before.
A Guide to Nature Observation & Stalking (PDF) has a very good description of this technique and a description of the difference of how humans and animals view their surroundings:
We tend to use focal vision about 95% of the time and wide-angle vision only 5%. Animals use the reverse (5% and 95%). To use wide-angle vision you want to take in all the information from your peripheral vision constantly then focus down when needed. Concentrate on the entire picture, mentally blocking out information to focus down.
The primary thing that allows something to be seen is movement. Focused vision doesn’t pick up movement whereas wide-angle vision makes the eye reactive to movement.
When you notice movement, focus down to that moving object. And once you are focused on it, keep tracking that object visually very closely so that you don’t lose it.
This is how animals look for predators and keep themselves safe. Anything that is out of the natural order, movement, shadow, or noise attracts their attention and they focus on it.
At night using wide-angle vision utilizes all the peripheral areas of the eye which are more sensitive to low levels of light. This improves your night vision. It will allow you to notice nighttime movement, like that coyote slipping through a yard while you’re out for a walk, or like I talked about, more shooting stars.
Flashlights cause focal vision which restrict your sensitivity to movement. At night a wind will blow things in one rhythm. Anything moving contrary to that rhythm, check it out with focal vision.
Splatter vision is the same technique taught to FBI agents to spot threats in large crowds of people. The tactic involves scanning the crowd by looking into the distance and not focusing on anyone in particular.
Once the agent fixes a general gaze on the crowd, he or she looks for any deviation or change. By balancing directed and undirected scanning, a single agent can spot signs of trouble across a fairly large area.
To practice this technique, look forward without focusing and let your vision widen out. Try to notice things in your periphery while not focusing on them. Once you “get it”, you’ll start to notice a lot of things that you would have previously missed.
This is very easy to practice anywhere, like while out for a walk, or eating out somewhere. Practice it and you will be able to “turn on” your splatter vision whenever you want.
Pay attention to nothing and you will start to notice all the things you were missing before.