The Problem with Seeing Too Much

By | May 13, 2013

While hunting, a Serval (a midsized African wildcat) may pause for up to 15 minutes at a time, close her eyes, and listen for rodents. Why would she close her eyes to listen? We can gain a clue from blind people, many of whom can actually hear a solid object in front of them. They are also able to develop an acute sense of touch, to the point where they can read with their fingers. We see the same trait in other animals, who have a weak sense and a correspondingly stronger sense. Most birds do not have a well-developed sense of smell, yet they may have acute hearing or eyesight.

I used this information to help a beginning tracker. “I’m a highly visual person,” he told me.  “I’m constantly distracted—my eyes are darting all over the place. I can’t seem to keep focused on the trail.”

“Your affliction is your gift.” I replied. “You have been given this great visual ability for a reason.  Much sign is missed when people stay focused on the trail. Your only problem is that you happen to live in a visually oriented society—up to 85% of our sensory input is visual.  That only encourages you to be more visually oriented than you already are.”   To help him engage and exercise his other senses, I suggested these two exercises:

1.   Blindfold Walk

On a trail that you are familiar with blindfold yourself and walk slowly and deliberately, allowing your sight-oriented energy to flow into your other senses. Your feet will become sensitized and you’ll start to see with them, and your memory will give you images of the trail ahead.

2.   Spot Search

Choose a piece of ground about the diameter of your foot and mark it off with sticks or pebbles.  Now get down close to it and allow your senses to expand into it, noting every essence, movement, and particle.  How many Ants can you find and what are they up to?  Notice how looking under the grass is like peering into a forest.  What do you smell and what does it remind you of?  Do you see signs of death as well as life?

At first the exercises might seem restricting.  If you practice them every day—a must in order to break your visual dependency—you will find that they open a window to a vast world within a world that you did not previously know existed.


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