With all the varied distractions life delivers, being focused and paying attention is becoming both more rare and yet more important than ever. How do you train your awareness? This week I am exploring the power of outer and inner awareness and how it shapes our experiences. We can direct our attention in a focused manner on a single subject (or object), like a flashlight, or in an expansive manner on the context of your situation, like a scanner or floodlight. The former, let’s call it focused attention, requires hard concentration on a singular thing. This attention can be trained with concentration techniques like meditation, box breathing, and/or mantra. The latter, let’s call it expansive attention, requires mindful awareness on the totality. This is trained with mindfulness meditation and extended time in nature, amongst other methods. Developing keen awareness of the context of our world leads to greater intuitional skill. You can train your mind to see more, and recognize more patterns, in the world around you. This is handy for SEALs deep in enemy territory, and for you as you engage in important decisions or negotiations. The training requires that you soften your mind to allow for imprinting of the sensations and patterns that stream into your awareness. With some time, you will develop greater sensitivity, or “situational awareness” to your surroundings. The more you practice this skill, the more readily you can sense an outlier—or any disruption—in your environment. Mastering outer awareness aligns the brain and gut to be in tune with the senses and sensations flowing into, and from within, your body (inner awareness).
Apache scouts would fine tune their awareness by reading the concentric rings in nature and noting the source of the pattern at the center of the ring. That was where the threat, or food, was. Recall when you tossed a stone into a pond or skipped one across water. You watched as the water rippled out in rings until the waves could no longer be detected. There are concentric rings like this in nature, too. Any change in the environment can be detected because it, too, ripples out. The Apache scouts were so intuitive about changes in their environment that they could track the intrusion of a single man eight miles away.
For instance, if a hunter scared a deer and it stepped into the home of a fox, causing it to flee, the fox fleeing would cause birds to take flight, which would cause another disturbance, and on and on…. By sensing fear in a fox, hearing a bird squawk strangely, seeing a squirrel move erratically, Apache scouts can work their way backward to discern the original cause of the disruption and either avoid the danger or move toward the opportunity.
If you master the ability to read your surroundings like this, you will avoid all threats and thrive in any environment. It is not nearly as easy, however, to detect slight variations and concentric rings in the wilderness as it is in a still pond. Nonetheless, with practice, you will be able to tell when a hawk becomes agitated, a fox appears paranoid, or when a squirrel acts… well squirrely. And, just as the ripples in a pond will eventually wave back toward the source (the stone), being able to read the concentric rings in nature will bring you to the source of the disruption.
This week watch and take note of your personal patterns; thoughts, moods, and action. Pay attention to the patterns in the external conversations and the world around you. For example, does a topic, word, or symbol keep coming up in different groups of people or environments? Notice how noticing deepens your presence and supports a peaceful state of mind. More on this next week, Hooyah!