Orienting to space

Not too long ago, I posted Orienting to stillness, orienting to motion, providing some options for people who are interested in exploring awareness. Today I want to share some experiences with orienting to space.

First, a little backtracking. Starting in 2010, I wrote here about the 12 states of attention (and also here), which I learned from Nelson Zink on his website Navaching (which also included instructions for night walking), which sadly he has taken down. Reading his book of stories The Structure of Delight is an experience I highly recommend. It’s like no other book you’ve encountered, and if you’re interested in acquiring wisdom from a bunch of interesting characters, you’ll enjoy it.

(If you don’t want to click the links about the 12 states, here’s a summary: We primarily use our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses. Our experience can be subdivided into narrow and broad. For instance, a broad auditory state would be listening to the whole orchestra playing, while a narrow auditory state would be singling out the oboe in the orchestra. These states can be further divided into external and internal. An external visual state is seeing your environment with your eyes, while an internal one is imagining or remembering something. The image below shows the 12 states.) Continue reading

13 reasons for learning peripheral awareness, peripheral walking, and night walking

I did my 10 minute presentation on peripheral awareness yesterday. I wish we’d had  more time! I’m learning how to teach this by teaching it, and one attendee asked me a great question:

What would someone get out of learning this?

Thanks, Xtevan. That seems worthy of a blog post! So here are my top reasons for learning peripheral awareness, peripheral walking, and night walking.

  1. Using more of your human capabilities, which means you have more resources. You could have a choice about how to see.
  2. Better mood. The neurology of peripheral vision affects your state. When you’re doing it, it’s impossible to feel anxious or depressed. Your center of gravity drops, and your breathing slows. You feel more relaxed.
  3. Shifting attention away from minor pains and discomfort.
  4. Ecstatic states. Feeling joy, feeling euphoric, feeling very “in your body” and connected to the planet. Feeling really, really alive. Feeling one with everything.
  5. Altered states of consciousness! You may experience trippy effects such as “eating the trail,” a feeling of levitation and of being still while the scenery moves past you (while you’re actually walking). And more!
  6. Trust in your unconscious mind. The wiring used in peripheral walking and night walking bypasses your conscious mind. Thus, you step over a rock before your conscious mind perceives it’s there. It’s uncanny and takes some getting used to.
  7. No thought, stopping the world, shushing the internal dialog.
  8. The ability to see in nearly complete darkness. It takes about 20 minutes for the eyes to adjust to the dark, of course. With practice, you could do night walking in a remote place over uneven terrain on moonless or cloudy nights with no problem. You would be much more aware of nocturnal creatures and their activities.
  9. An advantage in activities where seeing more of your surroundings is key. Great basketball players know where the other players are and where the ball is while moving quickly around the court. Martial artists, gymnasts, dancers, other team sports players, long-distance runners and more can all benefit.
  10. Enhancement of other senses. Hearing and proprioception become sharper.
  11. You could also have more resources in unsafe situations, such as being where sneaky predators of any kind are, whether urban or rural jungle.
  12. When night walking, you can see the energy of some plants, which appears as a moving bioluminescence.
  13. The world you’ve always known becomes new.

Some of these benefits don’t happen right away. The originator, Nelson Zink, said it takes 15-20 hours of using a peripheral training device for the eyes to become trained not to switch to focused vision and for the eyes to consistently focus where they’ve been trained to gaze without a device. (He said they always took them with them, though.)

Oh, and walking in public wearing a peripheral vision training device definitely helps keep Austin weird! That’s another good reason to do it!

No wonder the great Japanese sword fighter Musashino said in The Book of Five Rings:

It is necessary in strategy to be able to look to both sides without moving the eyeballs. You cannot master this ability quickly. Learn what is written here: use this gaze in everyday life and do not vary it whatever happens.

If you find this interesting and are in the Austin, TX, area, I teach peripheral awareness/walking for 1-3 people at a time. We walk on city trails. This is required before night walking, which can be arranged when demand is sufficient.

Seeing differently, peripheral awareness, Carlos Castaneda, joy, lessons

This post is to let you know that I’m doing a short presentation entitled “Seeing Differently” at Austin’s first Free Day of NLP tomorrow. The event will take place at Soma Vida, 1210 Rosewood in East Austin from 9 am until 4 pm. You can come and go as you desire.

I’m on at 2 pm. If you’re on Facebook and want an invitation or to see the whole schedule, send me a message!

Because I only have 10 minutes, we’ll do some exercises so attendees can experience seeing differently rather than go into the science and history of it. Afterwards, I’ll be available for questions and insights.

The basic premises are:

  1. Although we humans have two ways of seeing, foveally (focused) and peripherally, our peripheral visual capabilities are underused and can be developed.
  2. These two ways of seeing have different neurological wiring and create different states/experiences of awareness. Thus using peripheral vision creates peripheral awareness.
  3. Developing peripheral awareness can result in natural altered states of consciousness in which we experience less anxiety and more joy.
  4. Practicing peripheral awareness gives us more resources in life, whether it’s seeing a bigger picture than customary, feeling more centered/grounded/solid in your body, enhancing your other senses, being better at sports and martial arts, and finding your way around in the dark!

I believe this is what Carlos Castaneda was getting at with the following quotes:

Everybody falls pray to the mistake that seeing is done with the eyes. Seeing is not a matter of the eyes. Seeing is alignment and perception is alignment. Seeing is learned by seeing.

When you see, there are no longer familiar features in the world. Everything is new. Everything has never happened before. The world is incredible!

To perceive the energetic essence of things means that you perceive energy directly. By separating the social part of perception, you’ll perceive the essence of everything. Whatever we are perceiving is energy, but since we can’t directly perceive energy, we process our perception to fit a mold. This mold is the social part of perception, which you have to separate.

I first encountered peripheral awareness in my evolutionary NLP training with teacher Tom Best, who learned it from the master, Nelson Zink. Katie Raver (creator of Free Day of NLP) and I co-ran a meet-up in Austin a few years ago in which we taught people to do peripheral walking.

The way I teach it, there are three parts: peripheral awareness, peripheral walking, and night walking.

I’m now offering lessons combining peripheral awareness and walking in my private practice, teaching 1-3 people at a time how to do it, using downtown trails. You can book a lesson online at http://thewell.fullslate.com.

Developing attentional flexibility: the 12 states of attention

I just took four more days of training in biodynamic craniosacral therapy, and what I learned about practicing it has made me want to revisit the 12 states of attention.

Attentional flexibility is a skill that has many uses. Here’s an example: Someone has a chronic pain in their left leg, sciatica. Let’s say the person is seeking professional help in the field of alternative medicine and doesn’t want to take painkillers or see surgery as a solution, but meanwhile, there’s the pain, which can be wearisome, frustrating, and debilitating.

What if the person could transform the pain felt specifically in the left leg by diffusing it all over their body, so there was less pain spread more widely?

What if the person could then move the pain out to the skin, and then outside of their body?

What if the person could find a place on their body that was not feeling any pain and focus their attention fully on that place? What would happen to the pain?

What if the pain had a color or sound, and it changed to a healing color or sound?

These are examples of attentional flexibility, which can be a useful skill not only in managing pain, but also for dealing with any kind of state that we’d rather not be experiencing – depressive thoughts, negative self-talk, any kind of “stuckness”.

Attentional flexibility may not be a “permanent” solution to some problems, but it can create a sense of spaciousness around problems, provide options, and allow one to have a broader experience of life.

In biodynamic craniosacral therapy, a practitioner can use attentional flexibility to bring attention to his/her own body and specific sensations of biological and energetic processes, to his/her connection with the client, to the client’s processes, to the unit of client/practitioner, to the space inside the room, out to the horizon and beyond, to intuitive thoughts that arise, and more.

Attentional flexibility can be learned by practicing the 12 states of attention. For more, read my original post on the 12 states from October 2010.

How to bounce back

Sometimes in life, things are going well, and then something happens, and before you know it, you’ve gotten off track. Unpleasant surprises having to do with work, love, friendship, money, health, family, whatever we care about, can put us into an experience of suffering (aka “pain with a story”).

So what do you do to get back on track? Here’s what works for me:

  1. Realize it’s a process and there’s probably not an instant fix. Accept that you’re off track instead of pretending that everything is fine. Relax into it.
  2. Take care of your health. Go to bed and wake at the regular times. Eat healthy food, and not too much comfort food. Drink plenty of water. Exercise in whatever form you enjoy. Dance, run, do yoga, shadow-box. Move your body. A little sweat won’t hurt a bit, either. If you need inspiration, listen to this and try some of James Brown’s moves. You know he taught Michael Jackson how to dance:
  3. Let your emotions flow instead of suppressing them. Movement can help with this too. Walk around and make nonsense noises and start moving how you feel. Waaahhhhh! Grrrrrrr! Listen to music that helps you cry if tears feel blocked — this music can help:
     If you don’t feel safe expressing your feelings to another human being, write them out. Or get curious — what is the name of the emotion? Where in your body are you feeling it? How would your body like to move with this emotion? If you could dance it or see it dancing, what would that be like? What kind of music would it be dancing to? What color is it?
  4. Do something that will really make you feel better. There are tons of techniques that can be helpful. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) works for a lot of people. Now, this may seem crazy, but an even simpler technique for restoring emotional equilibrium is to slowly toss a small ball from hand to hand. While tossing it, slowly look toward the ceiling, close your eyes, and return your head to normal position. (It will take some practice to do this.) If you drop the ball, pick it up and start over (it’s easiest to do over a bed or sofa). It induces the feeling of being centered. Even 2 minutes of it shifts me. For theory and details on this, see Mind Juggling on Nelson Zink’s awesome website Navaching.
  5. Set boundaries that work for you. They don’t have to be permanent, but if you need a break from something that drains your energy, just take one. You being drained contributes to no one’s well-being. One of my favorite films of all time is Office Space. Make like Peter and don’t give a damn. You don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid. Savor your own mojo, and don’t give it away to the unappreciative.
  6. Think happy thoughts, imagine happy pictures, feel the good experiences you’ve had again. Do you know someone who has a radiant smile? Imagine their wonderful face. Has someone been particularly kind to you? Remember that feeling. What words do you like to hear? “Everything is going to be all right” is very soothing. Really, who the hell knows how everything is going to be, but saying that to yourself can feel comforting. Also, I have a big envelope full of cards, letters, and photos that people have given me over the past few years. When I pull that out and look through it, I feel reconnected with the good will of these people who’ve cared enough about me to make that effort. (Reminds me to make more of an effort myself toward that end.)
  7. Do something spiritual. Could be meditation, an act of kindness, reading spiritual books or listening to audiotapes, feeling gratitude, forgiving those who’ve hurt you. Even laughing, because laughter is a gift from the gods. Here’s James Altucher’s hilarious blog post on 60 second meditations. (I love washing dishes.)

This has been my favorite blog post to write, because I wrote it to help myself bounce back. So I guess 8. would be to write up your own methods of bouncing back, testing each step.

Before you know it, you’ve returned to your healthy self.

12 states of attention

My most recent post, Refining Awareness, includes some instructions about using your vision to focus down to the pixel level, and then to open your vision and let everything come into your field of vision.

These activities are actually based on a set of exercises called the 12 states of attention that I learned about and practiced and presented on, so that now I seem to have internalized them enough that I don’t consciously think about it.

The three main senses we use are seeing, hearing, and feeling, or visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. NLP 101.

Each of these senses can be experienced externally and internally. For example, I can see the computer in front of me, and I can close my eyes and remember the image or imagine the computer morphing into a piano. That’s Visual External and Visual Internal (remembered and constructed).

You can further expand your sensory acuity by practicing using each sense as broadly and as narrowly as possible. Hence, look at a pixel, then let everything come in. Those states are Visual External Narrow (VEN) and Visual External Broad (VEB).

You can do this with hearing as well. You can focus on one sound in your environment (or in your memory or imagination), and you can focus on all the sounds.

A man I’ve never met but who has been a teacher for me came up with the 12 states of attention. His name is Nelson Zink, and he’s got a pretty amazing website, Navaching. Click here to read about the 12 states of attention. He’s got a lot to say and says it well. (And check out his other pages. It’s pretty fascinating. I also do nightwalking. And read his book, The Structure of Delight.)

The point is that through our conditioning, most of us come to favor some states and neglect others. If you enjoy having more resources, you can practice these states and gain awareness skills. You never have to be bored again, and you will reach more of your potential!

So when I meditate and do a body scan, I may bring to awareness my skin, starting with my head and slowly going down my body to my foot, bringing each area into awareness (Kinesthetic External Narrow).

Or I may attend to how my head, chest, and belly feel (Kinesthetic Internal Somewhere-Between-Narrow-and-Broad).

When I sit and practice whole body awareness, I am using the Kinesthetic Internal/External Broad state of attention.

(The convention is that the skin is the boundary between external and internal for the kinesthetic sense. But because my energy body radiates through my skin, my skin isn’t really a boundary, so I’m sensing internally and externally at the same time.)

The kinesthetic sense may actually be a lot of senses, including balance, knowing where my foot is in space, temperature, tactile, muscular, and so on. Emotions are usually classified as kinesthetic as well, since we feel them in the body.

Anyway.

Wisdom is a broad state, no matter whether we’re seeing the big picture, hearing the cosmic OM, or feeling connected to the Source. Big Mind is a broad state, and that’s a skill gained from meditation.

Check out Zink’s website and practice the exercises given, if you like. It will bring you gifts of knowing yourself and experiencing more of your full potential.