Raspberry picking came early this summer. I was eager to deliver pints of local raspberries to family who were departing on their road trip back to North Carolina. Raspberries are a favorite berry particularly for grandson Ash. Leaving Vermont at this time of year was difficult for all of them. I thought this treat would take some of the sting out of the trip back.
As it turned out, more time at the berry farm was required; there was more looking than picking. At first glance, my eyes went into peripheral vision. Seeing eight massive rows of raspberry bushes from one edge of the property to the other was tantalizing and gave me an exciting rush. This, however, did not last long. The owner of the farm greeted me with these words, "Because the berries are off to a slower start this year, all the bushes needed to be picked in order to fill your six pint cartons." Within moments of this declaration, I released an internal sigh and then noticed how my visual awareness shifted from the initial peripheral vision into a narrow focus. A few of the many healthy dark green raspberry leaves and ripest red raspberries were capturing my attention. The first pint looked promising.
After twenty or so minutes of continued focused attention on those raspberry leaves and choicest berries, I was surprised by what was sitting on a fence post right in front of me, in the midst of the bushes. A starling's nest rested in the midst of and protected by a thicket of raspberry leaves. On display in the nest were two small pristine blue eggs. At that moment of discovery, the starling was nowhere in sight. It was only when I resumed picking and left the area that she flew by to check on her nest. She knew the nest had been seen. I could feel a brief but strong conscious connection between us. I wanted to tell her this human had no intention of harming her nest and eggs. Instead, I was overjoyed to come in contact with her private maternal world.
Within minutes of observing the carefully and intricately designed and built nest along with her sheltered eggs, my body and mind coherently shifted into a peaceful and appreciative state. As the branded slogan goes, “Life is good.” I filled all six pints of berries with one pint for eating on the way back to Barre!
The afterglow from the entire experience stayed with me. I chuckled at the thought of having gone through a mindfulness exercise using the raspberry picking as my activity. I was engaged in the moment and all my five senses.
When we think about a particular project, goal or learning challenge we sometimes focus peripherally. We take it all in from all sides and angles. This way of thinking may overwhelm our brains and keep us frozen.
Instead being overwhelmed by and thinking about this all encompassing thing, consider and focus upon the first step. What can this first step look like? What do I need to get done? Then take the next step that brings you closer to what you feel should happen, and so on, until you reach your goal or end result. Narrow the bandwidth allowing the brain to function with the “next step” versus an overloaded sum of information.
Other times, we focus too intensely (or even obsess) on what’s in front of us and view that as a barrier. We become frozen. There can be value at looking at the boundaries and everything in between to find answers.
Shift into Peripheral Vision as a Tool to Reduce Anxiety
When nature is not an option for calming and settling the mind, here is a technique that starts with a point of focus and spreads into peripheral vision. It is meant to shift out of your mind, stopping the anxiety provoking internal dialogue, and bringing a general calm to body and mind.
Start by picking a spot or focal point to stare at. Slowly begin to expand your peripheral vision to include all the space around the spot. Now expand your vision even further to the sides, all the way up to the ceiling and down to the floor. Expand it even more, allowing your visual field to open so that you can imagine almost becoming aware of the space behind you.
This might feel strange at first but after practicing there or four times you will notice a general calm come over your mind and body as you realize your internal dialogue has stopped. This is what Carlos Castaneda called “stopping the world.” I teach it to my clients because it allows them to move awareness from the inside, out.
The great thing about peripheral vision is that it can be done anywhere, anytime and with practice, becomes another way of being in the world.
Reference: The Anti-Anxiety Toolkit, Rapid Techniques to Rewire the Brain Melissa Tiers, 2011