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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Benefits of Good Observation Skills


As part of my training, one of my teachers had me spend an entire day doing nothing but observing from early morning to evening. I had to sit in a field all day long without moving my body -- he told me to just move my eyes very slowly from side to side.
What was I observing? What direction is the wind coming from? Does that cloud seem to contain any large amounts of moisture? Is it dark on the underside and light on top? If so, perhaps it's going to rain.
If you see birds flying, are they circling or going in a straight line? Are they water birds flying to where there might be some water? If you're looking for water, perhaps you should head in that direction.
There didn't have to be any particular significance to all the things I observed -- the point was not to let anything escape my awareness, to master the difference between looking and seeing.
When you see any kind of a movement, don't turn your head quickly, just move your eyes slowly to one side. If you turn your head too quickly the little animal or bird sitting on a tree limb is going to fly away. If you are motionless they feel that you are not harmful -- they accept you and come in close.
I discovered that the peripheral part of your viewing space can catch movement more readily than looking straight ahead. You also listen for the sounds of the area. Did you hear a cow? Did it have a bell, was it lowing? Did you hear a horse snort? If you can register in your mind all the sounds common to your area, you can immediately pick up on anything unusual.
You can also apply these observation skills in the city, where it may be even more important to stay alert. As you walk down the street, observe from one corner to the other side of the street. Is it safe? Are there any people or situations which look dangerous to you? Being aware of everything going on around you can save your life.
I went out to the field on my own many times because I felt I had missed things and wasn't satisfied with my own performance. My teacher didn't tell me to go back out -- he started me off but then I continued on my own every so often.
I used to go to the zoo and stare at the tigers. A tiger would look at me and I'd look back at him. I don't know how long I'd stand there, but I was determined not to look away first -- I kept looking until the tiger finally looked away. I guess the barrier between us gave me some kind of confidence but at the same time I felt I was making eye contact with a hostile animal -- he represented that to me. From there I'd go to a lion and do the same thing. I had a lot of fun doing that and no one could tell what I was doing, it just looked like I was standing there watching the animals.
Eventually I gave the tiger commands, not verbally, but in my mind. I would project the thought, "Turn away. Turn away right now. Turn." He was very stubborn but he would eventually turn and I kept doing it until the time it took him to turn away got shorter and shorter. I got training in using the power of my mind just like that. I did this on my own in my late twenties -- neither Dave nor Daniel suggested it.
We can apply observation to almost any walk of life. I used to teach salesmanship to handicapped people at Goodwill Industries. I would give them an orange and ask them to describe it to me and invariably all they would say was that it was orange in color and round.
"What else can you see on it?"
"That's about all."
"Your observation is very limited. You can tell where it had hung to a stem on the limb. You can even see the pores on the skin and certain streaks and discolorations. Learn to observe. What do you know about your product? What size is it? How heavy is it? What does it do? What is it's capacity?"
They thought they had seen all they could and yet as they kept trying they could come up with more. As time went on they were able to do a lot more selling and what helped me teach them was not going to a school for salesmanship. I learned just by observing out there in the country in Oklahoma and I taught them to do it, too.
If you don't think observation is all that hard, try to sit still for 20 minutes. If your nose itches, don't scratch it. If your leg cramps, don't stretch it. These are some of the things you have to contend with in observation. It's a far-reaching training that enables you to take in a whole situation in seconds.
After college I went into the army where I taught hand to hand combat -- how to maim a person, killing blows, how to disarm a person coming at you with a gun or knife. It was a fight for survival, a fight to kill.
All in all, I didn't feel too good about some of the things I had to teach, but when I made the vow to protect our country at all costs, it included that. Maybe with a gun it might have been different -- you're distanced from your victim -- but hand to hand didn't set too well with me so, even though I was good at it, I tried to find other ways to fit in.
Eventually I had the opportunity to apply for Intelligence and I went through a battery of tests until it was narrowed down to five of us. For our last test we were to have an interview with the General. We all sat in the outer office waiting for our turn to go in one by one. I was next to the last to go in.
"Tell me how many pieces of furniture in the outer office."
I told him right away.
"Where was the desk?"
I told him, as well as where the chair was.
"Anything on the desk other than paperwork?"
"Yes, there were some dried up dandelions in the pot on the right hand corner."
"Was there anything on the walls?"
"Yes, two pictures. One was of Washington and it needed straightening up, Sir."
"O.K. Next one."
That was our test -- whether we observed anything out there. I was the only one of that five to be chosen.
That is one of the great teachings I received from my training back in Oklahoma, being taught by a man that I don't believe went beyond seventh grade in school. He said, "It's one thing to live a long time -- it's another thing to learn something in that space of time. You've been given the gift of life -- don't just become an old man, learn something."
Molly Larkin is the co-author, with Muskogee Creek elder Bear Heart, of the international best-seller "The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman." She blogs about Ancient Wisdom for a Life in Balance at where you can subscribe to her blog and receive a free e-book of inspirational quotes, "What Lies Within You." She is also a licensed trainer for Healing in America, the U.S. affiliate of The Healing Trust, the largest energy healing organization in Europe.
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