Focus and peripheral vision
Clients in my coaching practice have my undivided attention and focus as I listen to them. I pay attention to them. Paying attention is … well probably the most important thing we can do. It is the quality of that attention that I want to speak about today, the difference between a sharp focus and a wider, peripheral vision, and how we use them to our best advantage.
The way different creatures see the world is fascinating.Think about the difference between birds of prey, flies, lizards, finches, bears, elephants, lions and mice.
Eagle eyed focus
Not only do eagles have amazing long-distant vision they can focus in on their prey and maintain that focus with incredible precision.
Wide-field – fading out into peripheral vision
Chameleons for example have a wide field of vision, as do animals like deer who have large eyes on the sides of their heads these are animals constantly on the alert for predators, scanning the horizon for 360˚
Using both a sharp focus and peripheral vision
The focus I am talking about is not only the visual – I am concerned with how focusing or using a wider field of vision influences our consciousness, our awareness.
In meditation, concentrated focus can be used in the service of awareness – we can dedicate all our attention to one thing – whether it is an object, our breath, a noise, our body. It is the unwavering focus that is the point here, or at least the aspiration to have unwavering focus. It’s a difficult thing to achieve as anyone who has tried it knows.
When we really focus on a task, when we are completely absorbed in it, time is altered altered for us, and things outside that focus disappear. We use this sort of awareness when we read and write, when we watch TV, are on the internet, whilst playing piano, painting, hammering in a nail, working a piece of wood, precision engineering … a million things.
Another form of concentration uses peripheral vision or indirect vision. This form of concentration occurs outside the point of fixation. We can see the point of fixation, but our attention is on the periphery, away from the centre – the field of awareness is wide. When we drive we often use this form of vision so that we can see objects, the road and movement all around and anticipate any danger.
“Peripheral vision, or indirect vision, is vision as it occurs outside the point of fixation, i.e. away from the center of gaze. The vast majority of the area in the visual field is included in the notion of peripheral vision” Wikipedia
The power of peripheral vision
Our ancestors used much more peripheral vision that we do. It helped in hunting because we could see the big picture, the horizon; and it helped us avoid predators! When we were hunter gatherers, walking, running, climbing in forests and on savannas, we approached everything from a wide point-of-view. We had to see and communicate with others and see the moving prey or predator. Using peripheral or wide vision was the only way to survive.
Today, in our day to day lives we are more dependent on our acute vision – for work, learning and entertainment. However, it has changed our brains.
Our focusing vision is connected with the stressor part of your brain (Beta cycles); it is connected to and concerned with our fight or flight response and the production of adrenaline and other chemicals helpful in stress/survival situations. Peripheral vision links to the part of your brain for deep relaxation (Alpha cycles), it accesses your unconscious mind.
If you are getting ready to take an important exam, playing poker or giving a presentation – go peripheral for better memory, smarter decision-making, and clear thinking that does not get muddled by emotions. You can switch into high-resolutions vision (focus) in a millisecond when you need to answer the exam questions or read your cards, but to be in a WINNING state of mind, stay in a wide-angle peripheral vision as much as possible.
When you are focused on reading this page you have zoned-out what is going on your left and right side, and what is above and below you. For peripheral vision, intentionally wien your eyes (soft-focus) and see what is going on your extreme left, extreme right, above and below your frame of reference.
It’s easy, but we are on the computer or watching TV so often that we automatically use our central focus. This narrow-focus produces tired eyes, road hypnosis when driving, and a stressed-out state of mind.
Why? – To feel good.
Some say it is impossible to hold negative feelings of anger, fear and stress, when you intentionally maintain your wide, peripheral vision. Experiment, and you will discover that after even 15 seconds, when you widen your frame of vision, you go into a more relaxed state of mind. Combine this with deep abdominal breathing – letting out your breath slowly and evenly – and you can feel euphoric.
If you want to communicate well, be relaxed, and add up to 25% to your long-term memory, and make better decisions – go peripheral.
During reading, using your peripheral vision helps triple (3x) your learning speed, and double (2x) your long-term memory.
Our best decision-making occurs when we use BOTH our left and right hemispheres. That occurs when we intentionally choose to use our peripheral vision for some of the time. Switch to your peripheral sight for two-minutes every hour, and your left and right hemispheres are stimulated.
Exercises to Improving Your Peripheral Vision
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and slowly release it through your mouth.
- Look to your extreme left, and now to your extreme right, once, twice, five-times.
Take a deep breath from your abdomen and mentally visualize sending it to your eyes.
- Now use your eyes to look upward to the ceiling, and downward to the floor, once, twice,
five-times. Take a deep breath and send an exhalation from your abdomen to your eyes.
- Focus your eyes upward to your highest left, and DOWN to your lower right, once, twice, five times. Breathe deeply and send the warm air from your abdomen to your eyes for relaxation.
- Focus your eyes to your upper right, and down to your lower left once, twice, five times. Deep breath and send warm air from your abdomen to your eyes for relaxation.
- Move your eyes clockwise in a full circle (left-to-right) three-times. Take a deep breath and feel the warm sensation moving up into your eyes.
- Now move your eyes Counter clockwise (right-to-left) three-time in FULL circles.
Take a deep breath and feel the warm sensation moving into your eyes.
- Stretch out your right arm with your thumb upright. Now focus on your thumb, now at a distance, and now on the tip of your nose. Again, focus on your thumb, at a distance, on the tip of your nose. Do it five-times for healthier eyes.
- Rub your palms together briskly and feel the electric friction you have created. Do it for five-seconds. Now take the heels of both palms and place them over your left and right eyes. Feel the warmth filtering into each eye. Do it a second time. Rub your palms and then place your hands covering each eye. You are energizing each eye for better vision.
As far as eyesight in the animal kingdom goes, humans see quite well. We can see stars glowing from millions of light-years away, we can see a wide range of colours, and we can see clearly for miles if our sight isn’t obstructed and we can focus on the small print.
In my coaching and teaching sessions I encourage a softening of the focus, this peripheral vision changes the way you think and feel; it is often a shift towards seeing things anew. Too much of a focus, usually on problems and worries can pin us in a certain position, a certain frame of mind or thinking loop. Seeing the wider, bigger picture gives us a new perspective and using our eyesight, practicing intentionally using our peripheral vision can help with this. Focusing when we need to, but consciously using our peripheral vision to maintain a wide and more expansive awareness will see us relaxed and calmer – able to make the most of our potential and the possibilities in life.
References – Bernard Wechsler https://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/the-power-of-peripheral-vision