If this skill also enabled you to enter a cool, calm and collected state while broadening your perspective about yourself and others, as well as increasing your levels of resilience and resourcefulness in any situation, would that make you even more curious?
If so, read on…
Referring to brain scans from the Farb, et al. (2007) research, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson (2011) suggests that cultivating “panoramic awareness” and “spacious mindfulness” activates areas of the brain that facilitate a calm and relaxed sense of well-being in which we are able to disassociate from our thoughts in order to see things in a broader context — akin to having a “bird’s-eye-view” on a situation. Trainer of NLP and hypnotherapy John Overdurf (2013) refers to the same phenomenon as “peripheral vision” suggesting that it acts on the brainstem and pre-frontal lobe, in effect short circuiting fear and stress reactions. Overdurf has been using “peripheral vision” (referred to as peripheral awareness in this article) in psychological interventions since the 1980s to help his patients “flatten out anxiety”.
During my own training with John Overdurf (2004 – 2010), we discovered first hand how a technique that establishes peripheral awareness works rapidly to reduce or even eliminate mental self talk and tension in the body. Since 2004 I have regularly used the peripheral awareness technique in coaching and therapy with my own clients, as well as taught it to many others at the courses and seminars that I present. Peripheral awareness has been found to be a consistently effective approach to calming the mind and body, enhancing internal awareness of the quality of one’s thoughts and emotions, while opening one’s awareness to broader levels of perception. In this respect, peripheral awareness is effective at enhancing one’s intuition.
Tunnel Awareness — a limited view that limits our capabilities
The flip-side of peripheral awareness is tunnel awareness, which can be understood as a narrowed focus of attention that deletes from consciousness everything in the periphery of one’s field of awareness. The fight and flight (stress) response is correlated with being in tunnel awareness, since we are required to identify only what the perceived danger is, thereby deleting whatever else is not necessary in our awareness in order to fight or take flight in a life threatening situation. Similarly, in situations that are not threatening to our life, but considered by the individual to be unpleasant or disturbing, where one remains fixated on the object of negative reference, all other points of reference, including the quality of one’s own thoughts and feelings are negated (Drummond, D. n.d). Such is the case for those who experience overwhelming stress, whereby that which perpetuates the problem is what one’s attention remains narrowly focussed on, thus the problem remains a problem.
According to Bloom and Farragher (2010), tunnel awareness is a narrowing of the perceptual field that results in difficulty to engage in complex thinking, to see interconnectedness or interrelationships between chunks of information. Learning and planning abilities are also impaired while we are in tunnel awareness and experiencing stress. This is when we revert to automatic reactions and rules,- “Under stress, people tend to do what they know best rather than what would be best” (p. 109). The tunnel awareness stress reaction reduces decision-making abilities, which become impulse, inflexible, poorly constructed and oversimplified (Janis, 1982). Tunnel awareness constrains our creative thinking abilities and we become more dogmatic, focusing at best on solutions to problems that have worked in the past rather than finding something better suited to the results that we would like to achieve in our current situation (cited in Bloom and Farragher, 2010).
The physiological and psychological effects of excessive stress, including burnout are outcomes of operating for too long in a state of tunnel awareness. Peripheral awareness is a practical approach that can help people to be more aware of their inner and outer resources. Anyone can learn how to open the aperture of their awareness in order to reveal more of their inherently enlightened state.
Peripheral Awareness — the technique (short version)
While looking at whatever you’re looking at or listening to whatever you’re listening to, allow yourself to also become aware of what’s occurring in the periphery of your visual and auditory field of awareness. Simply allow your visual and auditory scenes to expand more around you so that you become more conscious of what’s in the outskirts of your awareness. While doing this, apply the same approach to your sense of feeling by noticing sensations throughout your body and paying attention to any emotions (through passive observation). Get in touch with your body’s overall state. In this heightened visual, auditory and kinaesthetic awareness you can become more aware of your thoughts and feelings while at the same time being acutely aware of what’s going on in the environment around you.
If you’re in a heated discussion, whether, face-to-face or over the phone, notice that peripheral awareness helps you compose your thoughts and become more present. If you’ve got a mental block, or performance anxiety, notice how peripheral awareness enables you to relax and get back into the flow.
Peripheral Awareness to achieve mindfulness and meditation
Peripheral awareness by its very nature cultivates mindfulness while enhancing one’s ability to remain mindful when interacting with others as well as when when facing challenges.
With the multiple benefits of meditation now well documented, more people would likely choose to meditate if they knew about an effective meditation method that is easy to learn and practical for people in modern society. An example of such an approach is peripheral awareness, when it is applied without any particular goal in mind. Peripheral awareness takes only a few minutes to learn, it can be applied in any place at any time of day, and the benefits of using it begin to take effect within a few seconds of using the technique. On this basis, peripheral awareness may be of particular use to busy people who don’t have time to meditate in the more traditional sense, or those who are sceptical of Eastern practices, and especially those who might be at risk of being effected by stress or burnout.
Furthermore, I have personally found that the establishment of peripheral awareness serves as a useful expediency to access deeper levels of meditation. Using advanced applications of peripheral awareness, our clients and course participants report that this process can facilitate awareness of even more subtle realms of consciousness, where the boundaries between object and subject seem to dissolve and where a sense of unity and interconnectedness arises. It is becoming apparent that peripheral awareness may functions as a bridge between the mental domain and transpersonal realms of consciousness.
Peripheral awareness is recommended as a practical resource that is easy to apply in order to alleviate overwhelming levels of stress and prevent burnout as well as issues that are associated with the concealment of consciousness, for example: anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, confusion, and guilt, as well as limited perceptions about oneself and one’s capabilities.
With peripheral awareness known to induce an open, receptive and calm state of mind and body, once integrated as an automatic response to the challenges of life, one can expect to experience a new quality of life, or as suggested by Walsh and Vaughan (1980), a raised perception of reality.
Written by Jevon Dangeli – NLP Trainer & Coach
2 ways to learn peripheral awareness for free:
1. Watch the video where Jevon teaches “peripheral vision” at a live NLP training – here.
2. Get your copy of the Cool, Calm & Collected Technique (which incorporates peripheral awareness) through registering for Jevon’s monthly Personal Development Tip – here.
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Bloom, S. L. and Farragher, B. (2010) Destroying Sanctuary: The Crisis in Human Service Delivery Systems. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 102-106.
Drummond, D (n.d). Retrieved July, 3 2013, from the World Wide Web: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn .010.than.html : http://www.thehappymd.com/pbp-vts-welcome/
Farb, N.A.S., Segal, Z.V., Mayberg, H., Bean, J., McKeon, D., Fatima, Z., and Anderson, A.K. (2007). Attending to the present: Mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reflection. SCAN, 2, 313-322.
Hanson, R. (2011). Buddha’s Brain,Lighting up the Neural Circuits of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. Retrieved from The World Wide Web, June, 27 2013, http://www.rickhanson.net/wp-content/files/SlidesEsalenBBSept2011.pdf)
Janis, I. L. (1982). Decision making under stress. Handbook Of Stress: Theoretical And Clinical Aspects. L. Goldberger and S. Breznitz. New York, Free Press,pp.69-87.
Overdurf, J. Personal communication, June 20, 2013. http://www.johnoverdurf.com
Walsh, R and Vaughan, F. (1980). Journal of Humanistic Psychology 20, 5-31.