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January 2012 Issue
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Enhance your senses for better awareness

As trampers we love getting outdoors and into nature, but when we’re there we often separate ourselves from our surroundings. We wear boots that separate us from the earth, we carry our homes on our backs and we long for the shelter of the next hut.

Our awareness tends to atrophy as we place more and more reliance on our gear.

Every now and then it’s good to slow down to nature’s pace and try to reconnect.

Clear your head: Find a nature space and sit down for 10 minutes to get rid of any agendas or busy-ness that might be going on in your head.

Walk like a turtle: The next step is to slow down. With shoes and boots on we can stomp over all manner of pointy objects and uneven ground, quickly getting to our next destination but missing seeing and hearing much of it. To slow down begin by walking at your normal pace. After 15-20 steps slow to half that speed. After another 15-20 steps slow down by half again. Now you’re walking at a quarter your normal speed – the speed that nature moves at. To really connect, try this barefoot. Walking at this speed disturbs the surroundings less and increases the chance to see birds and animals that may otherwise have hidden at our approach.

See like an eagle: Now that we’ve slowed down we can take our tunnel vision off the track and expand it out to our eye’s full potential. To find out how much your eyes can take in stand with your arms straight and hands flat together in front of you. Wiggle your fingers and move your hands horizontally apart until they leave your peripheral vision and then bring them back so you can just see them. Now move your hands vertically apart. This is expanded vision – what we can see if we choose to.

Try walking at quarter speed with expanded vision – if something catches your eye take your focus to it but then return to expanded vision.

Hear like an owl: To enhance your hearing when you need it, simply cup each hand with the fingers together and hold them up so they push your ears forward a little. You will be pleasantly surprised by how much clearer sounds become and how much easier it is to pinpoint where a sound is coming from.

Steve Porteous runs Human Bushcraft and Wild Living in the Otaki Gorge