The Animal Sense of it All


The English language has no clear name for the way animals see, hear, and smell everything which is happening in their immediate environment.

I call it panoramic or broadband sensing. Panoramic sensing is initially a more accessible word. The new concept of broadband – with its wide bandwidth, data transmission – describes perfectly what these senses do.

In English we use the term peripheral vision, for example when driving. But periphery usually only means the boundary or edge. We need clear words to think clearly ... For me, it is clear: My broadband field of vision has a periphery.

This form of seeing, hearing, and scenting, has apparently no scientific group or generic name. The lack of a clear or common name always indicates a lack of cultural recognition. As a result we could expect a multitude of unresearched and unrecognised effects. (Extra notes on Terminology)

Going Broadband

This is not like traditional meditation. Animals often go broadband for very short, intense periods. Humans need to do it for maybe 15-30 seconds at a time. The effect of these short, intense periods was the thing which motivated me to learn more about it.

There are many qualities of broadband sensing. Humans all have some subliminal visual awareness of what's happening all around us, even when we're lost in daydreams.

Occasionally we have an intense experience of pleasure and fulfilment, sensing in a broadband way. This often happens spontaneously when looking into the distance over the ocean, at the stars, or with a panoramic landscape. At those times, we're not focusing on anything specific, we're just amazed at everything, and it opens our senses in a special way.

By using our eyes in a panoramic way, we can find a degree of this amazement, without having anything awesome or beautiful to sense.

A few people can do this straight away. I've noticed this particularly among artists, who i presume are used to looking at the whole panorama infront of them, in between specialised areas of a painting. Most people need a little help.

If you put both your hands up infront of your eyes, you will get a feeling of how it is to see without any central focus point.

Then go outside, this is far easier to do outside where things are moving: Find a blank wall, or a monotonous area of sky, anything which has no focal point, and look at it – but concentrate on everything else. (If this is difficult, then find a boring, unmoving focal point straight ahead, look at it but concentrate on everything else.)

A good idea is to find a blank sheet of A4, fold it in half (for some stability), and hold it sideways in front of your eyes. Focus your eyes on it, but concentrate on and look at the interesting things happening all around it. Move it farther away, step by step, until it's a relaxed arm's length away. Keep focusing on it, but concentrating on everything happening all around it.

Just as with focused seeing, there are various intensities to broadband seeing, from vacantly gazing at nothing imparticular to actively noticing every movement. To increase the sensitivity, it is especially stimulating to pay attention all around the periphery.

The Appendix on Panoramic Exercises discusses a variety of methods to help see in the panorama way, but already you might have a feeling for the oval shape of your whole field of vision. If you are outside, you will see lots of things moving, just notice them all but keep looking at the whole picture.

My experience is that instead of looking at the world like a T.V. screen, it feels as though i'm right up inside the screen. The normal feeling of a subject looking at an object is considerably different. Broadbanding is a 'being with' what i'm seeing, instead of looking at it.

A Fundamental Unifying Experience

Focused thinking evolved to understand the distinction and relationship between objects. Focused sensing evolved to do things, and thus always involves a doer and a done to, a subject and an object.

With the panoramic way of sensing, animals feel more involved and connected with everything they sense. It is a direct connection (it's more than a relationship) with the immediate environment. The senses are usually seen as the door between us and the world outside us. In a broadband reality our senses connect us with the world. The feeling is : we are the door.

Focusing Separates, Broadbanding Integrates. Broadbanding belongs with that collection of rare words like love, and empathy, as a state of being where the subject is intimately involved with the object.

The Appendix of Panoramic Exercises explores a second level of broadband seeing, where we develop a sort of multi-focus on all the random movements happening in the 'big picture'. This is easier to experience first by listening.

Please continue with Listening: The Simple Sense of Now

Back to Part One : Panoramic Sensing