Come to Your Senses


Look straight ahead and imagine that your eyeballs cannot move, like the owl’s eyes. Sitting absolutely still in its tree perch, the owl stares and sees 180 degrees in all directions. It puts its mind on “off” and just gazes.

This patient expectant open gaze is the way to look at the sky when you want to catch a falling star. Or ‘catch’ people when you’re playing hide-and-seek. Or find your mom in a crowd.

Peripheral Vision

  • Gaze for a while, stretching your Owl Eyes into peripheral vision
  • Hold your hands out to your sides and straight above you, and wiggle your fingers – notice their movement
  • Be aware of light and dark, of colors, of patterns, shapes, and lines
  • Turn your head slowly from side to side, keeping your vision stretched


  • Pay attention to what you hear in front of you, above, behind, and beneath.
  • Are there constant sounds, like the stream water, wind in trees, or cars?
  • Listen for sudden soft sounds like little birds or buzzes. Locate them.


  • Now, keeping your Owl Eyes stretched and your hearing attuned – feel.
  • Feel where your body weighs heavily on the ground.
  • Feel where the sun is by which side of your head is warm, which way the breeze is moving.
  • Feel your heart beating.


  • Breath long slow breaths through your nose.
  • Suck in a tiny bit of air slowly through just parted lips.
  • Can you detect any smells? Can you name them?


Now hold this whole wide-open awareness for as long as you can stand it. How long can you simply pay attention?

When doing this exercise with young children, take it bit by bit. Introduce the senses in small bundles, but always emphasize using all senses all at once.

For instructors, awaken awareness at every opportunity where newness or fear or sudden love of life heighten focus.

  • Is that poisonous?
  • Was that an alarm call?
  • Where are the ripe berries?
  • Was that a bear outside my tent?

By introducing hazards, heroics, and hunts, you activate the conscious use of the senses.

Wilderness Awareness School