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What Don’t You See?

There is an exit off the highway that I take almost every day going back to my house. I have to make a right turn at the intersection at the end of the off-ramp. The shoulder there is unusually wide, and frequently as I’m trying to make my turn I find there is someone to my right (in the shoulder) trying to make a right hand turn as well. The first time it happened I was annoyed, thinking the person was being a jerk. Now that it has happened several more times, I’ve realized that people aren’t being jerks, they just aren’t paying attention. They get to that point of the road without really being aware, see that extra wide shoulder, and just assume it’s a turn lane. Had they been paying attention since they exited the highway, it would have been clear that area had been shoulder all along.

As a self-protection specialist, I never want to be the clueless motorist who almost causes an accident. (Not very protective of myself, or others!) So I’m always looking for ways to be more aware throughout my day. One way I develop that skill is to play what I call the “What don’t I see?” game. There are several variations, but a simple one is when I have a moment of down time (certainly not when I’m driving!) I’ll look around the space I’m in, trying to take in as much as possible without judgement. I’ll close my eyes for a moment and try to process what I saw. Then I’ll look around again, trying to find what I missed. What didn’t I see the first time? Sometimes I’ll run this drill several times back to back, still finding new things.

It’s harder than it sounds. You’ll see something and wonder, “did I see that the first time or not?” because the brain likes to filter out things it deems irrelevent. Or you’ll swear you’ve seen everything, when you probably haven’t. Because invisible things like to stay invisible. Ever play the related game, “Where did I put x?” and look in the same place three different times without success, only to find that in the fourth search it seems to magically appear? Invisible things like to stay invisible.

It may seem like a humble exercise, but it’s one of many that I use to be just a little more aware in an age where it is so tempting to be rushed or distracted or zoned out. For our martial art, not letting things become invisible to us is a powerful skill. If there is invisibility happening, we should be the ones in charge of it!

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