While walking in the woods with Bo this morning, I decided to try to imagine the world from his perspective. Realizing that I lack his auditory and olfactory powers, I nevertheless figured that trying to to see as he sees might teach me something interesting. So I spent a few minutes looking where he looked and listening to what perked his ears.
I noticed a number of things I otherwise would have missed: Half a dozen squirrels scampering over crunching leaves; the songs of crows and blue jays competing for air space; the burbling of the creek at the spot where our path curves north; the way Bo occasionally snorts when he’s carrying two baseballs in his mouth at once.
More generally, I saw and heard and felt deeper into the woods than I normally do. I became more alive to its layers of perceptual potential. The trees and their branches came into sharper relief, even as the blue of the sky intensified behind them. Yellow leaves and red berries suddenly popped against against the backdrop of dusty snow. The meandering movements of a flock of birds felt musical despite their silence. And the sound of small footsteps in the distance became a question I otherwise wouldn’t have asked.
As Bo’s ears perked and I tuned in to the forest, I became both less aware of myself and more involved in my presence, more open to interacting with a living, breathing, ever-unfolding world. I became both less imaginary and more imaginative–less a character at the center of a story I tell myself and more a creature engaged in creative exploration.
I didn’t really become more dog-like. But I did become human in a different, more tuned-in, way. And that made me think about what I had to tune out in order to become so tuned in.
In trying to be like Bo, I realized, I had quieted the conversations inside my head: the voice that nags me about what always yet needs to be done; the narrator who tells me tales about what everyone else must be thinking; the nervous writer who’s always on the lookout for the next clever thing to say. And so on.
My attempt at being dog-like silenced them all. And it made me think about how valuable that can be–in allowing my attention and focus to extend farther and deeper, in enabling me to become comparatively unmediated. The less caught up I was in the constant flow of commentary about the world, the more I found myself actually connecting to it.
Something to think about in an era when most of us carry dozens or even hundreds of conversations around with us everywhere we go–both on our smartphones and in our heads. Deep connection requires a deliberate attempt to quiet the voices inside and attend from a different perspective. It takes perked ears and an undisturbed mind. It necessitates an attempt, however imperfect, to live in the immediate, unmediated, moment–the way Bo lives each moment in the woods.
In short: Unplug. Tune in. Walk on.