Train Your Observational Skills To Improve Your Sport Or Generate Blogging Ideas


Hi folks,

FitOldDog's advice, Channel, Spain, image, blogging ideas, soliton, Mediterranean,

A picture taken by FitOldDog in La Mata, Spain, because it made him think of solitons. Click on the image to see it more clearly.

In the study of the Feldenkrais Method and Continuum, body scanning, or looking inwards to see what your body has to say after a maneuver, is a key component of the process of learning to become more aware of your body. Such awareness is both an inherent and an acquired skill, but it can be honed to a high level of proficiency. Awareness really depends upon one’s observational abilities, and having been trained in the field of Pathology I spent plenty of time working on this skill. Pathology is all about observing events in living, dying, and dead bodies, and working out what is ‘going wrong.’ I also had to deal with plenty of students, so I developed a few tricks to help them learn how to observe effectively.

soliton, image, creative imagination, free association, blogging ideas, safe exercise

My workspace for the 10-minute look at my 'soliton picture,' three minutes in.

One ‘teaching how to observe trick’ I used was what I called the ‘10-minute look.’ I would tell the student to take a microscope slide with a tissue of interest (liver, brain), find an interesting area of the slide (inflammation or disease), and find a field on the 20x objective (medium level magnification), then take a look. But not just any look. They had to take note of what they saw of interest, which would be plenty of things during the first minute or so. But they had to continue to look at the image for 10 full minutes. This is a long time to study one field of view. But every time it would be the same thing – they would sigh after a couple of minutes, and then at about 5 minutes would exclaim, “I never noticed that!” This would continue for several interesting observations, previously unnoticed, for the remaining time. They learned that it takes time to see what is there, and with experience you see it more quickly. This is the real art of looking AND observing.

FitOldDog's image list, 10-minute look, blogging ideas, safe exercise,

I stopped typing after 10 minutes, and for a closer look at the list of images that appeared in my mind see the end of the post.

I have an interest in generating blogging ideas on safe exercise for better health, so I have adapted the 10-minute look to this process. In this case, I take a photograph or a scene and look at it for about 10 minutes to see what is there, but more importantly to see what interesting subject matter pops up in my mind in response to the image. If you look at the photograph above (taken with my Blackberry phone, for heaven’s sake – remarkable) for 10 minutes, with a notepad to jot down your thoughts, I think that you might be surprised to see what comes to mind. I selected this picture because it made me think of solitons, and that guy (John Scott Russell) in 1834 chasing, on horseback, the first one he saw in a canal he was investigating. To demonstrate the process I use, I created a 10-minute look list for this picture, which I took in La Mata, Spain. The way I set it up was to find an online stopwatch, open a blank Notepad document, open the image of interest, set them up on a single screen, start the watch, and then look and open my mind. I then just typed in the note whatever came into my mind without thinking about it, just free-associating. I bet I could write a post about blogging ideas on safe exercise for better health from any one of these words, each of which is really an image in my mind.

“soliton, chaos theory, canals, map that changed the world, wave, sine function, fish, water mark, tow path, man and his dog, cars, buoy, sky, light, sun, filtration, trash can, trash, garbage world, hitch hikers guide, sand, quartz, mining, glass, art, food, fine glassware, County Waterford, Catholic church, great Guiness in Dublin, ferry crossings, the sea, the one liter phenomenon, grass, goats, erosion, [3 min], Fourier analysis, radio waves, Faraday cage, microelectrodes, science, sky is blue, feeling blue, feelings versus thoughts, learning to feel, therapy, anger, handling and using anger, calm, meditation, seeing with your third eye, looking and truly seeing, what is that cone shaped thing, conic transections, elipse mathematics, bicycle wheel squashed by car, too many cars, not enough bikes, the horizon, the illusion of a flat world, the history of science, how to open the mind, what is the mind, do we exist, why do we do what we do, Ironman, crazy stuff people do, the over developed neocortex, my first introduction to neuropathology [6 min], hairy shaking frogs, grandchildren, the axolotle, the naked ape, arrested development, the straightness of the canal, the golden mean, masonry, remarkable Roman remains, Vaison la Romaine, holidays in Provence when my kids were young, camping, mosquitos, disease, life from the mosquito’s perspective, tiny worlds we cannot see, [8 min], the issue of scale in what we observe, microscopy, hours enjoying the old Elmskop one, resistance to change by the old electron microscopists, scanning EM, flying over the land, Peter Pan, flying dreams, where the fresh water meets the sea, the first land living creatures, the origin of life, salt, iodine, plasma, fenestrated capillaries [Time’s up]

You can scratch your head for hours trying to dream up what to write about, or you can give the 10-minute look a try. FitOldDog advises that you then scan your body in the same way – what do you see, tension?

One Final Comment: I was forced by circumstances to watch a TV for a few minutes the other day. The subject matter was of no interest to me at the time, but what I did find fascinating was the length of time spent on each image. I started to count as each image changed (at breakneck speed to me), and never once did the image residence time exceed a count of three (roughly 3 seconds) – I find this completely horrifying. Maybe I am suffering from the thing I most fear – misoneism?

-k @FitOldDog



  1. Try closing you eyes and do the same with your ears. I now know most of the bird species locally. However there are all sorts of background sounds that we fail to notice but are a part of our environment, traffic on the motorway a mile away, etc..
    You can also hear your heart and gut. Both the outside world and your inwards have rhythm. This helps me with writing verse and clearing my head. Strangely it seems to be more vivid and clear if done standing up.

    • Hi Trevor,
      I find that I am intensely visual, but I’ll try your listening method. Any data I can get is great by me.

      • Our eyes are a bit of a sensory playground bully. They shove the little guys aside. You don’t just have ears, you have a nose and skin.
        Try near high tension lines that are only turned on at peak demand. You may “feel” them come on! Try within a quater wave of a high power AM antennae, you may feel something, especiall if you have any metal in your body.
        Try balancing on a moving boat with eyes closed.
        Being too visual seems to me to cut out so much of the subtlety of all that is around us.
        Try doing stuff eyes closed in a Faraday cage, – lonely places Faraday cages!
        Now eyes are great but they must be taught team work and not to hog the limelight.

        • Hi Trevor,

          I had a Faraday cage for a while, and I would demonstrate it’s function by placing a radio inside and close the mesh, and I found that this demonstration not only induced silence in my observers, but they never came back – biologists, of course. Had the same response to one of my best posters at a Toxicology meeting. The poster was about the imaging of complex mass flux patterns adjacent to a stable but equally complex flow field, all in relation to the study of boundary conditions – biologists again. Don’t they understand that Biology is very much an engineering science?
          I like your comment, by they way, especially the last sentence,

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.