Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Presence of a Curbstone - Starting to get a "feel" for echolocation

The other day in an outdoor training session, I had another amazing revelation that I want to tell you about.

With my eyes closed, I was sighting buildings, trees, parked cars, a couple signs, and so forth and feeling pretty confident and relaxed.  I was opening my eyes every so often just to calibrate my sensation to my surroundings.  This gives me an idea of what to expect around me after I close my eyes, but if I keep them closed for long enough, my immediate orientation and short term memory is not enough to keep me oriented without the use of echolocation.  You can read my post on walking a predetermined path for more on that.

During one of these calibrations with my eyes open, I noted that among other buildings, trees and cars, there was a curbstone present in the distance.  Something I generally pay attention to as a precaution, since these are easy to trip on and very hard to see with echolocation.  But I closed my eyes and continued on following about 40 feet from a large building through a rather empty parking lot.  After going quite a ways and passing the corner of the building, I was aware that the curbstone would be approaching shortly on my right hand side, I directed my attention downward and actively clicked in the direction I anticipated it to be.  Not expecting to see it, but rather as a reminder to myself to be cautious of that area.

Low and behold, after a few clicks an actual presence emerged from the flatness of the parking lot and something appeared before me.  The pavement around me was all so flat, that the curbstone was actually noticeable.  But instead of "hearing" the curbstone, it just stuck out to me as a "presence" or another moment of clarity.  It was simply the "knowledge of an object" on the ground or "change" of some sort.  I guess you could call it a ripple, which technically a curbstone is.

This gives me some insight and understanding of what it will be like to use echolocation as a natural "sensation" and start "feeling" it as opposed to constantly thinking about it.

Anyhow, I thought this was fascinating and worth sharing here.  I think the fact that I was fairly relaxed helped this object to pop out of the darkness and show itself to me.  Also, my training session had been going on for quite a while and I was getting used to walking around with my eyes closed.

If you've had any experiences like this, let me know :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Outdoor Echolocation Training Session

In my office park during my lunch break I tend to walk aimlessly around the parking lot and grassy open space just to get a little vitamin D (sunshine) in the middle of the day.  There are many trees, large buildings, cars, bushes and other interesting obstacles that allow me to practice echolocation.  This gives me an opportunity to walk places that I am not familiar with and practice different types of clicks, different volumes, different head postures, etc.  I generally sight a target in the distance and then navigate my way to it.

I've had good success with the large buildings.  I can see when they start and stop as I walk beside them, and I can judge their distance up to about 30-40 feet away.  Further than that I can tell there might be a building there, but probably wouldn't be able to accurately judge the distance.

Trees are good targets, I generally attempt to make a tree my target from 40-50 yards away and locate it.  Of course since trees are round, the response signal that will be reflected back to you will appear narrower than the actual tree.  This is because a lot of the signal sound that strikes the tree near the sides, just glances off of it and does not properly return to your ears.  The signal sound hitting the centerline of the tree will be reflected back to your ears nicely and it will taper off as it approaches the sides.  For this reason I like to choose large trees as they will have the best response.  Another good reason to choose a tree as a target is that since they are round, they look the same from all angles, as opposed to a car, or building.  So it is possible to walk up to a tree and circle around it using echolocation.  Circling an object is a good way to verify that you are well aware of the size, shape and location of an object without taking off your blindfold, opening your eyes, or using your cane (whichever your case may be).

Undoubtedly, you have some sort of outdoor environment that you can use to train echolocation.  I would encourage you to simply explore at your own pace.  Make mistakes, but be sure to stay just within your comfort zone, only straying for your comfort zone when you know you are in a safe environment and when you have calculated all of the potential misfortune that environment can present.  Find targets, find routes, explore new sounds, new techniques, use some of the intermediate lessons and suggestions on this blog if you want to, but most importantly keep an open mind and OBSERVE!  It's not imperative that you walk away from each session with something concrete that you have learned, but it is important to enjoy the learning process.  The skill will come with time if you allow it to.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Make Calculated Mistakes!

One of the most important aspects of learning new skills that most people neglect is the power and beauty of the mistake. When a mistake occurs there is a profound moment of pure learning that you will not find anywhere else. I’m not saying take a running start for the stairwell here; calculated mistakes are the best. Make mistakes in a place where you can estimate the severity of the outcome of the mistakes and where you have an exit strategy in order to maintain your personal safety.

For instance, protect your toes. Objects near your feet can be hard to perceive, so wear shoes that allow you to kick things like curbstones and end tables without being injured. Wear a visor cap so that your nose or forehead isn’t the first thing to smack into low-hanging tree branches or shelves. Another option would be to have a sighted guide act as a spotter just to notify you of impending danger. 

Once you have addressed your personal safety and feel that you understand the severity of the potential hazards around you, it’s time to make mistakes. 

In order to improve your current physical and mental limitations you will need to push your limits. Your physical and mental limitations are generally governed by your level of self-confidence. In order to challenge and exceed those limits you will essentially need to be over-confident and fail. This will allow you to first, understand the limitations, and then figure out how to exceed them. Determine the little things, the details that you can adjust or focus on in order to improve your ability to echolocate. 

Now that you are ready to make mistakes, you are ready to begin experiencing echolocation.

Free 10-Minute Audio Lesson: Learn the Echolocation Click

Learn echolocation clicks with a free audio lesson
Learning how to click is one of the first steps to becoming an effective echoloator. This lesson provides clicking samples of a variety of different clicks and descriptions of when they might be most useful. This lesson has been used by O&M instructors all over the world.

Despite popular belief, it's easy to make your clicking quite subtle or unnoticeable even in quiet settings. There are many different clicks for different situations. I explain all of these in great detail and give examples of where, why and when they can and should be used.

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