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Awareness Drill: The Top-Down Scan by Mark Hatmaker



American Indians, scouts, and indigenous trackers the world over have been observed to survey terrain/territory in the following manner.

A scan of the sky overhead, then towards the horizon, and then finally moving slowly towards the ground.

The reason being that outdoors, what is overhead-the clouds, flying birds, monkeys in trees, the perched jaguar—these overhead conditions change more rapidly than what is at ground level.

It has been observed by sociologists that Western man whether on a hike outdoors or in an urban environment seldom looks up from the ground or above eye-level. [I would wager that today, he seldom looks up from his phone.]

For the next week I suggest, whether indoors or out, we adopt this native tracker habit. As you step into each new environment [or familiar ones for that matter] scan from the top down.

I find that this grounds me in the awareness mindset. For example, I step into my local Wal-Mart [or an unfamiliar box store while travelling] starting at the top, the ceiling with its rigid lines of girder, roof panel, and trailing conduit, allows me to realize the scale of the building I am within. This already provides a valuable set of clues as to where exits might be without even looking for signage. The Top-Down Scan alerts me as to where I might find the nearest fire extinguisher or fire alarm, usually located on upright support posts—again located without signage.

One more pragmatic use of the Top-to-Bottom scan for my outdoorsmen and for those who want to judge whether or not to grab a jacket before heading to work.


Overnight, heat radiates out of the ground and the air closest to the ground loses its heat as well. In the morning, there will be a thick cool layer of air upon the ground up to a few dozen meters in height-this layer of thick cool air is known as laminar flow.

The sun will soon warm this up, but until then this thick laminar flow will be somewhat insulated to winds and we can mistake ground level conditions for a calm day. In the mornings, it is wise to use the Top-to-Bottom Scan, look to the clouds and tall trees for what might be true wind conditions and what to expect as the laminar flow warms.

So, my Warriors, for at least the next week, scan Top-Down, then eyes forward and keep that peripheral vision alive!

[For 100+ Mind-Setting & Observational Drills& Skills see the No Second Chance Book of Drills available only to RAW Crew members.]

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