People with normal vision experience eyestrain on occasion, but generally have clear vision. If their eyesight becomes temporarily blurry, it soon clears when they practice the healthy habits of seeing again because the healthy habits of seeing make the eyestrain go away. People who have clear vision most of the time are usually quite unconscious of this process.
If you learn and incorporate the healthy habits of seeing into your daily life, you can relieve your eyestrain and clear your vision too. The techniques in the rest of this book show you how to learn and practice the healthy habits of seeing. “Integration into Daily Life” on 79 and “Workplace, Computer, and Television Eyestrain” on 80 provide advice on how to incorporate the healthy habits of seeing into your daily life.
The healthy habits of seeing are the following:
- Relaxed mind – A relaxed mind lets images flow through the eyes and into the mind with no mental effort to hold onto or grab at the images. True relaxation involves a centralized mind and an awareness of motion.
- Centralized mind – A centralized mind sees by focusing with interest on one tiny point best, and moves quickly to the next point. A mind not centralized attempts to take in everything at the same time and with the same degree of focus. A centralized mind is fully relaxed and perceives motion.
Your eyes are designed to see a series of small details in succession, and not take in large chunks of visual information. The part of the retina with the most visual acuity is the fovea. The fovea is a very tiny indentation in the central portion of the retina that, because of its size, can receive only one small point of light at a time, but receives the point with acute clarity. The fovea sends an impulse to the mind once and is ready for the next impulse. If you train your mind to relax, shift, and see small points with interest, the light strikes precisely on the retina and the fovea receives numerous points of light and sends the impulses directly to the mind in succession with extreme clarity.
- Motion – A mind that perceives motion is aware of objects falling away in the opposite direction as the physical body moves through space. This sense of motion is an illusion, but is a very necessary component for clear vision. A blur results whenever the mind tries to stop motion in much the same way a photograph blurs when a camera uses too slow a shutter speed to capture a still image of a moving object. People with normal vision have an unconscious perception of motion all the time because a perception of motion is everywhere whenever the body moves. Any attempt to mentally stop motion creates eyestrain and blurs the vision.
Eye and Mind Coordination
A relaxed and centralized mind that perceives motion in the world around is coordinated with the eyes. Eye and mind coordination means the mind is present and interested in what it is looking at. It never becomes stuck on a past or present moment by holding onto or grabbing at images, but lets visual images flow through the eyes and mental thoughts flow through the mind without effort. As soon as you try to hold onto or grab at the images or thoughts that come into your mind, your eyes and mind are not coordinated. These attempts at control only make your ability to see and your mental processes less efficient. The eyes and mind are designed to register a single image or thought instantly and then go on to the next. Holding onto and grabbing at images and thoughts gets in the way of the natural workings of you eyes and mind.
The reason you try to hold onto and grab at visual and mental images is that you are unconsciously either sticking in the past or jumping into the future. If your attention is easily divided between two activities to the point that you lose your sense of being present in the world, your eyes and mind are not coordinated and you cannot practice the healthy habits of seeing. This is because the division puts your mind into an unrelaxed and uncentralized state. Not being present makes it impossible for you to perceive the illusion of motion as your body moves in space. In fact, your body might not be moving
Human beings are complex creatures. They can let visual images flow through their eyes and into their mind while mental thoughts flow into the mind. Sometimes the mental thoughts are stimulated by the images flowing in, and sometimes the mental thoughts seemingly come from nowhere. Your mind and eyes can lose coordination if your mind is taken away by the mental or visual images, but as long as you remain present and aware of your surroundings, eye and mind coordination is there regardless of the number of images and thoughts flowing through your mind.
Goal – Be present.
Steps – Practice this technique as often as you can to establish and maintain eye and mind coordination throughout the day.
- Remove your glasses and take a few deep breaths.
- Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet firmly on the floor.
- Be aware of the floor beneath your feet.
- Keep the awareness of the floor and add an awareness of the chair you are sitting on. Feel the seat beneath you and the backrest behind you.
- Put your arms on the armrest (if there is one) and notice how the armrest feels holding your arms.
- Do some deep breathing and think of something pleasant or listen to music while you keep a sense of your feet on the floor and how it feels to sit in the chair.
- Transfer this technique to a standing position by feeling the floor beneath your feet. Do this whenever you are standing in line or standing and waiting for someone or something.
Explanation – When you are taken away with your thoughts, you lose the physical sense of being in the world. A good way to bring your mind back and coordinate it with your eyes is to become aware of your body in the world. If you maintain this awareness while you think and see, your eyes and mind will remain coordinated and you will not be taken away by your thoughts.
The value of joy in your life cannot be underestimated. Joy opens your heart and mind, increases your energy, and brings wonderful feelings. Mental tensions and negative emotions like anger and animosity cannot be present when joy is present. The mind cannot fix on anything because joy is movement.
When you are in a joyful state, you are present in the world in a happy way. Seek out activities and people who make you feel joyful. If you can transfer a feeling of joy to how you practice the techniques presented in this book, you will make better progress than you would without a feeling of joy. A joyful mind is coordinated with the eyes and happily accepts images without tension
Think of something that brings you joy – grandchildren, music, dancing, a favorite restaurant, special people, singing – and take a few deep breaths. Eyestrain will leave you immediately as you achieve a restful and happy state of mind through joy. Let the feeling of joy infiltrate your mind and body.
I particularly like to use the Long swing described in the future blog, “Motion” to get my body and mind into a happy and joyful state. I found that many of students had this same experience. Joy is awakened by motion and music which are the major components in the Long swing technique.
When the mind is in a restful state of interest and happiness, the eyes have a natural and pleasing sparkle and the eyeballs have a smooth shifting motion. Shifting is the involuntary movement of the eyes that allows you to scan an entire scene and pick out the minutest details. The normal eye shifts 70 to 100 times per second to see all details in a scene clearly. With eyestrain and blurred vision, the shifting of the eyes has an erratic, sticking or jumping motion which causes details to be missed and indicates an unfocused state of mind. Shifting breaks the mental fixing and jumping of the mind.
Shifting occurs when you let your head move and allow your eyes to follow your nose, so you are in effect looking with your nose. People with clear vision never try to see. If they cannot see a point, they shift to another point. They move from point to point while the mind notices and registers what is in front of their eyes. Shifting is an unconscious process for persons with clear vision, and can be consciously learned by others.
Shifting techniques teach you to let your eyes follow as your body, head, and nose move to look at something. This method breaks the mental tendency to hold onto and grab at incoming visual images and increases shifting.
Your eyes contain a vitreous fluid similar to lymph. In the same way that muscle action moves lymph through the lymph nodes and cleanses it, shifting moves the vitreous fluid in the eyeballs. The more you move your body and let your eyes follow your nose, the more you will shift. When there is a lack of shifting, the vitreous fluid becomes sluggish and the result can be blurred vision.
Note – Do not practice any one technique presented in this book for so long you become tired and strain on the technique. Have fun, relax, and stay interested because relaxation and interest are critical to maintaining good vision. If you are not making progress with a particular technique, return to short periods of sunning, palming, shifting, and swinging (described below) to restore the relaxed state, and find a different technique to try.
This simple technique gives you a beginning idea of what shifting involves. The techniques that follow build on the basic ideas you learn here and provide additional ways to increase shifting.
Goal – Increase the shifting of your eyes and mind.
Steps – Practice this several times a day. Put a note in an easy place to see to remind you to practice shifting.
- Remove your glasses and take a deep breath.
- Extend your arm and hold your index finger in front of your face.
- Move your head from side-to-side.
- Notice how your finger moves to the right as your head turns left, and moves to the left as your head turns right. Do not let your eyes stick on your finger, but follow your nose as your head swings in either direction.
- Continue doing this for several minutes until you are comfortable with it.
Hints – Elongate your head and neck to reduce the strain on your head, neck, and spine. Do not stick on the object as you shift past it. You might tend to lead with your eyes when you move your head, or let your eyes hang behind. Follow your nose to counteract these tendencies.
Shifting at your Computer
After practicing the shifting technique above, apply it to your computer.
Goal – Increase the shifting of your eyes and mind.
Steps – Practice this several times a day. Put a note on your monitor to remind you to practice shifting.
- Remove your glasses and take a deep breath.
- Look at a corner of your monitor and move your head from side-to-side.
- Notice the corner move the right as your head goes left, and move to the left as your head goes right.
- Take another deep breath and rock your body from side-to-side so your head and body move together.
- Keep the awareness of the corner of the monitor moving in the opposite direction from the direction of your head and body.
- Take another deep breath, keep your body rocking, and move your head letting your eyes follow to the computer desktop.
- As your body, head, and eyes move, start noticing individual items on your computer desktop.
- Notice the background color.
- Notice the foreground color.
- Notice the shapes and colors of the icons.
- Notice the applications you have running.
- Do not pause on any item, but let your gaze continue around the desktop by moving your head and letting your eyes follow.
Hints – Interest and relaxation are the keys. If you keep your interest in the individual objects on the desktop as you shift over the desktop, you will counteract the tendency to take in the entire desktop – or large chunks of the desktop – at once. Elongate your head and neck to reduce the strain on your head, neck, and spine. Do not stick on the object as you shift past it. You might tend to lead with your eyes when you move your head, or let your eyes hang behind. Follow your nose to counteract these tendencies.
Long Term Vision Improvement
If you are like many people, you probably found that shifting and incorporating the healthy habits of seeing – relaxation, centralization, and motion – are very different from how you normally see. The challenge is to make this new way of seeing unconscious and permanent, and is perhaps, the biggest challenge for improving eyesight over the long term because you have to change how you use your mind to see.
To make the mental shift, you must be fully present and interested in what you see. You have to break the habit of drifting off into space with your thoughts, or getting into a fixed gaze (mental stare) without blinking when you concentrate. You have to learn to close your eyes and palm (described below), notice motion, or find interesting details, when you eyes and mind feel tired and you are tempted to drift off with your thoughts or go into a mental stare.
People with severe nearsight are very prone to poor mental habits of seeing and can find it particularly difficult to improve their eyesight on their own. If after using this book, you find you are not making much progress by yourself, check local health food stores, book stores, or alternative newspapers for advertisements by teachers who provide one-on-one instruction in natural methods of vision improvement based on the Bates method.
As long as healthy habits of seeing are part of your life, you will not experience eyestrain and your eyesight will be improved. However, circumstances can create opportunities for poor vision habits to subtly return. If your eyesight was normal once and is now less than normal, undoubtedly this is exactly what happened. One way to defend yourself against the recurrence of poor eyesight is to continue the practices after your eyesight has improved and you have incorporated new healthy habits into your life. Another approach is to resume the techniques when you notice stress or strain in your life or your eyesight is no longer good. The sooner you remedy the problem, the faster your eyesight will improve because poor habits of seeing will not have had as much time to become ingrained in your unconscious mind.
With computer work, you have to be especially vigilant – particularly if you spend long hours at a time working at your computer. The nature of the work can make you highly prone to acquiring poor vision habits or making existing poor vision habits worse, which can ultimately blur your vision.