When I first started stumbling along the vision improvement path, I learned strain was the big enemy. “Look without straining” the books and teachers said. I did not know how to do this! What’s worse is that I wasn’t even aware of much of my visual strain, it was so normal for me. Looking back, I guess it’s like being 100 pounds overweight. You don’t realize the extra strain you’re putting on your body all the time, just performing your everyday activities.
In my initial visit to a behavioral optometrist, he did a thorough exam. He said the good news was that I had no eye diseases, no cataracts or glaucoma. I was merely extremely nearsighted. Then he said the very good news was that I had a lot of tension in my visual system. What?! He went on to explain that this was good because tension can be released.
All right, I thought — in theory that sounds great, but I have no clue what to do! I was so tense and wound so tightly then, you might as well have told me all I needed to do was raise my arms and start flying. Easy for you to say! Without focusing much on relaxation at all, mostly because I didn’t know how, I slowly started reducing my strong prescription.
It’s almost 15 years later, and I’m much calmer now, and more aware when I’m not calm. One of my teachers told me myopes can tolerate a high degree of discomfort, and that was certainly me when I wore a strong prescription. I must have been straining all the time without realizing it. Now I notice the beginnings of eyestrain if I’m at the computer too long without a break. I notice my shoulders pulling in to protect myself if I feel I’m being criticized, with my vision often pulling in as well.
Lately I’m doing a much better job of letting myself see, rather than trying and straining to see. When I first read “don’t try to see” I wondered what other way there was to look! I tell my vision clients the 2 most important things to remember are healthy habits, and awareness. If you pay attention to your eyes (and brow, and neck, and jaw, and shoulders) they’ll let you know if they’re under strain. Then you can choose to do something different to be more comfortable.
My former straining visual habits were just one example of an overall straining approach to my life. Try harder! Do more! I’ve learned Life does not have to be a struggle, nor does seeing. One of my teachers is fond of saying “Look for what wants to happen”, instead of forcing your will on the world. It’s a much more pleasant way to live, and makes seeing fun. See for yourself!