The Bates method is said to be about relaxing your eyes and mind. I’ve tried to describe how I understand the method, which is a little hard because I’m not sure what to think. There are so many confusing variables.
But I think a better way to understand and practice the method is: relaxing your eyes and focusing your mind. Both are important, and mixing up the two concepts might be a source of endless frustration.
If your vision is blurry, you can’t focus your eyes by direct force of will or effort. Or as Bates pointed out, straining your eyes to see better can work a little, or you wouldn’t ever bother doing it, but inevitably the misuse results in more discomfort and worse vision over time. Remember, all your eyes can do is point in a direction and receive light. That’s their basic function, and beyond blinking, there’s not a whole lot for you to do with them. You can’t by force of will make them see a smaller area better (what Bates calls central fixation). You can’t, in other words, force them to see better. The best thing you can do with your eyes is keep them open, as relaxed as possible, blink as needed, and don’t tense them for any reason.
That’s part of the equation.
The beauty here is you can do more than one thing at once just by occasionally checking on the other parts and reinforcing your intentions as needed.
When you relax your eyes, you don’t have to feel the release of any tension in order to continue on to focusing your mind. Just take a few seconds to stop tensing the muscles around your eyes or face as you can and then let them be. It isn’t productive to spend a ton of time on this alone, because you only need it to “set up” for focusing your mind. If you don’t do this step, focusing your mind won’t work very well. I guess it has something to do with the muscular tension misdirecting your attention or creating noise in your mind. I don’t know.
So to focus your mind, one thing you’ve got to understand is you can take action with your mind without physically feeling it. You already know this, because you have thoughts that you don’t feel physically. Applying this concept to your vision means you need to separate your visual attention from the action of your eyes. They will remain connected in the sense that your eyes will naturally look at what you’re paying attention to, and you should encourage them to do so. But you have to separate your attention from your eyes so that you can work on your visualization separately without tensing up your eyes as you try to “do something” with your eyes to accomplish the task. And that isn’t hard to do. All you need is a pretty good idea what to do.
I think Bates was right on the money when he described how visualizing with the eyes closed is of real benefit, while visualizing with the eyes open is even better and will be necessary. The point is to activate your visualization how ever you can. If you can do it with your eyes closed, your brain activity can continue as you open your eyes, and then you can apply it to visualizing what you see or what you think might be there. And that’s what this is all about, as far as I can tell: Reactivating the part of your brain that is responsible for visualization, and keeping it going to fully complete your visual perception process in every moment. That’s how you get clear vision, the kind that sticks around. So anyway, as far as practicing this, with your eyes closed it’s less distracting, but it might be too empty such that you have a hard time recalling any image at all. With your eyes open you have all kinds of front of you to choose from, but it’s more distracting.
To reactivate your visualization skill, keep in mind that the smaller the detail you’re thinking of, the easier it is. Remembering someone’s face all at once might not work, but if you think of looking at some invisible tiny spot on their cheek, you might sort of remember what their whole cheek looks like, and the color. If you can remember the shape of their mouth, you might might remember the color of it too. And if you can imagine the pupil of their eye, you might remember the color of the iris. The thing about remembering images is they’re linked to your other memories and emotions. They have to mean something to you, how ever little. People with great memories have superb visualization, and they come up with all kinds of crazy associations and comparisons to remember things. Even something as abstract as a name they can remember by associating it with other words that they can creatively link to the person somehow. And they do it quick.
If you visualize with your eyes open, it’s the same kind of thing, but it makes sense to visualize what you’re actually looking at, or at least something of the same color you’re looking at. And again, it has to be small. And your brain kind of runs out of fuel right away on every detail you visualize, so you only get each one for an instant, and to maintain it you have to keep moving to another detail.
Keep checking to make sure you’re keeping your eyes relaxed and mostly unaffected by your visualization except to move along with your attention. If you feel any dizziness, or sense your vision to be fading, getting darker, or if you feel light prickly or stinging sensations from your eyes, just ignore it all, blink, and continue. If you aren’t abusing your eyes, these aren’t things to worry about. Weird stuff happens when your brain starts working again and the parts have some rusty communication as they get going. So take it as a good sign.
And I would like to hear from you on what kinds of symptoms like the above you experience.
Obviously if you’re doing this, what you’re looking at is blurry, so you need to work on your patience and allow your vision to be blurry without reacting to it by tensing your eyes more. You can either visualize the blur itself, and notice the random confusing details in all the globs of blur, or you can visualize details of what you think it should look like, or visualize something else entirely. Honestly I don’t think it makes a ton of difference which way you go, as long as you’re doing something. As your vision improves, you’ll be more inclined to visualize what you’re looking at, because it starts to make some sense.
Ok, I’m yawning. That’s all for now.
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