Yesterday while doing a workout near a big front window, I practiced looking out, across the lawn, over to the house on the other side of the street, to the tall trees beyond that house. I noticed, as I have many times before, how my vision is more comfortable looking near. Some part of me would rather gaze at the window frame than look out the window! The farther out I look, the more it feels like The Vast Unknown, and therefore scary.
Years ago I had a friend who was farsighted. She’d grab for her reading glasses before attempting to read anything, and I often had to read messages for her that came in on her phone. We’d go out on my deck to talk in nice weather, and she’d point out faraway hills, while I was focused on the bird perched in front of us on the deck railing!
The healthy eye is comfortable seeing at all distances. Greg Marsh, the well-known vision teacher from Colorado, shares an exercise about this. Close your eyes, and imagine looking at something at a distance which is very comfortable for you. Breathe a few times and feel how relaxed your vision is — this is easy! Now with your eyes still closed, imagine moving your gaze in the direction which is difficult for you, farther away if you’re nearsighted, closer to you if you’re farsighted or hyperopic. Your eyes are closed and you’re not looking, yet you can feel yourself starting to strain! Imagine moving back to the comfortable distance, and feel the increased relaxation. What did you just learn about your habits?
Since vision is as much about feelings and thoughts as about mechanical movements of the eye, I’ve been changing my attitude from “far away is frightening” to “far away is exciting!”. I’ll tense up and try to avoid something that feels dangerous, and my vision will be tense as well. If instead I’m anticipating something positive, my mindset and my eye muscles will be more relaxed.
I encourage you to play with this, observing yourself and having fun with it. I now understand one of the main reasons I had such a difficult time seeing the 3D Magic Eye pictures when I first took off my strong glasses and started improving my vision. I could not manage to look beyond the image in front of me, no matter how hard I tried.
Daily life gives me plenty of reminders to keep gently pushing my gaze farther out. When driving. I can become fixated on a spot on the windshield, instead of looking past it through the windshield to the traffic. When I’m at the computer, it’s easy for me to drift closer and closer to the screen, especially if the daylight is fading or I’m getting tired. Then it’s time to look out the window behind the computer, and focus on the world beyond my immediate reach.
When I was growing up, I always had “my nose in a book” as my mother used to say. I felt safe there. I’ve said many times that as I learned to reach out visually, I also learned that it was safe to reach out to others. I have more true friends now than I ever did as a child, and I’ve had more adventures in the past 5 or 6 years than I have in the whole rest of my life put together.
Going inward has never been a problem for me, and my nearsightedness reinforced that. Now I’m tentatively exploring the joys of going outward, including seeing far. It’s a new skill for me, like music or carpentry or dance, something that seemed unnatural at first but is getting easier as I practice it. Are you challenging yourself to do something new, visually or otherwise? That’s how we grow and contribute and become more of who we’re meant to be. And maybe most important, it’s fun!