In my 20s I briefly dated a hard-driving businessman. He seemed like a coiled spring to me, ready to burst into frantic action at any moment. (Yes, he drank coffee non-stop.) I remember once suggesting he relax a bit. He indignantly replied “I am relaxed!”. He was so used to being all wound up that he thought that was normal!
Like most things, this memory leads me to consider vision, and eye health. Did I really think my eyes were relaxed and comfortable back when I wore those thick hard plastic contact lenses? I used to pride myself on being tough, and maybe even got some satisfaction out of tolerating the discomfort of the contacts. I used to say I’d put rocks in my eyes if it would help me see! Relatively clear sight was essential, while visual comfort wasn’t even a consideration. Could you be tolerating some inconvenience or even pain, visual or otherwise, which isn’t necessary?
Wearing contact lenses, and those thick glasses I wore throughout my childhood, put the focus on visual performance, taking it away from how my eyes and brain felt. How well I could see was the only measure of whether I was OK or not. If my eyes were tired or irritated, or didn’t want to look at something, or were bloodshot, or were over-sensitive to light, or showed any other indication of eye strain, that didn’t matter.
When I started vision improvement and realized my eyes were giving me feedback all the time as to how they were doing, I was dismayed to find how seriously I’d been abusing my visual system. My eyes were like starving children pushed to work in the fields all day, and then I was surprised when they complained! I could definitely do better.
Now I rarely get eye strain. When I do it’s a surprise to find I’ve been straining my eyes, often at the computer or while driving. Then it’s clearly time for a break, and to assess what I’ve been doing unconsciously to make my visual system feel so stressed. In these situations I may be pushing myself to complete some task I don’t really want to do. When driving I might be focused on reaching my destination, on “getting there”, and not on enjoying the sights along the journey.
Take a moment to check in with your own eyes. Maybe even go look at them in the mirror. Are they peaceful and receptive gazing back at you, or strained and suffering? When I look at my eyes they’re usually smiling at me now, appearing softer, less fearful, and calmer than they did 20 years ago. My brow is smoother too. What would it take to look at your world with no tension?
The theme of appreciating my vision, and enjoying the images it brings my way, is the foundation for my healthy seeing habits. If I have a high-performance expensive car, I’ll take care of it. And how much more valuable and precious than any car are my eyes! When I use them to look in a leisurely way, not straining, I’m more likely to enjoy what I see. I can receive the view without rushing, savoring as I look. This helps me feel relaxed in my brain and body, nourishing my visual and intellectual progress. Look, learn, and grow. Look and live!