Chapter 1: The Eyes and the Head in Relation to Sight

POSITION OF THE HEAD AND THE EYES

The eyes are two parts of a threefold instrument: the third part
is the brain. This threefold instrument is used by the `person’,
the mind, the controller, the consciousness or the awareness —
whichever term you like to employ — in order to contact the
outer world of objects. The eyes are placed in the face equidistant from the nose, and to work properly the head must be
held so that the eyes are equally placed as regards the object
looked at. If the head is tilted backwards or sunk forwards,
turned to one side, or downwards to one or other shoulder, the
instrument is in a faulty position and wrong balance results. Constant use of the eyes when they are in a wrong position tends to
produce a condition of strain on the internal mechanism of the
eyeballs, disturbs the balance of the muscles which control the
movements of the eyes in the sockets, and makes it more and
more difficult to bring both eyes to converge equally towards
the object looked at. It leads to imbalance and to headaches as
well as to defective sight.

I have noticed, recently, how children, especially boys,
respond to the idea that the eyes are part of an instrument. Not
for nothing are we living in a machine age, and children tackle
the whole question of sight training with a will when the instrument or machine idea is presented to them.

The head should be upright, balanced on the top of the neck
as a ball on the end of a column. The old-fashioned method of
walking with a book on the head was a good practice. The neck
should not be sunk into the shoulders, but, again, held upright,
flexible, but strong. The chin should not be pushed outward as
is often the case when driving a car or at the cinema, or in an
endeavour to avoid `double-chin’.

It is remarkable how many people to-day turn their eyes and
not their heads when looking at something not directly in front
of them. A glance sideways does not matter, but to look sideways for any length of time is definitely harmful. This is one
of the habits which must be altered if any success is to be
obtained, but it is one which people find hard to alter if they do
not see the need. Yet it is important, and parents and teachers
should be on the look-out for any tendency in this direction in
children as well as in themselves.

THE FOREHEAD

An important part of the head is the forehead. We are told
that the “eyebrows . . . help to shade the eyes and protect
them from moisture falling from the forehead” (p. so). But the.
public is not told that if the forehead is raised the eyebrows are
no protection or shelter, and that strain or worse will be the
result. In fact, the brow does more than keep moisture from
the eyes: it keeps away too much light. It is the natural shelter
for the eyes, not dark glasses.

A raised forehead is also responsible for congestion behind the
eyes, and blood cannot flow freely where there is congestion,
neither can the nerve linking up the eye with the brain be in a
good condition. We must avoid pushing it up, and if it is up we
must let it fall down. In the case of those who have raised their
brow for years, massage is necessary to help to relieve the condition, and the brow should be well pulled down, slowly and
firmly, starting where the hair joins the forehead, so that the
” actual pull is on the scalp, and taking the fingers firmly downwards as far as the eyebrows and then outward to the temples.

THE EYE MUSCLES

There are six muscles that control the movements of the eyes.
By their aid the eyeballs are turned sideways, up and down, and
diagonally. If these muscles are not in good condition the eyes
become stiff in movement. As they are muscles they quickly
respond to exercises, and turning the eyes daily to these positions
can do no harm, but does much good. Imbalance in one or
other of these muscles is a cause of squint or astigmatism, and
often is responsible for a feeling of discomfort.

But there is another ‘movement of the eyes which is important
the convergence towards each other which is necessary when
looking at objects. This convergence varies according to the
distance from the object looked at, and the capacity to converge
is, in many cases, the first to weaken. If the daily routine mentioned at the end of this book is adhered to there will be no
trouble in this respect.

BLINKING

The blink is the lowering of the upper lid and takes place
about every four seconds. The reasons for this movement are
two:

(1) There are glands whose “ducts lie along the free borders
of the lids, just internal to the lashes; their function is to
secrete an oily fluid to lubricate the inner surface of the
lids-and front of the globe” (p. 18).

(2) . . . Some degree of rest is obtained, for the retina, by
blinking., A blintz occupies about one-sixth of a second,
and for that period, the pupil being covered by the lid,
the light is excluded . . . (p. 316).

From these two extracts it is easy to see the importance of
blinking and the necessity of re-introducing the habit if it has
been lost, as it has in almost all cases of defective vision. Not
only is the natural oily fluid more effective than any eye lotion,
but the momentary rest to the retina given by the blink is all
important. Too long an interval between blinks leads to that
very damaging habit of staring.

STARING

Visual fatigue results if a retinal impression be long continued. In ordinary circumstances visual fatigue is not noticed;
the retina is refreshed by the gaze being constantly turned
from one object to another, so that a new impression is made
on that part of the retina previously occupied by some other
image (p. 316).

Visual or retinal fatigue lowers, temporarily, the visual
acuity; if we gaze fixedly at an object it will, after a time, be
seen badly, if at all (p. 316).

So to avoid visual or retinal fatigue we must stop staring.
But why do we stare? There are four main reasons. Fast,
we unconsciously copy others; more often if we are children.
Secondly, we grow into the habit through emotional distress
leading to day-dreaming or the vacant stare of one `frightened’
by emotional pain. Thirdly, we may try to see something, and
feel if we stare hard enough we shall see it. Fourthly, how often
have we gone on reading a book when we were too tired and
have had to force the lids to remain open? Though there is a
great deal of difference between the day-dreaming, vacant stare,
and the fixed stare, all must be avoided, and will be, in most
cases, if the habit of blinking his been cultivated.

LIGHT

Before passing on we must refer to light. We are all familiar
with the fact that the light should come over the left shoulder,
and class-rooms in schools are generally so arranged. But we do
not apply this knowledge in the office and home. Desks, both at
home and at work, are often in the window, or there is a light
on the desk facing the eyes. Even the dark-shaded reading-lamp,
if too near the eyes, makes the head very hot, and if it is impossible to have the light behind or at the side, there is great comfort
to be had by wearing an eyeshade like a tennis shade, as our
fathers used to do. (The subject of dark glasses is taken up elsewhere.) Even hospitals do not apply this knowledge, for in most
of the large ones, in any case, windows are down both sides of
the ward with the beds placed with the foot to the middle of
the room, so that the patients have the light from the opposite
wall windows straight in front of their eyes!

We are also told that as the lids are not quite opaque, sleep is
more refreshing when the room is in total darkness. This principle is not applied, either in hospitals or nursery schools, and
many people think they cannot sleep in a dark room.

With the advance of scientific knowledge the coming years
should see a great improvement in lighting. Glaring lights must
be avoided. Those in the form of long pencil-shaped bulbs right
across the ceiling of large rooms or offices should be eliminated.
Lights should be neither too strong nor too weak, but such that
we are unconscious of them while reading and working in
comfort. Light should fall on the book or work and not on the
eyes.

PALMING

Dr. Bates laid much stress on palming, which gives rest for the
retina from light. It is the covering of the eyes with the palms
of the hands, not pressing the closed eyes, but merely keeping
the light away. The length of time that this is necessary depends
upon the individual case, but if the blink is regular and lighting
conditions suitable, it is not necessary, though always of some
relief. When the eyes are thus covered we should be unaware of
any light, either in the room or in the eyes. If we are conscious
of light or colours, then it is recommended that we should try
to get rid of the colours or light by thinking of darkness.

It is not generally known that a better result is obtained if the
fingers are placed at the junction of the hair and the forehead,
about four inches apart, while the palms of the hands are
cupped over the eyes. The fingers should be pressed in pulling
the scalp forward, so that the whole of the brow is thoroughly
relaxed.


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