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Focus your mind, not your eyes - Printable Version

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Focus your mind, not your eyes - David - 12-29-2012

Focus your mind, not your eyes

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<strong> relaxing your eyes and <em>focusing </em>your mind</strong>. 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 <strong>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.</strong> 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.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - Deliverance - 12-30-2012

Count me in. I've get tired of trying weird and unhelpful things to do with my eyes. I'm re-learning more and more to separate the attention from my eyes because I know they will indirectly move where I'm paying attention to, I want to move my attention (which is purely mental) and forget about my eyes, and that's what I've been focusing lately with good results. I'm fully into the 'Looking for details' thing now, your approach is helping me as anything, so wait for my feedback. What most people in natural vision improvement world do not realize is that the mental focus should be in the present, here and now for it to function adequately and efficiently. No matters if one has normal vision or blurry, but if we're not paying attention to what's happening in front of our eyes, we aren't looking at anything as the attention is is fully occupied on memories. Understanding this principle is halfway done, but it's not always that easy to understand or acknowledge something so simple like this until one is willing to jump to consciousness side. You (truly) know what you're talking about, keep the very good work up!
Best regards.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - Nancy - 12-30-2012

David, thanks for this, especially
Quote: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.
I need to keep in mind that ANYTHING that I do with my eyes to try to see better is probably just going to make things worse!

Thanks also for the comments on imagination and visualization. I'm pretty good at visualizing with my eyes closed, though it's often not the scene in front of me. I've gotten myself upset more than once trying to imagine a scene clearer and failing miserably, so I was probably trying to force it, not letting the clarity emerge -- I'm still working on this.

Finally, I'm noticing how frequently my attention wanders during chart practice -- the big clue is that things start to get blurry because I've lost mental focus, my mind drifting away somewhere. I think I've probably spent a lot of my life not completely present, not really wanting to see. Now is the time to do this right, finally. Thanks again -- this was a great post.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - clarknight - 12-31-2012

Separate your visual attention from the action of your eyes. I like this.

Always when I stop trying to see it’s the best clarity. Long day computer, then look at the moon at night and not as clear as normal; practice shifting... and is clearer but when stop trying to practice and just daydream something, mind going from one happy thought, visualization to another for fun or just figuring, thinking anything that’s not a stress; I notice the vision is clear and the eyes move on their own, relaxed with the inner thoughts, images. It’s like this eye movement is the true natural shifting. When we practice shifting its not completely natural, we are interfering somewhat by controlling the eyes. Same for tracing objects with the nosefeather ; David (I think) said in the past; the nosefeather is not the way the eyes naturally work when seeing. I think its ok for practice to get very tense eyes, neck, head… moving but is not for normal seeing, not forever.

I used to think I must only imagine what I am looking at, and that works but the clarity also is clear when I let the mind go free imagining anything. Pleasant things. (eyes open)

I remember a teacher telling me we must always daydream with the eyes closed or diffusion, eccentric fixation occurs which can cause mental, visual strain. I know this can happen when reading if my mind drifts to a different subject than what I am reading or different subject than what I am trying to think about; example while fixing a machine, drift off to something else; The mind tries to think about two things at the exact same time and strains, both things are not understood and notice the eyes tire, vision lowers.
I have to keep re-reading the paragraph or re-figuring the solution to the project.

When reading, working on a project; sometimes the mind takes a break from the subject to let other ideas in, to think about the thing being read. The eyes look away from the subject. The mind lets new thoughts, ideas, pictures in. Then the mind, eyes return to the book (or project) to continue with the new information stored in the brain. This is not diffusion because the mind is not on two different things at the exact moment. The mind is shifting back and forth and relaxed. A famous scientist did this with catnaps.

Plain daydreaming when not trying to read, work on a project is different;
the mind moves independently to wherever it wants. I am visualizing objects in my mind different than what I am seeing in the scenery in front of me (eyes open) but I don’t feel strain, diffusion. I am relaxed, happy and the vision is clear. The eyes move with the internal mental images.
If I switch mental attention to the real scenery in front of me it’s clear. I place my mind with eyes on those objects; moon, streetlights, clouds, trees... and if do not analyze the vision, eyes movement; everything stays clear. I think of what I am looking at or drift back into imagination, memory. Sometimes close the eyes, sometimes open when daydreaming.

Watching another bird fly into mountains and can see it fly far off moving among the trees; mind, eyes on bird, like primitive peoples sight, country life.., then mind thinking where he is, search for him, see him again pop out of another tree... So some imagination, memory as try detect where he went and some mind just on him only when see him; kind of moves back and forth on subjects.

I notice all David’s relaxation stuff really wipes out the need for 'practice', like that right relaxed way is the main thing to do!

Idea; turn your blog posts to Audio so blind can listen. A blind man I know gets benefit from memory, imagination so I am e-mailing this blog post to him.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - David - 01-02-2013

clark, good point about thinking of two things at once. I seem to be able to do it most comfortably when I think of the picture in my mind as being smaller than what I'm looking at, so that the thing is a hidden detail smaller than I can perceive. I think it's the same thing as how Bates described seeing a dark detail on a painting and imagining that inside of it was a cave with people moving about in it. As long as it's small enough, I don't feel like it's conflicting. Visualizing something larger actually seems okay too to me, but I do notice the conflict there, and it isn't very comfortable.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - David - 01-02-2013

Nancy Wrote:Thanks also for the comments on imagination and visualization. I'm pretty good at visualizing with my eyes closed, though it's often not the scene in front of me. I've gotten myself upset more than once trying to imagine a scene clearer and failing miserably, so I was probably trying to force it, not letting the clarity emerge -- I'm still working on this.

Sometimes I'll close my eyes and soon find myself in the theta brainwave state, where you get some serious mental imagery, and I'll think, "No no no, I want to visualize it, not really see it," and as I open my eyes i'll realize, "oops, I was visualizing it after all." I lose my sense of context, or lose my sense of self-placement when I'm in that state, which puzzles me to no end.

I think it's all about finding the right mental instructions and beliefs. I'm more impressed all the time with the power of the mind to reshape how it works, and what we can consciously do to make it happen. If I try to do something and fail, instead of assuming I"m just not doing it well enough, I speak out loud in as much detail as I can everything I think I know about what I'm doing and why it's the right thing to do, until I hit something that makes me unsure, and with that I stop and think through what else would have to be true if that were the case, and what would have to be false, and then think of alternatives and do the same. But that's just how I think, analyzing systems.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - Tsukiomi - 01-03-2013

Interesting. Around a week ago I was tired of all the eyestrain and had closed my eyes and simply let myself experience what images flew by. I imagined them popping up at me- from there I saw one part more distinct as the rest, but kept the rest of the image in mind. Keeping the attention off the eyes was quite difficult, but when I opened my eyes I had a very startling and clear increase in vision. Perhaps around 20/20 and there was no tearing up in my eyes like I usually have to deal with. This is certainly in the right direction and its interesting that you should write about it right after I had such an experience. I find that dealing with whats there rather than obsessing with results helps to a great degree, and the obsession about the results really dampens the vision process. Reconditioning your attitude towards vision is a necessary step to improve, because no matter what you do, if you have the same attitude the status quo will simply reassert itself.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - sean - 01-04-2013

Another excellent post, this is the closest yet to describing how I see it. It makes sense.

Has anyone else here said to themselves: Right, that's how I insist on seeing from now on, one point at at time, actually looking at what I am pointing my eyes at, actively engaging all of the time?

This seems to be the only way that yields results, ie accept the whole package. When David first said that you needed to get interested in what you are looking at my heart sank. Distraction is a problem but the more immediate concern (and the harder thing) is to set off down the road and do it. (Of course, once the machinery is ticking over and things are doing nicely the attention does have a tendency to slip out through the back window.)

Once you recognize that attention deficit is the main thing it changes the problem from 'what am I to do?' to 'how do I make sure I do it?'. I had expected by now that this blog would have turned into a sort of support group for people who know what they need to do but fail to keep it going (like a slimmer's club, where of course the chances of succeeding will not be high if the main activity is to discuss the question: 'Will I lose weight if I eat less?'). I still think that will come.

In response to David's request for feedback, the eyes tingling is the most obvious sign that I am doing things right. I'll see if I can pinpoint anything else. It is possible that this uncomfortable sensation is a further reason for reluctance to engage with one's vision. What do others think?

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - sean - 01-04-2013

I think my last post is saying much the same as Deliverance above. Try and keep it up over the weekend, Deliverance, and I'll sdo the same and we can compare notes next week.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - Nancy - 01-04-2013

Sean wrote
Quote:When David first said that you needed to get interested in what you are looking at my heart sank.
Oh, Sean, do I know what you mean! When I first started to really get it that I have to be fully present if I want to see clearly, that I actually have to pay attention, I wasn't sure if I really wanted to do that! My compromise with this, since committing to being present all the time seemed too overwhelming and scary, is to just notice whether I am present or not. Then I have the choice to return to full awareness (and clearer vision), or to let myself drift away. Surprisingly, once I took the pressure off of myself this way, I am choosing to be more present more often, and seeing more clearly more often.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - Deliverance - 01-04-2013

Sure, if not over the weekend, I'll post anyway as soon I find something interesting happening so I can share it with you all. Most of my personal experiences about this process will be in my blog, though.

Re: Focus your mind, not your eyes - DaniFixe - 01-22-2013

Some say that looking at one thing and thinking in another creates strain, others say that when looking at one thing, thinking in another creates relaxation. Don't get it. Anyway, I think we all have figure out the key to the William Bate's work. All his techniques are done to focus on relaxation and with that we forget about our eyes. For me, eye strain is weight over the eyes. But in my case, this weight it is so deep-rooted that it is very difficult to release. Actually, in this moment at computer I feel strain on my back and legs, and that reflects on my eyes... :-[