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mental vs. muscular relaxation
#1
The confusion about "relaxation" seems to center on the difference between physical, muscular effort and mental effort.

All physical effort: not helpful to clear vision

Mental effort (Paying Attention): essential to clear vision.

As explained by Dr. Bates, there is an opposing set of muscles which normally is constantly reshaping your eye to change the focal distance, depending on what you are looking at. In near-sighted persons, the muscle which has to relax and stretch in order to shape the eye to focus into the far distance, has become very, very stiff. It is in a constant spasm, and like the back muscles in a person who is very stiff in their spine and and can't touch their toes, this muscle has a very hard time stretching out to help your eyeball focus into the far distance. (The opposing muscle, which needs to contract, is likewise quite weak, as it doesn't get to work very often.)

In order to be able to focus clearly into the distance, you must release and stretch this muscle. If you don't release this muscle (and the facial muscles directly connected to it), you will never focus clearly in the distance.

Because of this, learning how to feel these muscles, and how to release them, is very helpful to improving distance vision. You can do it consciously or you can do it unconsciously, but either way it has to be done.

It is not directly helpful to "relax" mentally or emotionally, nor is it directly helpful to release any other muscles in the body, although these things might help indirectly, since the more calm you are, the easier it is to sense and to release your eye and face muscles. But it is only by releasing those muscles directly connected to focal distance that you can improve distance vision.

Your vision works like a camera with "auto focus." I have no idea if this is true in a mechanical sense, but it is true in the sense that the mental process which tells your eye to adjust the focal length is involuntary, and no muscular action or muscular effort will in any way be helpful. But muscular relaxation is essential, if it is the right muscles.

If you have ever used a camera with Auto Focus, you may have noticed those situations in which the Auto Focus has a hard time figuring out the proper focal length. If you are looking at a white object against a white background, or a very foggy scene, or a scene with exceedingly low light, the Auto Focus mechanism won't be able to figure out how to focus the lens properly. On the other hand, if the camera is pointed at an object with sharp edges and high contrast, the Auto Focus can focus the image very quickly.

Likewise, one can imagine that if the camera's focus ring, which is supposed to be automatically readjusted by the Auto Focus mechanism, was rusty or sticky, then the camera would also have a hard time focusing. The ring has to be able to change freely, or the camera can't easily change the focal length.

Your mental Auto Focus mechanism is the same. It must meet the same two conditions, if you are to focus clearly in the distance.

Firstly, your brain has to continually be fed high quality visual information, in order for your mental Auto Focus to keep re-setting the focal length properly. You have to be looking at something that is easy to focus on, and you must be paying attention to it in detail. (This is the whole point of David's method.) My personal version of David's method is to choose small points in the distance that have sharp edges or high contrast or clear detail; the same kinds of points I would choose if I needed to manually focus a camera. I choose things which I know will look clear and distinct, once they come into focus. That way, I make sure that I am constantly feeding my mental Auto Focus mechanism the highest quality visual information about the scene.

Secondly, I also release the specific muscles which will allow my eye to change its focal length. (I'll have to discuss the method by which I learned to sense and release these muscles in another post someday.) This is equivalent to making sure that the focus ring in the camera can move freely. If my eyeball can't move freely, it won't be able to use the visual information to adjust my focal length.

Both of these conditions: constant paying attention to useful visual details, and released muscles, are necessary, if my focal length is to adjust properly. If you have been trying a relaxation approach, and it only works some of the time, that may be because you have to make sure you are also supplying your brain with good visual details. If you have been trying David's method of paying attention to visual details, and it only works some of the time, that may be because you haven't released the proper muscles.

Notice how I haven't brought up the issue, raised so constantly in these forums, of how often your eye should shift, how far it should shift, and how fast it should shift. That is because none of these things matter very much, as far as I have ever noticed. If your goal is to constantly supply your brain with good visual details, details which will help you to focus, you will find yourself naturally moving around from one such detail to another, as you become interested in examining different things in the scene in front of you. It doesn't seem to matter much how fast you shift, how often you shift, or how big the shifts are. As David has pointed out so many times, the important thing is to arouse your own visual curiosity, your desire to examine more and more specific details of what you are looking at.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that although it is true that both of these things must occur to produce a properly focussed image, one would naturally prefer the simplest possible way of thinking about it. If you are going to try to train yourself to do something all the time, even when you are thinking about other things, then it should be based on something extremely easy to feel and easy to understand. So it would be great to find a way of combining these two needs, the need to release the eye muscles, and the need to pay attention to specific visual details, so that you can experience them as one action, one thought, and one sensation. I have found a way of doing this, which I could describe in another post.
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#2
Cool! Looking forward to your next post!

FIAT LUX!
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#3
Excellent post, thank you for this. I think you've accurately pointed out the bridge between the Bates Method and David's method for me. Bates 'exercises' serve to relax and loosen up my muscles - to direct them in an opposite way from my habitual tension. Meanwhile David's method engages me mentally with my environment. Thanks for this - it's a wonderful reminder that more than just one aspect of seeing is involved at all times.
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#4
Hi David F.,

Thanks for your posting - could you tell a little about your own visual history - when did you first start wearing corrective lenses, how long did you wear them (how much, too), what was your worst visual acuity - what is is now? How did you get interested in natural vision therapy? Other than relaxing your face, did you practice any other techniques? Thanks.
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#5
Great points about auto focus. I might steal that, even though I don't know much about cameras. It's a good way of explaining why looking at particularly the most noticeable details is important, instead of just choosing spots at random regardless of what you see the best.
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"Half of our funny, heathen lives, we are bent double to gather things we have tossed away." - George Meredith
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#6
Thanks for all of your replies. I will post some further thoughts on this in a few days.

Quote:could you tell a little about your own visual history - when did you first start wearing corrective lenses, how long did you wear them (how much, too), what was your worst visual acuity - what is is now? How did you get interested in natural vision therapy? Other than relaxing your face, did you practice any other techniques?

My very near-sighted parents made sure I began wearing glasses at age six (which was 45 years ago.) When I was in my mid thirties, I saw that my mom's eyesight continued to get worse and worse with age, and that it was making her older years miserable. Her main joy in life was books, and she could hardly read. She was afraid to leave the house or do anything unfamiliar, because of her bad eyesight. I decided that I'd like to avoid having the same thing happen to me.

I got a book on the Bates method, and started doing the exercises. (I'm sorry, I don't remember the exact title.) All of the insights and techniques I've developed since then were either inspired by that book, or they are things I've figured out myself, through careful observation of my own visual, mental and physical habits.

My worst visual acuity, before beginning my vision therapy was around -12 in one eye and -14 in the other. My current sight is -6 in one eye and -8.25 in the other.

I have been very fortunate to work with an alternative eye doctor who is a brilliant and intuitive man. One of the best things he did for me is that when he realized I was making good progress by using my own methods, he encouraged me to continue doing whatever I was doing, even though he makes his living by doing vision therapy with patients, and therefore he wasn't going to make as much money from having me as a patient.

The other great thing he does is he makes me glasses which are just a little bit under full correction. For a person such as myself, who has really extreme nearsightedness, working without any glasses is not very productive. I have found that working with glasses which are under-corrected only by a very small amount actually helps me make the most rapid and the most long-lasting progress. I think the reason for this is physical, and it has to do with stretching those eye muscles which have become so stiff over the years.

When a person who has a very stiff spine tries to force their stretch and touch their toes when they are not ready yet, their muscles can 'snap' back and cause sciatica, and they may throw their back out completely. (This happened to my spouse.) But if they gently increase their stretch by tiny increments every day, they can very quickly increase the flexibility of their spine, in a way that lasts permanently.

Similarly, I have found that when I try to improve my distance vision by very small steps at a time, using glasses that are under-corrected by only half a diopter in each eye, that my progress is very good and long-lasting.

Following David's blog and his method has given me a tremendous set of tools, and I've been making a lot of progress recently by following his suggestions.

Quote:Great points about auto focus. I might steal that, even though I don't know much about cameras

Of course. Isn't the idea of the Forum a place to exchange ideas?

Quote:It's a good way of explaining why looking at particularly the most noticeable details is important, instead of just choosing spots at random regardless of what you see the best.

Just as in my comment above, about making the best progress through small increments, When I look for details in a scene to examine more closely, I prefer to choose details which are nearly in focus, and just allow them to come all the way into focus, rather than choosing details which are very, very blurry. That way, I very slowly resolve the image to finer and finer degrees.

David F.
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