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Looking vs. Imagining
David, don't you think it would be more appropriate to instruct folks to imagine details where they are looking, rather than directly looking at them?

For people with imperfect sight, looking at something directly is always stressful, especially with the intent of noticing some details. This brings concentration to the eyes, and lowers the vision. When I try to look and analyze what I see, I always get a problem, in just few seconds. Dr. Bates writes about it too. He says patients should avoid looking directly at letters on the test card for long (maybe just short glances), and instead, imagine them appear blacker and more distinctly, imagine openings whiter etc. Then after some time of going like that (say a few weeks), the stress goes away and vision restores.

When you imagine rather than look, you let go of the eyes and they begin to follow your imagination and shift all over the regarded object automatically. The mental control is restored.

Imagination seems to use the same mechanism in the mind as vision. So if poor vision is a disorder of attention, it can be cured by practicing attention in imagination.

I think imagination of details is the right word, not looking at details. What do you think?

I'm in complete agreement with you. I think that David and I have been talking about exact same thing, but that his explanation about "looking for details" is going to cause people to strain more and fail. Imagining the details inside your head works a lot better. For people with good vision, the two are one and the same, but when you tell someone with poor vision to "look for something," their understanding of what it means to look for something is bound to be incorrect. When you tell them to imagine it, you get them through indirect means to let go of the strain. (It could still fail if they subconsciously incorporate muscle movements into their imagining, but this is less likely to happen when you remind them over and over again that imagination is nothing but a pure thought.) It's a bit of a linguistic trick, but as we know, language is related to what we believe, and what we believe (incorrectly or correctly) affects how we use our vision (incorrectly or correctly).

I also think the instruction to look for DETAILS is problematic.  While it's true that correct vision involves seeing a detail better than the periphery, this property is something that is the RESULT of not straining, not something you form an intention to practice. When using imagination, you just let whatever impression that pops into your head happen on its own, and when you're doing it right (that is, thinking of it as a pure thought), you can't avoid seeing one detail best.  Instructing people to search for details tempts them unconsciously to try to "pinch" or "poke" at a small spot with their eyes, a.k.a. strain

By the way, I posted something on imagination yesterday, and would be curious what you think. I have a lot more to say on imagination, and will add more when I have a chance.

I agree as well. Any time I tell myself to look at something, or look for something, I inevitably run into strain, which gets worse if I ignore it. I think I have the same problem with imagination too, but like Sean said, reminders do tend to sidestep that issue.

I've always wondered though: What does imagination feel like? And should one always be holding the thought of using his/her imagination? I struggle with this, especially the latter, because just about any time I repeat a thought over and over, I end up straining.
I agree, that would be better.

When you look for details or otherwise try somehow to make the image you see make more sense or be clearer or have more distinguishable parts, you end up doing something with your eyes to try to see. You can avoid this somewhat by dodging each point, keeping your attention moving from point to point, but then there's the question of what you're doing at each point. If you just move among points and don't try to see them, you don't involve your attention enough. If you try to involve your attention you start straining your eyes. If you try to stop straining your eyes you lose your attention. It appears to be a balancing act, the right amount of action and the right amount of relaxation. But as you may know, I've poo-poo'd this idea of relaxation, suggesting that it isn't very effective to focus on relieving the strain by direct means, and that the sensation of strain builds up mostly as a result of misuse of the eyes.

So some more questions would be what's actually happening when you have a clear flash or more permanent clearer vision, and why it happened while or right after you were thinking about something else entirely, and why thinking about something else doesn't necessarily reproduce the same results. I can't fully answer those questions, but I think this passage in Bates's book is often overlooked.

Quote:One day, while looking at a picture of the Rock of Gibraltar which hung on the wall, I noted some black spots on its face. I imagined that these spots were the openings of caves, and that there were people in these caves moving about. When I did this my eyes were focussed for the reading distance. Then I looked at the same picture at the reading distance, still imagining that the spots were caves with people in them. The retinoscope showed that I had accommodated, and I was able to read the lettering beside the picture. I had, in fact, been temporarily cured by the use of my imagination. Later I found that when I imagined the letters black I was able to see them black, and when I saw them black I was able to distinguish their form.

He also repeated throughout his magazines how his patients were benefited by remembering or imagining something else, primarily visualization rather than other senses or abstract experiences or ideas. But I think he also mentioned that doing it with eyes open is better than eyes closed, and the passage above hints at the real answer. That is, the closer you can get to imagining what you're looking at, while you're looking at it, the more fully you are involving your brain, your interest and your attention in what you're doing. But visualizing things that aren't there but could be there is part of the normal process of perception if you don't yet have a clear picture and understanding of what you're looking at. I posted recently about how years ago I looked at the letter 'i' in a book and suddenly marveled at how I was visualizing the very thing I was looking at and how it was like my mind and eyes, or perhaps left and right brain or some other two parts that were incongruent, coming together to work in unison.

So practically speaking, it's starting with whatever you can do, even if that is vaguely visualizing an object you can kind of remember with your eyes closed, then learning to deliberately do so with your eyes open (daydreaming), and then moving towards imagining what is in your visual field and causing your eyes to move towards what you are thinking of, and imagining what could be the details of things you're looking at, until finally you're visualizing the very object you are looking at with your eyes open. At that point it's as if your eyes merely assist your visualization of the world around you. For the eyes to merely assist, your visualization would need to be significant enough that you would have to be active in visualizing things constantly. Anyway, just following a logic trail here.
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@pikachu going through each letter of the alphabet imagining each letter (very clearly) pausing on each one of them, one by one, proves very helpful or shifting from one part of something to another.
I just started imagining the black letters on the chart being made of pixels (pretty big ones for now), playing with seeing the separation between the pixels. Also the white background could be a white bedsheet and I imagine I can see the pattern of the woven threads. Both of these make the letters temporarily clearer. I am now going to get more creative and use this away from the chart.
I would even say, that shifting correctly is using imagination to trigger the eye movements - not to do so by acting on the eye muscles in a direct way.
It is enough to imagine that you would focus your attention on very small detail to see it distinctly and your eyes will follow the mind without effort.
So I think it is not really necessary to imagine something different, there are enough concrete details which don't appear (or at least not as clearly as they should).
For me it works best (on a detail which is too small to get it 'directly' clear) if I only imagine that I would (be ale to) shift to an even smaller part of a blurry detail - my eyes follow the imagination and do what I thought they were not able to do.
I agree here as well. Huxley goes over this briefly in the art of seeing. How central fixation can be taught directly by looking at smaller points, experiencing a small point seen best. And that by using this method entails some risk of one straining even more to see. The other method is by increasing mobility in the eyes/mind, indirectly achieving central fixation that way.

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