Warning: I talk of "people
with eye problems" referring to those who have been diagnosed as suffering
from conditions such as Myopia (shortsightedness), Hiperopia (farsightedness),
Presbyopia (middle age farsightedness), astigmatism (blurred vision), Strabism
(squint). In reality I don't think of these things as "problems",
much less as sicknesses. As it will be clear by reading this article, I
think of them as part of the character of a person, the way a person "sees"
existence and responds to it. Still being aware of one´s character
and being able to introduce changes in it is something that I consider as
an expression of freedom, something rather valuable.
Second warning: shortsightedness
is often the focus in these pages: examples and explanations often deal
only or mainly with it This doesn't mean that I am not interested in the
other eye conditions. It's a fact, anyway that shortsightedness is by far
the most statistically relevant eye condition in our society (more than
normal seeing...) and the fastest in growing. In an average vision training
group of 15 people you can expect at least 10 of them to be myopes. Therefore
I assume that people reading this document will be probably also mainly
interested in understanding Myopia
"Funny idea, working with the eyes! What for? I mean, there are
much more important things, like cancer, Aids. And if there is any problem,
opticians can fix it, can't they?" This is perhaps the most common
attitude we can come across, and even those who can make a distinction between
compensating (with glasses) and recovering vision power, sees it as a kind
of technical matter (like the kind of problem you expect to be solved by
a dentist), to be treated in the same way you tackle a mechanical trouble
in your car. There is a strange scarcity of attention and of holism when
we deal with eyes.
This is nothing so strange in our non-holistic culture. There is a certain
tendency, coming from illuminism, to consider the eyes as a scientific tool:
a cool, objective and dispassionate servant of reason. Eyes are therefore
seen as a scientific tool, they are thought of as "cameras". From
there comes a very strong resistance to accept the idea that seeing is highly
subjective, that what I see is totally different from what you see. It is
funny, in this respect common sense has long been more advanced than science.
Common sentences as "You don't see it from the right point of view"
or "Love is blind" or "See with the eyes of a newborn baby"
It has been said that the eyes are the windows of the soul. And still
we go on believing that we can fix them without paying attention to the
body they are attached to, to the mind and to the Being they express. Healing,
if such a thing exists, cannot happen but on a global level, including the
body, the mind and the spirit of a person. So, even when we focus on the
eyes, we should "keep an eye" on several other levels. That will
involve the integration of the approaches and results coming from several
different directions, that are today available. The opposite is quite true
as well: many "holistic" therapies and approaches have often forgotten
to keep an eye on eyes. I would like to define here some dimensions that
working with people's eyes (and the whole of them) should face, giving some
references and a few examples.
point of view
I was educated as a sociologist, so I may tend to overestimate the importance
of this field. Still facts like the following seem to me to be highly relevant:
- Myopia was unknown to the Eskimos of Alaska until compulsory education
- American military academies don't accept people with vision problems,
but at the end of courses the rate of vision problems among the students
- (Mainland) Chinese have little vision problems, (Taiwan) Chinese more
than any other people.
- Peoples from places like Vilcabamba in Ecuador or the Hunzas in the Himalaya
tend not to suffer from middle age farsightedness even at a very old age.
- Between ´76 and ´21 many shortsighted western Sannyasins dropped
using glasses and "surrendered to the Buddha, to the Commune and to
the Truth", living in Poona, India for long stretches of time, working
and meditating there (undergoing no particular visual training). After a
couple of years many reported that their vision had improved a lot.
So, it seems that the surrounding culture, the social values etc can really
influence how and what we see.
Let me advance just a couple of hypotheses that have been supported by several
- Where there is a strong goal-oriented attitude, you find a rigid social
structure and rigid education. Education is in turn based on the principle
of concentration (as opposite to contemplation and meditation), that means
focusing attention (and vision) on a reduced target for a prolonged time.
Myopia and hyperopia (children' farsightedness), as well as squint and astigmatism,
are adaptations to the stress brought by concentration (especially on tasks
performed at close distance from the eyes) in a situation where you cannot
either physically fight or physically escape.
- Moreover, a long life training in being oriented on a goal which is always
some time away, and never here & now will bring presbyopia as the inability
to focus on (and get in touch with) what is close to me in space and time
Enlightened people have often been called seers. "To open one´s
eyes", "seeing clear" are used as synonymous with becoming
And still it could be said that at times we need to close our eyes in
order to become aware. We may discover that we have been excluding from
consciousness a lot of inputs coming from our other channels of perception
(see later, under channels of perception), or we may become aware of the
constant internal dialogue, the constant chattering going on inside our
mind (which has been often called the Chatterbox). By becoming aware of
this space, we can start to recognize the prejudices, projections, beliefs
and conditioning we have been receiving. In a way, this is like looking
at our eyes, because our seeing has been molded by that organized chaos:
Now, that organized chaos of conditioning, fears, prejudices etc is generally
called Ego, and is the center around which we build our sense of identity
. So, we can say that our eyes are very much expression of our Ego., and
that seeing our Ego is difficult. Looking at a mirror may not help: we may
go on looking with prejudiced eyes.
So, how can we see our eyes (i.e. our Ego) from a space of no "chattering"?
This is precisely one idea at the core of meditation.
This has a special meaning for people with vision problems, because they
very often have problems with their self image (both the way they think
they look and what they think of themselves in general), they may be torn
by very contradictory drives about that (some of this is explained in working
on beliefs and the following sections). That means that deep down they don't
want to see (the image that they have of) themselves. They don't want to
see their Ego. They are afraid of what they could discover by becoming aware
of it. That brings to the theme of how to become aware of beliefs on oneself,
how to loosen their grip and break free from them (see later under working
- Also the relation between concentration (as opposed to) and global
perception must be taken into account (and this has to do a lot with meditation).
Shortsighted people for example have been trained to understand and accept
awareness as heavy concentration on something or somebody. When they relax
they tend to sleep. Either they are in a state of at-tension or they are
not aware. Farsighted people tend to escape concentration on one subject,
and to jump from one to another in an exciting but often inconclusive way.
Both, as almost everybody in the west, are also unable to allow a soft,
widened, 120° vision (which can in reality be brought to 360° with
- Visually oriented people -and all people with vision problems are generally
visually oriented (see here under, in channels of perception)- tend to be
dualistic, to chose the right side and to deny the wrong one: darkness is
discarded, unconscious is forgotten, the feminine (or male) part is denied,
body and instincts are denied. All these attitudes, which constitute hindrances
on the road to awareness and meditation, also bring direct unbalances in
vision (need for sharp contrast, search for over definition, obsession with
the meaning of things = the what, and inability to follow changes and movements
= the where and how)
- Then, the way we perceive ourselves in the universe influences the
way we see the universe. Do we think of ourselves as part of a whole, or
separated? At the center or at the periphery of existence? Separateness
may bring a I v/s you (or You v/s me) style of view, with difficulty in
perceiving whole patterns (you see trees but not the forest). Feeling at
the periphery means inability of self orienting, which is a superior visual
ability. Then Centering (which is part of the approach to awareness) can
be of use, in helping us to learn to change our point of view.
- Accepting that reality is in perpetual change and that therefore there
is not such a thing as a fixed point of view (or a fixed point of reference)
is also particularly difficult, especially for shortsighted people. They
tend to prefer stabilized systems of relations, consistent jobs and clear
cut, fixed and well organized systems of thought (traditional religions,
for example), where right is right and wrong is wrong. This goes along with
a preference for sharp contrast in seeing (and the search for over -definition
of images), narrowing of the visual field, reduced ability to move the eyes
and the body in a fast and coordinated way, inability to track fast moving
objects, tendency to stare.
Phases of growth and
As a matter of fact the way we act, the way we are in the world and the
way we perceive it, go through changes, whether we like it or not. And our
periods of change tend to follow certain patterns, certain archetypes which
are defined by the culture in which we live. In our culture a common pattern
is that of the orphan, the betrayed. When we are in that space we tend to
think that the world is unfriendly, that we have no hope, that we are deeply
wrong, that the only hope rests in a savior which will redeem us (but deep
down we suspect that we are beyond redemption, and those who are friendly
to us may be going to cheat us). This is an incredibly powerful archetype
in our culture (think of the Christian myth of the lost Paradise, the original
sin and the redemption thanks to a Messiah, the Devil constantly tempting
us...). Everybody is bound to be affected by this pattern from time to time.
In other moments we feel more like warriors: the idea is that we can
do something good, but only through a lot of effort and fighting against
some kind of enemy. If we want to win, then somebody or something must be
defeated. This is very archaic and very male oriented, but it is also very
dominant in our society.
Think for a moment of what generally happens in case of sickness: people
tend to act like orphans ("Why me?") and run to physicians who
are supposed to save them, to release them from the consequences of their
"sins" ("You eat too much fat!"). The doctors in turn
tend to think of themselves as heroes fighting against a dragon, an epidemic,
a virus, or a high level of sugar in urine, or whatever is the case. The
dragon must be defeated and the unhappy victim rescued. The only act expected
from the part of the victim (the patient) is to be thankful to the savior.
There are a few more powerful patterns which are frequent in our society:
the traveler, the martyr, the magician, the madman etc. We shift from time
to time from one to another; we tend to chose certain and avoid certain
others. It is important to be able to recognize which one is the pattern
presently lived by the participants to a group and speak with the language
of that pattern. It is also necessary to help people not to get stuck in
one pattern, and to befriend patterns which are less customary.
But let me play a little bit more with the two patterns I have already
introduced, and explain with them what is rather often happening in vision
First, many people with vision problems tend to stay in the orphan pattern
more often than in other patterns. And tend to look for a savior: that means
that they expect the Group or the Leader to solve their problems, they don't
expect to do it themselves. They are ready to suffer, to make efforts (like
a form of sacrifice, when asking something to a god or a king), but not
to be responsible for themselves.
On the other hand we find the leaders of vision training groups who have
learned especially one thing: that seeing well is your responsibility (which
is true). They have learned in a way to be warriors.
If you want to see well, they think, you have to use your will, train
and train, like an athlete, and win your way day by day, inch by inch and
fight against your laziness, and finally your vision problem will be defeated,,
more than solved (and this is a misunderstanding of Bates' original message).
Now, the average "orphan" participant cannot really believe
that he/ she should exercise every day! Exercise is suffering, sacrifice,
and once (during the group) should be enough! He/she doesn't want responsibility,
This can be the source of a lot of misunderstanding.
Patterns can shift, and they do with a relative ease, provided that you
make a good use of the language and the values of each of them. In other
words: points of view can change, even if they will tend to come back to
certain positions more often than to others. So, all the archetypes/patterns
work (I think of C. Pearson, the author of The hero within, for example)
has particular relevance when we have to deal with Beliefs (see under).
Science, technical data,
Let's not close the eyes in front of that huge body of knowledge. Let's
face it and see what can be useful for us.
- Once that there is a general knowledge of the anatomy of the eye, the
kind of detailed neurological knowledge as it is meant by ophthalmologists
has no great relevance in vision recovery, because it is meant for understanding
sicknesses such as eye infections, glaucoma, and the like. For sure ophthalmologists
lead important researches, but not in directions that we may find useful.
Also official ophthalmology seems to be strangely "blind" to results
coming from ANY other branch of science. Attending their congresses and
browsing through their papers can definitely be very frustrating. Still,
keeping an open channel can be important and we need to know how to relate
- There are also people researching on how the growth of one perceptive
system can influence or hinder the development of the others. For example
Delacato has established connections between how a baby goes through the
phases of learning how to move around (and especially crawling) and how
good will be its brain/ body integration. His work helps a great lot to
understand dyslexia (problems in reading) and other aspects of vision. Tomatis
has studied quite a lot on the ear, and concludes that the correct development
of the ear /spoken word system is the central axis around which the global
development of a person is founded. He has developed a very interesting
therapy around that. Though we may consider his point of view a little one
sided, there is a lot of connections, similarities and suggestions for us
in his approach.
- Most of the monumental research developed by Gestalt psychologists
(nothing to do with Gestalt therapy) on the Grammar (Kanizsa) of visual
perception is of little use for us. They take as object of their research
the "normal" human being, who sees "normally", very
much abstracted from social and psychological reality. Whatever good come
from them, can be found in the book of L. Ancona (including the fundamental
discovery of saccadic movements by Yarbus). To this conclusion I came also
after examining 40 years of visual research by reading several ponderous
books and a multitude of (summaries of ) articles in magazines like Perception
and Visual Research.
- A little more important can be the case of the two brain-hemispheres
theory (which is at the basis of all brain synchronizers, and of brain gym).
This theory has powerfully influenced many approaches, including "Learning
to see in order to draw" (B. Edwards) which can be very helpful for
recovering lost dimensions of seeing (see under Channels of perceptions).
- Research on light, colors, UVA and UVB, and their effects on human
beings has revealed interesting facts. For example: our body knows that
winter is finished and that we can become more active, awake, sexual etc.
through the rise of the amount of light and of ultraviolet rays: we don't
see them, in a way, but our brain indeed does, and it does it through the
eyes. One of the consequences is that when you see more UV rays you come
out of lethargy (which was a good way to adapt to winters when we where
just animals) and out of depression (which has been discovered to be highly
seasonal, related to winter and to lack of light). But you can prevent all
this alive, optimistic wave to reach you, you can create the conditions
that will make you prone to sluggishness and depression. How? You have to
put glass between your eyes and light (it filters UV rays out). You can
stay behind a window, or wear glasses of any kind: The more you do, the
more you will become intolerant to light, and so a vicious circle has been
established. Can you see the implications? There are many more aspects (for
example the psychological aspect of colors) that can be relevant for our
work. So, we better keep an eye on this field.
- The use of technical means to check the condition of the eyes and the
understanding of the way they work could be of some utility, in the case
that we want to work in a more therapy/ medical oriented way. They are generally
very expensive and give little output. When possible, much better to get
the collaboration of opticians and ophthalmologists..
- In the official scientific arena only behavioral optometrists have
given contributions that can sometimes be integrated in our approach. They
have engaged themselves in measuring vision from every side (like the word
-metrist will suggest). And in the process they have been forced to admit
that psychological conditions have an influence. They have studied it in
terms of stress and answers to stress, particularly through the antagonism
of the sympathetic- parasympathetic nervous systems. Their results fits
rather well with the approach of Bioenergetics (see under) and helps to
understand a lot of details. Their research has also given support to or
disproved certain aspects of the Bates method. This has also brought them
to a better approach to the use (and non use) of lenses and to develop correcting
exercises which are different from the usual Bates activities.
Their literature is can be interesting (though obviously difficult to
read!) and some amongst them are relatively open to the contributions coming
from our side, even when the American Association has always kept an official
attitude of disdain towards Bates and followers, even promoting legal actions
against them. As they are generally also opticians, when working with the
eyes in the west, specially in Europe, having a good relation with behavioral
optometrists can be helpful in many ways.
Of course it's not all a bed of roses: most of them don't share a holistic
approach. They give a lot of importance to science, advanced tools and ....
themselves, and not that much to their client's level of awareness...
-Science, scientific magazines, brilliant researchers, new optical instruments....
They are a hugely wide contribution, it's easy to get fascinated and lose
ourselves. it's easy to go a little too much after words, concepts, ideas,
theories (see digitalization, under channels of perception).
Bates and the educational
Working with the eyes has long been synonymous with applying the Bates
method of vision recovery: it can be said that it constitutes the core of
the whole thing.
More so now that we can again read his original books and magazines,
Contrary to what has been the understanding of many a scholar, the Bates
method is NOT based on exercises, but on a radical change of daily habits
about vision, which, for psychological, more than practical reasons, may
be very difficult to follow.
According to Bates a natural eye:
-moves and doesn't stare
-In relaxation, with no strain to see better
-Centralizes (in Bates" terms: using central fixation), not trying
to see an object all together and equally well.
- Support a good visual memory which in turn leads to a clear mental image.
All different parts of the Bates method work in synergy together and bring
back to a natural way of using the eyes.
Though Bates' work was mainly oriented on reading, and seemed not put
much stress on aspects which are very important, like the ability of tracking
fast moving objects, his swinging and perceiving apparent motions were a
great tool for the perception of space. There are hints in his writings
that prefigure the eye- body coordination in movement, the peripheral vision,
the eye as a way to contact with other human beings. Today we can develop
all these aspects and we have to! Also, today we can better develop the
learning of the art of vision in groups, while Bates was able to do either
individual sessions or school-like training's.
He had no tools (concepts, data) from any other side to help him, except
his research and his intuition. Meanwhile he had to fight hard to have the
optical establishment accept evidences. He was a solitary genius and developed
a holistic vision. And, as a matter of fact, in his method there his much,
much more than he could explain.
Important contributions to the educational aspect of eye training have
come from the Awareness through Movement of Feldenkrais, from certain aspects
of Bioenergetics and of Gestalt therapy, from edu- kinesiology, NLP and
from behavioral optometry (and minor contributions have come from disciplines
such as Qi Cong, Eutonie, different yoga systems, different art approaches,
sport coaching etc). Still I definitely consider the Bates method as the
core of any program of vision recovery.
The body-energy approach
Bioenergetics, in the wake of Wilhelm Reich, has given a lot of useful
One is that different characters mold different bodies, and therefore
different eyes with different ways of seeing. Lowen has defined six main
characters (Oral, Schizo, Masochist, Psychopath, Rigid and Hysteric) which
are useful models in understanding people´ s reactions. This model
can be expanded to include the ways of seeing, which are therefore not any
more thought of as sicknesses but as parts of one´s character, the
personal style of looking at existence (Lowen, Kelley, and recently Shapiro
have a lot to say on eyes; Bernasconi has developed very much the connection
between characters and colors).
Bioenergetics has also studied in great detail the flows of energy along
the body, as well as the blocks that may prevent them, and has devised powerful
methods to restore them. Some of these methods may have at times dramatic
results in changing the way of seeing of a person, both literally and metaphorically.
In order for these changes to stay it is needed that they are perceived
as a good change (and this involves working on the beliefs), and also that
they are supported educationally (and that involves experiment, exercises
and general support by other people).
There are several ideas coming from Bioenergetics which are useful for
working with the eyes. One is the idea of pulsation. For example, breath
is pulsation, breathing in and out should follow each other naturally, but
this mechanism can be disturbed. People in search of control on others tend
to keep the breath in and never let it completely go (this is the case of
some farsighted). People in fear tend to breath as little and superficially
as possible (this can often apply to medium and strongly shortsighted people).
Pulsation can be seen in eyes too, between actively looking (going out
to grab or to refuse) and passively seeing (receiving, letting the outside
in), between seeing close and seeing far, between focusing on an object
in a scientific attitude and opening the vision field in a contemplative
The idea is that recovering the ability to freely pulsate between the
two poles brings freedom and the possibility of a widened awareness (see
There is an other idea that comes from this area (particularly from H.
Laborit) which I find useful. It runs like that:
In front of a stress (danger, problem or whatever) the man/animal has basically
two choices: fight or flight.
Now, if you take any animal, put it into stress and prevent both possibilities,
it will develop neurosis, which means that it will still try to solve this
unsolvable problem trying to fight or flee, but not directly physically.
Most of these new, extreme strategies will not work, or may be self destructive;
but it has to try anyway.
There is another basic instinct which cubs and babies undergo when they
obviously cannot do anything else, and it is: freeze!
Many times it works, many predators cannot see their prey when it is not
moving (you probably have noticed that already by watching a cat follow
some moving object: if it loses it for a moment and in that moment the object
stops.... It cannot find it anymore).
Finally, there is a fourth answer, that responds to a positive stress:
go after it! It is the excitement brought by a prey for a hunting animal,
and the natural response to anything which can be attractive to us, in terms
of direct pleasure, reward etc.
So, as animals we should be able to answer with any of the four basic
patterns as required by situation, but...all our education is bound to alter
this natural response; our school, for example will prevent us from following
what gives us fun, from fleeing away (not only we are not allowed to space
out with our mind, we cannot even look outside the window!). Also, we cannot
obviously fiscally fight against teachers.
So, if the stress is too much we may develop myopia as a way of freezing
and retreating, escaping inside, and farsightedness (with fast scanning
glances, jumping here and there) as a style of escaping outside and being
prepared for "battle". The myopic child will in time become a
diligent student with little imagination. The farsighted child is generally
a lazy student, but he always has a ready answer, he's lively and "creative",
and therefore generally gets along in school.
So it seems that it would be great if we were able to experiment our
lost abilities. Myopic people may learn some fighting from life: for example
they are available to fight with a difficult text or a difficult intellectual
problem. But they will tend to consider escaping as a very shameful possibility;
also, they may deep down believe that nothing good can come out by simply
doing things for the pleasure and excitement of it. Farsighted people find
simply being here doing nothing, without escaping or fighting, as horrible
as death, and even when actively pursuing pleasure, they may find themselves
escaping from it, at the very last moment
The idea is that if we have a richer choice of open possibilities for
acting, we don't need our complicated eye strategies any more. Our myopia,
astigmatism, squint, farsightedness will become a protection, an adaptation
that we don't need anymore.
Bioenergetics has developed a lot in terms of letting people experience
with our lost abilities (along with fear, anger, tenderness and any other
natural feeling that has been repressed) through expressive acts.
There is in reality a fifth way to respond to situations, apart the four
above mentioned, and it is precisely to respond, instead of reacting, with
no stress, taking it easy, taking in account what the situation requires,
our needs, the relative importance of goals, etc.: being in the here and
now and having a broad point of view: This brings us beyond the scope of
therapy, and has much to do with awareness and meditation in general, and
with what we call soft vision, as related to the way of seeing.
Channels of perception
We receive the world, perceive it, think of it, organize our ideas on
it through our different senses. We have many, but the main ones are: seeing,
hearing, touch (which is split between proprioception, the sensations of
warm, rough, tingling etc, and kinesthesia, the feeling of movement in space,
which also includes balance), smell and taste. In our society seeing is
by far the dominating one, but this is not so for everybody (and it is not
so for other societies). Many people don't think in terms of images but
in terms of sounds. And other people are more oriented towards touch. Let
me give an example:
When learning massage the visual guy will learn by seeing, the hearing
one will need to hear explanations, and the touch guy will need to mimic
movements and to experiment with hands. In describing something they will
also have different choices of words. Vision oriented people will chose
expressions such as "The way I see it.."; hear oriented ones will
say "That sounds bad to me", while touch oriented people will
prefer expressions like "This stuff doesn't really catch me, it has
There is still another possibility: people becoming digital. That happens
when people are more and more detached from senses and organizing their
mind around words, concepts, abstractions. These people will talk "intellectually",
using little or no words coming from direct experience of the senses. They
will think that they "know" massage because they have read about
On these bases NLP (Neuro linguistic programming) Waszlawicz and Arnold
Mindell have developed a lot of practical tools.
Here I want to play with these concepts a little bit. First question
coming to my mind:
- Are people with vision problems similar to blind people? Can we consider
them half blind? (Thinking in these terms would imply that what we call
vision problems are a kind of sickness, similar to blindness but of lesser
The astonishing answer is:not at all! People with visual problems are
very strongly visually oriented, they tend to lose sensibility in the range
of hearing (no musical skills, no sensibility in "reading" the
shifts in tone and rhythm of voices), poor movement coordination and they
pay little attention to messages coming from the body. Blind people on the
other hand, have a very well developed sense of hearing, they distinguish
and recognize the nature of sounds, their distance and direction. The may
even feel the presence of obstacles at a distance through their greatly
developed sense of touch
- O.K., we have established that people with visual problems tend to
be particularly one sided in depending on vision alone, so what?
That will bring consequences. E. J. Berendt has elaborated on that. Among
other things, relying on vision only brings a deep sense of division, between
me and the world outside, and amongst the things I perceive. That in turn
brings to dualistic attitudes like the idea of man v/s nature, to science
and to cold judging. The mind is stimulated, the heart is not. Meaning becomes
important, in terms of causes and purposes. That opens the door to the next
step in loosing contact with the whole: digitalization. Meaning is found
more and more in words and abstract concepts which support each other.
Now this is what is concretely happening to people with eye problems:
from a strong visual orientation it will be easier for them to slide into
digitalization: they will by and by loose sensibility to certain details
and certain abilities of their vision, and their mind will be organized
less and less in visual terms and more with sequences of words.
What this means in terms of working with a group on Vision Training is:
1) Learning to use the other senses is important (listening with closed
eyes, body awareness, movement awareness). This will bring real sense in
life (love, dance, music, poetry) and develop a more intuitive, creative
2) It is important to be able to coordinate your senses ("Hear the
noise of the car, judge distance and speed, turn your head and eyes, catch
with a glance the remaining information you need, and jump efficiently out
of the way!)
3) Visual oriented people also need recovering and integrating all the visual
sub modalities (you can call them also dimensions of seeing, or Gestalt)
that they tend to loose.
Many disciplines are based on the integration of different channels.
The same applies to several meditation techniques. They can be used for
the purpose of working with the eyes, but there are details that need to
be cared for. Let me make an example which is obvious to every eye worker:
dancing will not work as a way of integration as long as it is done with
glasses. The lack of peripheral view will create the possibility of small
accidents like bumping into somebody else. The person will then tend not
to move from the spot, not to use arms and legs, and possibly even not to
listen to the music. On the contrary he/ she will over exert his/ her view,
looking at the others.
Working on beliefs
- I have little power on my life. Accidents, other people and even my
unconscious already decide 90% of my life.
- My body is weak and vulnerable to sicknesses and accidents. Needs to be
- Life is full of traumas. Every big change, like giving birth to a child,
will affect me and leave permanent scars on my life.
- Life is suffering. We need to be able to resist and go ahead.
- Life is competition. Only winning is meaningful.
- Life is money. Either I have it or I'm a nobody.
- I can't rely on my sensations, they are misleading.
- I can't trust myself. There is something basically flawed in my design
(perhaps in my genes) or simply I have no luck.
- I can't trust people, they will cheat me. Still, I cannot control them
and I cannot avoid giving them power on my life.
We all share some of the attitudes above. We have inherited them from
our parents, absorbed from education and even taken them as the ultimate
meaning of some of our experiences.
Needless to say, they express a concentrated point of view (focused, serious),
where only one aspect of the scene is taken into account and then projected
to the whole scene. They are very one- sided.
Working with people with vision problems the constant feeling is that
the grip of certain particular beliefs is unusually stronger: considering
them and changing them (when it is the case) seems to be such an impossible
(when not immoral) task! Perhaps the explanation of this difficulty is that
certain beliefs have been reinforced by a long trail of strong and meaningful
experiences. So they appear as revealed Truth, something precious that need
to be preserved, though they are likely to be the result of misunderstanding
Let's see what often happens to a child in school. This is the prototype
of myopic development.
When a child is confronted with a new situation (any new situation),
it may go into a certain degree of stress. The stress may be more if it
perceives that something is expected from it, that its parents expect it
to "go well" in school, if it perceives that the amount of love
and acceptance its parents will bestow on it is proportional to "results".
In school there are a lot of foreign notions to learn, and especially
this special visual skill called reading. Imagine yourself as a small child
in first grade: you are again and again forced to concentrate the attention
on these strange characters, and they don't look certainly friendly. Then
the board is another place that you may not like to look at, then perhaps
also the teacher doesn't look particularly attractive to you. If you are
in stress (because for example you don't understand, you feel bored etc),
you may try to escape by spacing out, talking, looking outside, even falling
asleep. But when you are asked directly you cannot escape: "Now, read
on the board!" And you find that you feel paralyzed (you freeze), and
that your sight gets blurred (because your eyes too are paralyzed).
Teachers, when they notice these signs on your part, tend to do one thing:
they put you in the first row, so that they can keep on eye on you.
Now escaping is really difficult for you, you can only do what they want
(you cannot flee, cannot fight, cannot go after what you like; you can only
adapt, or freeze) (still, there is still a very very narrow space for escaping
on a mental level; just because you see blurred your mind is not totally
dominated by what is in front of you).
If you find some way to adapt or compensate, and you do it fast, your
stress will diminish to a manageable size. But it is possible that your
stress will increase (because now you are closer to the teacher for example).
What will happen then, is that you will not only freeze, but also shrink
inside, and your vision will get again blurred (this is the first stage
of myopia, directly related to a situation of stress). Now the drama will
unfold following a fixed pattern. The teacher starts to worry (and you perceive
it). He/ she will arrange a visual exam for you or talk to your parents
about that. Your parents will worry a lot (and that also you perceive, quite
well). That creeping feeling that there must be something wrong with you
(which was already been suggested by your failure in learning and your parents´
displeasure with that) now is becoming certainty. By the time of the eye
exam you are really under stress, and your sight is obviously bad. Then
you got the result:
"Yes, there is something wrong with you, and particularly with your
eyes", big truth number one.
"There is (almost) nothing that you can do about that" (n°2).
"They can fix it, with a pair of glasses" (n°3).
"Because seeing clearly (i:e: reading characters at a distance of 3
mt (20 feet)) is something dramatically important" (n°4).
Now, pay attention, because it is possible that, if you have really been
passing through such an experience, you may have canceled certain parts
of your memories.
When they give you the new glasses what happens is that now you are able
to see clearly the blackboard also when you are under stress. Where is the
gain? From your direct point of view, there is none: when you are under
stress, you are under stress; unhappiness is unhappiness, that you see clear
or blurred. Not only that: now the object of your stress is not any more
blurred, it is painfully clear. This means that even that mechanism of escape
(seeing blurred, over the thing) is not possible any more. There is no (and
will never be any more) possibility of escape! (big, absolute truth n°
5) (see under The body energy approach, for escape as a basic reaction to
But from their point of view everything is going in a satisfactory way:
they are incredibly relieved! (also because they were deep down suspecting
that it was their fault). They have found a culprit (your eyes) and found
a solution (glasses for you) for their problem.
So, they will change their attitude towards you: your difficulties were
not, after all, completely your fault (they love you again, parents and
teacher). Now you can read the blackboard, so for them you are perfectly
This means that there is again hope for you. If you want that people
are pleased with you, that they accept you, now you know what you have to
do: to study, and to see always clear, whatever your feelings or sensations
(with time the pain of seeing clearly object of stress will become unconscious).
From here comes the obsession of myopes about clarity of vision. If they
allow themselves to see blurred again, the hell of before may come back!
(notice to which point seeing blurred went together with "not seeing
clearly"= feeling the pain and not understanding why, and now seeing
clearly means both that you understand, or believe that you understand your
situation better, and that you see always with high definition)
The small girl/boy will gladly accept the glasses, because they have magically
changed the whole situation with parents and teachers .
Of course they have also brought negative consequences. Relating with
other children is more difficult: they may tease you and playing together
is more difficult, especially with running, playing ball etc. Communicating
is being hindered by the glasses hiding your expressions. You will find
yourself slower, with less spatial perception, with less coordination, less
attractive than other children (less expressive, less attractive and goof:
what will this bring to, when the child becomes a teenager?).
There is only one field open, and it is studying. And studying means
reading, focusing your eyes at a short distance for long stretches of time,
training them day after day to see close, on a surface with only two dimensions,
to reduce their visual field, to stare. That will in time change the shape
of your eye bulbs: they become more oblong, and so Myopia is becoming also
a structural condition of your eyeballs.
But, when you force your eyes to adapt to a short focusing you are doing
something that will bring some (indirect) reward, while in every other field
or situation you are bound more and more to perceive your inferiority. That's
why we can talk of shortsightedness as a sequence of choices, based on deep
ingrained beliefs, each new choice reinforcing the old ones.
The original belief, "there is something wrong with me" has
turned into reality, thanks to the year- long conditioning. You now are
in many ways inferior (precisely in all those aspects of vision training
that you have discarded). Recognizing it is twice painful because it would
mean to betray your original decision (to be a good child and please your
parents) and all your following choices. So it becomes unconscious. It will
show up from time to time as stubbornness, negativity, need for recognition
The course followed by farsighted children is different, and I will not
go into details here. From the very beginning they try to find way of escaping
outside (not studying, lying, occasionally rebelling). And therefore the
beliefs are different. It is also possible for many children that their
farsightedness goes unnoticed.
Working on beliefs is today easier. Many techniques have been devised
by Gestalt, Primal, NLP and others (Kinesiology amongst them). And from
all these works improvements on eye conditions have from time to time been
reported. But, as I tried to show with the example above, in the case of
eyes the layers of beliefs are complex. All these disciplines on their side
could find it useful to integrate the experience of eye workers in their
Contact and eye contact
With the eyes we can get in touch with reality, retreat from it, escape
it, confront it aggressively, welcome it, absorb it, suck it, deny it, etc.
All these operations can be translated in a peculiar way of looking, of
staring, of glancing etc. Some of these operations may require a more permanent
adaptation of the eyes, and will therefore bring what we call visual problems
(and could perhaps better be called fixed visual styles). We can also come
in contact with reality through other channels (that part was developed
Eye contact with human beings is an important part of visual contact.
After all it was part of our first visual experiences: the eyes of our mother
were the first thing that we were able to discriminate from the rest. And
they almost always came together with nourishment and physical contact.
They were also a sort of nourishment in themselves, conveying acceptance
and a sense of rightness, that everything is OK..
But of course this mechanism can be disturbed. Mother can be unable to
convey love: perhaps she cannot be there and touch you when you need, she
may be unable to breast feed you, or not liking it (and this you will feel),
or not looking at you, or looking with unloving eyes. When one of these
things happens, doubts creep in; there is division, something is wrong:
either I am wrong or existence (i.e. mama). And most of the time children
find it more logical to conclude that there must be something wrong in me.
Later on more eye contacts are bound to happen, specially with grown
ups (papa, relatives, teachers) and from the original non-contact with mama's
eyes two new possibilities of eye "contact" (and of generally
relating with the world through the eyes) may develop: the Me v/s them way
of seeing and the They v/s me. The first one will include an attitude of
readiness for fight/ flight, a tendency to judge and project, and a difficulty
to see close to me (deep down I still now that it's me who is wrong, and
I don't want to see that). This may in turn develop in farsightedness. The
attitude of They v/s me will bring to shyness, difficulty in facing others,
self projections and retreating, also in visual terms. This one can bring
to shortsightedness. Needless to say, both ways are over focused, dualistic
ways of seeing.
From this approach our aim will be that of regaining an attitude of me
and them: in the beginning this simply means relaxing in the process of
simply seeing the eyes of a partner (with the awareness of projections and
fears that may be there). Then, with relaxation a feeling of union, communication
and nourishment can happen. We undress our masks, renounce our projections,
as if we were getting naked, and allow us to see and to be seen.
A further step is the opening of awareness (and acceptance) to the whole
field of perception, still keeping the eyes of the other as the center of
focus. This may not only help us to change the way we look at others (correcting
also our visual problems), it can open the door to love and to meditation.
It goes without saying that when glasses are there, no real visual contact
can happen..... (and some people are so dependent on their glasses precisely
because they think that they need to be protected against visual contact).
There is one particular visual problem which has a lot to do with contact
/non contact: presbyopia. It is generally considered as something which
is bound to happen to everybody because of age (it is also called middle
age farsightedness). People know that they have it when they find that they
cannot anymore read small letters at a short distance. "I'm getting
old; I have to adapt to that and get glasses: It happens to everybody: it's
a natural process, and there is nothing I can do about it." I believe
that what in reality happens is that they don't want to see anything too
close to themselves. In other words: they want to keep the world at a distance,
they don't want to get involved, emotionally involved. They don't want to
experience risks, emotions, they want to "keep quiet", to stick
with the goals they have given to their lives and not to lose energies in
that which is not important.: no more music, no more playing, no noise,
no love etc. I see these attitudes as the result of a long social conditioning.
Years and years of a global conditioning towards a goal - oriented attitude
and against everything that is not rational (i.e. very much stressing the
importance of mind against everything else) will sooner or later get anybody.
By the age of 40 we are rigid, we are "old". We may complain about
getting old, but all our choices go in that direction. So, the barriers
we put between the world and us become more and more rigid (as well as our
eyes and our stare). This cool staring into each other's eyes with no real
contact is considered the "proper" way to behave in the world
of business and in dealing with the others. It is especially to be found
in big towns and in "advanced" countries (as the USA).
Real eye contact can help break these barriers; real eye contact means
opening the heart and the ability of touching and being touched by others.
It may bring us in connection with life and existence. And this means also
that our presbyopia will gently fade away, once that we bring life, love
and laughter to our eyes.
Love and relationships
We all use words as love, connection, relationship assuming that we all
mean and experience the same things. As a matter of fact they take different
connotations according to culture, character and "point of view".
Let me state certain tendencies related with the main vision problems (shortsightedness
and farsightedness; about presbyopia, it is possible to infer them from
what has just been said here above).
Farsighted people cannot see well at close distance. That means that
they will find difficult to see their lovers, to learn to know and accept
their peculiar characteristics, their individuality. Their eyes and their
mind are constantly shifting far away: they are fascinated by things and
ideas as long as they are away, but they cannot really grab them. So they
are more prone to fall in love with the idea they have of a person than
with the real person. In positive terms, they can bring a lot of excitement
in a relationship, a lot of fantasy and changes. But the depth of the I/
Thou intimate connection will be difficult for them: they cannot focus on
anything for a long period of time, and much less on intimacy (i.e. being
and seeing at close distance). They will be often tempted to escape to another
object of interest: flirting therefore becomes a common attitude for the
The counterpart character, the myope, will have the tendency to take
things very seriously, often dramatically so. He/ she will have in the beginning
difficulties in establishing a connection with a partner. They literally
cannot really see anybody unless at a close range. Once that they have seen
you, there may be a lot of shyness and mistrust, attempts to avoid emotions
and keeping rational (keeping the barrier of their glasses between the two
of you), but there will be also a strong focusing on you. You may be able
to perceive that they are expecting a lot from you, that you are at the
center of their attention and that whatever you do will have a powerful
impact on them. The way they look at you is staring: they keep a steady
eye contact, without blinking and without apparent expression; a rather
hard glance: you may feel examined and judged, which is often the case (they
try to understand whether they can trust you or not, and don't easily find
a definite answer. Deep down they don't believe to be worth of the interest
of anybody). Even when love arises these characteristics will remain. They
focus, they stare, they are never completely sure about what they see (they
are never sure about you: this you may find rather disturbing!).
All these attitudes will make them rather monogamous, and depth of intimacy
is possible. They are good at seeing the details of that which is near;
so they will learn a lot of things on their partners and on their relation
with them. This may help the relationship to grow. Still, they will tend
to be possessive: their world is made of me/you relationships (often you
v/s me), with them at one side. They can't simply understand that you can
have other centers of interest in the same time, and if you do, their interpretation
is that you must not be paying (any) attention to them. They find difficult
solving problems involving third parties: a wife, to make an example, knows
her husband, knows her son, but doesn't see the relation between father
and son, because that would imply seeing two objects at the same time, which
she finds difficult. For the same reason a myope will tend to look jealous,
will often try to drag the partner away from groups of friends: he/she does
not see the group, does not see (understand) love and friendship when they
are spread (like in a group): that would imply a width of vision directly
opposed to the central focusing that constitutes the basic approach of a
Groups can still be of enormous relevance for shortsighted people. In
therapy they can give a form of support and recognition that can help to
change their old self- negative beliefs. But still a shortsighted person
will have the tendency not to see these things (support and recognition
from a group) when they happen. Therefore they may look at times stubborn
and ungrateful to the other members, sticking to their misery when a lot
of love is showered on them. On one level this can be explained by their
difficulty to believe that others could really love and appreciate them;
but there is also the direct inability to literally see it. They need to
be lead and encouraged into the perception of things which are away and
There are a lot of dimensions of working on the eyes (as opposite to
working with the eyes) which can be of great use. The first one is direct
manipulation: Rebalancing and other massage techniques can directly work
on the muscles around the eyes. They can also change the posture of a person,
inducing changes in vision: there is statistical evidence of the relation
between posture and eye problems. Shortsightedness is often related with
forward dislocation of the body center of gravitation, farsightedness with
the opposite, differences of visual acuity between one eye and the other
are often related with sideways tilting of the head, etc. Craniosacral therapy
can provoke changes in the position and integration of bones, nerves and
fascias inside the skull. Manipulation of vertebras (Chiropractic or Osteopathic)
can also contribute to shifts in posture, better functioning of nerves etc.
All these techniques can also bring changes in the attitude: relaxation
v/s anxiety, for example.
I personally deal with Sensage, a kind of massage related to Rebalancing,
and I have had dramatic results in vision improvement
with my clients, thanks to the relaxation and increase in self esteem
induced. Acupuncture, color puncture, shiatsu, reflexology and micro massage
can influence the flows of energy going to the eyes (same can be attained
by regular self massage of points related to the eyes).
It is important that all these external changes are accompanied by a
growth in awareness (see above). Otherwise their results get easily lost,
they don't really become part of us.
Same thing goes for food and integratives. A certain diet can contribute,
say, to shortsightedness (too much sugar and carbohydrates, not enough fibers).
Indeed forcing the right diet on us out of discipline is an approach that
will bring troubles... and no awareness. On the contrary, awareness of dietary
habits, and of the drives that support them, can possibly bring to conscious
changes (at least in the way we see it). Warm pads, cool pads, herbal washes,
rice bags etc. are also nice things to do for the eyes.
All that it is possible to do working on the eyes can bring pleasant
experiences and give an opportunity for awareness at different levels (they
can for example introduce the idea of taking loving care for the eyes and
bring to the surface the difficulties in doing that). So, experimenting
with them and integrating them in our approach can be a good idea.
On the other side, there is a lot of things that we can teach to therapists
dealing with those approaches when they want to specifically work with the
eyes of their clients.
Our work is indeed focused on eyes and vision.
But this point of view should not bring us to be shortsighted
(i.e. only seeing our little field of interest).
We need to be able to see far, to all possible developments.
It can be argued that it is possible to look too far but we still put a
lot of care in the details of our work, we look closely at them.
It is also important to keep a soft, open view on what is happening
around us: a lot of things are happening in fields that can be complementary
We need to keep in contact with the people involved in these fields,
we must look into each other´s eye and allow us to see and been
That´s what we call Holistic Vision.....
working with people's eyes in hebrew (pdf)
Some documents from the first and second conference are beeing translated
into english, thanks to Max Mandolini. Go to Documents
italian conference of vision educators
english links Summer holidays in Italy
The birth of Buena Vista refractive operations