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A Relaxed Vision: Try This At Home

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

When I lived in the mountains of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom I'd wonder why the clouds all looked like those in Maxfield Parrish paintings. Then I learned that the artist had lived nearby, in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

One early autumn evening up there my buddy and I went to visit the Verges' hunting camp. Ed Verge was the father of five sons, three of whom were grown men. I never was properly introduced to the women folk. They weren't up at hunting camp. (That's part of what hunting camp is about.)

The Verges were Abanake Indians. The Abanake are an unincorporated tribe. The US says they are a Canadian tribe that only came down to weather during the winter. Canada contends they are a US tribe that only came up to hunt.

Evening was rapidly turning to night. Ed took a rifle and flashlight and with a gesture invited me to follow him. We slipped off, leaving the younger males standing in the small clearing in front of the cabin socializing around the fire. (That's another part of what hunting camp is about.)

I followed Ed on a wide trail in the gathering darkness. The fallen golden leaves, reflecting back what little light there was, shone almost luminous against the dark background of the earth. Every now and then, just for a couple of seconds at a time, Ed switched on the flashlight with it focused on a disruption of the pattern of leaves on the forest floor. When he shined a light on it, framing it with the beam, it was obvious, even to me, that here was a spot where a deer had scuffed the ground. By the way Ed raised his finger to his lips, signaling for quiet as we continued on our way, I knew that he could tell that the scuff was recent.

Some short while later we returned to the fire, without a word and without our deer.

Someone has observed, "Intuition is the fruit of diligent study." I'm sure diligent study has a lot to do with it, but I think a sixth sense might also be involved. That trackers can take a whiff of a spot and tell what type of animal peed there is wonderful enough; but how do they notice, walking down the trail, how do they recognize the spot where the animal peed?

As a doctor what I diagnose most frequently is insensibility. People don't notice, don't sense what is going on in their own body. Or they do sense it, but they don't listen to it.

That little grumble in your lower left abdomen, just barely felt, is your rectum telling you that now is the moment. Ignore it and the urge will go away. Follow it and you will feel better.

It is quite the effort to maintain our upright posture. My head is way to big for my smallish body. Sitting still in front of this computer for long stretches of time, my neck gets stiff. Sometimes I can relieve the tension (and even pop my spine) just by gently (always gently, please) rolling my shoulders back and thrusting out my chest. Sometime I need to stretch out flat on my back. (I sit on the foot of my bed and lie down keeping my feet on the floor or raising them just a little to better stretch the whole spine, maybe with my hands folded under my head.)

Another casualty of my sedentary computer existence are my eyes. The problem being that always focused at the same spot, at the same distance, the muscles around the eye, unexercised, become stiff, kind of frozen in place. Ignoring this for years, insensible to what my body was telling me, I only very recently started listening.

To focus on things close up the lens of the eye gets fat, bending the light more so it converges properly on the retina. For distant objects the lens is drawn thin, because to focus those light waves requires less dramatic bending. This is similar to adjusting, increasing or decreasing, the lens of a projector to focus its light onto a screen.

But you can also focus the light from a projector onto a screen by increasing or decreasing the distance between the projector and the screen. That's what Dr Bates pointed out.

I learned about The Bates Method for Better Vision back in naturopathic medical school. Hoping to find some photos to illustrate this article I hopped over to Wikipedia.

A man here in SMA recently told me, "When I tell people that I don't like discussing politics, because I don't feel that I have an informed opinion, they tell me, 'You must be pro-Trump.' But I'm not pro-Trump."

I also don't like talking or writing about politics, but when I visited Wikipedia this morning I read:

"The Bates method is an ineffective and potentially dangerous alternative therapy aimed at improving eyesight. [In 1917 the Bates' method] was criticized by the American Medical Association's Bureau of Investigation as dangerous quackery."

I could say that the AMA is a union that represents the interests of doctors, not the interests of patients they treat. Similarly, a teachers' union represents the interests of teachers, whether or not those conflict with the education of their students. So too, police unions represent first and foremost the interests of police.

I could say that in 1917 standard medicine was itself undeniable quackery, relying almost exclusively on nine or ten medicines, most of which, while producing certain positive biological effects, were poisons: mercury, arsenic, phosphorus, lead... Mercury cures gonorrhea and many other bacterial infections.

I could, but I won't, because I don't like talking or writing about politics.

Bates' "crime" was advocating a method to relax the many small muscles surrounding the eye. One practice he recommended is what we would call today eye yoga. It consists of bringing your eyes through a range of motion: up, down; right, left; top left to bottom right; bottom left to top right; semicircles (repeating each movement, back and forth, several times before going onto the next). The only danger involved in eye yoga is that doing full circles too quickly might make you dizzy.

Bates drew down the wrath of the medical establishment because he declared that with his method many could achieve Better Vision Without Glasses. He claimed that by relaxing the tension of the eye muscles, you allow the eyeball to flex, to change shape and that this flexibility of the focal distance between the lens and the retina (like changing the distance between projector and screen) makes it easier to see... sometimes avoiding the need for glasses.

Poor Bates. It's hard to go against conventional scientific wisdom, especially when that "science" is backed by special interests. (There might be a lesson in this for us today, but don't get me started.)

My favorite method of Bates is to alter my point of focus. I do this while looking out a window that looks onto some distance. I hold my thumb up some little way in front of me and focus (as best I can) on its tip. Then I switch my focus to a point just above the thumb, but much farther off in the distance. I switch back and forth, between thumb and background point, six or eight times in ten or twelve seconds.

Dr. William Bates

I've known about this alternating focus exercise for decades, but I've always made it more difficult than it is. (There's a general life lesson in that, too, no?) A great difference in distance is best, but any moderate distance will do. You don't even need a window. For your far focus you can use a spot across the room. And I always thought I needed a dot on a window for a near focus, until I discovered my thumb. Regarding lifestyle changes, I used to tell my patients, "If it's not easy, then you're not going to do it."

We have to be nice to ourselves. We have to listen to our bodies. Maybe if we were nicer to ourselves, we would be nice to each other.

After only ten seconds of eye yoga or near-far focus my eyes feel better, much better. I can feel greater blood flow as those tiny muscles relax. The trick is to pick up on the subtle clues, like muscular tension or leaves out of place, and to follow up on those clue with action.

Try it. Do a ten second scientific experiment of your own. Why wait? Do it now.

I'm not recommending the Bates Method as a substitute for proper professional eye care, but I have to say, with apologies to the AMA, that since I've started regularly doing these eye exercises, in a small, but noticeable way, my vision has improved. At least that's the way I see it.


Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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