My vision was clear at age 35 when I started nursing school and blurry by the time I finished.
In 1994, I was required to take an eye exam to get into the nursing program at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, Oregon. My vision was 20/20. I was in nursing school for 3 years, during which time my near vision declined and reading became increasingly difficult. Not only did the printed word become blurry, but I could no longer read my textbooks for any length of time without fatigue, eye pain and headaches. I had already been having chronic tension headaches for years. Reading made them worse. Glasses were intolerable. They made the words clear enough, but not without increased discomfort, eye pain, headaches, dizziness and nausea. I resorted to recording my class lectures and listening to audiobooks.
For the next 10 years my near vision blurriness, difficulty reading, eye discomfort and headaches continued. I did not believe improving my eyesight was possible until one day in Spring 2004 when I opened a book discussing the theory and application of the eyesight education work of ophthalmologist and natural vision pioneer William H. Bates, MD:
Relearning To See: Improve Your Eyesight Naturally! by Natural Vision Teacher Thomas R. Quackenbush.
I was introduced to the Bates Method of Natural Vision Improvement and to the Principles and Habits of Natural Vision. What I learned and practiced felt new, but in fact, wasn’t new at all. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was remembering and relearning something I had forgotten a very long time ago – how to use my eyes in the natural and effortless way.
A few weeks later, I had an unexpected and amazing experience. While enjoying a morning walk through the neighborhood, a feeling that something wonderful was happening came over me.
I became present and keenly aware of the warmth of the sunshine on my skin, the cheerful sounds of birds and the sweet fragrance of tree blossoms. With incredible vividness, I experienced the brightness and colorfulness of Spring.
As I walked down the sidewalk, I realized my face and eyes were completely relaxed. All tension had vanished. My sunlight sensitivity, which I had thought to be normal, was gone. I was seeing with perfect clarity and ease. I hadn’t realized that not only had my near vision become blurry, my distance vision had become less clear as well. But at that moment, all was exceptionally clear. Their was also an awareness of greater contrast and increased depth perception.
The sky looked bluer, the grass greener, the flowers brighter and more colorful than I could remember. Surprisingly, everything sparkled unbelievably bright, vibrant and clear.
When I returned from my walk, I immediately opened the book Relearning To See to page 371 and easily read three paragraphs of 1.5 point type entitled “The Menace of Large Print”. The micro-print was clear, the ink jet-black, the edges sharp. Around each letter the white paper glowed brightly, as if illuminated, making the words appear to be floating off the page. I could see perfectly fine, enjoying visual clarity both close-up and at a distance. My eyes were relaxed and comfortable. My mind at ease. I was amazed and elated.
I was seeing clearly and effortlessly, automatically maintaining the natural relaxed vision habits I had been learning about. My eyes followed my attention. I was genuinely interested in what I was looking at. My eyelids blinked gently. My neck and shoulders felt soft. I had no muscle pain or headache. My face was relaxed. My breathing calm and natural. All felt well. And I had the thought that all was well. Clear letters and distinct words seemed to offer themselves up to my eyes.
My vision was perfect. Reading was a breeze. As amazing, as this was, over the next few days I questioned whether this effortless way of using my eyes was normal. I had never experienced this before. Or, if I had, it had been so long ago I had forgotten. I was so use to straining, trying to see. I was also use to staring, parking my eyes, not blinking, locking my head and neck, and mentally zoning out with no interest in what I was seeing. Both my habits, of straining to see and staring to not see, felt familiar. But, this fluid and effortless way of using my eyes felt strange and a bit scary.
I thought I was on an unfamiliar path, but gradually realized this path I was now on had only been forgotten.
A few days later, after getting upset about something, my visual clarity unexpectedly vanished. Blurriness returned, as I fell back into my old familiar patterns of strain. Regular print looked blurry, fine print unreadable. Eye pain, fatigue, headaches and light sensitivity returned.
I was only beginning to appreciate the connection between tension and lowered vision, as well as the tenacity of my habits of strain. Regarding stress, I did not handle it well. I overreacted. Emotionally, with fear, worry, anger, anxiety and depression. Mentally, with negative thoughts and a pessimistic attitude. Physically, with shallow breathing, fatigue, muscle tension, pain and headaches. This was well ingrained. This was lowering my vision. I realized, handling stress better would help in all areas of in my life, including in improving my eyesight.
Tension is reflected in the eyes as blurriness; Ease as clarity. According to Dr. Bates, “Perfect sight can only be obtained without an effort, without a strain.”
I found this to be true, and was motivated to learn how to relax.
Although initially disappointed by my step backwards into blurriness, I was excited to know that improving my eyesight naturally was actually possible. I had experienced it. I was empowered to continue studying the Bates Method of Natural Vision Improvement and practicing the principles and habits of natural vision. I was motivated to learn to relax.
The Principles of Natural Vision
“The normal eye is only at rest when it is moving…”
– William H. Bates, MD
The Habits of Natural Vision
“Under conditions of mental and physical discomfort, such as pain, cough, fever, discomfort from heat or cold, depression, anger or anxiety, errors of refraction are always produced in the normal eye or increased in the eye in which they already exist.“
– William H. Bates, MD
Along my vision journey, in addition to the Bates Method, I learned and incorporated supportive holistic practices including yoga, posture improvement, breath awareness, meditation, creative visualization, autogenic relaxation training and Emotional Freedom Technique. I was motivated to learn to relax my mind and body to better handle the stresses of my life.
I began making healthier lifestyle choices and changes…
As I developed a subtle awareness of relaxing my body, mind and eyes, my vision became clearer. I was able to read without fatigue or discomfort. Eye strain and headaches were relieved and sensitivity to sunlight disappeared. I relearned to use my eyes as nature intended, as I had before, when I could see clearly.
I was taking a personal journey, of learning to relax, in order to relearn to see.
I continue to learn and practice healthier ways of handling stress. My journey has been a process of developing subtle awareness of my mental, emotional and physical states, with my continuing goal being – noticing tension, letting it go, and incorporating this letting go into my daily life. Since my eyes are reflections of my state of decreasing tension and increasing ease, my vision has improved accordingly.
In 2015 I took a Natural Vision Workshop with Natural Vision Teacher and Wellness Coach Greg Marsh. At the time, I knew the key to clearer vision was relaxation, but continued to struggle with thinking there was something I had to do. I was still trying too see rather than allowing seeing to happen.
During Greg’s Natural Vision Workshop I appreciated his supportive attitude and his unhurried and flexible approach. Greg encouraged us to play with natural vision activities, to see how we might incorporate them into our daily lives, rather than do them as separate exercises. Greg was coaching us as much as teaching. Rather than telling us what to do, he encouraged us to trust ourselves, our ideas, our intuition. He allowed us the time and space to experiment, explore and experience being within our bodies, as we tried out different natural and relaxing ways of using our eyes.
His easy-going and empowering approach was new and inspiring for me. Following the class, I decided to become a Natural Vision Teacher and Coach. In 2016, I took Greg’s Natural Vision Teacher and Coach training and certification program, with the intention of assisting others on their own Natural Vision Improvement journeys.
My reading vision continues to improve. Regular print is clear and fine print readable in good light. I am able to read without glasses as long as I wish, without the fatigue, eye strain, pain or headaches of the past.
So that’s my story. Thankfully, I have been able to maintain my eyesight without corrective lenses. I continue to practice and incorporate into my life the Natural Vision habits I was born with. How clearly I see fluctuates day to day, even moment to moment, and is greatly improved by my ability to relax and allow my eyes to function in their natural way.
My eyes feel much more comfortable and are no longer sensitive to sunlight. Reading is more relaxing. I no longer suffer from excessive eye strain, fatigue, pain or headaches. Fine print can still be a challenge in dim light. But with a relaxing breath, a couple of soft blinks and a gentle letting go of trying, the letters come into clarity.