As the beautiful sights and smells of autumn envelop our surroundings we can take a moment to learn a lesson from nature’s changing seasons. Autumn is a time of letting go. All around us we witness trees letting go by dropping their leaves to the ground. What can this teach us about ourselves and specifically about our vision?
A central idea of the Bates Method of natural vision improvement is”letting go” or “not trying”. This is the secret of healing your eyes and normalizing your vision. No amount of “trying” or “efforting” will help you achieve clear vision. Demonstrate to yourself that the harder you try the worse you see. Then discover that the less you try the better you see. “Not trying” is a simple way to achieve the “relaxation” that Dr. Bates always spoke about. You cannot try to relax. The moment you start trying, you stop relaxing. Relaxation only arrives when you stop trying.
When I was in elementary school and I had trouble reading the blackboard in the front of the classroom, my solution at the time was to try harder by squinting my eyes and straining my mind to try and force vision to happen. It seemed to help a little bit, but only temporarily. Little did I know, that bad vision habit would only make my vision worse in the long run. How was I supposed to know? No one ever educated me how to use my eyes. I was just given a pair of eyes and had to figure it out on my own. Some people develop good vision strategies that preserve clear sight for life. However, like many other children raised in the modern world, I developed poor vision habits that led to gradual vision loss at a very young age. My eye doctors never educated me on how to use my eyes properly, they simply offered a pair of “eye crutches” to lean on indefinitely, which is exactly what I did. After wearing glasses and contacts every single day for fifteen years I learned about the Bates Method, which finally taught me the correct way to use my eyes. For the first time in over a decade my eyes started relaxing by practicing “letting go” and “not trying”. My vision was quite blurry when I first stopped wearing my glasses, but that was okay. I practiced accepting the blur instead of resisting it. Instead of trying to read the letters on my blurry eye chart, I simply let go and remained relaxed, which allowed them to start coming into focus on their own. I used to have the wrong idea in my head that seeing things clearly in the distance was difficult and required effort. The opposite is true. I had to reeducate myself to understand that perfect 20/20 vision is easy and effortless. Any type of effort kills clear vision and creates blurry vision. I gave up my bad “trying” vision habits like squinting, staring, and straining, and began replacing them with good “not trying” vision habits like relaxing, shifting, and centralizing. Only then did my natural vision begin to spiral upward instead of downward.
It’s quite a paradox. At first you may think that in order to improve your eyesight you have to try really hard. You must exert effort to get them to work again. That is exactly the opposite of what you need to do though. Vision problems are caused by the eyes being overworked and overstrained. So what you need to do is let go, not try, and allow your eyes, mind, and body the time and space they need to heal themselves. Remember that perfectly clear 20/20 vision is effortless. Prove it to yourself by asking someone who doesn’t wear glasses, who has perfect vision, what exactly they are doing to see clearly. Their answer will most likely be, “nothing”. That is because your vision, just like all your other special senses of smell, taste, touch, and hearing, is meant to be an automatic, involuntary process designed to sustain itself 24/7 without any conscious thought or effort.
This idea reminds me of a concept in Taoism called “wu-wei”, which translates to “action without action” or “effortless doing”. Wu-wei is the cultivation of a state of being where one aligns with the natural rhythms and cycles of nature instead of working against them. You can witness wu-wei all around you in nature. There is no engine inside the Earth that keeps it constantly revolving and rotating around the sun. Its spontaneous and effortless motion is simply following the flow of nature. Wu-wei is letting go of trying. In his book The Art of Seeing Aldous Huxley called this idea “dynamic relaxation”, or maintaining constant relaxation of the eyes during use. This is the precise goal you want to achieve with your eyes.
Dr. Bates taught that farsightedness is caused by the effort of trying to see something near and nearsightedness is caused by the effort of trying to see something far.
Do not try to focus by squeezing your eye muscles or straining your mind. Instead, allow them to focus effortlessly at all distances in a soft and flexible way. No more relying on reading glasses or distance glasses, which both promote strain in the mind and the eyes. Understand that you don’t have to do anything to see clearly. Just practice letting go and trusting in the healing process. Your visual system has an intelligence and knows exactly what to do. The only problem is that you are getting in its way by “trying” to see. It should come as quite a relief to hear that all you need to do is step aside and give your eyes and brain permission to reharmonize and function like they used to when you were a child before you became addicted to glasses. This is the meaning of not trying when it comes to your eyes. This is the lesson of letting go you can learn during this transition from summer into fall. Incorporate this important concept into your daily vision improvement practice. Take the path of least resistance and reconsider your vision improvement path as an easy, effortless one.