Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

The eyes have it

The writer, Aldous Huxley, in his book The Art of Seeing, asserts that, if we treated our bodies like we treat our eyes most of us would end up in wheelchairs.

Huxley had a rare eye condition and sought ways of improving what sight he had. He became a disciple of William  Bates, a New York Ophthalmologist who made the radical assertion that spectacles ultimately did more harm than good to the eyes.

Bates had devised a number of simple eye exercises, designed to retain good, healthy vision without any need for specs. These exercises were easy to learn and apply. Chances are that most people reading ths post won’t even be aware of them nor have ever heard of what is known as the Bates Method. Yet, chances are, a good proportion of you will be wearing glasses to read this or go about your daily business.

My partner’s grandmother apparently used Bates method exercises. For example, each morning she would rinse here eyes alternately in cold and hot water several times in order to stimulate flow of oxygen to her eyes.

It turned out that she had perfect eyesight right through to her death at age 96. I guess the rinsing can become as routine as brushing your teeth or shaving of a morning, although there is no record of grandma ever having shaved!

Another Bates exercise is known as “palming”, where you warm up your hands by rubbing them together and place them gently over closed eyes for a few minutes or even longer. As you do so, you visualise the colour black or alternatively picture a relaxing or pleasing scene. I do this occasionally and find it certainly relaxes and refreshes my eyes, especially after some time in front of my computer screen.

About five years ago, I was having a series of sessions with a local cranial osteopath. I wasn’t seeing her about my eyes, but for other non-related issues. After one of these sessions, I got off the couch, went to write a cheque and discovered that I could read my cheque book perfectly well without my reading specs!

I’d relied on those specs for years.

On my return home I infuriated my partner by grabbing tins and packets from the cupboards and reading the tiny print “spec-lessly” and with no strain or effort – something she needed her glasses for! In fact, prior to this improvement, my own glasses wouldn’t have helped me with such fine detail.

The osteopath told me that this had been known to happen, but could give no logical or science based reason. She said the improvement could last hours or years and even decades. In my case,  it was fourteen months before my eyesight flipped back to how it had been previously.

Often, after meditating, I find my vision is sharper and clearer for a little while.

Ophthalmology is big business – our local High Street has at least half a dozen opticians’ shops. I’m not aware of any optician giving advice on how to look after the eyes. The eye test is done, the lenses are prescribed and that’s it. You return a year or two later, your sight has become weaker and, hey presto, stronger lenses are prescribed.

Whilst not suggesting this is a malevolent con, I genuinely wonder whether if, as children we were encouraged to do eye exercises every dday alongside brushing our teeth and washing behind our ears, whether the nation’s eyes would be all the healthier for it?

As for me, despite being partially sighted and therefore recognising the importance of good eyesight, I am like so many of us, lazy. I occasionally do the rinsing and palming but, by no means every day. My eyes feel better for it, yet it still isn’t a habit and I’m automatically reaching for those specs whenever I need to read anything – they’re my crutch, or should I say, my “wheelchair”.

One Response to “The eyes have it”

  1. Hi Chris

    Good comments about The Bates’ Method. Jacqui has used it for years and has done wonders for her eyesight. Thankfully I do not need it, though I now find myself wearing reading glasses for all close-up work including screen stuff (perhaps Bates would have slowed my 50 something eye deterioration).

    Recently, I went to the optician for a check up to find that my sight had worsened a little more and stronger glasses needed, at the cost of £130.00. Last week, arriving at a training course I was giving in Euston, I realised I had left them in the office. So to Boots to buy a generic reading pair and another £16.00. You know, these are the best pair I have ever had. Maybe I’ll just get another pair next time I think my long-sightedness has increased.

    Looking forward to luncheon tomorrow.


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