Eyes

"Many think that 2D vision, frontal visual lock, etc. means concentration and focus  but we don’t want this kind of tunnel vision fixity of concentration.” -SH


Dancing Eyes…How to regain that sparkle in the eyes

 

Theory:  Tibetan word for eyes means, “Far-reaching water lamps."  According to Chinese medicine the liver governs the physical structure of the eyes, the heart controls the energy that goes out, and the kidneys control how we interpret what we see. You could say the eyes are like little windows – into the health of the organs, the emotions we are feeling, what is going on in our brains. It is all written there. Some even go so far as to say "your entire history is written there".

Most people would think that, to acquire dancing eyes that sparkle and laugh, reflect wisdom, humor, patience and love – you need to be a saint or at least a very special little child…Or that perhaps with a special diet, relaxation, study, and exercise you could acquire eyes like that...Or maybe after twenty years of hard work…And some would even say you must meditate for many years before you see any dance or brightness.

I used to believe that. Until I learned a little about the Feldenkrais approach to the eyes. I have seen people change –in the course of one-hour class – from ordinary eyes to sparkling and dancing eyes. It just takes a little understanding and practice. Little children usually have dancing eyes. Unless they watch too much TV or video games, or are over controlled by parents and teachers. Moshe Feldenkrais said that little children stop being little children and become young adults when....they learn to read and write. That is when they learn to stare and fix the head and eyes straight ahead too often too long. It is like we require this of children before they an enter the adult world.  It is not such a bad thing to be illiterate! A point Moshe Feldenkrais sometimes made.  Before  reading and writing,  children let their gaze rest lightly here and there in their visual field, getting stuck nowhere. Their eyes move here and there lightly, with predominately open soft focus, as contrasted with narrow hard focus for most adults. WE ALL HAVE LOST THIS ABILITY.  Why? Because we never understood what happened, and nobody told us how to begin to reverse the damage. That is what this class is about. 

We need to learn and study how it is that little kids have dancing, sparkling eyes– before their teachers and parents try to mold them into what they think it is to be a civilized human being. In the process, these well-meaning adults do a LOT of damage, to our eyes, to our bodies, to our minds. So the Feldenkrais idea is – before you try to fix the problem by doing new and different things – first learn to "shed" a few of the bad habits we were given by well meaning parents and teachers!!  Most of us learned to equate being good with not moving and staring straight ahead at the teacher or parent, to sit still like a statue. Not even moving the eyes. We need to educate ourselves out of those beliefs.  – what follows is a smorgasbord of suggestions, ideas and exercises to help us actually do that.


Our beliefs live in our actions. You may feel strange or dizzy or "this can’t be right" as you practice these ideas. Those reactions often come from wrong beliefs, and wrong habits of many years. Use common sense; although very gentle and harmless, if these exercises cause dizziness or discomfort, do less, or not at all. Check with your doctor if you have any doubt.  But I encourage you to at least try these things out a little while, see what they can do for you.


  • Conversation: We are taught to look people in the eye constantly. Don’t do this. It is too much staring! People get uncomfortable. We can feel a stare – so can animals. A person can feel when being looked at with interest. Is that not true? Don’t avoid the eyes but don’t stare either. If you do look at another person’s eyes, look "through" them and read deeply the story written there. Don’t over focus on the idea of just looking at their physical eyes. This is artificial and irritates. Instead as you talk, keep the periphery open, a wider angle, be aware of what is behind them, to the sides, above and below, and take in the "whole person" with "soft focus" eyes. There is always some slight movement at least relative to you, them and the background. Be open to noticing that movement, don't try to block it out.  Also you can look away, up or down, and talk for a moment, while still giving your friend your full attention. Let movement and rhythm somehow live in you for those moments. Avoid the staring eyes! Little kids are always doing many things with the eyes – but never staring (until they start watching TV and go to school, learn to read).


  • Walking: Let the world move. So as you walk up to a tree, the tree is "rotating" as you walk by. Everything is moving relative to everything else. Look at a building as you walk, and it is moving relative to the foreground and background. But – most of us never see this movement past age 8  -- we learned to stare at first one thing and then the other, as we walk. So the "recipe" here is: Just notice movement of any kind as you walk. And keep a soft, open focus. Don’t hold on to what the eyes see. Let it pass and move.  Yes – dancers will "spot" a point with the eyes before they make a turn, to keep their orientation. It is necessary for them, to keep from getting dizzy. So, they can make one turn after another, but the head and eyes go to one spot each time. The message here is: 1) we are not dancers doing turns and 2) if you get dizzy doing this "soft, open focus, movement" walking, then go back to staring or "spotting" momentarily for orientation. The point is, don’t always be staring as you walk, from point to point! 

 

  • Running: Most runners, grim faced and staring straight-ahead need to learn and practice this. Running cannot be free and light as long as the eyes and the brain are tunnel-visioned. In nature, any species that did this would be quickly eliminated.


  • Sleep: If you stare as you sleep you wake up tired, with eyestrain and a foul mood. It is extremely important to learn how to not stare as you sleep. Yes, it is possible to stare with eyes closed while asleep. Habits don't disappear when you fall asleep.  Before you take sleeping pills – do this!!  This involves several things:
    1. Don’t watch TV much, and especially right before bed.
    2. Don’t use computer for several hours before bed.
    3. Do 3 minutess eye exercises before sleep, either in bed or beforehand. Eye exercises before sleep: Elephant swing 60 seconds, palming 60 seconds, imagine motion 60 seconds. Some have found relief by imagining movement as they drift into sleep. Such as skiing down a slope. Or flying in an airplane. Jumping off a diving boad, floating in the air, falling. Find what works for you.

 

  • Reading: First support the book or papers to nearly eye level. Avoid stooping to read. Let the head move with the eyes a little bit. Your grade school teacher taught you to hold the neck rigid as you read, so the head does not turn. She probably told you "Don't move the head. You can read more quickly by using only the eyes".  In one sense she may have been right, there could be a temporary improvement in reading speed.  But at what cost? What about long term? She was not aware of the deeper implications.  There is a deep reflex guiding the head to go where the eyes want to go. You look up, the head goes up too. You look to the let, the head goes to the left. To deliberately violate this reflex is to create a lifetime of tension and holding in the neck and eyes. And, we do it because we think it is "adult" it is how we were taught to "be", our self image of "being obedient and good" are part of the package.  So,  when reading, let there be a little movement of the head, it does not have to be much. In time you will begin to restore that deep reflex as you read.  Also, try to read "between the lines". The eyes actually don’t see black print. Black is the absence of light. What we actually “see” reading is the while around the black. “Reading between the lines” as it were, helps you do that, and you avoid strain and staring at the print.  Try it!! See the background and periphery moving relative to your reading lines left and right. Speed-reading is good – focusing on word after word is too much like staring. If you don’t understand something don’t pause and stare at the print. That means rigid thinking, runnel vision brain. You will never understand doing that. Instead, keep reading or look away and close the eye and think about what you just read.

 

  • Driving: Open focus, see the movement to the left and right as you drive. It is OK to look intently at the car and road in front of you, but don’t stare to do that. Keep some movement and interest or awareness open to the "periphery". See the trees rush by on the left now and then as you look around. Also, every 7 seconds or so – according to defensive driving guidelines – you should check the rear view mirror and side mirrors. Keep the eyes curious, moving awake, alert, open soft focus.

 

  • Eating:  Sit erect, bring the food to your mouth, not the mouth to the food.  The eyes can now and then glance quickly at the plate, but don’t stare at your food. It is an easy way to become compulsive about eating.  If you have friends with eating disorders, teach them this information.   Did you know that in India, housewives are cautious about who sees them cooking?  They have the understanding that vibrations of greed or want can permeate the food just by people-- with such vibrations --  looking at it. Beware of salad bars!  Zillions of people see it. It is impolite to stare at food. Food does not like it. It won’t digest as well. Treat your food with a little respect, give it some space. Staring won't help digestion.

 

  • TV:  Sit a comfortable distance. Keep the room- left, right, up, down – in your peripheral vision as you gaze at TV. Don’t stare at the screen. See beyond the TV. Feel what is going on around you in the room. This is not going to make you enjoy TV more, but it will prevent the staring and damage caused by TV to your "dancing eyes”.
    • TV creates images of things near and far -- that in “real life” would require the eyes to accommodate, and shift the focus from near to far and back. With TV this never happens, since it all happens on a single flat screen.  A habit of not focusing can be acquired. There is NO BETTER WAY to acquire dead, flat, uninteresting eyes that don’t shift and focus, but stare like a dead fish. ESPECIALLY if (unlike most children) you don’t get out and play, run around, dance and move and feel yourself in three dimensions. 
    • Generally, it is best to never watch TV. Regardless of how good the content, just the act of watching has been shown to cause measurable brain damage to children under age 12.  (ref; Joseph Chilton Pierce, of Radio Free Maine, and author of THE MAGICAL CHILD etc) It retards development. It anesthetizes the imagination. Young children LOVE storytelling, and EASILY create 3D, true to taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight images instantly. ALL CULTURES HAVE TRADITIONS OF STORYTELLING TO CHILDREN.  Instead if we let them watch TV, they learn to experience “reality”  in 2 dimensions and 2 senses -- sight and sound only. In a very short time, children acquire the habit of imagining or visualizing as does any modern adult, in flat, dull 2D.
    • We live in a 3D world, with 5 senses. TV –  one spiritual teacher of mine called it "the vampire of the soul"  TV – the best thing you can do for your TV is to get a sledge hammer and crush it. TV – Creates a catatonic brain and dead staring eyes. TV – emits an electronic ELF signal that creates anxiety and allows advertising to be more effective. Anxious people will buy more. Contented people don’t. TV – promotes consumerism.  TV – the content of many shows is degrading. TV – there is no interaction, is a totally passive activity. You learn to be passive.
    • My mother was an elementary school counselor. She co-authored a book on child development with Francis Ilge of the Gissell Institute. (Unfortunately book was never published, Dr. Ilge died)  She could tell a parent or teacher whether a pre=school child was ready for first grade or kindergarten, just from a little drawing the child would make. My mother lamented when TV became popular. She saw the learning-readiness of preschoolers dramatically decline.  She could quickly tell just how much TV the child had been watching.
    • You learn that problems can all be solved in 3 minutes.  Too much TV – is absolutely death to any creative interaction with life.
    • Also, here is something you may not have suspected. Science has shown that the brain is not kindly accepting of direct light. Perhaps because we evolved in reflected light. If our ancestors ever looked directly into the sun, for example, they could go blind, and we would not exist today. Or, if they often looked into the campfire, they could not see well what might be happening outside the circle of light from the campfire. And that would not be safe either. Indirect reflected light is how we evolved, and what we are used to, comfortable with. The human brain  goes on red alert when exposed to direct light. TV AND COMPUTERS ZAP DIRECT LIGHT INTO THE EYES.  In one study (again, cited by Joseph Chilton Pearce) children age 12 were given a one page story, and tested on their recall of the contents after 5 minutes study. Score was 80% after reading the page. If the material was presented on 35 mm film, scores were about 60-70 %.  If the material was read, scores were 50-70%. If the material was presented on TV or computer screen, scores were about 10%.  The message here: MINIMIZE TV OR COMPUTER TIME. Getting information or learning material from computers is probably not the best way to learn or gather information. At least print out what you read often.  Rather choose to go to a library for information. Read books. Visit with real people. At least, if you MUST use a computer, often close your eyes as you type, you don’t always need to be staring at the screen.

 

  • Movies:  Are much healthier than TV. For one thing, it is REFLECTED LIGHT, not direct light as are TV and computers. Except for the sound, which could make you deaf!!  At a movie, sit up front, as close as comfortable.  One local vision teacher in LA (Gloria Ginn) recommends that all her students see lots of movies, but you must sit in the front row. Kids love to do this. This forces you to move the eyes, not to stare, and immerse yourself in the idea of movement. Even thought you are not accommodating for near/far focus, you must move eyes a lot up and down, left and right. This cannot be done with TV.   Don’t sit in the back row – from the back row you can stare. The farther back you like to sit, the more you like to stare. That is the hard truth. So sit as far up front as you can, comfortably.  Start where you are comfortable, and move forward one raw every movie, say.  Movies – have an ending, so you don’t get so hooked. TV goes on until you fall asleep on the couch.

 

  • Computers: Sit erect and don’t lean into your work or the screen. Keep the focus fluid from soft open focus to hard narrow focus. Don’t use the hard tunnel vision focus all the time while working at a computer. That creates eyestrain, headache, tight muscles, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain and more. Post little numbers around the edge of your screen, like a clock, but do it counterclockwise. Look at each number in turn. This draws the eyes out of the  "screen lock mode" to the perimeter. It is easy, then to keep a more open focus. Post a reminder by your computer screen: "look away" or "open focus" or "see movement as head turns". Close eyes as you type, your typing will improve as you learn to trust your fingers more, and you reduce the stress and tension that “lives” in the “eye-hand coordination system. ”Use your spell-checker more often. In time, your typing speed and accuracy will greatly improve.
    • It has been truly said, that about 80% of the activity of the human brain concerns the activity of the eyes and the hands  - which usually means eye-hand coordination. Think about it  -- how often in life do you use the hands without the eyes directing that activity?  Driving a car for example. The eyes totally control the movement of the hands and arms. The more you stare, the more you build up tension and stress in the eyes, the wrists, the elbows, the fingers, the shoulders, the upper back, the neck, the chest, and the breathing. So say nothing of the heart, the internal organs, the blood pressure and the blood supply to the brain.

 

  • Glasses: Tend to encourage staring. The periphery is less prominent. Wear them only when you really need to. Contacts – better than glasses, for this reason.

 

  • Imagination, Visualization: Close the eyes. Picture with your imagination a black ball on a clean horizon. Let the ball roll left, then right, then forward towards you, and away  -- slowly and easily. Notice that the eyes follow the ball. Moshe Feldenkrais taught one hour eye lessons involving movements like that, all in the imagination. He understood that vision is about the imagination, as much as it is about the eyes themselves. You DO NOT have force or tell the eyes how to move to see anything. In fact, if you do, you CAN NEVER have attractive, sparkling and dancing eyes. Can you consciously direct your eyeballs to move at several hundred oscillations per second? No? Well, your subconscious mind can easily do that, if you let YOUR IMAGINATION OR YOUR CURIOSITY guide your visual use NEVER EVER force the eyes to look or see. That looks dead, artificial, slow and weird. The curiosity, the interest is what causes the eyes to focus and move. In order to have dancing eyes, the imagination, the curiosity, the interest should "lead the eyes". Most people – because of TV and pictures try to visualize or imagine things in the same way. NO!! Instead see things with eyes closed in 5 senses, 3 dimensions, JUST LIKE YOU ARE REALLY THERE.  To force the brain to visualize or imagine in 2 dimensions is not natural and creates "dead fish" eyes.

 

  • Contemplation, Meditation, Introspection: All of sit at times, with eyes closed, thinking. We should understand the brain works best in 3D, 5 senses. Not 2 dimensions! With eyes closed, keep them relaxed, soft focus, willing to move or sense movement. If you do a meditation practice that requires you to keep the eyes looking in a certain way or direction, do that with soft, open focus eyes. Not staring eyes,. It is IMPOSSIBLE to meditate with staring eyes. Staring eyes creates tension, evokes fear and anxiety, and rigidity of breathing.

 


Dancing Eyes Exercises... for those who want to speed up the process:

 

  1. Pressing eyes, and holding eyeball exercises softly. Note: don’t do this if you did not attend the class where this was explained.  Be sure to sterilize hands first, and fingernails. It is wonderful to do this before bed – takes 3 mins.
    • Pressing each eyeball individually, to center of eyeball.      
    • Pressing eyeballs bilaterally 
    • Turning eyes one at a time, supporting easy turning
    • Clockwise or counterclockwise movement of eyes – support the easy way.
    • For nearsighted, pressing gently, patiently 5 mins straight down and in
  2. Feel the weight of the eyeballs. Any time you can sit and relax.
  3. Look out at the world with curiosity, interest. Let that cause movement of your eyes. Let them dance! Like a child, like seeing something for the first time.  See, feel movement all day.
  4. Say the words "I – just – can’t – make – my – eyes – be- have" while looking at 9, 12, 3, 6, 9, 12, 3, 6. Then counterclockwise. This is a cute party or social trick to do with friends and children. Instant eye exercise! Be sure, though, that you let your imagination and curiosity guide the movement of the eyes. Don’t mechanically force the eyes do that. Imagine the hand of the clock going around, your eyes follow. Mechanical eye exercises, as often taught, should be avoided. As in " look up, look left, make circles with the eyes. etc.". If you must do such things, create an imaginary bird or insect  or object that your mind and eyes follow, so the imagination is "leading”.
  5. Close eyes and rest, letting eyes go wherever they go. Their resting position. For some this is up, others it is down or straight ahead.  Whichever it is – just notice. Now open the eyes in your usual wake-up-be-an-adult-face-the-world fashion. Notice where the eyes go. Just notice. Repeat this and feel which of these two positions of the eyes feel more comfortable? Usually it is the resting position.  Make this easy resting position of the eyes "hard" and "uncomfortable" in the same way that your "adult" eyes feel that way. So you make the easy not so easy. Use your imagination; just try to do this strange thing. Then rest and open eyes, you will see they are much more relaxed.
  6. Squeeze the eyelids tightly shut for a count of twelve as you remember a distant scene. Release and repeat. Do this three times. Near sighted people have elongated eyeballs and this helps counteract that. It is important to visualize a distant scene since the eyeballs naturally elongate doing that. When we unconsciously remember near vision (books, print, computers, cell phones etc.) the eyeballs naturally elongate and eyeball squeezing will then be ineffective, and a strain as well (many people including me can actually feel the strain).
  7. A little drill to open periphery. Look softly straight ahead with open focus. Place both hands out to side and wiggle fingers. Notice the movement with eyes. Both sides at once.  Explore where is the border -- where you no longer see movement. By playing with this a little now and then, you gradually open wider the periphery of your vision. Remember, to be aware, to "open" the periphery means you cannot be staring.
  8. If you like ball games or throwing darts, etc., try this. You could make crumpled balls of scrap paper and throw into a wastebasket to practice this. This is taken from Apache Indian teachings, from Tom Brown's teacher  "Grandfather".  I learned this at one of Tom's seminars. Tom said this is how they would throw a tomahawk, spear, or shoot an arrow, never by staring as they released. Practice this, and your skills in many arenas (such as golf, basketball, baseball, etc.) will dramatically improve:
    • Hold the crumpled paper, prepare to throw all the time keeping soft open focus, never looking directly at, much less staring at, the wastebasket. You DO mentally rehearse the movement, preparing for the throw. Just before you release. Now, you can very well see the wastebasket in your open focus; again just don't look directly at it. Or stare. Cock the arm back slowly in preparation to throw the wad of paper. For just a brief instant and well BEFORE you throw go to narrow hard focus, as if to finely calibrate your movements to the target.  MOST IMPORTANT: as you actually start to throw go back to soft open focus. If you maintain the stare during the throw, all your musculature will be tight, and accuracy will be VERY difficult to achieve. In other words you go into soft and open focus mind and eyes and relaxed loose body as you throw. Any staring will give you jerky muscles and you won't have good accuracy. Look at any pro basketball player; as they shoot, they are in soft and open focus, you NEVER see them hard focusing on the basket as they release ball.
    • Tom Brown said all good aboriginal hunters know this. Animals can feel a stare for one thing. So such hunters never look directly at their prey, only with soft open focus in peripheral vision.

 

Please do not burden yourself with a huge list of rules now about how to use the eyes. Forget everything you have just read and done. All of this material is just to present you with an overview of how our daily habits are hurting us , relative to our vision and movement. The very best way to change habits, to learn new things organically and grow thereby, is to NEVER hang onto a list of rules or things to do, or obsess about what is correct. No, the best way is to spend some time, give yourself an experience, and let your system make the organic changes. That kind of process is called ATM or Awareness Through Movement®.

However, if as a result of spending the hour like this, you find yourself aware of staring, and it feels uncomfortable, congratulations!  You now have avenues of exploration!

© Copyright 2015 Steve Hamlin  www.mybodycanlearn.com