by Dr. Marc Grossman
What is yoga? "Union" is the literal translation from sanskrit. Tradition tells us that there are several paths to union (not only physical postures) and the practice of them lead to mind, body and spirit integration. From my point of view, these facets of life combined together, enhance not only well-being, but physical health. Yoga leads us to a basic tenent of mind/body unity. If the mind is chronically ill-at-ease one's physical health suffers. Conversely, if the body experiences ill health, then clarity and strength of mind are adversely impacted. Yoga practice can offset these negative consequences and restore physical and mental health.
The eyes are nothing more than tools of the mind. The eyes' tissue is brain tissue, as though the brain itself has pushed forward from the confines of the skull. It is not unlike the manner in which seed pushes up from the covering of soil to reach the light. I believe that your eyes are your brain's manifestation of itself on the outside of your body. Vision thereby, is the means by which your brain perceives the world and gathers information from the world in order to interact with it. To me that is the reason eyes appear so filled with meaning and so mysterious. They are video cameras on the front of our skull that instantly permits us to relate to the world about us.
However, I don't think that your eyes are merely receptive organs, but are organs also of giving. They reflect our soul, where we are in life, who we are at any particular moment - emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
In a similar manner, I feel that to really enhance the clarity of your vision, you must understand that the process of seeing is a relationship with between you and your environment and you need to develop yourself as a whole being.
Even a fundamental level, sight consists of the close relationship between the perceiver and the object of perception. More profoundly, vision changes based on your relationship with yourself, your family and friends, your town, the earth, and your Spirit. Therefore, your final goal should not stop with visual clarity, but, rather, move toward spiritual soundness.
Therefore yoga and a philosophy of natural vision work together to support mind-body unity.
Natural Vision Therapy History
Glasses have been around for a long, long time. Vision therapy predates glasses by thousands of years. The Egyptians employed vision therapy. For example, people who suffered from conditions such as eye teaming weaknesses were treated by utilizing a mask with two little holes in it for the eyes, placed far apart. The person with convergent eyes had to exercise his two eyes so that they could see out of the holes.
Vision therapy's historic use is important. Many of us incorrectly believe that vision therapy was developed only a century or so ago by William Bates (the well-known Bates eye exercises). But although Bates' teachings had a great impact on popular understanding - that we have the capacity to develop better vision if we'd only exercise our eyes, he didn't invent that concept. The Greek philosophers came to a very good understanding of the process, partly because they themselves were consciously trying to understand the world.
The Greeks understood that vision is a dynamic, changing process, which involves a relationship, an interaction, between that which is seen and the seer. Plato insisted that our eyes take in energy and also send forth energy. He believed that the eyes not only took in images, but perceived information. Plato insisted that part of oneself that really saw the world, was the human soul.
By the 2nd century, during the Roman Empire, the idea of improving vision naturally, had at least partially been replaced by using lenses to correct sight. There is no evidence that actual glasses, as we know them, were fabricated, but Pliny reports that Nero held a ring with a concave gem set in it before his eye in order to better see the games in the Roman Coliseum.
Philosophy of Natural Vision
Nowadays we, as doctors, think of vision problems like myopia as normal. We pay attention to the clarity of the image so exclusively that we tend towards missing diagnosis of many other types of vision disorders, such as image suppression or eye teaming. Instead, we just prescribe a pair of glasses for 20/20 vision.
You need to be aware that wearing glasses has not ever cured vision problems of two eyes. It never has and it never will. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Why? When those new lenses make vision more clear the person behind the glasses, or rather, the eyes behind the glasses stop putting out the extra effort to see and let the glasses do the work. For that reason, a year or so later, most patients need new glasses with stronger lenses.
Remember, the Greek philosophers did not ask, "What can be held before the eyes to make vision more clear?" They asked "What can be done to help these eyes perceive more correctly and see more clearly?"
George Berkley (1685-1753), was an Ango-Irish philosopher who wrote in "Essay Toward a New Theory of Vision" that vision was not merely an optical event, but that the capacity to accurately perceive distance took place not in the eye alone but because of integration between the brain and the eye.
He advanced a theory of "immaterialism" contending that objects like tables are ideas in the minds of those who perceive them. He felt that eyes regarded, not objects, but color and light, and the brain interpreted those colors and lights as objects. He observed that upon receipt of sight by a man blind from birth, "... he was, at first, so far from making any judgment about distances that he thought all objects touched his eyes. He knew not the shape of anything, nor any one thing from another, however different in shape or magnitude."
Berkley's observation was that space had no light or color, and spatial depth perception had nothing to do with vision alone. His analogy was that one judges distance the way one judges someone else's embarrassment - indirectly, not directly.
A generation earlier, Spinoza also theorized about vision. He wrote that what we see depends upon our past experience, and, is therefore affected our beliefs and our memory. He also believed that body and mind were one and could not be separated.
The modern philosopher, George Gurdjieff (1866-1949) taught, "to know others, one must first know oneself." He pointed out that observation of oneself is the key to attention and awareness, and required remembering oneself - this being a subjective way of paying attention both to oneself and the outward world.
Ouspensky (1878-1947), Gurdjieff's student, illustrates this philosophy about the observer and the observed thus:
I → The Observed Phenomenon
If, however, while observing, one tries to "remember oneself," attention is now directed both toward the object as well as toward the self, thus:
I ↔ The Observed Phenomenon
Oupensky understood that there would be a great resistance to "self-remembering," and advised the first step to self-remembering is to realize that we are not fully conscious all the time. He explained, "when we realize this and observe it for some time, we must try to catch ourselves at the moments when we are not conscious and, little by little, this will make us more conscious."
By pointing out that we perceive ourselves whilst in the process of perceiving the world around us, both philosophers are observing that we should live in the moment of the present And this, is part of the philosophy of natural vision improvement.
Fritz Perls (1893-1970), (Gestalt Therapy), observed that only when the computer is gone (!) can ultimate awareness occur because then the awareness, is so bright that only then can one be considered to really come into his senses." He summarized, "Lose your mind and come into your senses."
Krishnamurti (1895-1986) explained the perceiver needs to pay attention not only to spoken words but to personal distortions of what is being perceived in order to distinguish opinions, prejudices, experiences and even images which prevent true perception.
A yoga of vision: Each of these great thinkers: from Gurdjieff who advocated "self-remembering", Perls' "awareness" to Krishnamurti who counseled that we "observe" - have contributed to the philosophy that underlies today's natural vision therapy. These thinkers all emphasize the role of complete awareness of the moment which occurs both within and without. They suggest that we must be a witness history and our own personal interpretation of that history - which may not be the same at all.
Carlos Castenada (1925-1998) was a philosopher whose writing struck me strongly through his character Don Juan. Don Juan explained that by having the same internal conversation over and over, and saying the same thing to ourselves again and again, we condition our perception of the world to a narrow window: maintaining it in a rigid pattern. Don Juan describes a "warrior" as a "man of knowledge" who recognizes the results of such an inner monologue and who looks for its end. A warrior "listens to the world - and - is aware that the world will change as soon as he stops talking to himself." This is another interpretation of the idea of greater vision. We grow in our own vision by lessening our isolation inside ourselves.
TCM & Ayurveda
The philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine and traditional Ayurvedic medicine are other significant tools in shaping my own practice of natural vision improvement. These models are of a holistic condition wherein no single part of the physiology can be understood without regarding the whole. Symptoms are not used to identify the cause of illness but are understood to be part of the totality of the individual. These philosophies are based in the age-old concept that it is impossible to measure static "things" in order to find answers for our problems - because we (and our problems) are ever changing. In order to understand the causative root of a difficulty, we must consider interactions, relationships and overall balance. Holistic practitioners consider "patterns of disharmony" and regard direct cause and effect to be secondary to the overall pattern.
This is valid for every kind of disease or condition and allopathic medical treatment which treats the symptom, not the state of balance or imbalance. Disease diagnosis is based upon the existence or non-existence of a causative agent, and then treat that condition in a set manner. Allopathic medicine has historically not considered the thousands of other factors that are tied to the causative agent. Nor is the relationship between the condition and the specific individual with that condition. Indeed, the patient often is not even part of the equation.
It is encouraging that even in allopathic medicine very slow changes are evident, for example in Western doctors' acceptance of the role of stress and lifestyle choices in disease. A few doctors are looking more to the holistic perspective.
Since 1980 the author's mission has been to help others' desires to keep healthy vision and to even improve eyesight through a variety of tools, nutritional counseling, workshops and writing. Dr. Grossman is often described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from nearsightedness, computer eye syndrome, and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening conditions as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and a variety of retina and macular conditions that have been found to be responsive to attention to overall health and specific nutritional support. His multi-disciplinary approach uses nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle and diet changes as well as traditional Chinese Medicine which provide him with a large stock of approaches and tools for difficult eye problems.