August 3, 2010

A Quest for Vision

I decided I needed to reward my self after finishing a final exam. I knew that sushi would be somewhere in the picture, but as it was still fairly early in the afternoon, I decided to go for hike up to Land of Medicine Buddha. My daughter had gone to Tara Redwoods for grade school, which is located on the grounds of this Buddhist retreat, and since it's quite close to my office, I go there quite often to meditate on my lunch breaks.

I have been just loving the course in Vision Therapy, and much like the Aromatherapy class, knew that this was something I wanted to use for myself right away. I first began wearing glasses in 6th grade, and like most people, have seen an increase in my prescription over the years. Currently I wear lenses with a power of -3.00 in the right eye and -3.25 in the left. I switched to contacts in 10th grade, and wore them consistently for the next 20 years. Indeed, my motto for a long time was, “Home is were the contact lens case is."

   I switched back to wearing glasses full time about five years ago. About 3 or 4 months ago I went to my optician for a new set, feeling that I was having a hard time reading, and figuring that since I am in my 40’s it was probably due to macular degeneration i.e. old age. The doctor said my prescription had changed so minimally, it was not worth getting a new prescription, but instead he encouraged me to simply stop wearing my glasses when reading, as I am near sighted.

As soon as I started the unit, I began taking my glasses off in earnest. There are no coincidences, and the timing was perfect for me to practice vision therapy for myself. I found The Power Behind Your Eyes: Improving Eyesight with Integrative Vision Therapy by Robert-Michael Kaplan extremely interesting and useful, but a little disorganized. I enjoyed many of the written activities, and wrote out the exercises in my journal. I illustrated these with a colorful drawings, for example one that showed my third eye opening. Next, I created a spreadsheet with 12 categories with space for notes for 14 days. My intention was not to do necessarily do every one every day, but to experiment with the different exercises and create a system to observe the results.

 I beaded an eye glass chain to make it easier for me to switch back and forth from my prescribed vision to naked vision. I started with fifteen minute increments, usually while studying, and gradually increased to a few hours (cumulative) a day. I began to challenge myself more by walking the half hour to my dance classes with no glasses on, observing my internal state as I negotiated streets and cross walks. I noticed feeling internally softer as I experienced the blur, as well as a softening of my facial muscles. I felt like I was not wearing my social mask, but instead felt really relaxed and unconcerned about other people and their perceptions of me. I also found myself less worried about the mundane details of life (paying bills, returning calls, picking up kids, etc.) and more enjoying the moment, discovering how much more I really could see than I had expected. I felt safe and grounded, never in any danger. Not that I’m ready to drive with no glasses, but this was certainly the proverbial eye opener as to the extent in which my glasses have become a crutch. As I navigated the paths in my softer vision, I found it easier to visualize the steps I need to take to decrease my stress levels in other aspects of my life. This seemed to flow with the assertion that nearsightedness is a message of being afraid to see what’s out there, of pulling with, and to begin reaching out with a clearer purpose and to take risks, as well as to use relaxation techniques that allow “being” more than “ doing”

    I found myself using naked vision more and more, during lectures, meetings, and times when I didn’t have a need to be completely focused (i.e. in control) such as hanging out in a cafe or having dinner. Breaking my morning habit of reaching for my glasses has been difficult, but I now trust that no gnomes have moved the coffee in the middle of the night, and I find it easier and easier to delegate my lenses to the realm of something that I need in order to drive, much like my keys, than something I need to cling to all day long.

Just driving through the redwoods felt relaxing, so I parked my car about a half mile away, deciding to walk up to the retreat, do a walking meditation around the  prayer wheel, and come back by happy hour. I took my glasses off as I moved along the road, finding my rhythm and feeling my stride. As I crossed a little bridge I noticed how much noise my shoes were making, and I decided to slip them off. I popped them by a tree trunk, putting my car keys and glasses inside, so I wouldn't have to carry anything either. I felt light and easy in the moment.

 I have been deeply stressed all month, combined with allergies, and have seen a return of gerd and asthma as a result. "What steps do I need to take for my health?" kept going through my head as I reached the Prayer Wheel. I gripped the handle and began walking, closing my eyes and letting the wheel guide me. I thought about how many feet had stepped on this circle before, how many prayers for peace and to release suffering had been chanted. I noticed the shadows and golden sunlight dancing on my eyelids, as I went slower and slower...

After some time had passed, I felt a deep peace and decided to return to my car. I jauntily set off down the path feeling better than I had in a long time. After a while the path started to veer sharply up, and I came across a gate with a "no trespassing sign." It should say "no stress passing" I thought, realizing right then that I must of taken a wrong turn somewhere. "Okay, " I thought, "here's this adventure," contemplating the day's tarot card. Well, four hours later...

Some who wander actually are lost. I had to laugh at myself, for pretty much I was experiencing my worst nightmare - no idea where I was, barefoot, no glasses, the sun starting to set, starting to get thirsty. And I was fine. Of course, I started to imagine more and more dire situations - by the time I did find the bridge, what if a squirrel had stolen my car keys? I took a deep breath and reminded myself to be calm. I paid attention to the moss under my sore feet, the feel of stepping on soft dead leaves, the quite rustles and inconsistent bird calls. I decided I was on a trust walk and I could trust that I could find my way back home. I turned a corner, and there below me in the blurry distance I could see the bridge. Never have I felt so thankful to slip on my shoes, jingle my keys, tuck my glasses safely into my blouse... And damn, if that wasn't the best sushi I've ever had in my life!