A retreat for my eyes

Last week I attended Meir Schneider’s 6 day vision course.  My intention with the workshop was to make it a true retreat for myself.  This was easy to do.  I loved being on the beach every day and we were fortunate to have beautiful weather the whole time.

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The course runs half days, which is perfect.  During the free time I took advantage of being well rested and gave myself time to practice what I had learned during the lessons more mindfully on my own.  I spent time drawing at the beach, enjoying good food, and generally breaking my habit of constantly doing something all the time.

I would highly recommend this course in its entirety as a vision retreat.  The 20 odd participants had a wide range of age and visual difficulties.  There was a family with two young boys, a teenager, and a pretty even distribution in every decade from those in their 20s to 50s and beyond.  Visual issues included nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia, astigmatism, cross eyes, retinal detachment, cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration and other complications.  21 of 24 people found improvement to their vision by the end of the course, as measured on the Snellen chart.  I think even those three who didn’t, though, who each had the most difficult conditions, did find some practices which provided temporary improvement.

Meir is an immense resource and my understanding of vision improvement was definitely broadened by this course.  Being surrounded by my classmates in the course was also incredibly inspiring.   Their experience with vision improvement ranged from no knowledge to teachers of the method.  I learned something from each of them, and this affirms my belief that everyone has a unique experience of vision improvement and offers a valuable perspective.  The course can truly benefit anyone, and, in turn, anyone who learns to improve their own vision can help others.   I’m hoping to maintain contact with many of them.

I decided to invest in this course because I taught myself the Bates method.  Although I experience continued improvement and a great support network through my blog, my actual practice is in relative isolation.  Therefore, I’m limited to what I’ve been willing and able to teach myself.  The course was extensive, and so there is not space here to describe everything.  I would like, instead, to describe what the most striking aspects of the course were for me.

We had fantastic weather every day in SF, and Meir is big on sunning.  I ended up sunning a total of at least 20 minutes per day.  Prior to this I had never done more than a few minutes of sunning at a time, and it is something I had never done continuously.  I had felt I could replace this by spending at least an hour outside per day.  Meir makes excellent arguments for the dedicated sunning practice.  More importantly, after just two days of this I felt my entire face feel more relaxed, both in the sun and indoors.  This is something that would have been extremely difficult to teach myself.  As part of the practice, Meir taught how to relax the face and neck as much as possible through massage and correct movement.  I would have to say this is the biggest breakthrough I had during the course.

We also spent 15-30 minutes palming per day, and Meir encouraged us to do even more palming on our own.  Integrating the practice together was another great realization.  It helped a lot to do some sunning, then looking into the distance, then some fun games with tennis balls, then looking at details, the long swing, and finally palming.  This resulted in absolutely stunning vision, for long periods of time.

We did much formal practice to balance the use of the eyes and to promote the use of the weaker eye.  These practices are really unique to Meir Schneider as far as I know.  They are not techniques described by Dr. Bates, although they are very much aligned with the principles of shifting, swinging and central fixation.  Meir has made a breakthrough in understanding how to promote using the weaker eye, without completely ignoring the strong eye, so that the brain learns to use them both together.

So, the big question, did my vision improve?  First, for those who don’t know, it is normal to experience fluctuations in visual acuity, and during vision improvement, one becomes very aware of the fluctuating quality of vision.  Sometimes it is amazing, and at other times it is more blurry.   My vision fluctuates anywhere from 20/200 to 20/50 indoors and 20/30 outdoors.  During this course I experienced the best and most sustained quality of vision.

I find my vision responds more quickly now and that my lowest level of visual acuity improved.  For example, previously when I would first look at a chart I could see about 5/50, and after some practice, I can improve it to 5/15 or even 5/10.  By the end of the course I could read 5/40 and 5/30 correctly right away.  Outdoors I went from seeing 5/30 to 5/15 right away.  Today, walking around in gray weather, I was able to read licence plates from 15 meters – this is really great, because normally I only read them from that distance in full sunlight.  Since coming home, I have confirmed that while my best level of acuity has not improved, I definitely am seeing at the better range of my fluctuating vision more consistently.  This is a huge breakthrough for me.

My vision is more expansive, if that makes sense.  It’s like getting a wide angle lens now compared to what I had before.

The only two people who know me that I’ve seen since returning have both remarked that my face and eyes look different.  One of them didn’t even know that I’d been on a course or even that I do vision improvement. She just spontaneously remarked that my face looks different.  I will share before and after photos in my next post, as I also think it looks different.

One might wonder, what benefit does an intensive course bring, if one has to return home and will not have time to continue such an intensive practice?   I made this a retreat for my eyes.  By doing so, I was able to step out of my usual routine.  The whole rhythm of the day was different, and so new habits could more easily replace old habits. The value from this course will come through sustained habits that were formed during the course.  Also, it will be possible to take mini retreats for myself on the weekend to review what I learned.  Meir records the course each day and we were provided with CDs of the entire course.

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9 thoughts on “A retreat for my eyes

  1. Oh, I’m so jealous! After spending time at an energy medicine workshop where I had a lot of time outdoors, I felt my face and vision open up, and the only dedicated vision practice I was doing was on my own! So I can only imagine what spending time with Meir and other vision improvers must have been like. I think the sunning opens up the eyes more, so more light gets in enabling us to see better even in darker weather — this is what I’ve noticed for myself. Thanks for letting us know about this, Sorrisi, and I look forward to hearing more when you have time.
    Nancy
    http://dreamersight.com/

    • Hi Nancy! I hope your workshop was great! I wish I could go back to the good weather, it is so cold in England right now.

  2. sorrisi, from reading your posts in the past, I notice that you have a technical background on vision concepts (and probably your field of work). You don’t describe your retreat in this manner in the paragraphs you’ve written. I am curious if Meir Schneider’s concepts are scientific in manner, or more geared towards practical aspects of improving vision? Apparently his method is effective either way. Which beach did you hang out in?

    • Hi, thanks for the feedback, that is interesting. Do you think the description was too vague? It is very general because just my description of my impression became such a long post. The shear volume of information in the course meant that it would be difficult to choose one topic to describe in more detail.

      I have a research background in fluid mechanics (mechanical engineering) which prepared me well for reading scientific publications of all kinds. I do read a lot of scientific articles about vision, and I’m constantly seeking/gathering facts regarding how the vision system works and how that might explain how vision improves. It does make me happy to hear that this comes through in my writing!

      Meir discusses vision improvement physiologically. This is an excellent approach, because he has studied the physiology of the whole body extensively. He does make frequent mention of some scientific work where it touches on his concepts as well, and I have a list of things to track down sources, since I do find it important to read and understand the original scientific work for myself.

      For example, he discusses the benefits of sunning in terms of both reducing light sensitivity, and in terms of exercizing the pupil by contracting it in bright light and allowing it to expand to its maximum in the dark. He also discusses how the fluid in the eye drains a bit in bright light and fills a bit in dark light, I would like to understand this ‘circulation’ better and look into the research regarding this effect and glaucoma.

      There are many more instances where he discusses such physiological effects of palming, peripheral vision work, and balanced use of the eyes. For a scientifically minded person, it opens up many questions for research avenues! Perhaps I haven’t done him justice by not discussing all of this, thanks for pointing it out. I’m always a bit weary of making my posts way too long, though!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your experience Sorrisi! I wish there were natural vision teachers in my area so I could learn with a group or directly from a experienced teacher. Your time with Meir and the other students sounded awesome and so beneficial to you. I’m so glad you had a great time at the retreat.I know I tend to carry a lot of tension in my neck and shoulder area even though I am a very easy going person. My work and other responsibilities definitely attribute to this held in tension. I just bought Meir’s new book(thanks for suggesting it) and look forward to trying some exercises that hopefully will help relax that area of my body which I’m sure will help ease strain in my eyes. I look forward to hearing more about your experience.

    • Hi Debbie, one thing I’m going to write more about in coming articles is how to build your own vision improvement group in your own area. You will be amazed at how quickly a small group of people can learn and teach each other! In the meantime, enjoy the book, the section on computer use will have some exercizes to loosen those neck muscles!

      • Oh that idea sounds awesome Sorrisi– regarding starting a local group. I will definitely check out that section in the book –I have my Naturopath working on my neck area which is helpful as well. It will be really beneficial to become habitual at doing my own as well. Thanks so much and I look forward to your future posts!

  4. Some years back, I went to a session conducted by a person who trained under Meir. After I learnt sunning, I began to do it. But I stopped, because I had some weird moments with people staring at me like I was in a trance or something. Once there was a maintenance man in my apartment who had been staring at me all through while I was sunning. When I opened my eyes, the man had an expression like I just came running from a mental hospital. While sunning was very beneficial to me, I will have to wait till I live in a home where I can sun in private!

    • Hi Anon

      I agree, if you are by yourself it may be important to sun in private. You need to feel safe, and having eyes closed and doing something that people normally don’t do may leave you feeling vulnerable or ridiculous. It’s important to be able to relax!

      In fact, this applies to many formal vision practices. One person sunning or playing tennis ball games with a patched eye looks bizarre and slightly worrying, but a group of people doing the same thing makes people wonder what the (positive) purpose is. I encourage you to form a group of at least a couple of friends and practice together! Seriously, as a group you can practice in any public park and it’s suddenly ok 🙂 it took me 5 years to learn this simple trick.

      all my best,
      Sorrisi

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