I finished reading Bates’ book (a pdf version) today after deciding to read it again two or three weeks ago. I don’t know how many times I’ve read his book, but this time I tried to focus on understanding the content of the book literally. There may be some concepts that seem too easy to be effective, and it isn’t difficult to read into these ideas too deeply or change them altogether so that they make more sense. However, after reading Bates’ writings in his book and magazines many times, I believe that he chose his words carefully and put much thought into his writing before he even put it onto paper.
I also searched for Bates’ simple, direct instructions for vision practice at home. While he gives many ideas, I plan on putting to practice the following tips as they are helpful for me specifically:
- The same visual object should be practiced upon each day. Bates recommendation for this object is the Snellen chart as it is an indicator for many things (relaxation, progress, etc.) Bates wants you to use the same object so that it becomes an optimum and becomes familiar enough to use for memory practice. This concept was emphasized when Bates described the use of the Snellen in school classrooms to reverse and prevent refractive errors. He observed (from reports) that some teachers only brought out the eye chart for a few minutes each day when the children were instructed to use it. Other teachers left the chart hanging on the wall all the time (as Bates suggested). The students in the latter classrooms had much higher rates of vision improvement. Bates reasoning for this difference (which was supported by his experience with other patients) was that the students who could see the chart all day long were able to become familiar with the chart and memorize which letters were on it. As a result, their vision for the chart was improved; the chart became an optimum.
- One should regularly take note of his/her visual acuity on the Snellen chart; this should be done with each eye separately and together. I never really put much effort into testing the eyes separately as I knew that my previous optometrists had always measured my right eye to be slightly worse than my left eye; I just took this information as a fact and did not test it. However, when I read these instructions from Bates, I tried looking at my computer screen with each eye separately (the closed eye was covered with my palm). Surprisingly, my visual acuity was practically the same for both eyes, and my right eye might have even been slightly better than the left. While this observation was interesting, what happened when I opened both eyes was even more fascinationg: my visual acuity was better than before. I know that most people see better with both eyes together than separately, but I noticed an improvement in my visual acuity as compared to before I tested each eye (when I was also using two eyes). So, looking at the eye chart with each eye separately and together will not only allow me to notice relaxation and gauge visual acuity, it can also improve my eyesight by itself.
- Palming should be as simple and relaxing as possible. While Bates gave a few ideas of what to think of while palming using ones memory or imagination, the primary instruction he gave was to remember black. Lately, I had been trying to remember a black, round period moving back and forth at a certain speed and motion while palming, but it was difficult to remember/stay focused on this picture for more than a few seconds. Consequently, my vision was never improved much after these palming sessions. I think I was trying to incorporate too many ideas at the same time. The instructions to remember black are much simpler and would cause me less strain to ponder for lengths of time. While I may not remember black perfectly at this point, I do recognize the color black and can imagine it to some extent in my mind. This should be sufficient for palming, and my ability to remember black will improve with time and consistency. Another point Bates made in his book was that perfect memory and perfect imagination are a result of perfect relaxation. This explains why imagining a black period of a certain size, movement and speed was not relaxing for me: I was trying to see the period. Since relaxation precedes the ability to imagine perfectly, I will not be able to remember or imagine a black period unless I am already mentally relaxed.
I know I learned other concepts while re-reading Bates’ book, but I think these three will be enough to focus on for now. If I am consistent with following these tips, I hope to start posting visual acuity readings again in future posts. Like most major changes to oneself, I know that consistency will produce the best results for my vision.