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NLP-based Strategies for Maintaining and Improving Eyesight Naturally

by Katrina Patterson(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 79 - August 2002

"It is a truly deep question, how much of our experience is received from the senses and what is created by the brain, though apparently out there...Common sense has been shocked by science; though after three hundred years it is generally not known that colours and sounds are products of brains, they still seem to be out there belonging to objects."[1]

Introduction

How much do you know about how your eyes work? Probably you don't think about them very much - only when something goes wrong and then you realize how precious they are. In fact, you probably spend more time being concerned about your teeth!

There is a lot we still need to learn about the eye. New research is appearing from neuroscientists updating current information - despite the view of opticians in the 1940s and 1950s that there was no more to discover.[2] In February 2002, scientists at Brown University, Rhode Island, USA announced the discovery of a third photoreceptor deep in the retina of rats' eyes and it is quite likely that we have the same cells. (The other two photoreceptors are rods and cones.) The new cells appear to play an important part in setting the body's internal 24-hour clock. According to Dr David Benson, "It is a visual system that runs parallel to the one we have been thinking about all these years. Now we have to rethink how the retina works and how the brain understands what is going on in the visual world."[3]

Remember his lack of certainty if you are considering Lasik (laser) eye surgery, and you should be aware that there is a risk to night vision. Current advice from the Food and Drugs Administration of the USA is: "A patient may no longer be able to drive a car at night or in certain weather conditions, such as fog." For this reason, laser light correction is banned by the armed services, most police, fire and ambulance services and the Civil Aviation Authority for pilots' licences.[4]

Neuro-Longuistic Programming

There is no single definition of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): it can be called the study of the structure of subjective experience, developing in each individual a lively curiosity for the world they live in and an awareness of themselves. Practitioners of NLP are continually asking the question, of themselves and others, "How do you know what you know?", and looking for pragmatic answers in terms of our senses (what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste). 'Sub-modalities'[5] are NLP's label for the subdivisions of our senses; neuroscience and philosophy use the term 'qualia', e.g. the shade of red or the qualities of a pain.[6] Any sensory input changes the body's chemistry in one hundredth of a second.[7]

There is no doubt that our experience of sight is subjective. Have you ever lost a set of keys and subsequently found it where you had already looked? Often we don't see something in a place where we don't expect to find it.

How is it possible that so many people are now wearing glasses? In 1994/1995 it was estimated that 53% of the population was wearing glasses or contact lenses; that changed to 96% at age 55 and over.[8] This figure is rising.

Can this be attributed to Edison and the light bulb, which has led to the 24/7 society? Is it the increase in stress? Is it our diet? (Recent research has demonstrated a link between the increased insulin levels of a diet high in refined starches such as bread and cereals and myopia [short-sightedness] in children. It has also been observed that people are more likely to develop myopia if they are overweight or have adult-onset diabetes.[9]) Is it drugs? Over 200 prescription drugs can affect our eyes. Is it the increased use of VDU screens? Is it staring?

Staring

"The cause of imperfect sight is staring"[10]

Try this experiment now.

Stare straight ahead without blinking and stop breathing for as long as you can.

Our eyes are designed to be constantly on the move; our retinas quickly tire if their visual field is kept the same for a long time: when an image becomes stable on the retina it disappears.

Do you recognize the results of that experiment as being similar to times when you are stressed? This is often what happens to adults and children under test conditions.

Daydreaming has a similar effect. For that reason, we recommend daydreaming with your eyes closed! Keep your eyes active and curious - imagine you have a paintbrush at the end of your nose and paint around the edges of things in your sight.

Role Models

What is your response to Deepak Chopra's admonition that "nowadays we confuse normal with average. By common standards you can develop extraordinary eyesight and prevent cataracts happening in the future."? He has improved his eyesight using some of the exercises mentioned in the Magical Mind, Magical Body tape set.[7]

Leonardo Da Vinci encouraged the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight as the means to enliven experiences. "He developed astonishing powers of sight bordering on those of a cartoon superhero. In his 'Codex on the Flight of Birds', for example, he recorded minutiae about the movements of feathers and wings that remained unconfirmed and not fully appreciated until the development of slow-motion moving pictures."[12]

One of the underlying beliefs in NLP is that if one person can do something, it must be possible for others. Many other people following on from Leonardo have improved their sight and written about it including: Dr William Bates MD (1860-1931), the writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Jacob Liberman OD, PhD, Meir Schneider, and Janet Goodrich PhD (?-2001).

Vision: The Mind Side Workshops

I caught my enthusiasm for helping adults and children to improve their eyesight naturally by mistake! In 1995 when I was on an NLP Master Practitioner Health and Wellbeing Programme at the original birthplace of NLP, The University of Santa Cruz, California, I met a rather remarkable businessman who had reversed his own very poor eyesight and no longer needed glasses. Three years previously he had had a prescription of -5 dioptres@ and was not able to see a colleague at the other side of the room without his glasses.

Leo Angart had come across the book Trance-Formations.2 In it the co-founders of NLP, Bandler and Grinder, described how they were able, using Ericksonian hypnosis to regress a man to a time when he didn't wear glasses and bring him out of trance with the eyesight of his younger self. Leo, who had extensive training in the Silva Mind Method, started on a quest to find out as much as possible to help him improve his own eyesight.

He wasn't able to find a hypnotist to help him with the same process, but he did use a form of healing known as Pranic Healing which he had first discovered in the Philippines. And that was all that he used.

The field of NLP is constantly growing as practitioners model excellence on themselves and experts in different fields and teach it to others. Leo eventually became an NLP trainer and analysed his own process as part of an NLP modelling course at the NLP University (organized by Robert Dilts and Judith DeLozier, two more of the early developers of NLP). He scoured all the relevant research he could find, which included many weeks in the British Library. This formed the basis of the two-day course 'Vision: The Mind Side', and another, 'Magic Eyes' for children aged 8-12, which he has been teaching around the world for the last six years. So far his 70-page manual[13] has been translated into Spanish, French, Mandarin, Portuguese, Turkish, German, and he is currently writing a book about his work.

Leo Angart, originally from Denmark, worked in Hong Kong for over 20 years and now lives in Munich. He asked me to help him put on his course in London where, as well as being the catalyst to help people put aside their glasses, he also shows delegates how to help their friends and family. The methods used are a mixture of Bates exercises, energy healing, hypnosis and NLP belief change. We have run 12 workshops in London. They are held in November and March.

Anyone can benefit from vision re-education. Leo explores peoples' outcomes for being on the course and the history of their eyesight. All have passed the important self-filter of believing (or being open to believe) that it was possible to improve their eyesight naturally. A few participants, like me, don't need glasses and want to ensure that they won't need them in the future. Others have just been prescribed glasses (often people who do a lot of work with computer screens) or may have been wearing glasses like Leo for over 20 years. He offers exercises and information to help with presbyopia (old age sight), astigmatism, glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, imperfect fusion, strabismus (squint) or ambiliopia (lazy eyes).

Leo Angart has seven basic assumptions to this work:[13]

1. Vision is 90% in the mind. The eyes are only sense organs, all the actual 'seeing' takes place at the back of the brain where the two images are combined into a three-dimensional impression;

2. Clear vision is the natural state. Rural communities and people in native societies generally have perfect eyesight. Less than 1% of the Inuit and Pacific Islanders had myopia early in the last century; this has now increased to 50%. In the islands of Vanuatu they have eight hours of schooling a day, yet the rate of myopia in these children is only 2%;

3. Sight is a learned ability. Newborn infants initially only see the world as a blur and children's eyes are not fully developed until around the age of 8;

4. The visual field is a mirror of our energy level. Dr Bates was the first to notice that natural vision varies throughout the day - sometimes by as much as one or two dioptres. Everyone has experienced a reduction in visual acuity corresponding to the overall level of tiredness. One of the reasons that you feel so good after a summer holiday is that your visual system has enjoyed a lot more energy input from the best energy source of all - the sun. If there is a high level of stress in your life (new job, exams, family problems) this will have an effect on your visual system. It may indicate that you need to rest more, do less reading and forget eye exercises for the moment;

5. Vision emanates from within the self, goes out and then returns within.The metaphysical aspect of vision as an inner sense also plays a role in normal vision;

6. Eyesight reflects belief imprints about what can be seen and what must not be seen. Families often consider that poor eyesight is hereditary. Young children sometimes want to wear glasses like their parents, best friend (or now Harry Potter). Some people say that they remember a difficult lesson where confusion and embarrassment meant that it was easier to cut out the rest of the world with foggy eyesight - the visual field just collapsed - never to return again;

7. Muscles will regenerate if exercised. It is common knowledge that if you do not use your muscles they not only become inflexible, they actually weaken the entire system as the body adapts to the artificial limits on its normal functioning.

 

Tibetan Wheel Exercise

The Tibetan Wheel is a fun way to help underused eye muscles regain their flexibility and can eliminate astigmatism.[14]

 

Copy and enlarge the diagram to A4 size. Do the exercise twice a day. Attach it to any convenient wall, placing the central spot level with the tip of your nose. Take off your glasses or contacts, and stand directly in front of the chart at a visually comfortable distance. Move closer as your eye muscles become more flexible.

Copy and enlarge the diagram to A4 size. Do the exercise twice a day. Attach it to any convenient wall, placing the central spot level with the tip of your nose. Take off your glasses or contacts, and stand directly in front of the chart at a visually comfortable distance. Move closer as your eye muscles become more flexible.

Turn your attention to your breath. When you feel ready, find a point anywhere on the outer edge of the wheel and very slowly move your eyes clockwise, outlining the outer edge of each arm, including the black circles, until you return to the original point.

Keep your head still and let your eyes move. Do not push or strain, stop if you feel uncomfortable and be sure to blink and breathe throughout the exercise.

Palm for one minute (see Exercise below), then repeat counter-clockwise. When you are done, palm again until your eyes feel soft and relaxed.
Breath awareness is critical. The exercise has very little value if it isn't done with an open breath.

Conscious awareness is one of the primary tools for visual improvement. First you must be aware of your old habits. Then you need to allow alterations in those habits. By bringing the attention of the brain to focus on your vision habits the brain naturally goes to work to maximize performance.

 

Palming

This must be the oldest natural vision improvement exercise, used for thousands of years in yoga and Ayurvedic practices, and is probably one of the most effective. It relaxes the whole visual system and when the eyes are closed the brain wave patterns go into alpha rhythm. (To be done without glasses!)
1. Sit with both feet squarely on the ground;
2. Rub the palms of your hands together vigorously;
3. Gently close your eyes;
4. Cover eyes with cupped palms. Have the base of your palms gently resting on the base of the eye socket. Keep fingers relaxed;
5. Imagine a piece of black velvet; notice the depth of the colour black and the texture of the fabric;
6. Ensure that your shoulders are relaxed. (You may need to lie on the floor or lean forward to prop your elbows on a table or chair back to release the tension.)

 

Notice what you notice. If you see white flashes or colours, this indicates that you are holding tension in the visual field. You should notice that the more you do this exercise the more the colours will fade to black.

Notice what you notice. If you see white flashes or colours, this indicates that you are holding tension in the visual field. You should notice that the more you do this exercise the more the colours will fade to black.

We suggest that everyone could benefit from doing this exercise three times a day for just two or three minutes at a time. People often report that colours seem clearer and that objects seem sharper and more defined. It is good to do this first thing in the morning and at the end of the day to relax.

Case Histories

Case History 1

In l998 Peter Robinson (then aged 46), an IT Manager with a psychology degree working within the public education system, came on the second UK Vision: The Mind Side two-day workshop as a result of his interest in NLP. Peter was wearing very thick glasses with correction for -[11] dioptres for myopia (short-sight), and he had a high level of astigmatism and presbyopia which meant that he had to hold anything he wanted to read at arm's length. Looking at the Snellen eye charts around the training room, he could see only the three-inch-high top letter at three metres. By the second day of the course, he was noticing moments when he could see the charts with a little more clarity – the feedback he needed to realize that he could influence what he saw. A month later, his then optician recorded an 8% improvement in the objective testing of his eyesight, which he said was statistically more than chance.[15]

About two years later, Peter switched his optician to Mrs N Pankania of Optique 20:20 in Woodgreen (who specializes in helping people trying to improve their eyesight naturally).

Initially Peter set himself a goal of being free of glasses by the year 2000 and at one stage he subjectively reached the level of -3 dioptres. It was hard work and he became discouraged. He has kept in touch and given guest speaker talks on later courses to encourage others. Four years later he reports that he has changed his thinking about the exercises, seeing and his way of life. He believes that at some stage he will be able to do without his glasses and he has removed the pressure of deciding when that will be. It is more about enjoying the journey and congratulating himself on the "miraculous and dramatic" changes he has already made in getting rid of his presbyopia and significantly reducing the astigmatism and myopia. His current objective prescription is -5.5 dioptres. Subjectively he knows he can see better than that prescription suggests.

Case History 2

Michelle Peacock (aged 40) is another IT Manager in a stressful job, working for a major supermarket chain. She heard about the workshop through her interest in NLP. She was first prescribed glasses at the age of 15. Twenty-five years later she still has the same prescription - L -1.5 dioptres/R -1.25 dioptres - and she believes that this is because she hardly ever puts her glasses on.

She found the two-day workshop this February enlightening and after it her perception of colour was "amazing – so bright". She continued:

"I normally detest the Underground but I noticed that the posters were sharper and brighter. It was like seeing colours for the first time in my life.

"In the past I'd put my glasses on when things got too blurred. Now I know that I have the choice to make time for palming. Just recently I had to fly to Newcastle for work. When I got to the check-in I was seeing the blurred form of the air hostess. I sat down and palmed and when I looked again I could see her clearly.

"At the weekends I make a point of looking further into the distance. I have felt limited by how far my optician said I could see. The pressure of work gets in the way of practice. When I have more time I know that I'll be able to correct my vision - I'd probably be more committed if my eyesight was worse. The course was important to me in bringing my awareness of sight to a conscious level and allowing me to realize that people don't have to wear glasses. I am choosing to wear them. I do wear them for night-time driving and when I am tired."

Pragmatic Steps to Vision Re-Education

Vision re-education takes thought and time – as we see from the figures many people are happy to get along with glasses or contact lenses or take the short root to laser surgery without knowing the long-term risk to their vision. In 1943, in his still very readable and relevant book, Aldous Huxley wrote: "So long as the art of seeing is not taught to children as a part of their normal education, the trade in artificial lenses is not likely to suffer more than a trifling loss...Human sloth and inertia will guarantee the opticians at least nine tenths of their present business."[16]

So the key to Leo Angart's work is to demonstrate quickly that participants have the power to influence their eyesight, ensure the exercises are fun and allow people to relax and see.

Do have your eyes tested regularly. For those of you who want to reduce your current prescriptions, start by playing with some of the exercise. When you visit the optician, make sure that you relax before taking the test (often people rush in and out in their lunch hour or just after work when eyes may be particularly tired). The 'test' conditions are enough to set up blur in some people's eyes. Have your test early in the day and ideally palm for 10-15 minutes so that your eyes are as relaxed as possible. You are entitled to a copy of your prescription. Ask the optician to explain it to you.

It is my hope that you are realizing that vision fitness is as achievable as general body fitness and that we can take responsibility for maintaining and even improving good sight. If you are a parent or a teacher, you are a role model for children; they learn from your behaviour. Encouraging them to do some of the natural vision exercises has the added benefit of helping their memory and their creativity. (Of course this works for adults too!)

Notes and References

1. Gregory Richard. The art & science of what goes on in our heads. in [ED.?] Head On: Art with the Brain in Mind. Artakt. p4. 2002.
2. Bandler R and Grinder J. Trance-Formations. Real People Press. USA. p166.1981.
3. BBC. Eye Cell Sets Body Clock. http://news.bbc.co.uk/english/health/newsid-180700/180744 reporting on article in Science. 295(55560).
4. Leaflet from The London Centre for Refractive Surgery. For further information see www.ultralase.com/, the website of Surgical Eyes, an organization founded by people with longer-term complications from refractive surgery.
5. Bandler R and MacDonald W. An Insider's Guide to Sub-modalities. Meta Publications. CA. 1988.
6. Gregory Richard L. Eye and Brain. 5th ed. Oxford University Press. p253. 1997.
7. Chopra Deepak. Magical Mind, Magical Body. Tapes. Nightingale Conant. Devon. 1995.
8. Government General Household Survey 1994/95, quoted in The Eyecare Trust Press Release.
9. Fox D. Blinded by bread. New Scientist. 2337: 9. 6 April 2002.
10. Goodrich Janet. Perfect Sight The Natural Way: How to Improve and Strengthen Your Child's Eyesight. Souvenir Press. 1996 (Out of Print). Quote from Bates WH. Better Eyesight Without Glasses. Thorsons. 1995.
11. Gelb Michael. How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci. Thorsons. p95. 1998.
12. @Diopter - the measurement used for describing refractive error on prescriptions. One dioptre is the refractive power of a lens needed to focus a point of light at one metre's distance.
13. Angart Leo. Vision: The Mind Side Course Manual. p4. 1998. Quoted with permission.
14. Astigmatism - the blurring of lines at a particular angle. The condition comes and goes.
15. Coombes Frances. Don't be a Mrs Magoo. Evening Standard. PS Section. p20. 19 October 1998.
16. Huxley Aldous. The Art of Seeing. Flamingo. UK. 1994. (First published 1943.)(Recommended reading.)

Bibliography

Dilts R, Hallbom T and Smith S. Beliefs – Pathways to Health & Wellbeing. Metamorphous Press. USA. 1990.
Goodrich Janet. Natural Vision Improvement. Celestial Arts. USA. 1985. (Recommended reading.)
Hannaford C. Smart Moves – Why Learning is Not All in Your Head. Great Ocean Publishers. USA. 1995.
Pollack Robert. The Missing Moment: How the Unconscious Mind Shapes Modern Science. Houghton Mifflin. USA. 1999.
Redfern Robert. 10 Steps to Your Natural Eye Health. Naturally Healthy Publications. 2001.
Rossi Ernest. The 20-Minute Break – Using The New Science of Ultradian Rhythms. Tarcher. USA. 1991.

A Call for Help

She is currently putting together a list of UK ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians open to helping clients who want to improve their eyesight with any type of natural vision re-education. Please let her on the contact numbers above when you find one.

Further Information

Leo Angart's website: www.vision-training.com
The Association for NLP: Tel 0870 870 4970; www.anlp.org
NLP University, USA: www.nlpu.org

Comments:

  1. Douglas Davidson said..

    For years I had been practicing these methods off and on, and eventually had the restriction taken off my drivers license. However, I also noticed that when I was seeing clearly, my eyes would acquire a burning sensation and (psychologically) telling me that I am not supposed to see this clearly. Since I never felt overly comfortable driving at night without glasses, I eventually went back to using them knowing that it is possible to correct one's vision. Do you know any vision therapists around London Ontario?


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About Katrina Patterson

Katrina Patterson, INLPTA, is a Certified NLP Trainer and Master Practitioner of NLP, business trainer, executive coach, storyteller and therapist. She teaches on several open NLP courses, is a part-time lecturer in NLP at the Faculty of Continuing Education, Birkbeck College, London and speaks regularly at conferences in the UK and abroad. She organizes Leo Angart's London workshops, teaches Memory Improvement and Maintaining your Eyesight at the Computer Seminars in Business. She can be contacted on Tel: 01895 255063; katrina@key2.demon.co.uk

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