Learning to See–Part One


This is Part One of a series I will be doing on seeing—both physically and non-physically.

Here we’ll look at (pun intended) seeing physically—with our eyes. And how maybe, if we adopt the right way of seeing possibilities, we might improve our actual physical vision.

girl in blue and white floral cap sleeve shirt wearing eyeglasses

Photo by Adam Winger

My Story

Even though I’ve worn glasses since I was 3 or 4 years old, after eye surgery for strabismus, I had no idea that one can, or indeed, needed to learn how to see.

I just took for granted that I know how to see, and if there are problems, they would be corrected by glasses (or for some things, surgery). Certainly this is the dominant modern view.

I had no idea that there was any other way.

Until recently, when I started taking a class with Dr. Mila Casey, to improve my vision naturally.

Oh my goodness, what I’m learning! The eye is an amazing instrument, and wonder of wonders, you can possibly improve your vision through some simple methods that you can incorporate into your daily life.

The Bates Method of Natural Vision Improvement

Dr. Casey’s class is based on the Bates Method, which if you look up online you can find a lot of information.

Dr. William H. Bates was an ophthalmologist who concluded “after decades of researching for an alternative to prescription glasses, that mental stress is the root cause of vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism.” (Yet another area in which stress may be a root cause!)

Note that Wikipedia’s entry on the Bates Method is clearly full of bias from the word go. (I’ve underlined the words reflecting this bias.)

“The Bates method is an ineffective and potentially dangerous alternative therapy aimed at improving eyesight. Eye-care physician William Horatio Bates (1860–1931) held the erroneous belief that the extraocular muscles effected changes in focus and that ‘mental strain’ caused abnormal action of these muscles; hence he believed that relieving such ‘strain’ would cure defective vision. In 1952, optometry professor Elwin Marg wrote of Bates, ‘Most of his claims and almost all of his theories have been considered false by practically all visual scientists.’”

(Interestingly, the studies Wikipedia cites to disprove the Bates Method are all rather recent. Could this be when Big Media sided with Big Medicine started to debunk anything “natural” or off the beaten track?)

I have noticed that any new therapy is quickly disparaged, especially if it involves something where a whole industry will lose money (in this case, the optical industry if people don’t need glasses). The scientific method is king, and nothing else will even be considered. Often no actual research or clinical trials will even be done (or not done correctly), and that is pointed to as proof that the therapy under question is invalid.

This is especially prominent in the fascinating book, Breath by James Nestor. I can’t help but think that our modern world not only has truncated our natural ability to see correctly, but to breathe correctly. Nestor interviewed and researched many “off the beaten path” approaches to better breathing and health, most of which were disparaged or more likely, ignored by more mainstream approaches. One 3-star reviewer complained that Nestor “tends to rely on ‘rebel sources’ – doctors whose ideas have been largely discredited by the medical community.”

I always have to ask, “Why are so many novel ideas discredited by the medical community?” One has only to think of the recent pandemic debacle to find an answer.

Yet, modern science generally agrees that most physical dysfunctions have their roots in stress, one way or another. So why couldn’t stress, or “mental strain” as Bates put it, also cause poor eyesight?

The proof is always in the pudding, as they say. In Nestor’s case, 79% of the 27,359 reviewers gave the book 5 stars, many attesting that changing their breathing habits changed their lives.

In terms of the Bates Method, many people, including Aldous Huxley who wrote a whole book called The Art of Seeing, have claimed they have improved their vision with the Bates Method, or some later version of it. In my class today, one woman with very severe myopia shared a video of her opthamologist expressing his amazement at how much her vision had improved (after only 4 weeks of her practicing the Bates Method).

If you see improvement but not total healing, doesn’t that indicate there’s something to the approach?

I think so.

It’s similar to The Healing Codes. Many people disparage it because they don’t understand it. People objected that there were no clinical trials. Well, now there are. So suddenly it’s OK because there are now studies validating it? I’m glad I didn’t wait until there were actual studies to try it and reap the benefits.

please stay on the path signage

Photo by Mark Duffel

If you decide to pursue natural vision therapy, note that you need to commit to daily practices. (Here is a video outlining what that might look like.) Like any other healing method or health habit, learning to see (without glasses or contacts) requires establishing new habits. Focus on the potential reward every time motivation wanes.

In Part Two I will cover another aspect of seeing—perhaps the most important if you are seeking healing of any kind.

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