Friday, January 29, 2010

29. Contradictions

This is the heftiest entry in here, both lengthwise and in its subject matter. If you're just tuning in, I recommend looking at this other post as a launching point for doing some eye exercises.

In all of my research that has led me to writing this blog, I've read writings by and visited people who all claimed to be "experts" in the field of something related to the eyes and their health. Some of these people have the clout of the Western Optometrical Complex to back them up, many others ousted themselves from that institution because they felt that prescribing stronger and stronger leses for people was hurting, not helping their eyesight. Others still were never professional optometrists, but people who entered into this work through a route of holistic and natural healing. With so many "experts" coming from so many philosophies, traditions and experiences, it is inevitable that their statements contradict one another.

Below are some of the contradictions that I've come across in my own experience with natural vision therapy, as well as how it relates to the Western Optometrical Complex. Nothing here is conclusive because I can only put myself out there as an expert regarding my own experiences with vision—not yours or the billions of others who live and have lived on this planet. Also, healing practices must be in constant dialogue, never set in stone, for there were many certainties that doctors had for centuries that we now know to be false. Who's to say that certainties of today's doctors, pharmacists, scientists, and drug company executives are any more true than those who believed that the common cold was caused by evil spirits? Read on, try things out, question everything and let me know what you come up with:
  1. "Corrective" Lenses vs. "Opposite" Lenses: Mainstream western optometry works like this: you go to the eye doctor and get a prescription for lenses. Over the course of the year, your eyes adjust to the lenses and then you need a stronger prescription. In functional optometry (though it's difficult to find documentation of this in any book) doctors will have patients wear "opposite glasses"—lenses that actually make the vision "worse." This means that a farsighted person would be given a negative or nearsighted pair of glasses, and a near sighted person would be given a pair of positive or farsighted glasses. The glasses are only worn for about 20 minutes at a time, maybe once or twice a day, the vision is only worsened for this short time. But when the glasses are removed, the vision might actually be better. The theory is that if a pair of "corrective" lenses pull a nearsighted person deeper into nearsightedness and a farsighted person deeper into farsightedness, than "opposite" glasses can do the opposite.
  2. Staring vs. Shifting: In Ayurvedic, yogic, and many martial arts practices, there is this idea of gazing at a fixed point or a flickering flame to relax the mind and improve the vision. Dr. William H. Bates and his protégés protest against this, saying that the eyes should be in constant movement. this is one of Bates' key principles, just as finding one's drishti is a key principle in many schools of yoga.
  3. Centralization vs. Peripheralization: With the tradition of Batas and post-Bates natural vision therapy, I've come across a couple of different recommendation regarding the role of peripheral vision. According to Thomas R. Quackenbush, much of our culture's eyestrain comes from trying to see everything at once—the "Big Picture" with everything in equal focus.
    Quackenbush posits that only the central vision—where the cone cells are concentrated in the fovea—should be clear, and that the peripheral vision—where there only a smattering of rods to indicate base might, shadow and movement—should be blurry. He goes on to state that it is this trying to get the rods to pull in a sharper image that puts strain on the eyes and makes the whole vision go blurry. Meir Schneider, on the other hand, promotes exercises that strengthen the peripheral vision. Both men are followers of the Bates Method and both have succeeded in improving their vision through its practice, though their individual experiences are different and perhaps this is why they differ on this particular aspect of Bates' teaching.
  4. Lutein vs. Beta Carotene: The irony of this one is that both of these nutrients have been shown to support the vision, yet each blocks the other's absorption! Dr. Marc Grossman, with his experience both in functional optometry and Chinese Medicine, says that beta carotene is best absorbed in the middle of the day (11 AM to 3 PM) and lutein in the middle of the night (11 PM to 3 AM). IT's a pretty weird regimen to follow, but really not any weirder than any of the exercises I've posted on this blog, right?
I am very interested in healthy debate in the interest of actually making people healthier rather than the "I'm right, they're wrong, and I've got all these books and fancy degrees to back me up" sort of thinking that gets thrown at me by almost anyone wearing a lab coat. I've have several conversations with doctors about eye exercises like Sunning, and practices such as wearing pinhole glasses, that went absolutely nowhere. If you've had any experience with this stuff, or have questions about anything here, leave your comments here.

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