Tuesday, January 5, 2010

5. Palming

The Idea: Just as light can be used to heal the eyes, the eyes can also heal in darkness. Being able to see darkness can be tricky for some. If you are in a totally dark room with eyes closed, what do you see? Many people do not see total darkness, but patches of light, shimmering patterns, or glowing images. These things are not there in physical space and not even being seen by the eye—in order to see things, the eye needs light. These images are entirely in the mind. By relaxing both the mind and the eyes, a person Has the power to make these phantom shapes disappear.

Set Up: Palming can be done briefly in tandem with other eye exercises like Sunning and Directionals, and it's good to precede Palming with exercises to relax the neck and back. When practiced on its own, Palming is best done in a warm, dark place where you can support your head and elbows. Sit at a table with elbows propped on a pillow for comfort or support, or lie on your back with your head on a pillow and another pillow or folded blankets on your chest to support the arms. Get yourself into a position where you feel the least amount of tension in the neck and upper back.

How To:
• Step 1: Press your palms together and rub them vigorously, using friction to generate heat.
• Step 2: Close the eyes and cover them with your hands so that rims of the palms rest on the orbits (bones around the eye sockets), fingers resting on forehead. Take care not to put any pressure on the eyes themselves.
• Step 3: Breathe slowly and deeply through the nose. Relax.
• Step 4: Think of blackness. Should images come into your head, paint them black with your mind. Imagine that the entire world is totally black and in darkness.
• Step 5: Keep Palming for as long as you can—5, 10, 15 minutes to upwards of an hour—reathing, relaxing, and letting the mind drift into blackness.
• Step 6: When coming out of Palming, bring yourself slowly back to the lit world. Remove the hands and gently open the eyes. Find ways to segue smoothly into lit spaces rather than turning on bright lights right away. Palming can also be done right before going to sleep.

What's Going On:
• The heat generated by rubbing the palms together warms the eyes, increasing blood circulation and oxygen flow to cells. This helps the eyes to relax and regenerate.
• Healing systems that use meridian energy—the Qi of Chinese Medicine, Prana in ayurveda, etc.—demonstrate healing power in the hands. Palming brings rejuvenating intention to this practice, with the hands over the eyes completing an energy "circuit" in the body.
• According to natural vision therapist Meir Schneider, the images seen with eyes closed represent irritation on the optic nerve, and this also obstructs the vision when eyes are open. A portion of the optic nerve is in the retina at the back of the eye, but the optic nerve is actually part of the brain. By breathing, relaxing and meditating on blackness, we relax the brain, the optic nerve, and the sense of vision altogether. Schneider, who was born blind and once Palmed for 15 hours straight (right before he got his driver's license), states that only 50% of vision happens in the eye and that the other 50% happens in the brain. Dr. William H. Bates, who integrated Palming as part of his method in the early 20th century, had this ratio at 10% eye and 90% brain.

Testimonial: A man who suffered from macular degeneration once told me that he saw things when he closed his yes—"flickering spots and exploding checkerboards." We started palming together and he described what he saw. I said, "All that stuff you're seeing isn't in your eye, it's in your brain. You can make them go away but just imagining that everything is black." He let out a loud single laugh: "HA!" I asked why he was laughing. "It's gone," he said. "All I see is darkness. It's like night without any stars." He opened his eyes, thanked me, and walked away.

More Info:
• Palming can be found in the practice of yoga and is espoused by yogis like Swami Satchidananda's and Ana Forrest.
• Palming is one of the key eye exercises in the Bates Method created by William H. Bates. Meir Schneider gives a beautiful tutorial of Bates-style Palming in his Miracle Eyesight Method audiobook.
• I learned Palming from natural vision therapist Rosemary Gordon. If you can't visit her offices in Boston or Maine, you can at least watch her video here:

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