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Techniques: Basic Principles
The Bates Method's primary aim is to restore normal, healthy, functional use of the eyes and each technique described on these pages provides a path to that end.
Under the Bates model, vision impairment is caused by a habit of strain in the mind which leads to unnecessary effort when performing any thought or task. While this strain can be brought about by many different factors its solution is to learn how to obtain relaxation.
As such, strain is primarily a mental habit leading to physical effects that differ from person to person, both in degree and type. By utilising Bates techniques it becomes possible to gain insight into the nature of the strain - both mental and physical - by carefully observing the feedback received by the eyes as you practise.
There is more to vision than just acuity
In addition to perceiving fine detail, our eyes are constantly active and receptive to the visual world in many other respects. The eyes perceive light, darkness, shade, colour, movement, form, and depth; and while for most people these things are thought of as easy, they are more or less taken for granted and no longer enjoyed as a fundamental experience of sight.
In contrast to this visual foundation, our modern and technological world pushes the eyes to largely become transmitters for information, taking us away from the natural use of the eyes and mind that our ancestors enjoyed. The visual system is now used extensively to read and interpret the written word or process visual media, presenting the mind with abstract ideas with which to engage or make decisions; such as finishing a report, figuring out your tax, reading a book. If a person has a tendency to strain, these distractions can take on an addictive quality, with the natural state of the visual system a long forgotten memory.
Modern culture takes the eyes and mind out of the present and into a world where what your mind sees is not what your eyes see, but what your mind is busy creating; abstractions, imaginings, stresses and worries.
This is not to say that interpretation of the written word or the television screen is inherently at fault for the production of eyesight problems, but more that the subsequent lack of pure and natural visual experience has become an issue of epidemic proportions. The greater the hold of the interpretational mind, the harder it becomes to simply enjoy seeing for what it is; so much so that it becomes clear that even when there is a pure visual scene in front of a person, the mind can still be far away thinking about other things.
All the techniques simply require you to look. There are colours, shapes, depths, textures, shades, movements: all these things are food for the eyes and in every waking moment, this is what the eyes see. Right now, and now. This is what the Bates techniques present to you.
If the mind is closed to it, is busy with other things, all that visual information has nowhere to go, and eventually the eyes begin to suffer. But if you look at what is in front of you right now, you come fully into the present moment. Any avoidance of where and who you are right now begins to crumble.
The techniques that are taught in the Bates Method effectively re-establish the normal, natural interaction between eye and mind. To the visually-impaired person, perceiving movement, or letting the eyes feast on colour can seem odd or contrived, but in fact all that is happening is that the mind is learning slowly how to dismantle all its filters.
When the filters drop, suddenly what you have left is the truth of sight: Colour, movement, depth and all the nuances of the visual experience that is, and as it should be, a joy.And then something amazing happened. Now that I've been seeing movement all day long for the past month, suddenly I remembered: this is how I used to see the world when I was a child!
The techniques described in these pages give an introduction to the extraordinary world of re-learning to see. Spend some time every day - as much as you can - letting your eyes have the simple enjoyment of just seeing.