This last year I discovered a wonderful podcast that opened my eyes to what my vision is truly capable of. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 8 or 9 I think and this podcast is the first to really connect with how glasses and bad eyes in general separate you from the world and change the way you live.
I have been bingeing on the podcast episodes and really enjoying being around people who get what it is like to be so short sighted and also, for the first time in my life to, hear about so many people who have fixed their eyes and no longer wear lenses including contact lenses or glasses.
The podcast is The short sighted podcast and all details are at its home at endmyopia.org. Run by Jake Steiner endmyopia has a huge amount of resources dedicated to helping people learn healthy eye habits.
That is really all that is required to get better eyesight and today I want to introduce you to the idea that your eyes are like any other part of being human. They can change and do change throughout your life and there is something you can do about it by adopting habits that will give you the eyesight you want.
EndMyopia was not the first place I found when I was looking for an eye coach but Jakes approach is the one that made all the difference to me because it is very practical and he has provided:
- the theory to refer to
- a community to support
- plus all the other things like podcasts and videos
which made it so much easier to get over the initial hurdles of what am I supposed to do and how do I do it?
I can only thank Jake and his community for their hard work because the habits I have no adopted are helping me profoundly and the improvement I have had in my eyesight is something I only dreamed of.
Over the years I have developed all sorts of abilities in the quest to understand human potential such as learning to use my left hand instead of my right for DIY, Tennis and general life and teaching my wife to drive!!!. So I was already beginning to work towards improving my eyes using this previous experience but it would have taken me years to do it alone because I would have had to figure out how to work with my eyes and I may have easily given up.
With the help of EndMyopia and the clear guidance and structure it has given me it has felt like I have an experienced coach by my side and the result is that I am now using half the strength of glasses than I was last year and the improvements just keep coming.
My eyesight is bad!!! Without going into too much detail I have a prescription for each eye because each eye has a different diopter, cyl and axis (This year I have suddenly got to know these values intimately). I have both strong myopia and strong astigmatism but one eye has stronger myopia and the other has stronger astigmatism. So despite all the amazing resources on EndMyopia there is little specific to my situation.
With all the resources Jake and his community have provided I was also fascinated to notice lots of insights that I am aware of that helped me that have not been covered at least in what I have listened to and read so far. So as part of paying things forward I am sharing these insights I have picked up over the years that help me on a daily basis and are useful in my journey towards better eye sight and eye health. If they help you then that makes me happy so if you could leave a comment to say what helps or would help that would be great.
I have always seen that the eyes have a natural autofocus mechanism and that is very much how I have approached improving my eyesight because everything I have read backs the concept up.
Vision training is mainly about a blur horizon and Jake is very clear that improvements in vision come when you have the right amount of blur for your eye. The way I pictured it is that your eye is trying to find focus just like any automatic camera, like the one in your phone. Your eyes do it much faster than cameras but the principle is the same.
With my phone I know that autofocus has a range of blur in which it can work that it can work with and anything outside that range means the camera cannot focus and this is what I find with my eyes. Since for me each has a different prescription the most important thing is finding the blur horizon for each eye so sometimes just covering one eye and focusing on the other make my life easier,
Further to this what is not obvious is that cameras have hard spherical lenses while human eyes have soft flexible lenses with hundreds of muscles pushing and pulling so that human lenses can make minute adjustments across the field of vision to direct light where it is required and adapt to changes in the eyeball, retina or anything else.
That is where biology is far ahead of man made technology and so the concept of training the muscles to be able to direct light on to the retina as the eyes repeatedly scan our environment many times a minute shows how much harder our eyes work than cameras do and also why a background in training muscles and nervous systems is incredibly useful because that is really what you are doing.
Your visual cortex will be monitoring focus while your muscles will be adjusting the lens and maintaining their position over time as required. Coordination of muscles is a lot more complex than it sounds and what happens is neurons (Nerves), stimulate motor units which control muscle fibres which pull on the lens. It’s more complicated than that but it’s a decent summary. One nerve can stimulate many motor units which in turn can stimulate many muscle fibres and this is how movement happens through out the body.
Fine grained control like that of focussing an eye therefore requires a huge amount of coordination between nerves, muscles, sensory organs and visual processing to find focus and depth and more nerves to relay all this information
Given how complex it is to focus the lens so exactly the eyes rely on pre configured motor circuits that have learnt what is required for various situations and distances among other things which means that your eye is very used to the vision that it is used to. If you wear lenses then your vision will adapt exactly to the lenses and instruct the lens focusing components accordingly.
Therefore when ever you change your lenses your eyes will need to adjust to the situation and may need to adjust their motor routines or will take longer to re learn to focus due to the new vision requirements.
Knowing this is very helpful in understanding how to work with your eyes and get good vision as the situation changes.
Now the discussion has gone beyond simple autofocus to highlighting why humans have such a large visual cortex in their brain to process visual information. We have spent a long time considering how the eyes arrive at the best visual images possible. Human vision requires merging two images in real time so humans have developed a large visual cortex to make this happen and produce the wide field of view that humans enjoy.
Normally the images from each eye are very similar so the processing is easy but if the eyes are different like they are when one eye is weaker than the other then the visual cortex will struggle to merge the two images resulting in less clear vision and potentially being uncomfortable with your vision.
My experience is that the blurred image from my weaker eye can cause double vision. My glasses fix this of course but over the years I tried contact lenses and was often in a situation where I only had one lens in, which taught me a lot about the value of two good images and how much work our vision system does to help us understand and experience the world.
As part of relearning to see my habits have involved supporting the weaker eye and developing its ability to see correctly so that the images my brain has to process are as similar as possible. I explain it this way because it helped me find the right lens strength for each eye. I also change glasses through the day according to my situation so that sometimes I am pushing my vision and other times I am letting it relax with full support so they don’t get over tired or over trained.
Now we have seen that visual processing is about getting the best images from the raw input of each eye and then merging them into a 3d whole there is another layer that our brain adds that affects our vision.
Perception is a wider focus on how our vision, the view we see, is created from the combination of raw data from our eyes and our thoughts about what we expect to see and want to see. It is always startling to find out that we never see exactly what is happening but instead always see what our brain interprets from the raw visual data it receives.
The scientific evidence for this is over whelming and quite surprising if you have not seen it before because we are generally raised with the idea that seeing is believing and after studying perception you have to concede that seeing is actually the process of interpreting what you believe happened which is a very different thing to seeing exactly what is in front of you.
A simple demonstration of this is something that most of us take for granted which is that if we are looking at words in the distance and know what we should see, maybe it’s a familiar brand, then we are more likely to be able to bring it into focus than if we don’t know what we should be seeing.
I use this approach a lot when helping my weaker eye to see by picking a target and looking with both eyes to see what it is then closing my strong eye to see how well my weaker eye has managed to focus on it. It is common to find that when the weaker eye would not focus on something like this on its own it has been helped by using my stronger eye in this way to magically bring the weaker eyes vision into focus.
Transfer of learning
This process of perception show how the elements of our body work together and is known under the title of transfer of learning. Lots of research shows how the left hand can benefit from the right hand learning to do something and vice versa and I see the same value with my eyes.
By understanding that my eyes want to help each other and in fact, need to work together to get me the best vision I am using the strengths of my good eye to help support my weaker eye.
I have written plenty of articles about sleep but there is still so much more I want to say. The key point here is that sleep is when the body gets to fix itself and why any improvements must be gradual and progressive. During the day your habits tell your body what you want it to do and during sleep is when you body can implement the upgrades and maintenance that make this happen.
This is also why vision, like anything else, varies from day to day because the body is constantly adapting and in a process of maintenance which means its capacity and therefore ability varies from day to day. I learnt this many years ago and when I started to measure my capacity over longer periods like a few days or a week the results made a lot more sense and my progress in working with my body improved tremendously.
The principle is simply that any training we do is effectively a question we are asking the body which it then responds to. So when we push ourselves we get tired and our capacity reduces and only when the body is not required to do anything else can it go and replace, upgrade or fix cells and organs as required. This process often occurs over several sleep sessions depending on the amount of work required so experience becomes you best guide of how well recovered your eyes are and therefore how far to push them.
This knowledge has helped me structure my days and week so that I push my eyes at the appropriate time and avoid pushing tired eyes and causing problems that will slow my progress down.
It struck me to hear that people who are fixing their eyes often complain of what are called floaters which are strange little blogs that wander across your vision. Yet I think the explanation for them is much simpler than people think. The evidence is that everyone gets them but only those fixing their eyes notice them. The structure of the eye is amazing because the rods and cones that make up the retina are situated behind many layers of cells so anything happening inside them will interfere with our vision.
I say this because I am used to seeing things like this when I look for them and not seeing them when I focus on something else. For example, I have had my old glasses for 10 years or so and they have all sorts of scratches on but when I wear them I barely see the scratches unless I am looking for them.
That is my simple explanation and why I understand the concern people have but also why people fixing their eyes will notice this much more than those with good eyesight.
These are a few of the thoughts I had reading and listening to the wonderful work by Jake at EndMyopia. It is rewarding for me to see how much I have learnt about developing human potential and to be able to put this to use in restoring my eyesight.
I wrote this post to promote Jake’s work and show anyone with vision problems that have not heard of EndMyopia that the approach may help them. At the very least you will leave knowing that other people had serious myopia but no longer need glasses and have perfect eyesight or are on the path towards good vision.
I also empathise with Jake’s frustrations around the eye health market and trying to help because I have seen the same attitudes and barriers across all health markets and disciplines. I have been studying human potential since the 90s and all the problems Jake explains are the same elsewhere so I would like to help him succeed.
I am very grateful for all who have shared their journey in restoring their eyesight and I hope this article helps others in some way as much as I have been helped by all that I have read.
- Homeostasis of Eye Growth and the Question of Myopia: Neuron, Volume 74, Issue 1, 12 April 2012, Pages 207, Josh Wallman, Jonathan Winawer
- Relearning to see, Thomas R Quackenbush 1999, North Atlantic books
- Motor learning and performance A problem-based approach Second edition, Richard A. Schmidt / /Craig A. Wrisburg 2000, Human Kinetics
- Motor learning and control, Concepts and applications Eight edition, Richard A. Magill 2007, Mcgraw-hill
Below is an interesting documentary on the prevalence of myopia in modern Western societies with research from around the world. A key theme in this documentary and much of the research on vision impairment is that time outdoors prevents myopia.