I was born blind to deaf parents during a politically chaotic time in the Soviet Union, under unusually stressful family circumstances. I read by Braille for seventeen years and developed a healing process that gave me sight and thus my understanding of the visual system is quite unique. Today, I am licensed to drive in California without corrective lenses.
My progression from blindness to sight might seem miraculous, but the change was actually quite logical and methodical, and the same resources that worked for me can help anyone- including you- to improve their vision. I have been teaching internationally for thirty-seven years and the results I have seen with my clients prove that anyone can improve their vision. In fact, when a client comes in with a doubt about his or her potential to improve and heal due to what he or she deems as a weakness—whether it be severe myopia, muscular dystrophy, or trauma—it is not unusual that this very weakness is the foundation from which we begin healing. From weakness we find strength; from darkness I found light. My own healing process from blindness to sight began with visualizing darkness.
The first exercise I was taught is called "palming," a method for seeing darkness. From a physiological standpoint, palming relaxes the eye muscles and nerves. Only when the eyes are resting can they improve. I was taught palming by a dear friend, Issac, who discovered palming from reading a book by Doctor William Bates. Dr. Bates was an American ophthalmologist practicing at the turn of the last century who found through extensive and highly original research that the mind plays a major role in vision. He developed The Bates Method for "better eyesight", a method completely forgotten by the west today. Issac instructed me to sit at a table with my elbows comfortably supported by a firm pillow, and I gently covered my closed eyes with my palms to prevent light from coming through. He told me to imagine something in motion, and then to visualize someone digging a hole. I found it difficult to visualize things I'd never seen. He then asked me to visualize total blackness, which I also had a hard time doing.
Within a year of beginning to practice the Bates Method, I was able to see letters on paper. I vividly remember the first time this happened. I was on a rooftop alternating between palming and an exercise called "sunning." Sunning teaches the eyes to adjust to light. It encourages the pupil to do its job of contracting and dilating.
Alternating between palming and sunning trains the eyes to adjust between darkness and lightness; with each cycle of palming and sunning, the eyes are capable of seeing deeper blackness and absorbing more light. I put a paper with written letters on it at the tip of my nose. Unexpectedly, a letter came into focus—I could see, for the first time, without the aid of a microscope or amplified magnification, a single letter on paper!
Unfortunately, the rush of enthusiasm broke my concentration and the letter disappeared from my vision field. This angered me, but no matter how hard I tried to see the letter, I could not bring it back into focus. My mind had jumped to an elated high and fallen to a deep low in a matter of seconds and it is to this instability of my mind I attribute losing focus of the letter. With such emotional extremes in such a short period of time, my body reacted; after all, the body and mind are deeply connected. I became sick to the stomach. My physical and mental tension was not released until I vomited over the edge of the rooftop.
After this release of tension, my mind and body calmed and I continued palming and sunning. Concentrating in this state of mind allowed me to see not only one letter, but several letters. This experience of the interrelation of mind, body, and visual improvement enhanced my working process and within three months, I could see letters by putting print at the tip of my nose. I was seventeen years old, and I had learned how to maintain seeing letters for extended periods of time.
From that point on, I continued to work at improving my vision. My work, however, was met by much resistance by the people around me. Not only was I challenging the visual habits of my eyes, I was challenging the thoughts and beliefs ingrained in the people around me. All of this friction had an effect on the well-being of my mind; but it is this friction that challenged me to find a deeper strength and thus allow me to work on a deeper level.
A well-respected meditation teacher, Sally Kempton, once wrote, "Where does your strength come from? Hard times are often hard precisely because the support you normally count on has fallen away. That's when you need to find your deepest source of strength."
The resistance of the world made it necessary for me to find deep strength. People were offended that I could see the road when I walked and neighbors were upset that I could recognize them. It was as though I had stripped them of their comfort of knowing how the world functions. To them, I was supposed to be this blind kid—but I was looking at them and seeing them!
I continued practicing diligently, always looking from detail to detail. This vision improvement technique I call "shifting." Shifting vision from detail to detail is a visual exercise that teaches relaxed focusing skills and restores the natural movement of the macula, enabling the eye to see details more clearly. In school, I looked from one clock to the other, back and forth. In music class, I sat with my hands over my eye orbits, palming. My music teacher complained that I palmed throughout the whole class, but after I explained the exercises to him and told him that I understood the music better when I palmed, he stopped complaining.
Finally, people accepted that I was seeing—that I was looking at details—and all of a sudden, my status changed from one who was nearly blind to one who was nearly sighted! My work on my vision began changing the ingrained thoughts and beliefs of the people around me – that yes, a blind boy can learn to see—and it fueled me with encouragement to continue improving my vision. Years later, I am now not only driving with an unrestricted California Driver's License, but I am also helping clients worldwide with visual disorders out of my non-profit organization, the School for Self-Healing.
Miriam, one of my most influential mentors early in life taught me something that helped me to improve even more: movement must always be round. Balance of the eyes, balance of the mind, and balance in the way we move are all inter-related and inter-dependent on each other in improving the human system as a whole. Miriam said that cells are round and that our movements need to imitate the way cells move. The exercises and movements we do have an impact on both the macro and cellular levels. Movement is life. Whenever the body resists improvement, there are other possibilities that can help you to move forward. In fact, the body can improve quite a bit.
The eyes—I already knew their potential. We must not forget that we have incredible potential to improve our eyes. Sit back, pause, and take a look. Accepting what you do see—maybe it's a blur—brings balance to your mind. This is the optimal place to begin natural vision improvement exercises. The world has become conditioned to believe that eyes cannot improve, especially in a case like mine, but this is simply not true. I am no different than anyone, and vision can improve.
Meir Schneider, PhD, LMT, founder of the School for Self-Healing, is an international author, holistic mind-body educator, pioneer therapist, and inspiring speaker. His current publications include Movement for Self-Healing, The Natural Vision Improvement Kit, and Yoga for Your Eyes.