A Letter from Wales
by Gruffud Jones
A year ago, I wrote about the alarming deterioration of my sight which led me to the Bates Method, and the substantial improvements and renewed hope which resulted from my first contact with the practice of natural vision. Where am I twelve months on?
First of all, let me say that there are times when I have almost felt myself to be a fraud. Why? After the first few months of using the Bates Method under the guidance of my teacher, Robert Holborow, the vision of my left returned to the level at which it had been before the events described in my last article. Gradually, also, my right eye started to come back ‘on-line’ after twenty years of neglect. In two years since then, there has been no deterioration. Some- times, therefore, I find it difficult to remember that such a traumatic episode of my life ever really happened. I must have imagined it all.
This was all going through my mind recently when I found myself taking one of the students at the college where I currently work to an eye clinic in North Wales (he had contracted an eye infection whilst working on an acting project). As he was being treated, I browsed through various pamphlets in the waiting room outlining different eye conditions.
One title stood out. ‘Macular Degeneration’. My condition. I opened the leaflet and saw drawings of images illustrating the same central blemishes and distortions which I had experienced. No doubt about it. My condition was real. I read the text that accompanied the images. It told me that in cases such as mine deterioration was inevitable and irreversible. Not my experience. If the condition of my retinas is real, then the improvement in my vision is also real. Perhaps the lesson of this encounter was: "Never forget", or, at any rate, "Never become complacent".
I said earlier that there had been no further deterioration. Have there been any further improvements? Yes, there have - perhaps more difficult for me to evaluate than those which came from my first experiences of the Bates Method, but equally exciting. Let me give you a few impressions: In a number of Bates’ sessions, Robert has talked about not snatching at what I see, but rather letting go and allowing observation to happen. He uses the image of a train going past a station Rather than straining every muscle to leap on board, let it go by. Relax. Observe. I understand the idea, but find it difficult to practice.
Then I found myself ill at home for a week. Ironically, I always find it easier to unwind when I’m ill. I can do nothing, so I worry about nothing. In this state I palm. Images begin to appear without my striving for them. Exotic animals, vivid, three-dimensional and colourful, like computer enhanced animations - they constantly change their shape, transforming slowly into birds, dancers, kaleidoscopic flowers. I do not control this, nor do I seek to control it; I simply sit back and sec the images rolling on.
This exhilarating experience, ‘letting the train go by’, is stored in my memory. Some day it will teach me something new. Later that same week, I go Out for my first walk in the sunshine since the illness - a natural vision walk, no lens, enjoying colour, movement, real, solid shapes.
My world is still blurred, but at a level of sight that I would not have believed possible two years ago - indeed, I would not have had the confidence to attempt such a walk two years ago. I walk around the corner of my street and head for the park. Suddenly, I see the name of a car clearly in the centre of my field of vision. I see the car itself, the street with other cars going by, and, m the periphery, houses and the park. I am aware of the whole, but the name is clearest. I feel that I am in the world and connected to it. This is my first experience of Dr Bates’ ‘Central Fixation’, combined with peripheral awareness. (The car, by the way, was a Volvo. Well, why not think big!).
One final example. This one somewhat unnerved me. The concept of saccadic movement - the rapid, lateral vibration which happens when the eyes are functioning normally - had been explained to me. Whilst doing the long swing, I had sometimes felt hint of what that might be. I woke up early one morning. I sometimes like to sleep with the curtains open, and my room was already light. When I opened my eyes, the room appeared to be vibrating backwards and forwards at great speed. My eyes felt like two marbles being rattled in a jam jar. It was strange, but not unpleasant until I started to think about it, and then the movement stopped.
When I told Robert about it, he said that the same thing had first happened to him whilst having a shower. You never know when Dr Bates will strike! So far, that has been my only experience of this state - but it did happen, and can therefore happen again.
An image now occurs to me for this past twelve months. It is as if I have travelled far and am resting on a plateau from which I occasionally glimpse higher peaks, and I know that some day soon, I will climb a little further the more to enjoy the beauty of the view. As Robert once said to me: "There’s no turning back".