Bates Method International

What is Central Fixation?

Redwood Trees with Sun squeezing through inbetween
Two Redwood trees and canopy in Muir Woods, Northern California

The concept of Central Fixation has both an anatomical and a neurological basis, and in order to understand it fully it is important to have a basic understanding of how the eye – and particularly the retina – is structured.

Bates observed that:

The eye is a miniature camera, corresponding in many ways very exactly to the inanimate machine used in photography. In one respect, however, there is a great difference between the two instruments. The sensitive plate of the camera is equally sensitive in every part; but the retina has a point of maximum sensitiveness, and every other part is less sensitive in proportion as it is removed from that point. This point of maximum sensitiveness is called the "fovea centralis," literally the "central pit."
W. H. Bates: Perfect Sight Without Glasses 1920 Pg. 114

The key is to recognise that the fovea centralis has an actual, physical presence on the retina and no matter what the condition of the sight, short of physical damage, that point is always there and always receiving light.

When the sight is normal the centre of the visual field is richly detailed and easy to maintain. The mind's interest is continually rewarded with information that is specific and focused and it follows that the process of 'central fixation' is as natural and as effortless as breathing.

When the sight is abnormal the centre of the visual field is invariably indistinct. It no longer provides enough detail with which the mind can easily engage and so there begins a discontinuity; the co-ordination between the mind and the eye is compromised, and the mind is left free to wander while the eyes become orphans.

To compare the two states: relaxed sight and impaired sight, they produce widely different approaches to the use of the eyes, both physically and neurologically. The Bates method aims to address this disparity of use, and while the compromised eye and mind may be well entrenched in habit, the process of seeing naturally is still imprinted underneath - as a memory or an innate knowing. Additionally the mind can be encouraged to respond in a healthy way to the light that is being received by the fovea, even if it is not yet detailed; in so doing the connection between the fovea centralis and the mind gains in integrity. It may help to understand that the eyes are two areas of the brain turned outward to the world.

The ability to distinguish the centre of the vision implies the ability to distinguish the non-central vision; and recognise that for every single point that is directly observed there are an infinite number of points that are not being directly observed, right to the far edges of your periphery.

In short, Central Fixation is not solely about the centre of your sight, nor solely about the vision: 'Central Fixation' is by definition about the balance of the visual field and the balance of the mind: that which is central to both, being clearly distinct and discernable from that which is not central.

When the eye possesses central fixation it not only possesses perfect sight, but it is perfectly at rest and can be used indefinitely without fatigue.
W H Bates: Perfect Sight Without Glasses 1920 pg 117