Back at the beginning of the summer, I had an interesting conversation with a couple of summer camp instructors, during training week, about the brain’s untapped capacities. I am very good at using my intellect to control my emotions. I can choose to be happy or sad or jealous or whatever. I can’t always do it at the push of a button, but a long time ago I decided not to be jealous any more. And then I did a lot of research about jealousy and how it works, and spent a lot of time deciding how I would choose to respond differently to situations that had in the past made me jealous. It worked, and I rarely get jealous, and that was a completely intellectual choice. So this conversation kind of blew me away when I realized that lots of people are doing this very same thing in order to change the way their bodies actually work. Like, I had already figured out how to use my brain in that way, and it had oddly just never occurred to me to apply it to this other arena.
The actual conversation was about gluten allergies, which I might have but not severely enough for me to want to give up bread. The guy sitting next to me said, “Ya, I used to have a pretty bad gluten allergy.” And that phrasing isn’t common…you know, people usually either have an allergy or they don’t. So I asked him about it. And he had just made an intellectual decision that he wouldn’t have this allergy. And then he did a lot of work in order to exercise that decision, using his mind to explain to his body that this substance that it didn’t recognize (the gluten) wasn’t harmful and didn’t necessitate an allergic reaction. And it worked, and now he eats wheat whenever he wants to. Someone else chimed in on the conversation and seconded this idea of the body’s ability to change its basic functions. I was particularly interested because I was still recovering from a partially torn ligament in my knee, and was worried that I would re-injure it during summer camp. This second person (whose name is Richie) said, “I hope you can focus on the recovery and not the injury.” Which was precisely what I needed to hear, but this story isn’t really about my knee (although it’s doing fine, thanks).
So this story just sort of stewed around in my brain for a little while during the summer without me really thinking too much about it. Then a month ago or so, I started thinking about my inconvenient caffeine addiction. I like coffee, and I like to drink it every day that I have a chance. But I don’t like *having* to drink it in order to avoid the looming specter of the Caffeine Headache. So I was gathering my courage to do the semi-annual detox, when I mentioned that to Richie. “Nettle tea,” he said. Apparently, long-term use of caffeine messes up your adrenal system, and nettle tea is really good for your adrenal system. As well as being good for, well, pretty much everything (allergies, histamine reactions, arthritis , rheumatism, anti-inflammatory, dandruff and psoriasis, lowers blood pressure, and also contains all sorts of vitamins and minerals and amino acids, and even seratonin). So I fired off an order to Mountain Rose Herbs, where you can buy a pound of dried nettle leaf for about $8. Nettle grows wild and abundantly around here, so I figured I’d start with an order to make it simple, and then if I really liked it, I would go to the hassle of collecting and drying it myself. So I quit the coffee cold turkey, and drank a quart of nettle tea a day for about a week. No headache. Not even a little bitty one. No real withdrawal symptoms at all actually.
The nettle tea is super easy to make. You scoop about a cup of the dried herb into a quart jar and then pour near-boiling water over it to fill up the jar. Then you leave it to steep for 4-8 hours. I would just make it at night and it would be ready in the morning. Then you could strain it if you are less lazy than me. Or you can just drink it out of the jar and swallow any little bits of nettle that come along. The nettle sort of falls to the bottom and is great for the compost pile.
Okay, so I was pretty sold on the nettle tea idea. But, wait, we still aren’t around to the point yet. Where was I headed? Oh, right, my eyes. This post is actually about my eyes, which I know I haven’t mentioned yet, but sometimes you just gotta wait for it all to come around, you know. So anyway, I wear glasses. Don’t worry, this is all connected.
So I’m at knitting group a couple weeks ago, and there’s a knitter there who normally wears glasses, but she wasn’t this one day, and she was holding the knitting really close to her face to see it. Someone asked if she lost her glasses. She explained that she had broken them, but it was really good timing and she decided to not replace them. She had been reading this doctor’s writing about the medical community’s tendency to slap eyeglasses on everyone at younger and younger ages and how we basically train people’s eyes to work with glasses, rather than teaching them to exercise in ways that will increase their eye strength. So she had been going without glasses for about two weeks, and she was noticing a significant increase in her vision. She had a back-up pair of prescription glasses that she would occasionally put on, and in just two weeks she was to the point where putting on the prescription glasses hurt her eyes, like the way it hurt when you put on your grandma’s reading glasses when you were a kid. During this conversation, I started remembering how I came to get glasses.
I was in 7th grade, and I was complaining about headaches a lot and missing school, so my stepmom took me to the eye doctor to see if vision was the cause of the headaches. The thing was, I *wasn’t* having headaches. I was claiming them in order to get out of going to school, but I wasn’t really having headaches at all, except for the ones that you get from extreme boredom. But it wasn’t like I could back out of it, so I went to the eye doctor, and felt very vindicated when he said I needed glasses (my stepmom was suspicious of my headaches already, so I could rub it in her face that I *did* actually need glasses). I wasn’t yet skeptical enough that I would question the prescription of a doctor based on my own experience, so I wore the glasses from then until now. Or rather, until about two weeks ago. When I decided that if I didn’t need them back then, I don’t need them now either.
I have decided that I will have clear vision without glasses or surgery. This is a similar process to deciding that I won’t be jealous. I don’t expect the change to happen overnight, but I feel good that it is already happening. I’ve done a bunch of research about the particular kind of correction my eyes are supposed to need. Actually, I had forgotten that the main thing that’s wrong with my eyes is an astigmatism until yesterday, when I really started to feel that I could tell the difference between the way each eye was acting. I could actually feel the eye muscles pulling in different ways that felt a little odd, so I started researching astigmatism. I learned that something I’ve suspected for a while is probably true. Astigmatism can be created by the way one uses one’s eyes. I developed the astigmatism after 2 years of wearing my bangs completely covering my left eye, in 7th and 8th grade. (Hello Aqua Net and the ratting comb! It must be the 80’s!)
And I’ve learned some really interesting things about astigmatism and the way people’s eyes work. It turns out that, depending on the direction that the lens is skewed, either vertical or horizontal lines will be blurry, while the opposite will be clear. I hadn’t noticed this before, but when I tried it out, I can totally see vertical lines much more clearly than horizontal lines. The blur is actually created by a slightly doubled image hitting the retina. And I noticed the other day, as I was watching a seagull fly towards me, that there is a certain point in the distance where I actually see a distinct and clear double vision. At first, I thought there were two seagulls flying towards me. This has made me think about the idea of “standardized” vision in general. Who decided that everyone should be able to see the same, anyway? Might there be benefits to seeing the way I see?
So, I imagine that my eyes were more malleable when I was 13 than they are now, but they are certainly still changing and developing. I’m choosing to develop them to see without glasses, rather than continuing to train them to see with glasses. I’m doing a couple things to support that process, including using wide-angle vision as often as possible (this also makes me more aware of my surroundings while I’m driving, so has some nice side benefits). And then I’ve done some research on herbal support for vision….whadya know. Nettle tea is good for your eyes too! I haven’t had my glasses on in two weeks, and while it’s definitely an adjustment to seeing differently than I’m used to, I also don’t feel at all disadvantaged. I work in front of a computer most days, and I haven’t had any headaches nor experienced any more eyestrain than I usually do.
I wonder what I will be able to see in a few more weeks. Do you think that you see differently than other people? Do you think that you actually see different things than other people? How would you know for sure?