Improving vision naturally with Marc Grossman

April 8, 2013 · 17 comments

in Inspiration, Making art, Seeking holistic health

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Seeing things clearly can be such an emotional issue — literally. That’s what I’ve learned from my holistic eye doctor, Marc Grossman. He’s the guy who taught me that my severe nearsightedness is all about letting go, while people who are farsighted have issues with focusing.

We first met back in the late ’90s. I was about to turn 40, in need of reading glasses, and resisting what seemed like a rite of passage to getting older. Squinting at cereal box labels and even the newspaper was so depressing!  My hope was that a natural practitioner would have a magic solution.

Somehow, I heard about Marc and made an appointment. As someone who has been wearing thick glasses since the age of nine, I’ve been inside a lot of optometrist offices. At first glance, Marc’s  set-up looked pretty ordinary. But after he did a fairly routine eye check-up, he said there actually was a way to avoid reading glasses.

“Oh, we can take care of it in a few months with eye exercises, no problem,” he said. “But what about your nearsightedness — do you want to do anything about that?”

What? Was he nuts? My vision was about 20/650, in the legally blind category. But over the next few years, I spent a few daily minutes on eye exercises at home. My routine also included a weekly visit to his office for an hour of vision therapy that involved specialized drills. Today, I’m in the 20/275 range. At age 56, I still don’t use reading glasses.

As a person with no guts, interest or money for laser eye surgery, holistic eye therapy has been a great gift.  It’s not just the vision improvement but the self-discovery. Marc always says that eyes are the windows to the soul because they’re also an extension of our brains. The eye’s retina is actually made of a specialized form of brain tissue, creating a powerful interaction between seeing and thinking. No wonder sight is the most developed of the five human senses.

When my vision started improving, I shared with Marc my sadness — and fury — over how my parents forced me out of my natural left-handedness. While I write as a southpaw, they broke me in every over way. At that point in my mid-40s, I wanted my handedness back. But struggling to use my left hand to open doors and to eat with a fork or chopsticks was very awkward and tiring.

“Are you interested at all in drawing?” he asked, in what seemed like such a non-sequiter. But in fact, art was the solution! He said it would help if I could take a picture of something, turn it upside down — and then draw it. To learn how to do that, he recommended “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” by Betty Edwards.

That book led me to my inner artist. Drawing from illustrations that were upside down freed me from trying to copy a picture of someone’s face or a landscape. Instead, I was simply looking at the curve of lines and shapes. They were forms and nothing more. In other words, pure vision. Soon I was taking painting classes, drawing classes and recently, comic book illustration. After an emotionally crushing childhood where my parents forbid art classes, I was finally, in middle age, on the journey of my dreams.

It would be nice to brag that my eyesight has improved to 20/80 or even 20/200. But after my divorce in 2001, the vision recovery plateaued. I’ve let go of a lot and maybe it’s enough! To maintain my eyesight, I still do Marc’s eye exercises because like any good workout, they keep me limber and healthy.

For daily living, Marc has me outfitted in contact lenses that are slightly weaker than what I need. This means the edges of things are a wee bit blurry. Not seeing everything in sharp focus is a blessing. Think about it…is it really important to constantly focus? That’s a recipe for eye strain and emotional exhaustion.

Then there are the special prescription glasses that blur my vision even more. I wear them when I’m walking my dog Rosebud, doing the laundry or cooking simple dishes. Everything turns into true soft focus. And why not? Tell me, do I really need to see the edge of every letter in “S-T-O-P,” especially since me and Rosebud walk past that sign every day? When we get back from our stroll and I take off the glasses, magic happens. Everything suddenly looks naturally crisper and sharper, aha!

 
Marc works out of the Hudson Valley, which is the name for the ‘burbs just north of New York City. His offices are in Rye, Somers and New Paltz. Info about his philosophy, rates, etc. are at Dr.Grossman2020.com.

If you can’t get to him, he has books. My favorite one is “Magic Eye Beyond 3D: Improve Your Vision.” Magic Eye refers to a very cool visual trick. The book is filled with images that look like pages of tightly-patterned wallpaper. There’s a specific way to relax and look at the pages, which suddenly unveils the hidden, 3D images within each of the repetitively patterned pages.

If you’d like to practice the technique called for in that exercise, Marc has a free exercise e-booklet that he’ll email you from this link on NaturalEyeCare.com.

This website also features the following video with the three most basic exercises I initially learned. The hot dog is my favorite, because it’s fun and feels  soooo good. All three exercises offer relief from hours of computer-weary eye strain.

I’ll leave you with a few parting thoughts…

Marc, who is a Queens boy, an acupuncturist and a Stuyvesant High School alum like me, has been around plenty of Asian folks. When I asked him why so many Asians are four-eyed from an early age, he said that the close detail work and the pressure to be a perfectionist are part of the reason. But wearing eyeglasses is also a form of armor, a physical shield that enables the wearer to keep the world at bay.

It’s a theory that makes total sense of my childhood. When I started with glasses, I was a miserable, vulnerable little kid under the tyranny of control freak tiger parents. They forced me to study, study, study and pursue the path they set for me. Clearly, those thick lenses were a way to literally get them outta my face.

So that’s my moment-by-moment challenge. As an adult, I can have my own vision for life. The control is in my hands.

And from there, it’s all about letting go. xo.

 

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 betty ming liu April 8, 2013 at 7:37 am

If this topic looks familiar to some longtime readers of my blog, it’s because a version of it was posted years ago on the original blog. But when I migrated to this WordPress website, I lost it. So now it’s back, with all kinds of new and improved links. :)

Also, Marc is a great believer in healthy eating for good eyes. That means a regimen low or preferably free of sugar, gluten, fried food, caffeine and all the other crap we love!

2 Toby April 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

Ah, but what exercises can we take to develop the infinitely more difficult vision problem of seeing through the shams and illusions of this tired old world? Even more difficult – to develop the gift of “seeing that which cannot be seen and of hearing that which cannot be heard” – like love?
Forgive me for the preceding – it’s early in the morning and I’m probably still in a semi-dream state! LOL!

3 betty ming liu April 8, 2013 at 8:30 am

Toby, dream state is the best state! And here’s the point….by addressing the emotional issues behind my vision problems, I am able to see through the shams and illusions! I truly see my life so much more clearly. It’s an organic process that takes time but the cumulative impact is definitely there. :)

4 Betsy April 8, 2013 at 9:32 am

WOW, I had nooo idea there was even such a thing as holistic eye care. The closest I’ve come to knowing anything about the possibility was when a favorite yoga instructor of mine asked us to look ahead down the length of our bodies while in savasana, saying it helps strengthen the eyes and improve vision, thought she acknowledged that it probably sounded strange to most people. I used to LOVE Magic Eye, though back then it was of course, just a game. Thanks Betty!

5 betty ming liu April 8, 2013 at 10:15 am

Betsy, there are so many health care options out there! I can’t even count the number of people who have told me that just by doing weekly yoga, all kinds of physical ailments cleared up. I rely on regular yoga too…

And you hit on the point of these eye exercises — Magic Eye is fun AND healing. Marc’s other eye exercises are so interesting too. I actually enjoyed visiting Marc’s office for therapy, where he treated all sorts of issues, including cataracts and people with vision-related disabilities. Most of the exercises were fun and all were fascinating. One favorite involved a record player-type turntable with a surface full of little holes for pegs. The object of the exercise was to fit little colored pegs into the little holes as the contraption rotated. Other exercises were variations on the hot dog that involved looking at two identical pictures while alternating between merging them visually into one image before my eyes. Crazy!

6 Paris April 8, 2013 at 10:20 am

Betty I’m pretty nearsighted too and there is an eye exercise I discovered months ago in an article that really has helped my vision.
Find a focal point at least 5 ft away (my usual point is a picture of my daughter). Close your eyes and roll them 3 complete circles to the left, 3 to the right then open your eyes and focus for 30 seconds on your point. Do this 2 more times. I always notice that the focal point seems a little clearer by the end of the exercise :)

7 betty ming liu April 8, 2013 at 10:25 am

Paris, I just did your exercise — nice. It reminds me of some of Marc’s exercises because there really are benefits in just making those eyeballs circulate in their sockets. The problem with computer work is that our poor orbs are locked in one position. Stretching is important for the whole body and the eyes. Thanks so much for sharing another option!

8 bigWOWO April 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Betty,

This is great! Thanks for sharing.

I’d seen advertisements for eye-improvement exercises, but I didn’t know anyone who actually used them, so it’s great to read about this. I too am not a good candidate for eye surgery, so this helps a lot.

About the Chinese/Asian thing–there was a study that compared Chinese Americans with Chinese Australians, and it seems that we have it a lot worse than they do. Their eyes are much better. Check it out here:

http://www.bigwowo.com/2010/07/why-do-asian-people-have-bad-eyesight/

Their theory is that Chinese Americans spend too much time indoors and away from natural sunlight, which affects our level of dopamine, which causes us to become nearsighted. Chinese people in Australia are exposed to more sunlight, and so, according to the theory, they also tend to be less nearsighted than Chinese Americans.

If it’s a dopamine problem, perhaps that too could be caused by some sort of emotional or perfectionist environment. From what I’ve seen, not only are Chinese Australians exposed to more sunlight than we are, but they also tend to be less stressed and uptight!

9 betty ming liu April 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm

bigWOWO,I just took the poll on your blog post. Thanks for sharing! Surprising that so many of your voters wrote off the bad eyesight issue as being in the genes. A reflection of deeply ingrained poor self-image, if you ask me. I voted for the second most popular choice, that Asians spend too much time studying — as more of a root cause than the dopamine issue. If Asian parents didn’t force their kids to spend so much time taking obnoxious test prep courses, then the kids would indeed get more dopamines. The kids might see what it feels like to laugh and enjoy random play. Australia strikes me as a big outdoors kind of place….interesting to get your point of view on all this. Always nice when you stop by. :)

10 bigWOWO April 9, 2013 at 2:55 am

I agree, Betty! Overstudying can kill a person. Both their eyesight and their aspirations.

I think I mentioned in the post that my grandparents ALL have (or had) better vision than me. It could be genes, but I can’t imagine our genes have deteriorated so quickly in just a couple generations.

Thanks again!

11 betty ming liu April 9, 2013 at 7:02 am

bigWOWO, we all just need to get away from our desks and laptops more. Thanks again to you too, for linking to the post on your blog. The more we talk about this stuff the clearer things will get — pun intended. :)

12 Pol April 15, 2013 at 6:30 am

What do you think about eye exercises shown on http://eyepitstop.com ?

13 betty ming liu April 15, 2013 at 7:08 am

Pol, what a nice link. The exercises remind me of versions of the basic warm-ups that Marc offers. (Although, I don’t think it’s possible to roll each of your eyeballs in a different direction, which is illustrated in one of the slides on the link!) If you can find a specialist like Marc, he can take holistic eye care to a whole ‘nother level beyond this. When I used to do those eye therapy sessions in the back room, there were also people there with everything from cataract issues to mentally challenged folks. Amazing stuff. Thanks for dropping by!

14 Samantha Harrison April 21, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I am not sure I believe in eye exercises. I did them faithfully for a while but no improvement. My eyes were too bad. I was almost legally blind. In 2004, I had LASIK eye surgery with Dr. Stephen Orlin of the Scheie Eye Institute and I still have him as my ophthalmologist. I see better than 20/20 after surgery and can drive, everything without glasses. It was miraculous and the best thing I ever did. If you find that the holistic approach does not work for you, then by all means consider LASIK. If you are a good candidate (Dr. Orlin has a very comprehensive screening process and if you don’t meet all the criteria, even ONE, he won’t do it), it will be a Godsend for you. Even my posture improved as I was learning forward unconsciously in an effort to see better.

15 Skye April 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

At around 8 years old, I started wearing glasses. I did eye exercises then to improve my vision and they helped. I stopped wearing glasses regularly in my teens out of negligence and feeling they cramped my style (or at least, any style I was trying to develop). I hated the eyeglasses that my parent’s insurance paid for.

Only in the last few years did I start wearing glasses daily and get my eyes checked regularly. When I went to see an eye doctor after not having my vision checked for close to a decade, he could tell I had not worn eyeglasses for a long time. I only went to see him because another doc told me to; he thought a medical condition I was dealing with had affected my eyesight. He was right. I wear my glasses regularly since then, even though I always thought I could see so well without them. Maybe I should have kept up the exercises I did every day after school way back then. I now notice a difference in my vision when I am not wearing glasses, and the thought of being so dependent upon them is kind of sad.

The only reason I wear my glasses now, which I am kind of ashamed to admit, is because I use them as a mask. The same way, Betty, you mentioned that wearing glasses was a way to get your parents ”outta” your face, I wear them to kind of cover my face. They are a sort of shield and an accessory to a down in the dumps perspective I had about my self and my looks when dealing with illness. It might be stereotypical, but wearing was a way to top off my appearance and match an awkward look. I hide behind them some times, many times. A part of me knows that eyeglasses are not synonomous with unattractiveness, but another part of me reasons that wearing them and what they stand for is what I’m supposed to do and look like. Is my vision getting better? I have no clue, because I can’t see past my vanity.

16 betty ming liu April 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Skye, you are so honest. Thank you for sharing a pain that many of us can relate to. So my holistic eye doctor is right about eyeglasses as armor. But you know what? Nothing wrong with that if it helps us to get through the day. You have beautiful eyes and the world needs to see them!

Meanwhile, glasses have come such a long way since I was a kid. I love how so many people use them as a fashion accessory. My fantasy specs will probably remain a fantasy….I found them in a nearby optical store. They’re black, and ridiculously studded with tons of rhinestones. Without lenses, they already cost $800!!!!

Cheer up, Skye. The “awkward” look is a whole new category now too. You can rock that as part of your literary hipster image. :)

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