by Jack Heggie
For good action, the visual system must be able to locate an object in space in relation to the body. In order to do this, the brain utilizes information not only from the eyes but also from the kinesthetic sense — that is, from the sensations of movement of the body. Thus, to a certain degree, we see with our whole body and not just with our eyes. In the following technique, we will explore and improve this function of the self.
Now, take your yardstick and prop it up so that it is vertical and the top of the stick is just below eye level when you are standing. Arrange the stick and its props so that it is two or three feet in front of a bland wall. Cover your non-dominant eye with the eye patch and stand about five or six feet away from the stick in such a way that an imaginary line drawn from your eye through the stick to the wall meets the wall at a right angle. Put some object on the floor by one of your feet to mark your place so that you can o the whole technique without changing your position relative to the stick.
Take your place facing the stick and fixate your dominant eye on the top of the stick. While you fixate the stick, begin to shift your weight toward the side of the eye that is open and the come back to center. Continue to shift your weight to one side like this and attend to scanning your complete body.
Make sure that you continue to face straight toward the yardstick and just move your weight from one side to the other. Do not allow your body to turn to the side.
As you scan your body, notice how your weight shifts from the middle, over to one foot, and then back to the middle. Feel how the pressure shifts on the soles of your feet. Notice your knees. Do they bend at all as you shift your weight? How do your hips move? Your shoulders? Can you feel your eye moving? Does you breathing continue at a normal pace? As you move, be aware of your peripheral vision. Notice what you can see all around the edges of your visual field as you move.
After you have done this for one to two minutes, continue to shift your weight as before, but close your eyes and look at the yardstick in your imagination. Shift your weight toward the side of the eye that is open and then back to center about five or six times, and then stop and open your eyes. Are you still looking at the yardstick? Repeat this sequence several times until the position of the imaginary stick coincides with the position of the real stick when you open yours eyes.
Now begin to shift your weight to the other side, away from the side of the eye that is open. As before, notice how your body moves and how the pressure changes on the soles of your feet. Continue to move like this for one or two minute, keeping your eye on the top corner of the yardstick.
Continue to shift your weight, but now close your eyes and look at the stick in your imagination. As before, go back and forth several times with your eyes closed and then stop, open your eyes, and check to see if the position of the imaginary stick coincides with the position of the real stick. Repeat this several times.
Now combine the two previous movements and begin to shift your weight left and right, and keep your eye on the yardstick. Continue for one to two minutes and notice how your body moves and how your weight shifts form one foot to the other and back. Can you watch the stick and pay attention to the sensations of movements and weight shifting at the same time? Remember to pay attention to what you can see with your peripheral vision from time to time.
Now continue the previous movement, but close your eyes and track the yardstick in your imagination. As before, make five or six moves with your eyes closed and then stop moving, open your eyes, and notice if you are actually looking at the yardstick. Be sure to pay attention to the sensations of movement in your body as you track the imaginary stick. Repeat this sequence five or six times and then stop.
Take off your eye patch and look around. Look at objects up close and at a distance. Look with one eye open, then the other, then with both eyes open. How does the world look? Close your eyes and direct your attention to your eyes and face. Which eye feels bigger? Move your closed eyes a little bit from side to side. Does one eye feel as if it moves more easily?
By observing the mismatches and changes, you cement the learning that has occurred and begin to function at an enhanced level of visual/kinesthetic integration.
Patch your dominant eye. Return to the place that you marked on the floor and repeat the previous movements with the non-dominant eye open and watching the stick. Do you learn with the non-dominant eye as fast as with the dominant eye? After you have finished working with the non-dominant eye, take off the patch and view the world again.
Now return to your place on the floor several feet away from the yardstick. With both eyes, look at the top of the stick and begin to shift your weight left and right. Watch the stick and notice how your weight shifts left and right on the soles of your feet and how your body moves. Continue to look at the stick and be aware of how far you can see to the left and right and up and down.
After two or three minutes, continue to move, but close your eyes and track the stick in your imagination. After shifting your weight several times with your eyes closed, stop, open your eyes, and note if your are really looking at the stick. Repeat this sequence several times until the position of the imaginary stick and the position of the real stick coincide.
Now, shift your weight form left to right a few times with your eyes closed while watching the imaginary stick, and then stop moving, with your weight in the middle. Keeping your eyes closed, step forward and grasp the yardstick.
Make a single grasp and stop, and then open your eyes. If you don’t reach the stick on your first try, go back to your place on the floor, shift your weight left and right with your eyes open, and then closed, and then again attempt to grasp the stick. Be sure to start from the same place on the floor each time.
As you go for the yardstick, do not make any special effort to hit it. Have the attitude that you would have if your eyes were open. If you proceed in this way, you should find that it is easy to grasp the stick.
After you have grasped the yardstick several times, return to your place and shift your weight left and right a few times with your eyes open, and then closed. Is there any change in your internal representation of the stick-that is, is the imaginary stick that you see with your closed different in any way?
Walk around and look at the world as you move. Has your perception of it changed?
If you try this technique again, stand a little further away from the yardstick and, at the end, try to grasp the stick from this increased distance. How far away can you start and still grasp the stick?
I have found that utilizing these techniques over a period of time often results in improved binocularity, eye/body coordination, appreciation of colors, and overall visual ability, as experienced by both myself and my clients. I believe that techniques of this sort can be a valuable addition to optometric vision therapy programs.
Total Body Vision is a practical demonstration of he application of these principles.