As we become more focused on purposeful activities of any sort, we focus our eyes more and more sharply. In the midst of high stress, we develop tunnel vision of a shocking degree (see law enforcement writings). But hard eyes don’t always give us the best results; Extreme focus can be blinding.
Do not look at your opponent’s sword, or you will be slain by his sword. Do not look into his eyes, or you will be drawn into his eyes. Do not look at him, or your spirit will be distracted.
– Morihei Uyeshiba, Founder of Aikido
We are especially blinded to the world if we routinely hold hard eye focus regardless of what we are doing. In effect, as far as our body and brain go, we are holding ourselves in high alert, ready to battle mode. How can this be? All I want to do is get some stuff off my things to do list? That is easy to do. We make each activity something else to: “get out of the way,” “knock off the list”, “get over and done with,” “behind us,” etc. We take this ready-for-battle energy and turned it into the energy for getting things done, large and small.
The body responds in an opposite way if we take some actions that the body is undergoing at the moment, and reverse them. We can slow breathing, slow down our movements, ease our muscles, and reduce our thinking, and, sure enough, the body will go from a state of higher energy into one of more relaxed stance.
From Hard Eyes to Soft Eyes
The goal is loosened up our eyes, both in the midst of a stressful situation as well as generally. Soften eyes comes from tuning down sharp focus on a specific spot to a more open gazing. Peripheral vision is a perfect counter balance.
1. Look at some object at arm’s length or slightly beyond.
2. Notice how you are focused on the object.
3. Now shift your awareness to what you can see in your peripheral vision (no turning of your head, of course).
4. Keep to the sideways awareness for a while then slowly move your vision forward by sweeping gently forward your focus. Do this back and forwards for a few trials.
Now try this in your daily life. As you walk, mix forward-looking to the soft, more diffused viewing affordable by placing your consciousness on your peripheral vision. Play with this for a few days.
When the next stressful event happens, remind yourself to try this.
Les Fehmi, the well-known biofeedback expert, developed Open Focus several decades. Open Focus is a mix of several things, but it involves awareness of diffuse wide-seeing over sharp focus. Fehmi has seen that as people learned how to widen their view, their brain and body let go of gripping day-to-day life, emotional and physical pain. Replacing that was a more restful state that was more open to the moment, open to new opportunities, and generally left people brighter, clearer, and calmer.
Open Focus Training
Effects of life-event stress and hardiness on peripheral vision in a real-life stress situation
The Power of Peripheral Vision
Soft eyes in horseback riding
Excellent collection of writings on soft eyes
Soft eyes and academic study
Peripheral vision in Jiulong