Mind and Vision
Anthony Attenborough
Saturday 25th October 2008
"We can consciously think thoughts which disturb circulation and lower visual power; we can also consciously think thoughts that will restore normal circulation and thereby help to cure errors of refraction..." This statement of Dr. Bates both arouses confidence in the healing power of a free thought and challenges ingrained assumptions which stifle and block the healing power which had been aroused a moment before.

Maybe it is possible that this statement is not only a challenge, but an invitation to enquire into what lies behind. Such a statement has weight which can come only from experience gathered over years, experience which none of us who work with the Bates Method can directly share.

As it happens, this statement makes a good springboard from which to search more deeply into the nature of mind and the link between mind and vision. Such an enquiry will be worthwhile if only to show the limits of what passes for thought in day-to-day life in our time.

In this quotation, it is the word "conscious" that arouses the first question. What, in fact, is consciousness? And what does Bates himself mean by that word? Then, how is circulation affected and on what does thought act? Is it just thought that is acting, or, are some emotions and impulses having an influence as well? What is the role of memory and imagination in such a process? How is the visual power inflenced? Is it a function of ordinary thinking to affect the workings of the body? Or, is a deeper and broader mind implied? What, actually, is the link between circulation and seeing?

Is it possible that in some part of the mind an interest has been stirred by deepening the search? It is as though the mind feeds on meaning and meaning is needed, together with interest, for the practise of the Bates Method to become a living process. For those of us who teach the method these questions take on a vital importance.

Therefore, this presentation is aimed at stimulating an active searching together into the deeper meaning underlying the subject of mind and vision, rather than a passive listening to the flow of words.

This is especially important in order to understand better the role of exercises in the practise of learning how to see.

It is easy to forget what exercises are for: practical means to become open to and nourished by seeing and sensing, and with that, gradually to become able to stay and be here now, the only moment when seeing is seen, as opposed to doing exercises for results, which don't come and lead only to disappointment and boredom.

Bates often uses the word "mind", with the implied assumption that the meaning of this word is clear to all his readers. It would seem likely that what he means by this word is "instrument for thinking". Then, one can ask: where do all the various emotions and impulses live? In Buddhism, it is said that everything is mind. This saying calls into question what is believed to be my self, or, as it is often thought of, ego, which considers itself to be the measure of all things in the whole world, even God Himself, everything being called to account by the pride and vanity of the ego.

Coming back to the question of exercises, it becomes more clear that exercises for vision are exercises for the mind (or attention), sensing, co-ordination and movement. Practised with interest, such exercises, as mentioned above, give nourishment to the mind, and thus, seeing follows by the way.

Behind the mind is silence.

This silence is the same as that which Dr. Bates calls "black" and which he returns to so often.

Silence, free attention, wide awareness: are these the roots of seeing, that seeing which Bates evokes so eloquently through his words?

Perhaps it is from these hints that we may be able to search together to renew the wonder of open seeing.

Anthony Attenborough trained as an artist specialising in stained glass and then practised and taught in a leading art school. He trained in the Bates Method and then in Kinesiology and has developed a Bates Kinesiology program. Anthony is always extending his practice and study to deepen his knowledge and experience for himself and to share with others.