It is time to start Chapter Two of my blog. I believe there will be many more chapters. However, it feels like Chapter One has come to a close.
Chapter One of my personal blog started with the idea that I would report my observations on the role of nutritional factors and activities on my own intraocular pressure. Activities (exercise, meditation, relaxed play, or tense business meetings, for example) quickly -- and unexpectedly -- began to dominate my reporting because activities had such a large and immediate effect on my intraocular pressure. This was a surprise because I intended to focus more of my personal research on nutrition.
While the early focus was on the correlation between activities and intraocular pressure, I still anticipated nutritional factors to play a dominant role over longer periods of time. In some ways, my mental model of health was based on the idea that I had to eat well, take supplements, exercise and manage my stress in order to improve my health.
Over many years I developed great discipline with my eating and exercise, but I wasn't nearly as advanced in my stress management skills. I had not recognized this fact until the intraocular pressure data began making it undeniably obvious. The most important element in my process of being an "IOP Querent" is that I have collected a very large amount of data, I have observed carefully, and I have asked quantitative questions based on my data. I have let the intraocular pressure data itself point me in the appropriate direction.
Maybe that is why stress manage quickly became an important focus in my new efforts at managing and improving my health. I'll mention an interesting personal experience I had in the early period after my diagnosis with glaucoma. I read several books about alternative care for glaucoma. One of these books was "The Eye Care Revolution" by Dr. Abel. I read several similar books. In every case, I was already following essentially all the dietary and nutritional supplement advise touted by these books. I had been eating this well - or better - for years before I was diagnosed with glaucoma. It was a bit disconcerting to see that all these experts couldn't offer me any advise for improving my nutrition or supplement programs. I remember feeling a bit depressed over this. As long as I held onto the idea that nutrition and supplements were the keys to improving my health, it seemed I didn't have a great many options for additional things I could do. However, that's just one more factor that pointed me in the direction of working on my stress management -- in the western nutrition paradigm I just didn't have a whole lot of room for improvement. (I later found out that Ayurveda did have a lot of useful information I could use to improve my diet, but that's a topic for another post.)
From an analytical perspective, much of my personal research project has been really easy. The connections between my activities (and my stress management) and my intraocular pressure are very clear. It helps that I have detailed records and lots of data - tens of thousands of intraocular pressure measurements.
A theme throughout my blog so far has been the relationship between the things I do (my activities/lifestyle) and my intraocular pressure. By following the IOP data, my focus changed from nutrition to lifestyle. I found it interesting that changes in activities could nearly halve (or double) my intraocular pressure. (No nutritional factors had any measurable impact that I could easily discern in the data - but again, that's probably because I was consistently following excellent eating habits.)
I was fascinated with the role activities such as exercise had in lowering intraocular pressure. I conducted personal research with many variations of exercise programs and documented the effects with thousands of intraocular pressure measurements.
However, somewhere around the point of 40,000 intraocular pressure measurements a new trend started becoming apparent in the data. The fact that I carefully observed this new trend is what has led me to Chapter Two of my blog.
In Chapter One it was all about doing. It was about finding the things I had to do in order to improve my health and have a positive influence on my intraocular pressure. Some of that doing included exercise, stress management and other lifestyle factors (as well as maintaining my good eating habits and continuing my search for the ideal nutritional supplements). I had a lot of success in all these areas (and yes, I did find ways to improve my eating and I did find ways to improve my nutritional supplement program.)
However, the "crack" in my theory that activities (doings) were the primary influencing factors on my intraocular pressure came from the observation that sometimes my intraocular pressure would do the opposite of what my prior data predicted. For example, cycling (or other exercise) almost always lowered my eye pressure and I had powerful data to support this. However, I found some cases where cycling raised my eye pressure. Through obsessive attention to the details and very careful measurements, it eventually became obvious that the factor responsible for the unexpected intraocular pressure increase after exercise was my thoughts and emotions. If I engaged in stressful thoughts while exercising, I could actually produce the opposite effect of what the exercise alone typically produced.
Following the data, I eventually learned that the most important factors in managing my intraocular pressure are my thoughts and feelings. Yes, exercise (for just one example) has an effect and we understand a lot about the biochemical basis for this effect. The effect is real. However, that effect can be completely overridden by thoughts or feelings -- or the exercise effect can be enhanced by different thoughts and feelings.
As the months have gone by I have realized that it is almost pointless to focus on specific activities and how they influence my intraocular pressure without looking at the pattern of my thoughts and feelings.
My focused changed from doing to being. For the moment, I'll define being as the sum of my thoughts and my feelings. Managing my intraocular pressure is not about doing - it is about being.
Chapter One was about doing and that chapter has come to a close. However, I continue to apply all the great information I learned in that chapter. For example, I exercise daily and that exercise is an important part of maintaining a low intraocular pressure. But I now know that I cannot ignore the influence of my thoughts and feelings during exercise (or during any activity) on my intraocular pressure.
Feelings are often very difficult to discern. I once spent about six months having weekly phone conversations with a consultant. Each week this consultant would point out that emotional issues were often at the root of vision problems, in his experience. Each week I would sincerely ask myself if I had any emotional issues that could be addressed. I opened my mind and looked into my heart and each week I came up with the same answer: no emotional issues; no pattern of negative emotions; no way that emotional issues could be related to my vision problems. (Photo credit: feelling-enhancers.com)
The same scenario was repeated with an Ayurvedic healer who is an expert in emotional therapies. I underwent an emotional release treatment and there was nothing negative to release. This was an intense ten-day program where I was in the program all day long each day. At the end, I was convinced that this proved emotional issues were not a factor in my health issues (such as glaucoma).
However, that was all before I got involved in intraocular pressure research with tonometers. What happened as a result of the scientific research project was the data gave me objective evidence that emotional issues played a very important role in my intraocular pressure. I now know that thoughts and feelings are the most important factors.
My personal stories above illustrate how tricky it can be to get to those thoughts and feelings. I spent years looking for evidence of emotional involvement (as the behest of experts) and all that resulted from that process was a reinforcement of my conviction that emotional issues were not involved in my health issues. As we now know, I was wrong about that. I now have intraocular pressure data to show how important thoughts and feelings are. Take it from me - getting to the truth about the role thoughts and feelings isn't easy. Yet there is no more powerful level at which to address glaucoma (or any other health issue).
Hidden in your deepest feelings is the secret to lowering your intraocular pressure and improving your health in every way. That's part of what I hope to address in the next chapters in my blog.