If you allow yourself to see things through the eyes of another, you will be rewarded by better sight.
Just in case that statement sounds a little too quixotic, let me frame this in terms of intraocular pressure and glaucoma and tell you what myself and others are finding by carefully measuring our eye pressure with professional quality tonometers.
Most of us participating in FitEyes self-tonometry research have already noticed that anger and other strong negative emotions increase our intraocular pressure. Often anger is one of the situations where we don't let ourselves see another person's point of view. (Sometimes anger is justified, but more often our ego tells us it is justified when that isn't the case from all valid perspectives.)
I am also looking carefully at the relationship between eye pressure and more subtle emotions. What is becoming obvious to me is that subtly negative emotions increase intraocular pressure.
One difficult part of the analysis of the relationship between emotions and intraocular pressure is that most of us, me included, are out of touch with our emotions to some extent. In addition, our society tends to define the emotional state of excitement (even extremes such as an adrenaline rush) as a positive emotional state. These and many other factors often confuse our definitions of positive and negative emotional state. In the context of this article, I will utilize the definitions offered by Ayurveda for positive and negative emotional states. To make it simple and directly applicable to glaucoma, we can say that a negative emotion is any emotion that elevates intraocular pressure.
We know that increased IOP leads to damaged vision. Therefore, there is nothing surreal about the concept that we will be rewarded with better eyesight by becoming more emotionally accepting (and forgiving).
To set the stage, consider these circumstances. If you do not allow yourself to see things through the eyes of others, you may, at times, have a loss of the social qualities you enjoy. You may sometimes have some bitterness in relationships with others. You may develop resentment toward another person or feel discomfort being with that person. Of course, a more pronounced emotion we often feel when we can't see things through the eyes of others is anger. Anger is one emotion that is often easy to correlate with increased eye pressure. I have touched on this in prior FitEyes.com articles, but in this article I want to give you some practical advice. (And for those of you with tonometers, I'll suggest some informal experiments.)
I want to suggest that we consider not only anger, but also the more subtle emotions of resentment, bitterness, or simply social discomfort. All these emotions should be considered negative emotions. These emotions will register clearly measurable intraocular pressure increases on the tonometer for many people. Any abnormal increase in intraocular pressure is usually undesirable.
Eckhart Tolle would say that these negative emotions arise from the ego inserting itself into the mix, and this is a valid perspective. Another way to think about it is that our heart qualities are shut out. Puran and Susan Bair in "Energize your Heart" say that these are the qualities of a narrow heart. The solution is to allow the heart to escape those narrowing confines we have inadvertently placed on it.
"Look at things from another person's point of view. Your own point of view will not be lost, but your view of reality will be widened." -- Puran and Susan Bair in "Energize your Heart"
The exercise you can do is to look at things from another person's point of view in a situation where you notice you aren't doing that currently. Drop your judgmental thoughts and attitudes -- at least temporarily for this experiment. Open your heart and feel compassion instead of resistance or resentment. Make an honest assessment of the degree to which your state of consciousness changes from "me against her" to inner peace. (But don't turn the judgmental thinking on yourself.) This is only an experiment and you can't fail -- all you can do is collect some useful information that you will learn from. All you are doing is seeing if any change in your attitude happens, and if so, if there is also a change in your eye pressure. So be sure to measure your intraocular pressure several times before and after situations where you can test these emotions and attitudes. If you can measure your intraocular pressure during the situation, as it unfolds, do that too. Frequent data collection makes the picture much easier to understand. (If you want to replicate my results, make sure you take a scientific approach to data collection.)
As part of the FitEyes project, I have been doing this kind of experiment myself in social situations for several years. Often, after having an enjoyable dinner with friends, my intraocular pressure will be elevated. I have measured this effect so many times over the years, and with so many different tonometers, that there is no question it is real. And the increase in IOP can sometimes be huge. There are certainly no intense "negative" emotions and there is no noticeable stress at any point in these enjoyable evenings. However, in our friendly discussions over dinner, I have a tendency to want others to see things from my point of view, rather than to be completely open to different perspectives. I also fall into the ego-driven trap of judging others and wanting to be right -- although I don't speak out these negative judgments and I make sure I am always extremely polite in our conversations. But the tonometer doesn't lie. It is telling me something I cannot ignore and it is forcing me to look deeper for greater understanding.
I have ruled out time of day, medications, food, eye strain, driving and everything else I have considered potentially responsible for the increases in intraocular pressure after these social gatherings. After collecting many thousands of eye pressure measurements over several years, I am left with subtle emotions as the most likely explanation for the increased eye pressure.Previously, I would not have admitted that I was experiencing any negative emotions in these social situations. However, with increased awareness and increased knowledge, I now realize that even the desire to be right (which automatically implies the other person has to be seen as wrong) gives rise to a negative emotion, as defined by Ayurveda. The tonometer measurements support this definition.
What prompted this article here on FitEyes.com is that I believe other people with tonometers are starting to notice similar things. Therefore, I am sharing ideas for how you can investigate this further.
In "Energize your Heart," Puran and Susan Bair say that if there is anyone with whom you would not like to be alone in an elevator, that is your signal that you could benefit by broadening your heart. They say that even if you are successful in avoiding -- or even completely forgetting -- this individual, the discomfort will spread from the original person to a class of people with some similarity to that person.
They give a second thought experiment: consider who it might be that would ruin your party with their presence. The authors suggest that it would be better to take a step toward reconciliation than for you to take a step back from their confrontation.
Let me propose a real life scenario you could use as an intraocular pressure experiment. Let's say you get together weekly for a social activity that you really enjoy with friends you have known for years. One of these friends, however, is acting in a way that has really been grating on you for a while now. Recently, your discomfort has been growing. You even asked some of your other friends if they have a problem with the person that is bothering you. While obvious to everyone, it turns out that this behavior isn't a sore spot for most of your other friends. But that doesn't stop it from irritating the heck out of you. You may have even considered quitting this social circle.
My take on this is that this is exactly the type of situation that will result in a measurable increase in intraocular pressure that cannot be explained by medications, time of day or any other commonly considered factor. If you are lucky enough to have a situation similar to this in your life, to have a good tonometer and have the willingness to investigate a bit deeper, you may be rewarded with great insights that will improve your social relationships, reduce your stress and also reduce your intraocular pressure.
In this experimental situation you could work on replacing your resentment toward that person with love and acceptance. There are many specific ways to work toward that (and I'll be happy to recommend some if requested -- and some of these techniques such as Serene Impulse may be subjects of future posts on my blog.) But when you are able to change from feeling it is "me against her" to feeling acceptance, compassion and unity, I am sure the elevated eye pressure resulting from your situation (e.g., social gathering) will be resolved. When the resentment is replaced by an easy, loving acceptance and the change is real (not simply "mood making") the elevated intraocular pressure will be gone in my personal experience.
I am not suggesting that changing your attitudes and emotions about one relationship will cure your glaucoma, but I am suggesting that you find out for yourself whether this connection I'm describing exists. If you see it as clearly as I do, then it cannot help but change your life. And a series of small changes like this will add up to big positive changes in your health and happiness.