Over a period of time we will make more articles available on this website. 1) This Article was published in the Danish magazine "Hendes Verden" number 6/2011. Click here to download it.
2) The following Danish article was published in "Nyt aspekt og guiden" in September/October 2008 and is ready for download here.
3) This article was published in the Spring 2003 edition of the ACAT News, the Newsletter of the American Center for the Alexander Technique. ACAT is the oldest Alexander Technique training school in America.
Tara Sullivan, musician and Alexander Teacher: Her article is addressed especially to the Alexander Technique community but is of interest to a much wider readership and includes her experience after attending Peter Grunwald's three-week Intensive workshop in New Zealand, January 2003.
When I saw trainee Christopher Beckstrom at ACAT’s AGM this year, he asked me to share my experience of attending Peter Grunwald’s three-week workshop, The Extraordinary Art of Seeing, Thinking and Moving, in New Zealand. I felt overwhelmed at the prospect; such a profound experience is difficult to describe in a way that does it justice. I didn’t know where to start. Chris suggested having an interview about the experience and about Peter’s work, which sounded like a great idea. The following is the result of his wonderful questions and the resulting conversations we have had, in person and via email, on Peter Grunwald’s work and the subject of vision.
Our most recent conversation was specifically on the subject of vision, which I think needs to be the subject of this article. I have been diligently deleting the word “eyesight” and substituting “vision” on everything lately. Eyesight, aside from being mechanical, is the poor cousin of vision. We see not with our eyes, but with our brains. In fact, we see even without our eyes; dreams, waking visions, visualizations and the like all occur in the brain, just the same as eyesight. Our vision can be limited or enhanced by our eyesight, and our eyesight can, in fact, limit or enhance our vision. This is the experience that has been so eye-opening for me in the course of my work with Peter.
Of course, eyesight is what gets most people interested in Peter’s work. He has synthesized natural vision improvement work (mainly the Bates Method – the grand-daddy of NVI) with the principles of the Alexander Technique. On the most basic level, he deals with the Use of the visual system. If we can change the way we habitually react to stimulus to change the way we move and live, we can also change the way we see by inhibiting and directing our visual habits. By doing so, we can release the vision habits of a lifetime. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia and the like are habitual misuses of the visual system and can be changed by the same means-whereby we use to change our habitual ways of moving through space.
Many, many people have improved their eyesight through study of various NVI techniques, and in that respect Peter’s work is no different. How it differs is the presence of the Alexander principles; using conscious inhibition and direction in life, not outside of life, and not by learning a set of exercises or getting treatments. It is easy for me, as an Alexander teacher, to forget that this is an enormous departure for most people. The very notion of changing something that they have come to believe is fixed is another departure from conventional thinking, and I have been surprised to find how fixed people’s general ideas about their eyesight are. Even many AT teachers I have spoken to may believe that they can change their walk, their back, their poise, or their pain, but don’t believe that they could change their eyesight. After seeing so many people, my husband included, quit wearing glasses, I find this fixed belief perplexing. However life-altering getting rid of one’s glasses may be, changing eyesight is only one facet of improving vision.
My eyesight is, and has always been, excellent. Better than 20/20. So what I have to share is not about eyesight, but about use and vision. After lessons with Peter in New York last year, I wrote the following:
“I realize that freeing my eyes and having this new use of my visual system makes it difficult for me to think or speak. My habitual way of everything, even thinking, is locked in to my tightening my vision – restricting my brain! Walking down 14th Street, I realized that somehow what I thought was inhibiting and directing was some freezing and phony cogitating. I haven’t really been learning to have a new response to stimulus, I’ve just been faking it – and thinking faster and harder than ever.”
Chris liked the phrase “being in one’s brain rather than in one’s head” as something many of us are looking for in our involvement with the AT. To paraphrase Judy Liebowitz, we want to get out of our own way. I’m learning that by freeing my visual system, I can think in a non-doing way. I don’t have to generate thoughts with effort, my memory is better and my overall thinking is much clearer. The eye and other parts of the visual system are composed of matter very similar to white or grey matter – the eye is nearly a brain in itself. When we tighten, restrict, or bespectacle it, we are restricting our brains from the get-go.
It seemed a little freaky at first to inhibit and direct my retina, or my cornea, or other parts of my visual system. How is it possible to have that kind of kinesthetic awareness of things that are so seemingly different from, say, my neck or the top of my spine? I now am surprised that I’ve been so successful at gaining a kinesthetic awareness of bone and muscle – such dense material. The visual system is fluid, photoreceptors, nerve, delicate tissue. It seems so easy to sense the qualities and the activity (or lack thereof) of such sensitive matter.
Part of our vision is how we see the world, which is perhaps why it can be so difficult to get people to take their glasses off. We become locked into our habitual way of seeing, and to change that can be a source of fear. From the obvious concern of not seeing where we’re going to the deeper sense of allowing one’s self to be seen without impediment, it takes a lot of trust to go from the known to the unknown. However, it is possible to gauge so many things more clearly without corrective lenses. Many of the participants in the New Zealand workshop reported a clearer sense of their habits once they took their glasses off, and also the release of previously unknown tensions and pains. About a month after we got home from the workshop, my husband put his glasses on and reported that he immediately felt how they disconnected him from his body and the world – although his eyesight was crystal clear with them on.
From my perspective, I’ve found my use transformed in a way that I never thought possible. I find interactions with others to be totally changed – I can experience an openness now that I didn’t know how to access before. The initial experience of needing to re-learn how to think was correct – my brain has seemingly been re-wired and I’ve now got a grasp of many things for the first time in my life: left and right, spacial relations, patterns and designs, and a perception of three-dimensionality that has always eluded me. I’m learning to understand how things are put together, and to see depth in things that previously I could only understand as flat.
One of the most interesting aspects of Peter’s work is conscious depth perception. Have you ever looked at one of those 3-D Magic Eye pictures? Imagine seeing the world in that kind of depth – it’s transformative. The experience of seeing in depth transcends the purely visual – it organizes the system in a way which creates an enormous sense of understanding, well-being and compassion. I find that communicating in depth adds a layer of comprehension which far exceeds anything I’ve experienced in terms of sheer presence – mine and that of others. The meaning leads and the words just follow, effortlessly.
I remember in my Alexander training being filled with a near-missionary zeal to convey what I was learning to everyone I met. Everyone needs Alexander lessons! I gave books to friends, to family, to strangers, referred them to teachers…and as anyone who has had that experience knows, the AT is not for everyone. Not everyone is interested in changing their use, their life, their being. So Peter Grunwald’s work is perhaps the same in that respect, regardless of how zealous I find myself becoming as I experience my own being changing in ways I never could have anticipated. If nothing else, I hope that you, my community, might consider whether you have any fixed ideas about your own eyesight in order that we might all have a change in our individual and collective vision.
Copyright 2003 Tara Sullivan. You can contact Tara at Birdgirrl@aol.com or phone(USA) 212-489-7849
Paper for the Wholistic Vision Conference, Zürich, October 2003 - The Grunwald EyeBody Method®
A paper on new diagnostic tools and a practical learning Method to improve Eyesight, Vision and Posture - simultaneously
By Peter Grunwald, New Zealand
Peter Grunwald had been myopic and astigmatic since early childhood. At age 3 he was wearing his first pair of glasses with many repeats year after year. He had stuttering voice impairment, his posture and self-esteem slumped in early childhood and especially during teenage years.
In 1984 he attended a 3-year full time professional training in the Alexander Technique (Australia) to attend to his crippling voice problem. Out of this training he emerged with a sense of postural and mental poise and increased self-esteem, reliable speech patterns as well as mental directions of thinking which let him later to develop a new learning and teaching Method.
In 1989 he studied personally than in 1990 professionally with Janet Goodrich, PhD (Germany) and he was able within 18 months to let go of his –10 ½ dioptre strong glasses. Shortly afterwards he was embarking on discovering the first intrinsic associations between his eyes and body, now known as the Grunwald EyeBody Pattern®. His first book on his work will be published in 2004.
He leads seminars in Switzerland, Germany, UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, conducts a private practice in Auckland (NZ) and lives with his family in New Zealand.
Beginning of a Discovery
Back in 1992 I discovered a unique association between my eyes and the rest of my body. Sitting in my teachings room in Auckland, New Zealand, I was reflecting on life-long astigmatism. I knew that astigmatism is partly due to abnormal curvatures of various meridians of the cornea. As I sat pondering I thought of shortening and narrowing the cornea. (Those mental directions were familiar to me from my Alexander Technique background, but only as far as the body was concerned, never the eyes.) Immediately I noticed marked slumping in my upper chest. With a sense of surprise, and being careful not to lengthen my body stature but to direct my cornea to lengthen and widen, I moved my chest up with delicacy and ease. I repeated the same thought process and to my astonishment it happened again. Over and over. Excited but cautious, I asked some of my students later in the day to apply their thinking to their cornea. And the same thing happened to every one of them. By the end of the day I thought: if there is a certain relationship between chest and cornea, I wonder if there are more areas with associations between eye and body?
Over the following weeks, months and years I discovered more and more associations and it is still continuing. The next step was directing my retina, were I noticed subtle movements within the pelvis and lower back region.
After about two years I suddenly became aware of an emerging pattern. I mapped the eye and the body and found the entire torso within the eyeball from the neck to the pelvis.
New Diagnostic Tools The pattern indicates that every single area of the eyes, visual pathways and visual cortex responds to an associated area in the body. Specific vision malfunctions such as short and farsightedness, astigmatism, middle aged vision (presbyopia), squints, lack of binocular vision as well as glaucoma or cataracts have been seen to correspond with specific analogous tensions and contractions in the body.
For example the main feature in myopia is a contracting of the visceral organs (vitreous humor), shortening of the lumber region (retina), which affects the pelvis, the head of femur (blind spot) and the femur bone (optic nerve) as well as the patella (lateral geniculate body) and the feet (visual cortex). Further postural aspects show a shortening of the brainstem and spinal cord, which causes the head to move back and down, shortening the entire body structure (torso corresponds to the eyeball) this affects the bone structure of the eye-socket in general. One result is the tilting forwards and down of the sphenoid bone, where the optic nerve (upper leg) reaches from the brain to the eyeball (lower part of the body to the torso).
Another example: glaucoma. Glaucoma is found within two places: the narrowing of the optic disc (head of femur bone and connection with the upper leg to the pelvis) and the narrowing of the canal of Schlemm, the vital exit of the flow of the aqueous humor. The narrowing of the optic disc and the canal of Schlemm usually goes hand in hand. The glaucoma body-pattern usually shoes an outward rotating leg with some groin discomfort, as well as a hardened chest area.
An Evolving Learning Method Out of the understanding of the eye-body pattern over time a learning Method has been evolving – a step by step process in which we are learning to use our conscious thinking in such a way that our synapses and pathways within the visual cortex are stimulated constructively and applied from moment to moment. From there on we learn to include step by step each area of the eyes and pathways and including our environment within our seeing experiences. Following on this is applied and encouraged in our daily activities such as driving, reading, walking, working on the computer and many other activities throughout the waking day. Any attempt of over-focusing and lower back pain can be thought of simultaneously.
The Workshop Session
During the workshop participants learn to make contact with their intrinsic subtle movements of the visual system including the visual cortex, the center from which we see.
Starting off with the retina, choroid-body and vitreous humor, which according to the EyeBody Patterns® reflect the lower back, pelvis and visceral organs. We learn to direct our optic nerves via the chiasm to the brainstem thus allowing the core of the brainstem and spinal cord to function freely. Simultaneously I will guide the group, as well as individual participants, through observations within the body.
Depending on what visual and postural malfunctions and questions are present within the group we address some of those based on the EyeBody Patterns®.
Copyright text and pictures by Peter Grunwald, 2002 / 2003
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