If At First You Don't Try


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I am discovering how hard it is not to try.  When I look across the room at the cover of a book on the shelf, the image of the words on the spine may be slightly doubled or it may be fairly clear.  The difference is a result of how hard I am trying to see it, but maybe not in the way that you think.


I went to a behavioral optometrist and was told that I am frequently suppressing my left eye and looking only with the right one.  In order to improve the ability of my eyes to work together, I have to learn to use the eye that isn’t working and ease up on the eye that’s working too hard.  The catch:  The harder I try to ease up on the eye that’s not working, the harder the eye tries to work because trying anything for me means making an effort in that eye (and in my jaw and in my lips…)!


In order to let go of unnecessary effort, I have to notice myself making it so I can choose something else.  The catch:  If I try to notice it, or try not to do it, I’ll still be making the effort.  Is there any way out of this catch-22?


In order to notice myself doing something habitual, it helps to observe myself from outside.  Since I can’t safely leave myself, I have to create the same effect by becoming a person who is not doing the habitual thing.  Then, as the habit appears, I can see it happen.


Trying to become this person doesn’t work, because trying is a habit, and I use the habitual pathways to do it.  Instead, I have to create questions for myself that I don’t usually ask:  How far away is that tree?  What would it be like to see through the leaves to the other side?  If I threw a rock in an arc towards the tree, how long would it take the rock to get there?


In asking these questions, I undergo a shift where I’m so interested in them that I become a different person, a person who is interested instead of one who is trying.  Then, if I’m calm, I can notice the difference between what it’s like to look out of the eyes of this person.  Finally, as the old habits creep back in, I can see them and sometimes I can catch the moment it happens. 


Catching the moment may mean recognizing exactly what I do when I am working too hard in one eye.  It also might mean spotting an emotional or intellectual trigger that spurs me to “try.”  If I can see it, I can sometimes reverse it, come in and out of it at will, and once I can do that my vision begins to improve.


Can you see how this might work in other places besides seeing?  Can you imagine playing a piano passage for instance, in a different state, and then coming back to a habitual state in the middle of it?  How would this apply in your own area of expertise?


Adam Cole is a writer, performer and educator in Atlanta, GA.  www.mymusicfriend.net




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