Persistent blurry / double vision

Drew Hansen, modified 3 Months ago at 3/30/22 3:52 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/30/22 3:51 PM

Persistent blurry / double vision

Posts: 4 Join Date: 3/30/22 Recent Posts
Hey everyone, I’m new to Dharma Overground, and this is my first time posting. I started meditating 10 years ago, first in Zen and only recently with more Vipassana technique. In December, I upped my commitment to meditate formally for ~3 hours a day. Prior to that I was sitting for 45-60 minutes a day, spread across two to three sessions.

In early January, I started to notice blurry vision after long sits. Initially I dismissed it as a side effect of intensifying my practice. I remember noticing the issue immediately followed long sits. The first time I was driving and objects in the distance were fuzzier than usual. Then I noticed a something similar while reading a text up close. The distortion is apparent at any distance. I figured it’d pass, but it’s persisted and doesn’t go away after I stop meditating.

I’m on retreat right now and when I arrived, I told myself that the issue is likely a physical problem, such as astigmatism. If so, the onset is sudden, or I’ve completely missed that it’s been sneaking up on me. I scheduled an appointment for an eye exam with an optometrist for after the retreat is over and told myself to focus on my practice while I’m here.

Soon thereafter the issue worsened. It sure seems that my sitting practice is affecting my visual field. Everything in the field is somewhat de-focused, like a persistent soft gaze, even though I’m not intending to have a soft gaze. Upon closer inspection, the phenomenon is primarily double vision. When I stop on a line of text, I see the text twice. It’s more pronounced in my right eye. But the same in the left eye to a lesser degree. If I’m out of a walk, I’ll pick an object and close one eye to test if I’m able to focus on the object with the other eye. Like twisting a camera lens, my vision will move in and out of focus, never arriving at a sharp, crisp image but improving as my eye calibrates and stays on the object.

In a September retreat I remember a sharp vision of the entire field. And in July I attended a training where I sat in the back of a classroom and had no problem reading the board clearly.

Note that what I’m describing is not the visual field undulating, wave-like, which I started to experience 3+ years ago. This is something different.

I will explore whether something physical is the cause. In the meantime, I wonder if this phenomenon has been reported by other meditators. Maybe it has something to do with the interaction between attention and awareness. If it were strictly a perceptual shift, I’d expect it to return to “normal” sometime after ending formal practice. I’m also considering how my eyes may be losing coordination or the focus muscles in the eye are atrophying, perhaps as a result of intensive sitting practice. Like the language function after a silent retreat, what has been unconscious and automatic is requiring more conscious control and effort.

If helpful context for responding to my question, I can share more about my practice in general and the specifics currently
Martin, modified 3 Months ago at 3/30/22 4:36 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/30/22 4:36 PM

RE: Persistent blurry / double vision

Posts: 443 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Unfortunately, I can't guess at your particular condition but I can say that I too had a visual disturbance that was intense and persistent enough (a few months) that I had to visit an eye doctor. For me, it was flashing and strobing. The eye doctor found nothing wrong. It eventually resolved but I was glad that I had seen an expert about it. I hope yours resolves too. 
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Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 3 Months ago at 3/31/22 2:31 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/31/22 2:31 AM

RE: Persistent blurry / double vision

Posts: 79 Join Date: 2/18/21 Recent Posts
Hey Drew, I has something similar on-and-off for like 6 months - blurry vision, double vision, short-sightedness, etc.

​​​​​​​Definetely related to awakening/meditation in hingsight. Funnily, I also had an eye exam and using these automated eye diagnostic machines they found -2.75 whereas I normally have 20/20 vision. But it resolved on it's own.

So your condition can also be related to the path.

Hope this is helpful!
Drew Hansen, modified 2 Months ago at 3/31/22 6:37 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/31/22 6:37 PM

RE: Persistent blurry / double vision

Posts: 4 Join Date: 3/30/22 Recent Posts
Thanks for chiming in and sharing your experience. I appreciate the well wishes.
Drew Hansen, modified 2 Months ago at 3/31/22 6:54 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/31/22 6:54 PM

RE: Persistent blurry / double vision

Posts: 4 Join Date: 3/30/22 Recent Posts
-2.75 when you normally have 20/20, whoa! It helps to know you had a similar experience, that it was temporary, and that it resolved on its own.

As I've practiced the past couple days I've been able to confirm that the distortion in the visual field is decidedly more pronounced after long sits, particularly when resting as open awareness (and possibly related to luminous jhanas prior to that).

Do you happen to remember how you were practicing during that six month period?

When you say it resolved on its own, you didn't do anything specific to address it? I've just learned about the Bates Method and Yoga for the Eyes, essentially "strength training" and thereapuetic exercises for vision. I've bookmarked them in case I decide to experiment with them later.

Your report confirms a possibility I've been holding: if this is indeed related to the path, keep practicing as something is reconfigured.

​​​​​​​Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago at 4/1/22 2:23 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/1/22 2:23 AM

RE: Persistent blurry / double vision

Posts: 930 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Definitely read Bates's book.
For me it literally opened my eyes. There are some issues which I also recognize in mind in general, in meditation, how I practices can be done. For example you got description of issues like alignment of visual awareness and fovea - the same thing happens in meditation, alignment between various layers in mind is not guaranteed and to have all these consciousnesses aligned properly they have to be calibrated. The calibration process itself, if you know it you can do it quite often when eg. waiting in some queue instead of thinking about life's issues you might eg. find distant object and just watch it with relaxed eyes until you start seeing more and more details - even if it is just eyesight it is still genuine meditation.

And overall by reading and integrating ideas from his book I was able to over the years vastly improve my eyesight. Not only I do not need to stress my eyes to focus on objects (which I pretty much do not do since more than a decade!) but these relaxed eyes can perceive level of details which stuns people when they see how far I can be from eg. monitor and still see better than they when they are already close and need to lean toward it to see smaller details.

Mind's focus in my case works the same way, I do not focus on objects, like at all. The ability to focus is the quality of awareness and is automatic and it is there mostly because of how I use my eyes which is main consumer of this awareness.

And another point, if meditation causes issues then the solution is very simple: change the way you do meditation. Really. When you began your practice you had to figure how to do it first. Maybe you did it enough for you to be better at it now than you were before but if it doesn't work for you done like that then change the way you do it. Even if that means additional effort is spent on figuring out different ways to do it there might be big benefit in the future if what you come up with is better, especially if it avoids you eyesight issues.

I would not neglect symptoms of worsening eyesight and really try to figure out some solution to it. Eyesight and meditation are related. If you can make eyesight relaxed and sharp without effort then you will know how to do it in meditation and have laser focus and be able to notice tiny details like sensations arising with qualities of these sensations showing themselves and all this will also happen without need to focus on anything, mind will focus itself to what it/you want to perceive. It works exactly the same in other direction so if eyesight is worsening by doing meditation then it means that the way you meditate isn't really developing right qualities. The point is for Vipassana to be more and more effortless and automatic, not merely to be able to force yourself to focus on sensations.

Anyways, I think you should get the main points: Dr. Bates books == one of the best dharma books out there. If and when you can see beyond them being about eyesight.
Drew Hansen, modified 2 Months ago at 4/3/22 9:34 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/3/22 9:34 PM

RE: Persistent blurry / double vision

Posts: 4 Join Date: 3/30/22 Recent Posts
Thank you so much for explaining the link between Bates' book and insight meditation. Makes me think that the eyesight issues are a real gift to helping me tighten up my practice so that I have the sensory clarity necessary for Insight. I'll definitely be studying up on this.