A few weeks ago I had a minor eye procedure. Unpleasant, as such things usually are, but what I hadn’t counted on was how much my world would shift as I was wheeled out with a white pirate patch shutting out the world on my left side.
Looking out of only one eye created a whole new picture of the world for my brain, and only on half a side. Obvious theoretically, as I write it, but the actual experience was unbelievably strange.
Who knew it would feel so peculiar to not see my left hand? I had to swivel my head round to the left, and seeing it with the right eye meant it felt like someone else’s hand and arm for ten minutes whilst my brain adjusted. (Close one eye and try it yourself!) As the pad was pressed against a swollen left eye, there was this extraordinary fluorescent lilac colour imprinted on my left retina, so if I relaxed my right it superimposed its purple pulsating swirling on the outside world: my inner and outer worlds colliding.
Finding my way home involved much head swivelling, to the point I felt like a Cyclops, my right eye literally taking centre stage. I realised my stance had lowered and widened, I felt like a cross between a cowboy with low slung hips and a horse rider with wider apart feet. Not my usual mode of moving. The lowness of my chassis felt both strange, but firm. Given the lack of vision, clearly my brain decided to lower my centre of gravity.
I waited for the cab to pick me up, but it cancelled. How could he not find the hospital entrance with two eyes and a GPS when I could with one eye!
Irritated, I decided to abandon taxis and get the Underground home instead.
Which was fine, until I started my descent down to the underground station. There’s no depth of field with one eye! I couldn’t see how far away the step was from my feet; I could barely work our how far my feet were away from me and I could both see and feel them! Grasping the handrail I made a slow descent, feeling with my feet to check what my eye was seeing.
I found a cafe to have something to eat, only to realise I couldn’t judge where the till lady’s hand was in order to put money into. By the time I got home, having to pick up a few more things en route, I’d developed the adaptive behaviour of just sticking my hand out for change to be put into.
By the next morning I felt more in control of moving round my Cyclops- world, but was very grateful to take the eye patch off and have my two sided world back.
In many ways we all make these adaptive changes when something untoward happens to part of us. Our adaptive behaviour to form a new habit of moving is necessary at the time, but often our brain continues in the new habit, even though it’s no longer useful. Add a few years of these habits on top of each other and at a certain point we stop moving in all the ways that are possible, and limit ourselves more than necessary. Neurological ‘real estate’ is taken over incredibly fast by neighbouring brain areas, so the part of ourselves that has had a ‘rest’ has to work a little harder to take back its space in the brain.
For me, Feldenkrais is a way or unpicking these outdated movement habits in order to find a simpler, clearer way of moving and being. Taking time in a lesson to explore one part of ourselves, and how it connects to the whole is a way of retaking space in the brain for a little more clarity of what is really there. A sort of brain self realisation and acceptance.