Something I have been investigating throughout my life is our vision, and how it is connected to our awareness and psyche. Lately it has become even more of an intrigue, as I dive deeper into becoming film maker and study my own response to visual cues. What I have discovered is that we have several different forms of “seeing”, all of which light up different parts of the brain and body, and which translate differently upon our overall sense of “being”.
This is by no means a scientific study or complete theory – these are only my thoughts. I welcome your comments and personal experiences in response.
When we are concentrated and focused, using primarily our left brain to decipher visual cues (such as studying the pattern of a fabric), we see vertically. Although we are concentrating on a particular area, we don’t see just that spot, we also see things around it – mostly on a vertical plane, and some on the crosshair of the horizontal plane. (My guess is that this is partially learned, and definitely inherited – people are vertical, so this is likely one of the root reasons we see this way.) This is the vision of progress, the kind of thinking and seeing we do in order to get things done. If we are cleaning our home, for example, our eyes will dart around the room, focusing on different objects that need to be taken care of. We also see the objects that line up above and below that one. Evolving from that, anger and panic have a similar visual pattern as we become ever more controlling of the energy emanating straight from our Third Eye. With panic, I believe (it’s been a while since I’ve felt it, thankfully), that beam of focus tends to curve and come right back at our chest. I remember sensing as though I am falling through myself, and my vision was unfocused, but definitely vertical. Worrying about the body brings about a vertical awareness as well.
If you’ve ever taken yoga, you have probably heard the phrase “relax your gaze”. This is the essence of horizontal vision – taking in everything in your horizontal plane, not judging or expecting to see something, without a particular focus in mind. The Third Eye relaxes, and so do your temples. The crown and your root chakra open. There is an “inner flute” of energy that flows freely throughout the body, because we are not worried about it. Whereas Vertical Vision produces various forms of actions (from positive to negative), Horizontal Vision is the act of enjoying, relishing in accomplishments and feeling gratitude for what is. This is a form of being that people too often forget to engage in, and I can swear that people who don’t practice yoga or meditation after a while have a different look on their face. I cannot feel that relaxed vision in them when I see their eyes; I see only the concentration that is focused about 5 inches from their Third Eye, always doing, never enjoying. I would say that yoga has taught me to do this more than it has taught me anything else.
Hazy vision is exactly what it sounds like – unfocused and blurry. There are several different forms:
Hazy Daydream: This is when you look through something but are really looking inwards. The eyes are focused on an unknown point in space, but what they see is a blur. This lines up with Vertical Vision because the thought is usually very specific. Peripherals are turned off.
Hazy Lazy: You know that food coma that happens after too many carbs? Have you ever noticed how your vision is blurry and the eyes have trouble opening? This is a prime example of completely useless seeing. It happens from depression as well as when a person is so used to a routine that they have completely turned off their peripherals. Focus is also turned off so it’s almost like swimming in a sea of fog all the time. Not fun.
*Note about sunlight: Incidentally, I experience this when it’s too sunny out as well. I have to squint so much that I end up with hazy vision and eventually feel sleepy. Do you feel this way? My remedy is to always sit in the shade on a sunny day – then I can experience the beauty with my eyes wide open
Hazy Bliss: This is the state following orgasm, yoga, meditation or sleep. Peripherals are on fully, but gently. You can see all around and through all things, and colors are usually vivid though they melt together. In my experience, this is the most healing form of vision there is.
This is also what it sounds like, when eyes are wide open and lines are sharp and clear. I experience this fully on rainy days because my eyes can be wide open and I don’t have to squint, which is why I’m so perplexed about how much people dislike the rain. It is when I see the world around me the clearest.
Focused Vertical: This is as said before, a very specific object is being observed and thought about, so vision is clear but peripherals are off.
Focused/Lucid Horizontal: This is when one experiences extreme excitement, has learned to observe landscapes as an artist, or is on drugs. This is also the vision of lucid dreaming. It is progressive vision, and is often followed by action. Eyes are wide open, but the mind is taking in all that it sees. It can be overstimulating and exhausting. However I find it to be incredibly important in small doses in life, as it combines focus and peripherals in a way that allows one to feel the power of their own existence, and feel connected to the universe.
If you were to estimate based on your knowledge, which of these would you say was most common during the majority of humanity’s existence? My guess is that there was quite a lot of time for peripherals in general, horizontal vision that would waft from focused to unfocused, and accompanied by a good deal of internal thought.
Now, which of these do you suppose we experience the most today? Focused vertical, no question. From dealing with bills to driving to work to all the media we are inundated with, our eyes barely ever have a time to rest. Now what kind of effect to you suppose this might have on the psyche over a long period of time?
After I’ve used my computer too much over the span of a few days, I notice that while watching a show my eyes will slowly start to look through the screen – automatically trying to relax when they’ve had enough.
As for my psyche, I actually had panic attacks when I moved to the Bay Area after living in Arcata for 5 years specifically because of the aforementioned experiences: having to drive and focus this much (in comparison to the very slow paced life of the north) threw my adrenals all wacky and my system collapsed. I’ve adjusted now, but only because I’ve gotten used to being tense all the time – not because I’m more relaxed than I was.
My personal feeling is, of course, that we all need more time to give to our peripheral vision. It is incredibly important to our nervous system and there is unfortunately very little room for it in our busy city lives.
Connection with Film
This seems obvious to me but I’ll say it anyway: all of these notes can be easily used to create visual tension or relaxation within a film (or any visual art). I think that since we’re making people watch something on a screen anyway, it’s important to give time to the peripherals throughout – you will keep your audience longer by giving them eye candy to relax to.
I encourage you to take the time to notice your own visual patterns, and I would love to hear back about your experiences so I might refine this theory. Here’s some ideas on how to experiment:
1. Sit still upon a hill or in a space where you can see some kind of visual landscape (not hills necessarily). Start by relaxing your peripherals and taking in all you see. Then switch your focus to something specific – try to notice every detail about it that you can. Notice how your body has changed – where have you tightened up? Then relax and melt back into peripherals again, and notice which parts of your body have relaxed as well. Notice your root (perineum).
2. Again start with peripherals. Relax your vision, soften it. Then open your eyes wider, keep your focus on the peripherals but try to take in more details. How does this change you, emotionally?
3. Notice the difference between how you feel and see on a sunny day (in regards to your eyes, not skin or body temperature) versus a rainy day. What kinds of thoughts run through your mind in comparison (without judging based on preconceptions)? Simply notice your natural thought patterns in response to your vision.