“When the mind is tired or strained, nothing can rest the eyes;
and when the mind is at rest, nothing can tire the eyes”
When I am tired, often the first place I notice it is my eyes. The eyeballs themselves feel dry and irritated. My eyelids feel heavy, slow, and even itchy. Stress, anger, anxiety, pollution, busyness or lack of downtime can increase a feeling of not being able to focus, both literally and figuratively.
Our eyes absorb and filter an endless stream of stimuli every day. The eyeballs and eyelids are one of our bodies’ first areas for deciding what to let in and what to keep out. It makes sense that caring for the eyes can help to focus the mind. Meditation and calming exercises incorporating care for the eyes are the best ways to ease discomfort in both the eyes and the mind.
One of the simplest ways to relieve eye tension is called Palming. This practice uses darkness on the eyeballs and light pressure on the bones surrounding the eyes to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Any light hitting the eyeballs, even through the eyelids, stimulates the optic nerve, signalling the sympathetic nervous system to be more active. Palming gives the optic nerve less stimulation to relay through the brain’s visual centers. The gentle pressure around the eyes (never directly on the eyes) stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, as well, by stimulating the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is important for, again, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to slow the heartbeat and breathing for overall calming and tension relief throughout the body.
To palm your eyes, begin by sitting comfortably with your back supported and close your eyes. Bring your hands to your eyes so that your palms are cupped over your eyes. At this point, you can place supports for your arms, such as a table top with pillows under your elbows or simply leaning forward until your elbows are on your thighs. Palming can also be done when lying down by propping up the arms with pillows or blankets. Make sure that there is no pressure on your eyelids, but try to let as little light through your hands as possible. Breathe slowly and evenly until you feel your body relax into the darkness. Remain in this position from 1 to 15 minutes, depending on your comfort level. You can use this technique as often as you like throughout the day for a mini-restorative session.
Two other techniques for relaxing and renewing the eyes include eye washes and eye massages:
If eyes feel dry and hot, try the common sense method of splashing cool water on the eyes, but begin by first filling the mouth with water and holding it, without swallowing, and splash cool water over your eyes. It is up to you whether you prefer to do this with your eyes open or closed.
For dry and itchy eyes, place a drop of organic sesame oil or organic rose water on each eyelid then gently massage around the eyelids and eyelashes (removing contact lenses prior to rinsing.)
In Part 2 of this series, I will talk about exercises that you can do to relieve eye strain and help restore tired eyes for a quiet mind.
Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)