I'm working mostly with my right nose bridge, where the effects are most obvious, but the same effects happen on the left over a smaller "arc"-to-bridge area.
Rotating my head inward, it is comparatively easy to keep the nose bridge close in and watch objects be cut off by it, but across an area beginning from an arc from the brow mark down toward the nose tip and centered around the nose bridge, objects slide toward the bridge and get smaller or farther away, and rotate opposite my head rotation, before they disappear.
The temptation is to allow the nose bridge to project toward infinity as it rotates, since the objects it is hiding seem to be receding toward infinity. When that happens, the objects shrink and rotate in the same direction as my head rotation as they recede, as if they were on a turntable centered far in front of me that was matching my head rotation. This effect allows objects in central vision to be larger that they are in peripheral vision, and I suspect it is a compensation for negative lenses that made central objects smaller. But it also means "I" am outside the world I see, in a narrow corridor around the central "turntable".
Rotating my head outward, trying to keep the nose bridge close-in requires total concentration, and quickly leads to visual overload - excessive tearing to the point of obscuring the view, reflexive lid closure, and painful combinations of eye, jaw, and neck muscle tension that feel "crazy". But it also leads toward spreading the 3D space of central vision across the nose bridge to the objects in peripheral space beside and behind me, so their size and orientation can be correctly visualized as they suddenly appear in central vision.
The overwhelming temptation is to allow the nose bridge to project toward infinity and pass outside the objects in the peripheral area, trusting their size and distance only after they have rotated inward past the arc described earlier. As they move from the nose bridge toward the arc, they gradually take up sizes and positions within a "bubble" of 3D space outside and in front of my body, in a process that does not generate mental or visual disturbance.
Visualizing the nose bridge receding toward infinity as the head rotates outward is consistent with the anatomical fact that its image does shrink as the eyeball rotates away from it. My habit has been to force the perceived size of the nose bridge to stay constant despite this fact, and "see" it change distance instead of size.
The tip of the nose, being much farther from the pupil than the bridge, does not change size nearly as much with rotation, and since it was seen through lenses rather than behind them, it does not take part in the effects described here. All of these effects are visible only from the top of my visual field down to the bridge of my nose. From the tip of my nose down to the floor there are entirely different rules and effects.
Not much change for weeks now, but my neck and shoulders have been stiff and sore.
This morning I woke up with an erection, and the sense that my teeth and jaw were enlarged and thrust forward. There seemed to be an energy connection between those two sensations. When I try to remember that now, it seems more like my eyes pull back deeper into my head and the sixth chakra area gets smaller, while the second and fifth chakra areas retain their physical size but gain energy.
My conclusion this morning was that the perceived size of peripheral space, and the positions of my eyes relative to it, had shrunk to match the size of central vision, leaving the nose boundaries seeming larger relative to objects they crossed, and seeming farther away from my "eyes" (the counterpart of my eyes seeming recessed deeper into my head). The important part of this experience was that for the first time I can remember, the nose boundaries were not the "figure" of my attention - the objects they were crossing were solid and remained stable between central and peripheral vision while the boundaries became the variable ground - without my having to intentionally force that experience.
I typically think of my vision originating from the location of the pupils of my eyes. This has been happening at least since I wore hard contacts as a child. I remember feeling like the contacts defined my location in "reality", and "I" was "swimming" through life behind them, attached to the world only through the fluid grip of my eyelids on those bits of plastic. This morning's experience put the center of vision back around my ear canals, and allowed me to rotate my head without the objects in peripheral space slithering away as I turned away from them. It was a dramatic step toward living in a solid, three-dimensional world.
Of course I lost most of it when I determined it was long past time I needed to be dealing with the "real world".
A week ago, I woke up with my mouth and sinuses dry and painful. (I had intentionally not added any horseradish, nettle/eyebright, or THIM-J to the previous night's meal, to see if it really makes a difference. It does!) I was reminded of the pain I felt after my tonsillectomy at age six, particularly on the right side. It seemed like the painfully swollen lymph nodes between the posterior angle of my lower jaw and my ears went right through to where my tonsils used to be. Also sore in that area were and are the rear tips "greater cornu" of my hyoid bone, and seemingly everything they can be moved near.
Exploring this just now, I found a position where it seemed the right cornu of my hyoid was pulled about a centimeter lower than the left cornu, and my airway partly closed off. Simultaneously, my vision blacked out over most of the right periphery and pixelated back on in a space where the computer screen seemed farther away but in better focus. I can't get back to that space, but it reminded me that last Wednesday I was outdoors in the sun writing, and by manipulating the space around the lymph node to tonsil connection I could bring small print at about twenty inches distance into sharp focus. That experience I could repeat, as long as I kept the majority of my attention on maintaining it. If I concentrated on what I was writing, my vision deteriorated.
The original "tonsil" experience also reminded me of the constant pain and tension I experienced while wearing glasses as a child. I kept the superficial muscles behind and above my ears tight, possibly trying to pull the glasses which were constantly trying to slide down my nose back up into functional position. The earpieces would cut into the tight muscles at the top and back of my ears, leading to a constant balancing of superficial pain against "visual space" pain. That muscle tension blended into the muscular patterns I'd learned to protect the soreness after the tonsillectomy, and the chronically sore lymph nodes in the carotid triangle, to make the entire region a "sacrifice area" within my psychoros.
Over the past week, my visual exercise has been to pull "space" around behind this painful area and then inside it and forward, but still outside of the nose boundary on whichever side I'm working with. When I first began trying to understand my psychoros issues, the nose boundary, which I know is physically on the centerline of my body, seemed to project beyond it to infinity, and all central objects behaved as if they were between the left nose boundary projected to left infinity and the right nose boundary projected to right infinity. Within about the last year, I've been able to pull the apparent location of the nose boundaries back to the centerline of my body, and keep objects outside the nose boundaries in peripheral vision stable in space as they passed between central and peripheral vision. This weeks new experience seems to be a similarly large step, in that now the nose boundary seen by my left eye appears to be to the left of my body centerline, much more tightly connected to the left eye than to the rest of my body. It actually seems to be to the left of all of my body, and "I" am now (at least while I can maintain the required visualization) inside a central "cyclopean" space rather than floating behind a pair of eyes.
It has become fairly easy to reach this state on my right side, but in order to do the left side simultaneously, it seems I will need to deal with the space behind, above and below my body. When I try to bring space around behind and inside the painful carotid area, it wraps around my spine and the chakra line, and I'm faced with the sense that space around my lower spine is huge compared to space in the carotid area and fifth chakra. One way to deal with this is to expand the fifth chakra area, projecting the sore spots out toward infinity to create more room for objects to appear in the central cyclopean area.
More difficult than this flattened oblate spheroid visualization, but probably more productive, is to bring the excessive height behind my spine forward into the cyclopean space and make it a true sphere. This produces a dramatic release of "Kundalini" energy, a restoration of visual space above my head (in a direct reversal of the "turning out the lights" visualizations I did in church as a child), and a confrontation with H. Rennert's "Vertical Displacement of the Visual Angle ... with a lowering (or raising?) of the horizon" phenomenon that I need to write about for this site. Moving the back of my spine forward into cyclopean space brings back memories of the Consumed by the Light experience, and the rip I made in the fabric of reality in order to be able to breathe again.
Last night was a full Moon and eclipse (which I missed, engrossed in a challenging work issue). Why is it that whenever there are daffodils outside my window, I'm swamped with real world issues? Later I had a long vivid dream that began as a need to patch a hole in a truck bed. There was a rip about six inches long and an inch wide, as if the end of a heavy steel bar had punched through the sheet metal floor. The issue was how to fasten the patch material to the truck bed without having the fasteners project out into the cargo space and mar the cargo or interfere with sliding things in or out. By the time I'd settled on steel pop rivets as the only readily available choice, the problem had morphed into patching a wound across the front of my heart, and the same hole shape had been pulled toward me and rotated upward along the front of my chest.
But I didn't have the rivets, which still seemed like the only reasonable choice, so I walked on down the road. It was dark, raining occasionally, and there were other people rather aimlessly walking the same road, approaching the edge of an unknown city. At one point I took off my glasses, which I'd been unaware of wearing, and noticed they made no difference in my vision, and in fact were shaped more like my current safety goggles than like childhood spectacles. As I tried to wipe the rain off of them, the earpieces went limp, bent out parallel with the lenses, and then came unscrewed and fell off. I was careful to catch the tiny screws as they fell out, and watched as they grew in my hand to become 1/4" diameter brass machine bolts.
I kept the bolts tightly gripped in my fist until I reached an outdoor table at a small cafe, where I though I would re-assemble the glasses. But when I opened my hand and dropped them on the table, they were raisins instead of hardware.
My new 1350 AH @ 24V house battery bank is finally here, after last fall's challenge of buying a literal ton of lead against the Chinese onslaught into the metals market and the collapse of the dollar, but due to various details of code compliance it isn't hooked up yet. I'm still running my off-grid solar house on the original 21-year-old batteries that are definitely at end of life. For the last dark, rainy month or so, I've cut back on feeding my big external computer display, and used the built-in screen on my little tablet most of the time.
Both the tablet and my new Motorola Q Smartphone have their LCD screens mounted "sideways", so that my left eye sees a darker version of the image than my right eye. I've had a hard time merging my left eye image with the dominant right eye image for years now, and this has greatly aggravated the right dominance. Sometimes after hours of work I can't even pretend to keep my left eye properly aligned, but I've persisted in playing with this because of the interesting visual and psychoros effects it seemed to be triggering.
The most dramatic is when I am able to notice the ground I'm walking on in "left-eye space". I can't intentionally look at it, because then my right eye takes over and I see the expected scene. If I can pay attention without triggering that switch, I see the ground movement speed up to a dramatic rate as my body moves forward between footfalls, and then slow to zero as the next foot hits the ground. I know from pushing the firewood cart that my body moves at a much more consistent rate than that, and in right-eye space I see consistent movement.
Even more dramatic is when I turn my direction of travel to one side or the other in left-eye space. I literally see the ground rotating at twice the rate my right eye would see. The effect is so convincing that I immediately begin to bend sideways and veer off toward the direction of rotation, and would lose my balance and fall if I didn't grab a railing or revert to right-eye space. Both of these effects remind me of when I was first wearing the bifocals as a child. There was the normal world seen through the clear "plano" upper parts of the lenses, and then there was the "portable hole", the area within a foot or two of my feet that could only be seen through the bifocal lens. It seemed farther away and moved differently, and I learned to separate that part of the world and judge its motion independently.
The other effect of allowing my left eye to diverge from right-eye space has been a chronic pain in my left shoulder and neck. I can sit here right now and totally relieve that pain by visualizing applying the patch to the wound in my heart. The patch brings with itself an effect like walking over to the left edge of the world and "putting it on" as if it were a coat and the objects in it used to be printed on the inside of the coat but are now seen through the coat. As the coat comes up against my body, the extra "space" and dimensions that allow effects like the double-speed rotation of the ground are squeezed toward the right, and the parts of my world where right-eye space applies get smaller - fewer of the visible objects are in right-eye space, and those that are seem much closer together and closer to me.
I'm left with a mystery, though. The whole idea of my first bifocal lenses was that the bottoms were plus lenses, supposedly to make my myopic eyes stretch toward longer vision when I was reading, or at least reduce the habit of constant accommodation that was required for close work. Yet I remember seeing my feet and the ground as smaller and farther away when I looked through the bifocal part instead of turning my whole head down, as if the net effect was negative. I've independently verified that the bifocal part was positive, measuring 0.81 diopters which probably means they were ordered as +0.75. Is my memory wrong? Was the net effect of looking through the edge of the lens at a radical angle not the intended positive?
Daffodils are near their peak, and unfinished projects are nagging from all sides. But if I don't steal some time to write this, it will disappear behind the mundane thoughts.
Last month's insights faded after a week or so. Intellectually I remembered them, but I couldn't "feel" them like I had then, not even before opening my eyes for the first time in the morning. That's typical, moments of seeming clarity about my tangled self concept fading away. One of the goals for this series of notes is to see if there is a pattern to the changes. Maybe my point of view toward myself changes with the moon phase or temperature or something... But I fear there aren't enough data points.
This morning's insight was about chakras versus the spine. The Psychic Institute used chakras as landmarks for locating and communicating about body energies. They also used a visualization of "running energy" (Kundalini) up the spine as a way to clear and open the chakra column. I absorbed a sense that the chakras were (at least supposed to be) centered around the spine.
Now I'm convinced that what I feel as chakras are not and probably should not be on the same plane front-to-back as the spine. Maybe I'm misusing the chakra concept, but when I look for "energy centers" in my body I find them forward of the spine. At the first chakra level, whether I count the physical grounding of the ischial tuberosity "sit-bones", or the muscular focus of anus, sphincter, and prostate, the energy is forward of the spine.
At the second level, the crura of the diaphragm, leading down and back toward the spine, seem to be my focus. But there is also something profound and still only vaguely understood going on here. Probably the greatest confusion in my whole body is between the crura and the top of my right hip. The diaphragm itself seems like one of those automobile windshield shades or photographic reflectors where a circular hoop can be twisted and collapsed in on itself so that the fabric surface folds up. Mine has an extra twist between spine and right hip, where I can store variable amounts of "space" with variable orientations relative to the rest of the world I see. My focus of energy at the second chakra level is definitely forward of the spine and to my right.
My third chakra, associated with breath and the solar plexus, seems centered left-to-right, and relatively centered front-to-back. In fact, it seems I can feel it either in front of or in back of my spine. That's a new insight just now, and needs further exploration...
My fourth, heart chakra, clearly is to the left of my spine and forward. It seems to lie on a straight line of energy across the third and down to the second level where energy is clearly displaced to the right. Hmmm... It is possible that when the focus is on the "extra loop" at the second level, the line from there to the heart passes the third level behind the spine. More exploration needed...
My fifth, voice and throat chakra, is mostly centered left-to-right, but seems swollen a bit to the right at the moment. Here it seems the spinal energy takes a detour, my awareness of my hyoid in front of my throat is much stronger than that of my spine. It feels like energy coming up the spine veers forward through the hyoid, or alternatively that my sixth vision chakra is so far behind my spine that from its perspective even spinal energy moving straight up is way in front of it.
But that displacement of the sixth, vision chakra behind my spine is mainly on my right side. Mirror the energy line from my right hip through the centered third chakra to the heart on my left, and it goes back through the relatively centered fifth and out to the strongly rightward displaced sixth. The extra loop of space at the second level corresponds to the extra visual space at the sixth, exactly as esoteric texts say the second and sixth chakras "arc" together around the heart.
My seventh, "crown" chakra, like the first, is relatively centered, though clearly in front of the spine when I "go there" to check. But if I start from lower in my spine and feel upward for the top of my existence, there is an alternate path out the back of my throat and up through the "extra" visual space on my right, with a virtual seventh chakra as high as the ceiling or the sky.
The "Consumed by the Light" episode was clearly the origin of the zigzag displacement of chakras. I remember ripping open a space to the right of my heart and displacing my breath into it. I wish I could establish when that happened in relation to my progression of lenses, as I suspect the unconscious goal was the creation of the extra visual space needed to cope with "adaptation" to lenses that were almost impossibly painful to wear.
Connecting back to the previous entry where I described having trouble keeping my eyes converged on my computer screens when the images seen by the two eyes have different brightnesses, it seems that my dominant right eye sees the screen in the stable left side of the body visual space. My left eye wanders off into the flexible perspective allowed by the "extra" visual space to the right of my second and sixth chakras. I can sit here with my right eye closed and warp what I see like a photo editor in Liquify mode, just by "adjusting" my second chakra.
Sun to Moon phase 279 degrees, Phase 22 according to the system in my favorite astrology book, "Phases of the Moon" (Busteed, Tiffany, Wergin; Shambhala 1974).
Interestingly, Barack Obama was born with either Phase 22 or Phase 23 (his exact birth time does not seem to have reached public awareness yet.) [Update 080628 - Obama's birth certificate is now public, and his moon phase is 290.8 degrees, making him phase 22, 23, or just barely 24 depending on your choice of system.] Guess I'll post the thoughts I've been sharing with friends about him... After I describe this morning's thoughts about myself...
Whatever clarity I thought I had achieved in the previous post has gradually faded to a pale memory. It seemed like a lot of extra space was intruding between my closed down third chakra and those above it. The lower chakras now seem "way down there" far away from my thoughts and my visual perception. The pain in my left shoulder returned, and it became harder and harder to integrate that part of my body with those below and above it. Basically I've just resigned myself to staring at the computer screen until my taxes are done.
This morning while trying to collect myself together, I had an image that I was "wearing my heart on my sleeve". The left one, to be precise, right over my biceps. Visualizing moving it back where it belongs released strong waves of energy and brought back moments of feeling like my world made sense. But as soon as I lost focus on the visualization I could feel my heart snap back over there and my chakras scatter away to their distant outposts. That's still happening.
So... Barack Obama, supposedly born with this phase:
Obama is either phase 22 or 23 [or just barely 24] (of 28), depending on which system you use. Somewhere in the middle of phase 22 the divide that is central to the "moon phase" system is crossed. The native's orientation changes from a desperate clinging to the individualistic "personality" revealed at the full moon stage of the cycle, to the beginning of a surrender to social responsibility and the "character" by which culture is preserved for the next cycle.
In phase 22, ruthless pursuit of personal ambition and intellectual exertion should be suddenly submerged by an overwhelming wave of humility and optimism. What began as a frantic and willful search for ultimate principles is, unless the process fails in an anxious and desperate effort to impose an intellectual and manipulative world-view upon others, reversed into charity and a religious pursuit of the highest values of society.
Phase 23 begins an emphasis on the external world outside the individual intellect. "The native attempts to fix or crystallize - in the form of material and social structures - the truth beyond words which he has begun to perceive. His chief concern might be politics, religion or social legislation, but in any case he wishes to lead others in reorganizing and perfecting current circumstances. Success, when it comes, should exalt a group of people, not any particular individual."
Yeats wrote, "He must kill all thought that would systematize the world, by doing a thing, not because he wants to, or because he should, but because he can..." The book continues, "Responsibility is not sought, but felt from birth, and almost without effort near perfection in a particular skill is sought and achieved. When in-phase, the native has no master to please, no competitors to surpass, and no personal ego to satisfy: he has only a skill to apply to one task after another. Having put forth his best efforts, he is as surprised as anyone else at the results: a piece of work [...] which in the long run will benefit many people."
"Personal feeling no longer claims a central position in his life, but insofar as he senses what other people suffer and need, he will rise to help them." "His emotions have grown to be every man's emotions, and the knowledge of every man finds expression in him as wisdom." "At best he is filled with an audacious, refreshing joy." "Intellectual discussions of events repel him, since in his opinion they obscure more than they reveal. For his part he would rather perform than talk, for his work reveals more than it obscures."
Basically, as long as he avoids personal desire and ambition, he will find joy in his chosen work. If he tries to create rather than discover meaning in his life, he may succeed in the eyes of others, but fail miserably in his own.
As always, the book reveals how someone feels about his life rather than what he will or won't accomplish in it. From what little I've learned about Obama, it seems quite plausible that he really isn't driven by personal ambition, that he really is as surprised as anyone by what is happening around him.
By birth, I'm 213 degrees, Phase 16, 17, or 18, depending on which of the division systems one uses. Not quite three days past full moon, still in awe of the vision of unique "personality" achieved at full moon, but aware that the vision is pointless unless it can be shared with other people and integrated into society through development of "character". Hence this web site...
I've wondered for years whether there might be a pattern to my glimpses of self-integration. Could they be driven by the phases of the Moon? Could that be why the insights in the "Phases of the Moon" book strike me as so profound? I'll be tagging my posts here with the moon phase - just in case there is a pattern to be found.
Lunar phase 23 or 24... So sometime yesterday was the gateway between personality and character. This morning (I can really only get these insights first thing in the morning before I open my eyes) it was clear that my shoulder pain could be instantly eliminated by breathing into it instead of into somewhere far behind it. Extending that, I found that the energy "way down there" I referred to yesterday was actually from the crurae of my diaphragm, the deep source of breath movement.
I worked with trying to keep those insights while opening my eyes, and had some success so long as I could avoid actually selecting any visual object as the "figure" to attend to. Like the Escher "Print Gallery" image, I could fit the edges of my field of view together, but there remained an area in the center that could not be mapped to rational space. As soon as I attended to a particular object, it resolved into rational space, and the periphery lost coherence.
Working with opening up the crurae energy and letting it run up my spine as Kundalini, I was able to let go of "figure" perception more completely. Visually the effect was like losing consciousness, with the world pixelating away into swirling randomness. Huge amounts of additional space opened up above and behind me - the same spaces I remember "turning out the lights" in while sitting in church as a child.
With all the additional peripheral space surrounding it, the central vision area where "figure" objects are attended to seemed smaller. As images of the physical world gradually returned, I was able to visualize changing the size of the "bubble" that contained my normal world. and noticed that at its habitual size the bottom of the bubble passed just about through the crurae, with my lower body extending outside it. At the interface between things that were made to fit inside the bubble and things that had to relate to my sense of my lower body, there were "impossible" warps in visual space.
I still haven't found time to answer the question of what my first bifocal plus lenses actually did to my perception of my lower body, but all of the things I experienced this morning were clearly related to my adaptation to lenses as a child. If only I had as much time to devote to working with them now as I did then...
Lunar phase 5 or 6... As the cycle progressed from the previous post through the new moon, I lost even the imagined ability to make sense of my inner perceptions. I pretty much gave up knowing where I was in space, other than in front of the computer cranking out tax numbers and solving work issues. Since the new moon, I've noticed energy focusing in my lower spine again. First just a gentle awareness of first and second chakras, then more clearly that energy is being blocked instead of just noticed.
Yesterday was the point in the cycle the moon phase book calls "Closing of the Primary Tincture", somewhat analogous to the fixed focal point between cardinal and mutable qualities at 15 Taurus. It is the "tipping point" between the "primary" quality of "character" that rules the new moon, and the "antithetical" quality of "personality" that rules the full moon.
Yesterday I woke up with a very clear sense that I was divided down the center left-to-right. Those halves were then divided top-to-bottom, the left half at my third chakra, the right half at my second. The divisions seemed to be simple facts. I could focus on one or the other, but couldn't resolve them into a whole.
This morning my focus was on the same area, but instead of noticing the divisions, it was the connection between them that seemed important. With each breath, the tension in my crurae brought one or the other division to attention as "figure", and "spun" the unfocused "ground" image "out there" into "unreal space". Instead of being a passive observer, I am now an active participant in my sense of space. Still right now, if I consciously stop blocking out the awareness of it, the direction of my breath in or out modifies the apparent distance and orientation of the physical world objects I see. It seems like this happens by modifying the "tag" that identifies which image is from the left eye and which is from the right, so that the resulting 3D composite depth reverses.
It is obvious that at certain points in this alternation between seeing physical objects as figure and as ground, my perception of them becomes objectively much sharper, in the sense that adding the right physical lens would make the image sharper. To say that another way, it is obvious that I actively push my physical vision out of focus to avoid the dissonance between my physical perception and my sense of Psychoros space. With each breath I juggle most of the world I see away from the nearby bit of space I live in.
Yesterday morning, 3:25 AM, was the full moon. By the time I was awake, it was probably three degrees past full. The left shoulder pain was back, as it has been for a week or so. I'd found if I "pulled" the energy from my shoulder down in back, toward my heart chakra, the pain went away, but yesterday that image was almost impossible to reach.
It seemed all of the "extra dimensions" among which I can normally move were concentrated in my third chakra, in a small tight ball, a three-dimensional yin-yang symbol. It was like I had taken all the topological impossibility of the Escher "Print Gallery" drawing and concentrated it in the whited-out center of my being, leaving my view of the "real" world logical and consistent. I could "go" to other chakras, and even move bits of energy among upper or lower points, but any time I got near the third chakra I'd get sucked into the topological maelstrom. "Running energy" seemed impossible.
Today I can just barely sneak a path out around the third chakra, as if the topological knot that was concentrated at my center yesterday has an opposite side out near infinity. All the paths I can traverse there curve and twist in a yin-yang spiral, which seems to relate to diagonal tension across my lungs and belly. It seems impossible to hold awareness of any straight path, particularly of the front or back of my spine.
In contrast to such vague speculation, I did investigate something concrete yesterday. I still have what I believe are the first three sets of bifocal lenses I wore as a young child. It turns out the bifocal "plus lens" area does make the ground I'm standing on appear larger - if I look straight down. The "portable hole" phenomenon arises because of what I see when I look out straight ahead. At the bifocal dividing line between the two different lens powers, the smaller objects above the line seem to curve upward and toward me, while the larger objects below the line curve downward and away from me.
As I tilt my head downward, and the dividing line projects closer to my feet, the larger ground around me seems to dive under the smaller world I see through the top part of the lens. Despite the space directly under my feet appearing larger, its motion at the dividing line is the stronger influence on my perception, and I conclude it is at least a foot farther away, that I am standing in a hole.
Lunar phase 15, 16, or 17 (of 28), depending on which system you use. In contrast to yesterday's complexity, this morning my energy seemed simple. Everything above my fourth chakra was locked to it, and everything from the third down was locked at that level, but at the far right side, between my right hip and the ribs above it.
The only path between those areas was via the "hay-lift" route. During the elementary school period when I was struggling with wearing lenses, I would occasionally go visit my uncle's farm, where one of the constant tasks was baling and stacking hay. The heart of this performance was to stand balanced on a flatbed wagon that was towed behind the baling machine which was itself towed behind a tractor, grab the bales as they gradually emerged from the baler, and stack them behind yourself on the moving wagon. The bales weighed easily as much as my cousins and I did at that age, and since the fields were neither smooth nor level, the baler exit chute bounced around relative to the wagon, and the wagon itself tipped and lurched wildly.
Among my cousins' circle, being able to handle this job was the best sign of manhood, and competition was unavoidable. With the extra visual processing I had to do, the task was extremely difficult, but I was determined to learn. The emerging bale was bouncing around in the "portable hole" I wrote about yesterday, and I had to grab it and toss it up onto the stack, sometimes over my head high. The "hay-lift" move I evolved consisted of getting my right knee under the edge of the bale, and then pulling that knee straight toward my right eye as violently as possible, while momentarily blinking and "leaving my body" to avoid facing the topological impossibility (within my elaborate Psychoros map) of what I was doing. With the upward momentum that move gave the bale, it was then relatively easy to guide it into place on the stack.
After about an hour of "meditation" on this morning's configuration, I was able to at least temporarily restore what I believe is proper energy flow along my spine. I hadn't noticed earlier that my awareness of the boundary where my nose cuts off the view of my left eye toward the right had been pushed outside my body toward infinity at the right. But as soon as I had restored more normal spine awareness, peripheral space rushed toward me from the right and filled in not only the wedge hidden by my nose but also the space above and behind my head. The intrusion of my nose from the right into my straight-ahead visual field is now quite obtrusive, and accompanied by a feeling that my eyes are crossed, as if I'd put on prism glasses. It would be easy to go too far with this visualization, and end up with the left nose boundary pushed to infinity, and the left peripheral space reduced to a 2D map. Staying centered seems to require constant effort and vigilance.
Sometimes I have wondered if these spatial extremes could be triggered by awareness of the direction of light hitting one's nose, and whether they relate to the classic visual images of the moon phases as a face superimposed on the Moon... I also remember as a young child feeling this sense of being "on the right" or "on the left" of where my energy center should be, and thinking this must be what grownups meant when they referred to someone's politics as "on the left" or "on the right". I was a bit disappointed when I finally read the story of the French Legislative Assembly.
I just reviewed earlier posts from around this moon phase, and found this, from 187 degrees (21 Feb 08):
... an effect like walking over to the left edge of the world and "putting it on" as if it were a coat and the objects in it used to be printed on the inside of the coat but are now seen through the coat. As the coat comes up against my body, the extra "space" and dimensions that allow effects like the double-speed rotation of the ground are squeezed toward the right, and the parts of my world where right-eye space applies get smaller - fewer of the visible objects are in right-eye space, and those that are seem much closer together and closer to me.
That seems to describe a similar kind of movement from seeing 2D objects at infinity to experiencing 3D peripheral space coming toward my body, but from the left instead of from the right, and by moving myself toward infinity instead of having infinity expand toward me. Intriguing that the topological issue is similar, despite the opposite direction.
There is one possibly strong complicating factor in comparing that February note with today's observations. Yesterday was "Ukiah day", my roughly twice a month, 75 mile shopping expedition, during which any interactions with the outside world that can't be accomplished online are concentrated. The all-day onslaught of people, activity, smells, and stress affects my perception for at least the two following days. The 21 Feb observations were free from outside influences.
Lunar phase 17, 18, or 19 (of 28), depending on which system you use. Yesterday was my natal moon phase, but I didn't feel particularly "at home". Perhaps the anxiety was worth it, because I believe this morning brought a major breakthrough. It is hard to believe in "breakthroughs" after so many years of this process, but this one ties together several previous experiences, and it has definitely changed how I move through space.
It started with imagining the "hay lift" move I wrote about last time, and realizing that I now imagined my right knee coming up outside my right nose boundary, in right peripheral space. Then I noticed that as I turned my head slightly and that right nose boundary alternately hid and revealed distant objects, the space below the tip of my nose seemed tiny compared to the space above the tip, and objects below the tip couldn't be superimposed on the left eye's image of the same objects.
As I began working with the left eye, I brought back the terrible cramp in my left calf that has occasionally appeared since childhood, and putting that together with the experimental movements I'd been doing with my right leg, I suddenly was able to connect both legs in a very unaccustomed space. Both legs were clearly in "central" space, equally balanced between right and left eyes and right and left nose boundaries. The amazing part was how long they seemed - I realized then that all space to my right below the tip of my nose and below about my right kidney has seemed compressed and tiny for as long as I can remember. The effect is a spiral like the Escher "Print Gallery" image, with the logically impossible part connecting my right kidney and my right hip.
The convincing part of the insight was when I stood up and tried to walk. It was like I was walking in the "portable hole" again, with my feet about 16 inches below where I would normally expect the ground to be. Every time I tried to turn I literally lost my balance, and I nearly fell several times. Going down the stairs (very slowly and carefully), my habitual sense told me I was all the way down when I was still two steps above the floor.
I just went back to the stairs to try that again. Even if I'm watching my feet in their new distant space, there is an independent sense that tells me I've reached the floor when I'm still two steps above it. The amazing thing is how every tiny move I make in the area of the stairs triggers environmental cues that alter my sense of balance, and would send me spiraling off into a fall if I wasn't holding the railing for guidance, and trying very hard to focus on what I believe is the new, correct view of my feet.
I'm now more-or-less constantly in what I was calling "left eye space" on 21 Feb 08 (187 degrees):
The most dramatic is when I am able to notice the ground I'm walking on in "left-eye space". I can't intentionally look at it, because then my right eye takes over and I see the expected scene. If I can pay attention without triggering that switch, I see the ground movement speed up to a dramatic rate as my body moves forward between footfalls, and then slow to zero as the next foot hits the ground. I know from pushing the firewood cart that my body moves at a much more consistent rate than that, and in right-eye space I see consistent movement.
What happens is that as I extend a foot forward, the space it is moving through is judged by my muscle sense, which is apparently still tuned to the old idea of how long my legs are. I visually see that my body is moving relative to the ground, but more slowly than my foot is moving forward. As soon as my forward foot is back on the ground, I shift to a completely visual sense of speed relative to the ground, and it seems like my body rushes forward. As a foot begins to lift off the ground there is a crisis of balance, especially if I plan to lift it up onto a stair. It seems I am momentarily unsure which foot is which, and which side of each foot has the big toe, and a wave of side-to-side reaction rushes up my body.
Another connection is to the 26 Jun 07 memory of the Consumed by the Light experience, and the rip I made in the fabric of reality in order to be able to breathe again. The point near my right kidney where the compressed lower right space begins is just below that rip, and related to it in ways I'm just beginning to explore.
Today's story has no particular connection to today's moon phase. It just happens to be a Sunday and I feel like I can afford to take time to catch up here.
The "breakthrough" in the last post quickly degenerated into several days of coughing fits triggered by moving or even just thinking about any of the body landmarks involved. The coughing did not clear my throat, even when I was actually wheezing with excess mucus that needed to be cleared. It did bring back memories of seemingly endless childhood illnesses when the same thing happened - uncontrollable but useless coughing fits. They typically persisted until I gave up trying to maintain the integrity of my psychoros, and surrendered to any new configuration that would stop the coughing.
After a week of coughing and another week of confusion, I've pieced together a few conclusions. My sense of my right nose boundary, where right peripheral space is hidden from left eye view, is split just above the tip of my nose. The very tip of my nose, which was visible to my left eye through my glasses as a child, is attached to what was then the bit of space where I read, wrote, and did fine physical work. Objects in this bit of space were made larger by the original plus bifocal lenses, and then smaller by my eventual series of increasingly powerful negative lenses.
Like my 21 April description of the conflict between looking straight down and seeing objects magnified versus watching as my direction of view gradually lowered and the dividing line between lens powers made the magnified objects appear to move behind un-magnified objects (the "portable hole" effect), the objects I saw through my old lenses were judged not by their perceived size but by what happened when they crossed the boundary at an edge of the lens. The visual tension between what I saw through the lens and what I saw outside the lens was projected to that "impossible" space between my right kidney and my right hip, and the physical tension went into my diaphragm and its crurae.
Above that very tip of my nose, along the part of my right nose boundary that was not visible through my old lenses, that was hidden behind the spectacle frames and curved up into my left eyebrow, the space outside the lens used to seem tiny. Over the last week it has grown to be relatively huge. From a point between my shoulder blades upward, it now seems like my head is much taller than from there down to the ground. The ceiling used to feel like it was nearly touching the back of my head, but now it feels like it really is eight feet above me. And a similar amount of new space has been added all along the horizon in my right peripheral view - enough space to reach down to where I was amazed to see my extra-long legs move so oddly last time.
Along with the added space to my right have come added degrees of rotation - as I turn my body to the side my mental compass now rotates through the appropriate angle. When I walk down my stairway, I feel the 180 degree turn at the landing in the middle, instead of about 90 degrees. Apparently I had previously judged body rotation by how much space slid past my view and disappeared as it reached the edge of my former lens. The difference is startling, it is impossible to maintain balance without holding onto the handrail.
So I can mentally put together this new view of right peripheral space, and extend it way up to the ceiling and down to my feet. With concentration I can even pull the very tip of my right nose boundary into that space, though noticing it is still more likely to suck me back into my old habits. What I can't yet do is integrate the boundary effects up at the bridge of my nose.
If I hold onto my new sense of peripheral space and its extension above my head, and concentrate on objects above my right eyebrow while turning my head to the left, I see the objects approaching the limit of the bridge of my nose from my central vision area slide off into a space warp where they shrink and recede toward infinity - as they used to when they reached the edge of my lens. The almost irresistible temptation is to focus on those objects and abandon the new peripheral space - which leads to the sense that my head is rotating through only half as many degrees as it really is.
As objects cross the boundary from peripheral space into the former lens area, there is no space warp. Size, speed, and distance are preserved. Trying to maintain the same constancy in the other direction produces a total visual overload, where I reflexively squeeze my eyes shut and tear profusely.
Today's entry is pretty obviously triggered by something I did rather than by the moon phase. I've been worried that my left eye was losing motivation to stay synchronized with my more dominant right eye, and that my ability to read at a distance was declining. After much inner struggle, and a lot of web searching, I found an optometrist and vision therapist who seemed open to working with me to see if lenses might be of use.
It turns out the left eye problem is due to "variegated zones with differing powers within the lens". The doctor repeated that this is not the same problem as cataracts, but it seems the only standard treatment is the same - surgical lens replacement. I need to do a lot more research before even considering that, since if I look down at the particular angle that was required to read through my original bifocals, the left eye multiple zone, multiple image problem disappears. How can the direction my eye is pointed relative to my head make such a difference if the lens itself is so defective?
Back to today... So I have a new pair of modern oxygen permeable soft contact lenses to play with. I believe much of my problem with previous lenses was due to trying to correct my oblique astigmatism. It definitely exists, I can see it in the elliptical blur pattern when I look at the tiny LED indicators that dot my world, and I can measure it rather objectively using the movement of laser speckle, but the amount and angle changes from day to day, hour to hour, and (like my left eye problem) with the angle of view relative to my head.
Subjected to the typical "is one or two better" investigation with only distant letters as a target, I know I prefer far too much astigmatism correction at far too radical an angle. Sure enough, even with a supportive doctor and awareness of my habit, the normal exam process produced a prescription with angles I knew were not appropriate. Luckily the fancy computerized autorefractor reported astigmatism angles at exactly the nearly vertical positions I had suggested as being the average of my blur patterns.
Given the obvious variability of my astigmatism, the doctor was kind enough to indulge me and let me try a pair of contacts without the astigmatism correction the machines say I need. For my right eye, the result is as good as I can imagine, and according to the blur patterns I see today, they somehow overcorrect my astigmatism even though they supposedly don't deal with it at all. The tiny remaining blur ellipse is ninety degrees away from where it would normally be. For my left eye, they unfortunately make all of the multiple images sharper, with only that spot where my old bifocals were ending up with clear, sharp single vision.
Returning to the psychoros, today's adventures were about how the new contacts affect my sense of space. I started working with the right peripheral space, since that is where I had noticed the most tension when wearing the new lenses out of the doctor's office. I was able to revisit most of the discoveries and conclusions I've written about in the past few weeks, with the lenses seeming to make little difference. It was not until I turned my attention to the other part of my morning ritual that I discovered anything new.
When I reached the outside of the upper left quadrant of my mouth, running the "PerioAid" toothpick along the junction between my teeth and gums, my vision changed dramatically. I realized the very tip of my nose, the part that had been seen by my right eye through my old spectacles, moved in synchrony with the peripheral space above my left eyebrow. As I wrote on 11 May,
... as objects cross the boundary from peripheral space into the former lens area, there is no space warp. Size, speed, and distance are preserved. Trying to maintain the same constancy in the other direction produces a total visual overload, where I reflexively squeeze my eyes shut and tear profusely.
Objects crossing that boundary, from above the very tip of my nose up to the bridge of my nose, into peripheral space still want to slither off to the side and shrink in size. With the new lenses in place, the peripheral area is much sharper than it used to be, so it is easier to hold onto it as stable space and ignore the strange movement of the objects leaving central space.
Putting together the very tips of my nose, the eyebrow boundaries, the dramatic height of peripheral space above my shoulder blades, and the other recent discoveries makes so much sense and makes the world seem so solid, I'm convinced I've found the right path for learning to live with the new lenses. But I'm sure there is more to be discovered...
The insight about the very tips of my nose moving with my eyebrows and upper peripheral space has proven maddeningly difficult to hold onto. My habit of seeing objects change size and orientation as they cross the upper parts of my nose boundaries seems irresistible. It has drug me back to my anatomy book and what I've called the Trigeminal or "Nose Candy" issue.
The trigeminal (fifth cranial) nerve is the sensory nerve to the face and forward scalp, and to the mucous membranes and internal structures of the head. It is also the motor nerve to the chewing muscles, to the mylohyoideus and anterior digastricus that form the floor of the mouth and raise the hyoid bone, to the tensor tympani that tighten to protect the hearing from loud sounds, and to the tensor veli palatini that tighten the palatine velum (the back of the roof of the mouth, where the uvula hangs down).
The name Trigeminal reflects the nerve's three branches, the Ophthalmic, the Maxillary, and the Mandibular.
The area of the face sensed by the ophthalmic branch begins at the tip of the nose and includes the parts of the nose boundaries that are grossly distorted or blocked by spectacles, all of the eyes and eyebrows, the sinuses, and the top of the scalp. The maxillary branch senses from the tip of the nose and the lower eyelids downward through the upper lip and upper teeth, outward to the cheekbones, and upward to the temples as a narrow peninsula. The mandibular branch senses and controls the lower jaw and teeth, and the large part of the side of the face, back to the ear, that moves while one is chewing.
The ophthalmic area senses eye movements and visual boundaries that need to be shifted sideways when we put the two separate images from our two eyes together into a single view of the world. For instance, what I call the "left nose boundary" prevents the right eye from seeing toward the extreme left. In my brain's sense of the space around me, it can be projected anywhere between left infinity and its objective location at the centerline of my body.
Sensations from the mandibular area should not be subject to this kind of interpretation, since it is clearly tied to the body centerline by several muscular connections. (Mine is definitely not so simple, a victim of dental braces, endless glandular infections, and the twisted meditations I indulged in to try to release the pain of those effects conflicting with my childhood lenses. But that story will have to wait for another time.)
The maxillary area is caught in between. The bottom of the tip of my nose, that was visible through my spectacles, and the side lobes of my nose leading back to my upper lip, still need the sideways shift when the two eye images are combined into one. But the sensations from my upper lip and teeth do not make sense when shifted equivalently, particularly when my upper front teeth meet their equivalents from the lower jaw.
For most of my life I couldn't make them meet. My lower teeth were always held inside their upper counterparts, and I had a very hard time actually using my incisors to bite cleanly. (Probably one of the reasons I gravitated toward vegetarianism...) As part of the work I've done untangling my psychoros, I've learned how to make my incisors meet, but that is only possible on the opposite side of a spot where my jaw "pops" when I chew. The tips of my molars meet when my incisors do, but to actually get the chewing surfaces of my molars together I must move my jaw back across the place where it pops, and tuck my lower incisors up inside the upper ones.
To tie in the "Nose Candy" label I mentioned before, I found back in the day when nasally inhaled drugs were the fashion among a few of my friends that anaesthetizing the maxillary area made dramatic changes in my spatial perception. I didn't have the current conceptual framework to tie them to, but I was looking at the same landmarks that I use now, and the differences in how they behaved were quite disconcerting and hardly pleasurable. The few people I tried to talk to about this responded that I was wasting good drugs by thinking so much.
Returning to the problem of how objects appear to change size and orientation as they cross my nose boundaries, it seems clear that depending on which way my head is turning, I selectively attend to either the ophthalmic or maxillary branch of the trigeminal nerve. Whether that will help me control my perception remains to be seen, but at least I've begun to capture another facet of my experience here.
I wore the contacts for an all-day road trip on the 20th, so I had a lot of boring drive time to observe how they were working. I didn't catch on during daylight hours, but after dark it became clear that my right eye was dominating. It was providing almost perfect resolution, no double images and very little astigmatism. My left eye was "giving up and getting out of the way" rather than trying to contribute.
Before today's appointment to have their fit checked, I had some time to explore the effects of the contacts again. What I ended up convincing myself was that the greater minification of the stronger left lens was discouraging fusion. Trying to judge this at a distance was quite subjective, but at computer screen distance I could compensate for the size difference by just turning my head so my left eye was closer to the image.
(More geometric art at Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s site)
This image by Japanese artist Akiyoshi Kitaoka proved quite useful. It is easy to compare the size of its black center between the two eyes, and I found that when my head was turned to exactly the right angle it would rather suddenly jump from being a flat pattern to being a deep tunnel. With the unequal contacts, I had to turn my head to the right until the image was at the far left of my binocular field of view, almost at the limit of the bridge of my nose.
I find now, with my unaided eyes, I still need to turn a bit to the right to equalize the images. I'll need to try this over a lot more time and different situations, but I wonder if I have a tiny bit of natural size difference.
Based on these explorations, I convinced the optometrist to let me try equal lenses for left and right. So far I think it was the correct choice. On the way home from the appointment I found my left eye actually contributing to useful vision, and had spontaneous flashes of quite nice stereoscopic depth to the road ahead. After dark it was easy to notice that distant headlights were the same distance apart in each eye. Interestingly, the right eye image was no longer as perfect as it had been when it was dominant - it was obviously sacrificing clarity in order to achieve fusion with the left eye. The left eye image was dramatically better than it had ever been with the unequal contacts, with most of the doubling of the image somehow gone. It will be very interesting to see how this progresses.
This morning I was able to bring my recent insights about unequal lenses and minification together with my ongoing work to bring the projection of my nose boundaries back from infinity toward my face. I don't have prescriptions or precise measurements for my old lenses, but I suspect my left eye was always given a stronger negative power and thus a smaller image. That would explain why when I turn my head to the right and objects begin to disappear behind my left nose boundary, they seem to slide off to the left at an accelerated rate and become smaller and farther away. Long ago while I was wearing unequal lenses, as objects left the field of view of my dominant right eye, they needed to appear to become smaller to match the minified left eye image. Apparently that spatial processing habit remained active through all the time I was not wearing lenses.
On my right side, at least today, the effect was different. I found my habit was to push the right nose boundary out toward infinity, and watch the objects that should have disappeared from left eye view behind it as I turned my head to the left seem to cross in front of it and move inside my head. Once inside my head, they appeared to grow in size until they reached the angle where the blind spot of my optic nerve lies. If I continued turning my head so they reappeared beyond the blind spot, they then slid off to the right at an accelerating rate and became much smaller.
I could go on digging into the past, reaching for vague memories of childhood sessions where I would spin like a dervish to "pump" space in or out of my body by exploiting this size differential at my right blind spot, but I'm getting far too un-grounded and anxious. Perhaps the most I can accomplish yet in this session is to try to capture what seemed to be the goal of this morning's work. There seemed to be a plane inside my body that intersected my right nose boundary, right shoulder blade, right kidney, and the crest of my right hip. When I was able to feel it as a flat plane, my right nose boundary seemed to be (as it really is) between my eyes, dramatically and obtrusively to the left of where it has habitually been, and there was no size change as objects crossed my right blind spot. Space seemed to have equal size all around my body. If I let go of that visualization, the plane seemed to twist into a spiral as the nose boundary moved out toward infinity and the size variations returned.
One new puzzle piece this morning... In the past when I've watched objects change size, speed, or apparent distance as they slid across one of my nose boundaries, I would ground myself in peripheral space, behind my head or well to the outside of the boundary area. Yesterday I noticed that if I grounded myself sufficiently far enough toward the other side, in my central vision area, objects crossing a nose boundary remained solid. My vision would sometimes flicker like a slow frame rate movie, and my eyes would tear excessively and sometimes involuntarily close in "overload", but the size, speed, and distance of objects was solidly preserved.
Now I know what "sufficiently far" meant - I need to "hold onto" the opposite nose boundary! It is still quite impossible to actually see both left and right nose boundaries at the same time, but I can look at one, mentally remember that angle, then look at the other while holding onto the previous angle, and experience turning my head in a solid 3D world.
It feels like there is a "movement detector" layer to my vision, and the area that originally covered all of my central vision, from left nose boundary all the way to right nose boundary, shrank along with the minified view through my old lenses. The shrunken area then floated back and forth between the boundaries as I turned my head. When it reached a boundary and couldn't slide farther, it changed mode and caused objects to appear to change size.
The movement detector area has obviously shrunk much more than just the amount of minification enforced by actual lenses. I suspect I actively adopted that mechanism as one of the ways to "leave my body" as a child. It doesn't appear I've talked about this yet, but for all of my childhood my parents' greatest fear was that I would get a "swelled head" - too much ego or self-pride. When the school spent two full days of first grade time giving me the Stanford-Binet, and proclaimed me a "genius", my parents' fear became a compulsive campaign. I didn't even know what a "swelled head" meant, but it seemed like when I left my body and moved my consciousness to a small point at the back of the room they were happier.
However it developed, the prohibition on seeing both nose boundaries at the same time, and the resulting exile from living "in my body", are the most deeply ingrained reflexes I've yet confronted on this journey.
For weeks I've been struggling with my habit of feeling excess space to my right, beyond my right nose boundary, inside my head and inside the right side of my body. In my 27 May post, I was working with "a plane inside my body that intersected my right nose boundary, right shoulder blade, right kidney, and the crest of my right hip", and noted that it tended to twist into spiral shapes. For days the most comfortable position I could get it to was along an angle from my navel to my right kidney. That was with my right nose boundary projected well to the left of my body centerline, so that it seemed to be on the other side of my navel from my right kidney.
This morning I was able to go a quarter-turn more, as if the plane was hinged along an axis from the tip of my nose down to my right hip, and I could grab the opposite back edge of the plane and swing it around the back of my spine toward my left kidney. With that movement it felt like I had closed a huge access panel in the back of my body, and compressed all the excess space back into its proper volume.
That visualization was satisfying, but I wouldn't bother writing about it without the two experiences I had while holding onto it. The first was when I stood up too quickly and began to black out. Usually when that happens my peripheral vision blacks out first, closing in until I'm left with just some small point of central attention that I'm holding onto, and then the periphery gradually reappears in an adjusted position. Today it was the far peripheral space that stayed constant, and a small area of almost central vision, just behind the tip of my right nose boundary, re-oriented itself. Surprisingly, the spot, about two feet across on the floor, did not pixelate away to blackness and re-appear changed. It just changed its apparent distance and orientation while fully lit and visible! I felt all the usual tingling and impending loss of balance, but there was no blackout.
The other experience was probably even more profound, though it is likely to sound entirely trivial to a person with normal perception. I turned the rotary selector switch of my Fluke 87 multimeter to the mV setting in order to read the current going into my solar electric system's new batteries. I looked up at the value shown on the meter's display, and as I took my hand away was startled to realize I was seeing the selector knob and the labels for its positions simultaneously with the LCD display. Normally there is a strict either-or, figure vs. ground relationship between those two scenes, even though they occupy the same four inch square area, and if I attend to the selector switch the reading on the LCD vanishes from consciousness.
This morning I added one more puzzle piece to my map of the space around my right nose boundary. Several recent posts have been about feeling space from above and behind my head downward toward my hip, kidney, or the base of my spine. When I visualize that, I'm aware of the nose boundary from about the middle of my eyebrow down around the bridge and then the tip of my nose, and halfway back toward my face along the bottom of my nose.
There is another route, which starts at my feet, works upward through my calves and thighs and very diffusely through my abdomen, and then jumps to where the bottom of my nose meets my face. Similar to how the "down from above" visualization disconnects from the visual nose boundary along the bottom of my nose, halfway from my face to the tip, the "up from below" visualization disconnects from visual perception at the bridge of my nose. Until this morning, those two visualizations were strictly either-or, and I wasn't aware they only shared that part of my nose outline that was visible through spectacles. Now I can occasionally unite the upper and lower images.
It is easier to describe how one would go from normal perception to where I found myself before this morning's insight: Imagine you are looking between two vertical, floor to ceiling cords, within easy arm's reach and spaced left to right so they appear just inside the bridge of your nose on each side. The cords are anchored at their tops and bottoms, but elastic in-between. Reach out, crossing your arms left for right, grab the cords and pull the left one to the right, the right one to the left, like drawing an opposed pair of bowstrings, until they form a diamond shape in front of your face that just outlines your central vision area.
Within that diamond space, my sense of left- versus right-handedness is crossed, and I need to think abstractly about the direction I need to turn a water faucet or gas valve. When I imagine undoing my left-right crossing, I can't yet visualize keeping my body solid and just un-crossing the diamond area in front of my face. Whenever I try that I get the foreboding sense that if it worked I would find myself totally unable to read and write. So far the best I can do is to try to slide the left and right nose boundary images back across the diamond, passing them between the external scene and my body, while leaving my sense of left versus right unchanged for the rest of my body and for the external scene.
Working with the "bottom up" visualization brings back childhood memories of playing in the snow so long my toes would get totally numb. They even now still feel like they have never recovered, like everything forward of the balls of my feet is shriveled and distorted. When I try to stretch out the shrunken sensations, I cause horrible cramps in my calves. I remember as a child spending time off by myself in the lake. While the rest of the family swam and got rowdy, I would find a spot where the bottom sloped very gradually and the surface was perfectly calm, and practice seeing the part of my body that was under water get shortened as I walked deeper into the lake. I remember going out until the surface of the water was exactly at the point along the bottom of my nose boundary where the top-down visualization stops, and there was just barely enough clearance above the water to breathe through the tip of my nose.
In The New Yorker for June 30, 2008, there is an article by Atul Gawande titled The Itch, which begins discussing the sensation of itching and progresses through various insights about sensation, phantom limbs, and V. S. Ramachandran's mirror box treatment. It presents so many interesting directions to explore, I barely know where to begin. For one, it gives a name to the surprisingly intense overall itch I sometimes feel upon getting out of the hot tub - even when it is not very hot. "Aquagenic pruritus" is supposedly a symptom of having too many red blood cells...
The article leads up to a new "brain's best guess" theory of perception. "The mind integrates scattered, weak, rudimentary signals from a variety of sensory channels, information from past experiences, and hard-wired processes, and produces a sensory experience full of brain-provided color, sound, texture, and meaning. We see a friendly yellow Labrador bounding behind a picket fence not because that is the transmission we receive but because this is the perception our weaver-brain assembles as its best hypothesis of what is out there from the slivers of information we get. Perception is inference."
This connects directly with my thoughts for today through the mirror box treatment. People with chronic pain in phantom limbs can relieve it by inserting a mirror into their perceptual frameworks, to reflect visual images of their functional limb into the perceptual space occupied by the phantom limb. I'm now using virtual, imaginary mirrors, but I learned to do that by using real physical mirrors. Up until age ten there was an old dresser in my bedroom. It had a central fixed mirror, with hinged movable mirrors on either side that when swung around formed a triangle that would just barely enclose my head. In my usual meditative way I spent hours exploring the sensations and spaces I could generate with different angles and motions of the movable mirrors. At this point I don't remember any details, but I can feel how I carry those mirror experiences around in my psychoros to this day and how my brain uses them in the process of building what I seem to experience.
For weeks I've been struggling with the same region of my body and psychoros - what I've been calling the "right nose boundary". There has been a gradual accretion of clues, but nothing that seemed worth writing about.
I've become quite comfortable with a new perceptual arrangement on my left side, such that I'm occasionally aware of my left eyelashes appearing closer to my virtual cyclopean eye than my right eye's image of my left nose boundary. (Eyelashes are of course too close to the eye to ever be in focus, but the motion of flashes of sunlight glancing off of them, or of light refracted by the meniscus of tears next to the eyelid, or of the diffraction patterns as eyelashes pass in front of distant objects, are sometimes readily noticeable. Closing the eye partway makes all of these effects easier to see.)
Where before the apparent size and shape of the nose boundary were preserved under all conditions, and it seemed to move across distant objects with a linear ratio to my head rotation, now it is my eyelashes that move in proportion to my head rotation. The nose boundary, instead of seeming "attached" to my left eye, now seems as it logically should to be attached to the virtual cyclopean eye. It floats out beyond my left eye's perception of my left eyelashes, and I'm aware of its position being referred across my body centerline to my right eye which is in fact seeing it. The relationship involves the same mechanisms that you feel when you put on prism glasses or a new pair of glasses that will require "adaptation".
The dramatic part of this experience is that the size and shape of the perceived nose boundary are no longer preserved. As I turn my head to the left of straight forward, the image of my nose gets gradually smaller and appears to recede toward infinity on a line about ninety degrees left of straight ahead, until it fades from awareness. As I turn my head to the right, the image of my nose gets larger and appears to move forward toward infinity along a line roughly straight ahead of my body. Instead of tracing out a circular arc that was out at infinity when I began working with these perceptions but has gradually moved closer to my body, with me at its center, the tip of my nose now traces a hyperbolic path which approaches infinity at the extreme left and right of the head turn, and nearly touches my body when I'm looking straight ahead.
I remember being taken to the Disney film Pinocchio when I was very young, and being left with a huge personal crisis. The film implied that one's nose would grow longer if one lied, and I clearly saw my nose grow longer (as I just described above) as I turned my head to either side. It seems absolutely silly now, but what is most likely a normal visual experience troubled me deeply for years of my childhood. At this point I can't say that I intentionally altered my perceptual habits to try to avoid seeing my nose grow longer, but I'm sure I was relieved when I stopped seeing it happen.
At that point in my life I always referred to myself in the third person - "He's hungry"... I quite consciously thought of my body as a foreign thing that I operated by remote control, and I found its physical needs to be rather meaningless interruptions of my meditation. The film's focus on the possibility of becoming "a real boy" created an existential dilemma as well as the perceptual crisis.
Though the hyperbolic nose path has been confirmed to be the original state of my perception, and is pretty easily selectable on my left side now, making the same thing happen on my right side seems exceptionally difficult. I can get the shadows of my eyelids to appear inside my right nose boundary as I close my eyes. I can sometimes get size constancy for my eyelids and eyelashes during head rotation, while allowing the nose boundary to change size. Occasionally I can even feel the hyperbolic path... But my right shoulder and arm remain a huge problem.
It is as if I've reached out through the boundary of cyclopean space, and my right arm, along with everything perceived behind my right nose boundary, follows different rules. Physically this anti-space extends back inside my body and down along the right side of my spine and chest, creating odd patterns of tension and trapping digestive and intestinal gas. Perceptually those parts of my body seem to be the source from which the "extra" space that intervenes among the perceived objects in my "map like view" of the world around me was stolen. Clearly it is time for me to get back to trying to find the Rennert research concerning perception of the horizon in schizophrenia I had happened across about thirty years ago.
Late last night as I released the tensions of the day, I realized I had become so distracted trying to capture the background for yesterday's post, I totally forgot the main point! Yesterday morning's insight, that prompted me to finally try to write about a struggle that has been rather stuck for a month, was about the role my hyoid bone plays in the apparent location of the nose boundaries.
The U-shaped hyoid, the only totally floating bone in our bodies, is suspended between the lower jaw and the "Adam's apple" by muscles that connect to the tongue, jaw, skull, throat, thyroid cartilage, and sternum. There are even the omohyoid muscles that pull downward on the middle of each side of the hyoid and radiate all the way to the shoulder blade. They run behind the sternocleidomastoids (the muscles that contract into action between your skull and your sternum and clavicles when you lean your head backward or take an extremely deep breath).
In the middle of this run each omohyoid becomes a tendon for some variable distance, sheathed in fascia that attaches it to the clavicle and first rib near the sternum. As it exits this corner and becomes a muscle again, it is running sideways in the triangle between the clavicle and the upper border of the scapula. It normally connects along the top edge of the scapula (shoulder blade), but apparently in some people it connects to the clavicle or other locations in that area. If I put a finger just inside the acromion (that bone that sticks up on top of my shoulder), and roll it backward and down into the notch between the outer end of my clavicle and the top of my scapula, I can feel the end of the omohyoid. It is extremely sore, particularly on my right side.
Yesterday's insight was that the apparent location of my nose boundaries depends on my perception of my hyoid bone and all its associated structures. Whether, for instance, the left nose boundary seems to be immediately to the left of the right eye (which physically observes it) or all the way to the left of the virtual "cyclopean eye" which includes the perceptions of my left eye (that is physically beyond the nose), depends on the patterns of muscle tension surrounding my hyoid, how I'm holding my neck and jaw.
Most dramatically for me, the feeling that I've "reached out through the boundary of cyclopean space" with my right arm and shoulder can be traced back directly along that omohyoid muscle from the inner top of my right scapula, through the inner corner at the junction of my clavicle and first rib, up behind my sternocleidomastoid to the right side of my hyoid, up the stylohyoideus muscle past the still painful scar where my tonsil was removed at age six, past the rock-hard swollen lymph node just behind my temporomandibular joint, and onto the styloid process of the posterior mandibular fossa - right behind where the lower jaw articulates and just below the opening of the ear.
That painful ex-tonsil spot seems to correspond to the blind spot in my vision, and that muscle path seems to be the route toward the ear for the clicking sound that has always accompanied swallowing and adjusting to air pressure changes. So many of the stresses I was subjected to as a child focused here - the earpieces of supposedly therapeutic but painful to wear bifocal glasses, dental braces, the tonsillectomy, and parents who were extremely determined that I never appear arrogant. The chronic tensions in my jaw, shoulders, and neck seem to be compensations that once relieved the stress of wearing improper lenses, but now maintain habits that prevent cyclopean vision. At this point exploring these interactions is a bit like entering a house of mirrors, and building a rigorous scientific understanding seems hopeless, but at least one more clue has been written down.
This morning I awoke thinking I understood the next step along the breadcrumb trail back to wholeness. I could feel the left side of my body from the top of my head through the base of my spine and all the way to my toes, and particularly a little "tail" of energy that typically escapes from the back of my second chakra but was properly grounding straight down along this left-side perception of my spine.
There is always a "but" in these experiences, and today's is clearly the problem of my right hip, diaphragm, kidney, lung, scapula, and the ribs in that area (see 14 Mar 08 and later). With the proper combination of concentration and meditation, I could release all the confusion in that area and feel only the clarity along my left side. But every breath irresistibly interfered, dragging me out of the solid space I felt to the left and plunging me through a maelstrom of confusion into a tiny flexible world that seemed to be floating just behind where my left-side frame of reference felt my left nipple. The experience is something like being in the Escher drawing on the Concept page, except in this case it is like I'm standing in my own shirt pocket, in one of the nodes on an infinite fractal spiral of becoming ever smaller.
If there is a breakthrough here, it is only now approaching my awareness. It seems like once I am "in my own pocket", I try to regain wholeness by expanding the tiny in-the-pocket body to match my memory of how big my left side used to be. Perhaps I need to become my left side and pull the right side back up out of the pocket instead. But the tiny right side owns my eyes and my breath, so it is very tricky to avoid connecting to its tiny left side counterpart instead of to the sightless, breathless left side that is wearing the shirt whose pocket I'm in. The involvement of my eyes in writing this of course pulls me away from the experience I'm trying to recall and express, which is both frustrating and exhausting, so maybe that is enough for now.
I do want to include some notes about my perception of geographic directions. Last summer I bought a GPS and set up a moving map display I could watch while driving. Instead of the typical mode where your direction of travel is always straight up on the display, I set it to keep the map oriented with north at the top, so the orientation of the road is obvious. I grew up on the Great Plains, where most roads run straight north-south or east-west, so there were typically only four choices for direction of travel. On the few roads that made diagonals to the grid, my mind was aware of the true direction, but my body was locked into the nearest of the four cardinal directions. (Yes, I thought about such things even as a young child!)
Now that I'm in a part of California where there is no such thing as a straight road, let alone one aligned with a cardinal point, comparing my inner sense of which direction I was traveling to the angle of the road on the moving map display proved dizzying. Often the disagreement was ninety degrees or more. Tiny bends in the road which were hardly noticeable on the map registered in my mind as corners where my body's sense of my direction of travel changed by a right angle. Sometimes I would go ten miles thinking I was traveling mostly (for instance) northward when the map showed I was going mostly eastward. With the help of the map, it was obvious that I could completely ignore the direction of the sun and the time of day, feeling I was traveling in a direction they obviously contradicted. Like I said in a previous note about the full moon, I could explain the astronomy, but I just never directly saw how it projected into my inner world.
Now that I've logically learned the orientations of the roads I commonly travel, I've been experimenting with not using the moving map. Often I catch myself remembering what direction I'm really traveling, and make the same mental adjustment the map used to stimulate. But occasionally I notice my perception becoming unusually three-dimensional and solid, and I get a sense I'm traveling in a direction that is neither the one from my old habits nor the one from the map. Sometimes this new directional sense is over ninety degrees away from either my memory or the map.
Hmmm... My house is "square with the world" (as people say out on the Plains), in order to point all the solar panels on the roof toward the south. The table I'm sitting at has me facing about 45 degrees between east and south, but my inner sense is clearly that I'm facing south. Perhaps that is because the south wall is much farther from me, so I can "stretch out" to the south, or perhaps it is because the entire east side of the house seems to me to be less solid and real than the south side.
I just paused for a minute and visualized hopping up out of my shirt pocket and into the full left side space, and had one of those 3D, unique direction of travel experiences. Oooh! Part of that experience, the part that makes it seem "3D", is that I actually see objects change size as I move toward and away from them. Not just theoretically, but as solidly as being punched in the chest. If I get into the "3D" space and move my face even one-quarter inch toward the computer screen, I'm hit with an irresistible urge to breathe - and breathing allows my perception of the size of the screen not to change, but forces my sense of my own body size to change. Holding my breath helps reach the "3D" space, and actually see the screen change size, but it is tricky - I must not only block my airway, but also avoid arching my spine to move air around among the lobes of my lungs.
This is all very interesting, but I sure wish I could just turn it off and be normal sometimes!
For a week or so I've been working with eye floaters, those squiggly lines and random clumps of shadow that slither across one's field of view when there is not enough real detail to distract attention from them. When I was very young mine were like a road map of rural Nevada, tiny open circles precisely joined by faint tangent parallel lines, all seeming to lie on a smooth flat plane. I only noticed them if I gazed passively at a blank area of the sky. They typically slid slowly and smoothly away whenever I tried to attend to them, as if they were floating in viscous fluid (which they are).
Now they are visible at all times, and are constantly moving across everything I see. There is one that still vaguely resembles the road map, but the circles are probably five times as large as they were, and the connecting "roads" are divided into cells and make three dimensional loops and knots. Another recognizable floater is much thicker and darker, enough to completely obscure vision, and looks like a lowercase 'd' and 'q' with their loops superimposed. The rest of them tend to be unrecognizable random gray globs or tangles.
What has captured my attention is how they appear to move. The first clue was noticing that they seemed to be repelled by my "right nose boundary", the limit where my nose cuts off the rightward view of my left eye. While lying motionless experimenting with this, floaters out in my central vision area could be "allowed" to slide right up to the edge of my nose, and would stop there and hold strangely still. Floaters to the right of the boundary in right-eye-only space would stop to the right of the boundary. A vague sense of anxiety accompanied this odd stasis.
During normal daily activity, I've long been aware that floaters seeming to be outside my body and moving toward the right edge of my field of view would zoom rapidly rightward past the right nose boundary, make a sudden loop, and come flooding back toward the left - now inside my head and seeming to obscure my view of the nose boundary. The opposite typically happened on my left side, floaters seeming to be inside my head would loop out around the left nose boundary and quickly re-appear out in the room moving toward the right.
Pushing through the anxiety led me to a visualization where I would "lift" energy that was grounded in the left side of my second chakra and re-connect it to the left side of my fourth chakra. While maintaining that manipulation, I could allow floaters to smoothly slide across my right nose boundary. It quickly became clear that the perceived size and location of the floaters did not follow the same rules that applied to real objects. If I concentrated on keeping the floaters constant, the real objects adjusted their size and shape. In fact, the entire room changed shape and orientation as I watched! I begin to suspect the movement of floaters may play a significant role in defining the psychoros and its relationship to the space physical objects inhabit.
Today, as is so typical of these sensations, I viewed essentially the same manipulation from a different perspective, as releasing energy that has been trapped in the right side of my fourth chakra and letting it run on down my spine to the right side of my second chakra. The release of running this energy (in exactly the sense that the Psychic Institute spoke of "running energy") was as profound as the anxiety I had felt earlier. It is fascinating to search back through the entries here for "right hip", and observe all the other various ways I've tried to describe essentially this same sensation, especially 27 Dec 08:
Perhaps I need to become my left side and pull the right side back up out of the pocket instead. But the tiny right side owns my eyes and my breath, so it is very tricky to avoid connecting to its tiny left side counterpart instead of to the sightless, breathless left side that is wearing the shirt whose pocket I'm in.
As I explored this difference between blocking and allowing, I was reminded of one of the reasons I'm not a "morning person". For years when I was young, from my earliest memories of sleeping alone in my own room and through the same period as the Consumed by the Light experience, the "crack of dawn" was a serious trauma for me. Starting from the floor under my bed, in the same corner from which "the Light" appeared, a pulsating shadowy black "snake" would slither up the corner of the room. It was about three inches wide, about the same as the wallpaper border around the ceiling, and when it got to that border it would split in two and follow the border both ways around the ceiling. If the two branches succeeded in making a loop of the ceiling and re-connecting on the far side, the whole room would somehow turn inside out, an experience that seemed to me to be the very definition of insanity.
So every morning as I first opened my eyes and attempted to build an internal map of the world around me, I struggled with living inside my own version of the "Necker cube" illusion. If by holding my breath and blocking the running of any energy I was able to push away the snake, I could remain in what seemed the world of the sane. If I failed, everything I thought I knew about the physical world was proved wrong once again, and I lost another bit of my substantiality. In either case, when the struggle was over I would close my eyes and hide under the covers until the day was light enough to overwhelm my traumatic shadows with colorful "real" images.
I can't remember when this "Necker Snake" experience stopped terrorizing me. Now that I've made the connection between the Snake and "Consumed by the Light", I suspect that the Light experience conclusively broke the model of sanity I had been trying to protect during all the Snake experiences, and made them so comparatively unimportant I stopped worrying about them. But to this day I prefer to wake up only when the sun is well up and the visual scene is sharply defined.
This morning it seemed like I carry two versions of the world around with me, in the same way that there are two possible interpretations of a Necker cube. If a floater was allowed to pass smoothly from one view to the other, the disparity between the two worlds would become apparent, so my subconscious shifts my attention back and forth between floaters and real objects to hide the gaps. If I intentionally hold a particular floater as visual figure, I can force the real world "ground" to flip between orientations in the same way a Necker cube does. If I carefully move this "figure" floater all around the limits of my vision so that the same geometry applies all around the boundaries of perceived space, I end up with a whited-out area in the center of my visual field where objects that logically should connect are unable to.
I want to mention one more connection that I made while writing this and have barely explored. When floaters "zoom rapidly rightward past the right nose boundary, make a sudden loop, and come flooding back toward the left - now inside my head", they retrace a path familiar from another situation. When I was young and wearing the difficult lenses, riding in a car was a traumatic visual situation. I couldn't begin to process all the movement in three dimensions at such speeds, so I devised a visualization that simplified the task. The road became a treadmill, moving under a stationary car with me stationary inside it. The views to each side became shallow dioramas mounted on turntables that rotated in synchronization with the treadmill road. Only the most obvious objects were processed as separate 3D images, while the vast majority of the flat view out the windows followed the same path the looping floaters do - out of central vision, into a space where the Necker cube was flipped, and then back inside my head where it blended smoothly with my expectations and memories. For most of those long boring rides along Great Plains roads that ran perfectly straight and level for miles at a time, I was barely seeing the real world at all.
Yesterday while driving with the GPS moving map running, I noticed that when a tiny bend in the road is experienced as a "corner", the "tail" space behind me "hops" or changes lanes, to a different track along my memory of the road. I'd already been aware of a break in consciousness at these "corners", disconnecting from a previous space and entering a new one, but now it is clear there is a continuity of experience, with at least one previous state carried along in memory beside the current one.
The current space is associated with my left side and the front of my heart chakra, while the previous space seems associated with my right side and the back of my spine at various chakra levels. I'm reminded of how, many years ago when I rode a 20 mile commute on a motorcycle, it seemed that each of the five forward gears was associated with a different chakra level on my right side. The shifter was operated by my left foot, the current road space was associated with my left side, and each change of gearing shifted my memory of the road behind me to a different vertical level on my right.
Yesterday's experience was in a car with a back seat. I could feel how it would have been perceived differently in my pickup with a dividing wall immediately behind me, and how even opening or closing the truck's sliding rear window would change the feeling. I was also able to imagine driving previous large vans and vehicles with trailers - my sense of "my" space expanded to include the added length, but the "lane change" behind me still happened.
In The New Yorker for May 11, 2009, there is an article by John Colapinto titled Brain Games (online availability limited to subscribers), in which he profiles Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, the originator of the mirror box treatments for phantom limb pain I have mentioned before. It describes his research into the brain representation of bodily sensations in the "Penfield homunculus" of the sensory cortex, and how the connections can be reorganized over centimeter-plus distances if input from a particular body area is lost:
Ramachandran posited that the phantom sensations are also created by higher brain centers, produced by a complex interplay among the sensory cortex, the motor cortex in the frontal lobes, and a "body image" map in the right superior parietal lobule, a section of the cerebral cortex just above the right ear.
Ramachandran also suggests several hypotheses about "mirror neurons" located in the frontal lobes of the brain, which fire not only in response to body movements but to perception of those body movements being performed by other beings. There is a developing body of research suggesting autism is related to a deficit of mirror neuron response. Ramachandran suggests the mirror neuron system plays an important role in consciousness, allowing you to view the world from another person's point of view, and in self-awareness, viewing yourself from another person's point of view.
So where does the psychoros fit into this? It clearly maps more than just physical or proprioceptive sensations, by including the environment and memory of the environment:
One of the main tasks of the right superior parietal lobule is to assemble a coherent body image from touch signals ("I feel my fingers touch the cup"), visual signals ("I see my hand reaching for the cup"), and nerve signals from the muscles, joints, and tendons ("I feel my arm extending toward the cup").
That sounds like the "body map" includes at least parts of the environment. I guess one key word there is "coherent" - are the physically impossible topologies I find in the psychoros consistent with the "coherent body image" generated in the parietal lobule?
The speculation about the mirror neuron system seems to veer closer to my concept of the psychoros, where so many of the effects are subject to influence from a distance by the energy and actions of other people. It is encouraging to see bits of academia daring to grapple with such ephemera!
As I do my morning "Perio-Aid" ritual of dragging the point of a toothpick around each of my teeth where they meet my gums, I've been noticing my lower jaw seemed to "belong" with the rest of my body, but my upper jaw presented a perceptual problem. As usual, there were many different vantage points from which to try to describe this sensation, leading to confusing and conflicting images and nothing written down.
The images that seemed to repeat most often involve the feeling that my upper jaw changes direction at my eye-teeth, #6 and #11, with my right side behind #6 crossing through the center of my mouth toward my left wisdom teeth, and my left side taking off from #11 and heading up toward my left ear, where the bow of my old glasses rested. When #6 first appeared, it grew completely outside the arc of the rest of my teeth, even though there seemed to be plenty of space in my upper jaw. As I recall, it stayed there for years before my parents decided I should get braces. I know I was still wearing them during my first year of college.
The braces involved metal bands on my two middle incisors, on the two eye teeth, and on my first molars, with heavy wire linking the bands and lighter wires tied in various locations and directions as teeth moved around. I remember feeling at the time it was like having a spider web of forces binding my vision and perception along pathways I had not previously recognized. Like chakras and the energy cords that could link and pull on them, these new forces in my jaws could be used to manipulate or relieve the visual stress of whatever bizarre lenses I was subject to at the moment.
The orthodontist my parents selected was overdue for retirement, clumsy with his tools, couldn't see very well, and seemed to be losing his memory. I quickly figured out what he was trying to do, and began an experiment. Some weeks I would use my electronics tools to adjust and correct the work he had done, and other weeks I would leave his work untouched as an experimental control. Whenever I had made adjustments, he'd report that I "had made a lot of progress". Not once did he ever say that when I had not corrected his work. While the temptation to relieve my own pain was high, my need to prove I could do a better job of straightening my teeth than the doctor always won, and I probably made the experience more painful, though shorter...
So this morning I was surprised to notice that for the first time since I began paying attention to this displacement of my upper jaw, it didn't seem to be happening. My upper jaw seemed properly shaped and solidly connected to my visual world, but my vision was different. Typically I look out through the "central vision area" tunnel, with my right eye's image of my nose as its left boundary and my left eye's image of my nose as its right boundary, and nothing visible above the shallow arch of my eyebrows between the two images of my nose bridge. The area above my eyebrows and outside the nose images is kept out of consciousness, the "ground" out of which the "figure" I'm perceiving is selected.
This morning, instead of feeling I was looking out through this tunnel along a sight line passing halfway between the bridge of my nose and the tip, the shallow arch of my eyebrows had become the top of an "onion dome" like those on Russian churches, and I was looking out through the top of it - halfway up from the widest part toward the peak. Above and outside the habitual "nose boundaries" was lots of conscious space, as much on each side as now made up the central vision area.
I suspect that in order to compensate for the minification caused by the negative lenses I wore as a child, I mentally magnified objects in the central tunnel. The spaces just outside the tunnel, where objects changed size as I moved my head, had to be blocked from consciousness. These are the spaces I remember "turning out the lights" in while sitting in church as a child. I've reached this "onion dome" visualization many times before. What is new today is connecting these images to the feelings in my jaw.
Yesterday, the first morning after the new moon, the "onion dome" visualization was still readily available. Today it seemed it was not. I tried to get back there, and I could attain a pale memory of the feeling, but I noticed I was looking out from a level below the bridge of my nose, and I was grounding myself from my heart chakra instead of from the base of my spine. With some intention, I was able to release my grip on my heart chakra and allow energy to flow up my entire spine. While I maintained that intentional flow, I could recover the expansive visual space and integration of my upper jaw from the new moon mornings.
As I lost and recovered the energy flow, I noticed that my habitual visual perception seems to originate not from my sixth chakra but from much lower - the level of my lower jaw, the back of my throat, or the area where my tonsils used to be. Barely higher than my fifth chakra, which seems huge compared to the tiny focus of my visual world. When I run enough energy to get back to the "onion dome" space, I feel I'm looking out at the world from a level I'd normally assume was the seventh chakra, the very top of my head. This new visual focus seems as far above the proper location of a sixth chakra as my habitual focus is below it. In between, where the sixth should be, there is one of those "ground" areas that I can't seem to bring anywhere near consciousness.
I'm left with two questions... One is that in my memory of when I'm about to pass out, and the visual world pixelates away to darkness, the last bit of visual consciousness to leave seems to be right in the middle of where I imagine a proper sixth chakra should be. Perhaps that's what is so intriguing about the passing-out experience. I hope I will be able to remember to pay attention next time it happens.
The other is that this new upper location for my sixth chakra is indistinguishable from where I habitually imagine my seventh chakra. I clearly remember sitting in church as a young child and "turning out the lights" in the visual areas above and outside the "onion dome". I suspect at that time I was aware of a separate seventh chakra, which I associated with the few times I had been "filled with the Spirit". I wonder if when I abandoned those parts of my visual perception, I converted seeing like that into a religious experience, and have conflated the two ever since. Is half of my mundane perception locked away in my seventh chakra, or is there a long lost seventh chakra hiding above these memories of childhood sacrifice?
Life since June has been full of mundane projects and paid work, with no new perceptual insights. There has been a gradual movement of the apparent location of the "left and right nose boundaries" from their original projection to infinity toward what I suspect is their "proper" position inside my personal space. So much so that my naming conventions now seem opposite what would be convenient.
What I call the "left nose boundary", where my nose cuts off my right eye's vision toward the left, used to seem like it was totally outside my body, at infinity or the farthest distance I could see, swinging along an arc from ninety degrees to my left toward straight ahead as I turned my head from maximum left to maximum right rotation. Now the "left nose boundary" seems attached to my right eye and seems to stay entirely inside the right half of my head no matter which direction I turn my head. More importantly, it "feels" like it belongs to the same side of my body as my right hand and my right ear - which makes the name "left nose boundary" seem exactly wrong. But I guess it would be far too confusing to change terminology now...
Along with the change in perceived location, the behavior of objects crossing the boundary has changed. For as long as I can remember, objects that crossed from central, binocular vision into one of the peripheral areas where they could be seen by only one eye would seem to accelerate away from me. In order to maintain my perception of the boundary itself at a consistent size, despite its being projected to infinity, I would alter the perceived location and orientation of objects outside it.
This reached its most conscious manifestation in a visualization I remember doing while riding in cars at elementary school age. I would imagine the car and I were sitting still, and the road was a moving belt ahead of and underneath me, like a giant treadmill or an extended dynamometer. The scenery to each side of me was seen to be mounted on giant turntables that just kissed and synchronized with the roadway alongside the car. While it seems now that there should have been a huge problem with the gaps in the view ahead, between the roadway in the center and the scenery on each side swinging into view along its curved turntable path, there was not. Apparently I was so totally attentive to the central binocular vision area, and it had become so narrow due to the lenses I was wearing, that I completely ignored those wedges of impossibility.
I've been reminded of that visualization several times in the last few months, at points where I have moved into my new perception of peripheral space but suddenly find myself following one of the old trajectories. Most often this happened on my stairway, where there are solid peripheral objects along either side of my path, and the "roadway" is not level. I'd suddenly find I was losing my balance and veering off on a circular path toward one side, kinesthetically compensating for a misperception that was no longer happening.
This morning I woke up with an unusually clear perception of the "pressure" that accumulates among my right ribs, a sensation related to problems I've described before with my right hip, and probably originating with the Consumed by the Light experience, and the rip I made in the fabric of reality in order to be able to breathe again. It being Sunday, I indulged in exploring the various ways the pressure could be moved around.
The one new path I discovered was to visualize the right side of my neck as outlandishly long, and my right shoulder as being almost as far below my head as my right hip.
Today was my every other week visit to "civilization", so I spent several hours driving and working with the long neck, low shoulder visualization. I didn't reach any new insights, but I certainly stretched the range of experiences during which I could hold the image, and the chakras I could open while doing so.
This morning I discovered a totally new and surprising, but completely logical experience. I was lying in bed looking straight up, and noticed that as I rolled my head over toward my left I saw my left shoulder seem to shrink in toward the center of my body. Logically, what happens is that as my head turns, my eyes move in the direction of the turn, so my shoulder doesn't extend as far to the left of my viewpoint. I didn't perceive my viewpoint moving, nor the orientation of the space around my body rotating. My sense of orientation stayed with my body rather than my head, and I clearly saw my shoulder sliding in and out, toward and away from where I felt my spine, as if my scapula was mounted on a horizontal track.
I tried to extend the same perception to my right shoulder, but I couldn't achieve it with my habitual high and close perception of my right shoulder, and I couldn't combine the new visualization with last week's low shoulder visualization. As I rotated my head to the right, my right shoulder "materialized" out of a subconscious "ground" state into being the "figure" of my attention, without seeming to change size or location. As I rotated my head back toward straight forward, my right shoulder seemed to swing backward about 90 degrees around a vertical axis, into invisibility.
Having experimented with the sliding shoulder visualization over the past two days, this morning it is suddenly easy to perceive my shoulders locked together and sliding equally side to side as I turn my head to either left or right. It even happens if I'm sitting up and the movement of my viewpoint is only along the radius from the center of my spine to my eyes, rather than the much longer arc when the back of my head is lying on the bed.
For as long as I can remember, the only way to close my upper and lower molars together to chew has been to pull my lower jaw back as far as possible, and tuck my lower incisors well up behind my upper front teeth. Halfway between that position and the point where my lower and upper incisors meet each other for biting, my tempo-mandibular joints on either side make popping sounds loud enough to be obvious to other people at the table. It is enough of a problem that it has definitely influenced my food preferences. Doctors and dentists have always acknowledged I have a "TMJ problem", but never offered any solutions.
This morning I noticed that what I see while turning my head left or right depends on how I'm holding my jaw. If I have it thrust out into the biting position, which requires conscious intention and is accompanied by diffuse anxiety, my shoulders seem far below my head, and they seem to slide in and out as I turn my head. If my lower jaw is pulled back into its habitual chewing position, I see the old "materialization and rotation" pattern.
Working with that awareness, I made what I suspect is a major new breakthrough. When my lower jaw is thrust forward into biting position, the plane of the tops of my lower teeth seems to align with my ears, or rather with the location of that little click you hear in your ears when you swallow. Which in fact it probably does... When my lower jaw is pulled back into chewing position, despite its actual angle having changed only a few degrees, it feels to me like that plane angles well down toward the base of my skull instead of up toward my ears. In fact, if extended beyond the base of my skull, it actually aligns with the tops of my shoulders, veers off down through my scapulae, and ends up in that problem area somewhere between my right shoulder and my right hip - where this exploration began two weeks ago.
At this point, my sense of the orientation and handedness of my lower jaw stays the same between the two positions, except for the change in perceived angle around the TMJ pivot. My upper jaw, my sinuses, and I suspect my perception of the handedness of the nose boundaries, is subject to bizarre flips, warps, and impossible topographical changes as my lower jaw switches positions. If I had to describe it at the moment, I'd say the jaw-out biting position provides a topologically logical, visually comfortable, but unfamiliar and anxiety provoking experience, while the jaw-back, chewing position seems to make the two sides of my brain squish through each other and swap sides. This leaves my face twice as wide in the front but my head tapering to nothing in the back, and where the earpieces used to be when I wore glasses there is a condensed space that somehow coils its way down my throat, back across the tops of my shoulders, and into that mystery area inside my right rib cage.
I hesitate a bit to bring astrology into this process, but the events I noticed while looking up the moon phases for the last two weeks' entries are too interesting to ignore. My natal Jupiter and Neptune are my only retrograde "karmic" planets, and (assuming my birth time was recorded precisely) they form a "difficult" semisquare to a precision of 0.0004 degree. My natal Chiron, the "wounded healer" asteroid, lies roughly midway between them, and those three are the only influences in the "conscious, personal" quadrant between my Ascendant and Midheaven.
Transiting Jupiter first circled around to Neptune on 24 Sep 58 in a single conjunction. Less than two days later, as the pair hit the exact midpoint between Saturn at 19 Sag (my natal Moon) and Venus at 19 Virgo (almost my natal Midheaven), I experienced an incident of "irregular heartbeat" for which I was hospitalized. The tests found nothing wrong, and no explanation was ever given.
Jupiter and Neptune met again, along with Mars, on 31 Jan 71, and on 21 May 71 and 15 Sep 71, the period during which I made my final attempt at an east-coast intellectual career, decided it just wasn't for me, and moved to Berkeley, California. They made single conjunctions on 19 Jan 84 and 9 Jan 97, both of which seem comparatively uneventful.
Jupiter and Neptune have been completing their most recent three-conjunction meet-up in the sky during these past two weeks. The first direct conjunction was 19 May 09, shortly after I was noticing how when I perceived a gentle bend in the road as a "corner", the "tail" space behind me "hopped" or changed lanes, to a different track along my memory of the road. That "tail space" is clearly the jaw-back path following the earpieces of my former glasses. The second, retrograde conjunction was 9 Jul 09, when I was too busy with outdoor chores to pay attention.
This final direct conjunction was exact on 21 Dec 09, midway between the two days I first noticed the current shoulder phenomenon, and the point where the Moon was conjunct the pair. As of today, that Moon has moved around to opposition to the Jupiter/Neptune pair and near conjunction with Mars which has been roughly opposing the pair all month. Also participating is Chiron, between Jupiter and Neptune as it was as I was born. It was conjunct Jupiter on 7 Dec, and will conjunct Neptune on 16 Feb 10.
I don't imagine any of that would impress a skeptic, but for someone who suspects that on some level the configuration of the solar system influences the psychoros, it is certainly intriguing.
Two mornings ago I noticed a new phenomenon. It seemed I was consciously seeing the nystagmic movements of my left eye. Not the wild, obvious jerking back and forth that has occasionally followed the end of visual stress in the past, but continued tiny trembling over a distance just barely wide enough to resolve. It was easy to "tighten up" and stop it, much harder to relax and allow it to continue.
The movement was primarily aligned along the axis between my two eyes, however my head happened to be oriented. The interesting part was that the movement was not consistent across my field of view, or at least I could not become conscious of both sides simultaneously. When I attended to the movement of the part of my visual field where my left eye is dominant, movement outside that area seemed to stop. If I directed my attention to my right nose boundary, it would tremble and the rest of the movement would stop.
This morning I spent what seemed a very long time in the period between sleep and consciousness. At first it seemed I was struggling with the proper routing of the "tank full" sensor cable relative to the ozone feed hose on my fire protection water tank. I gradually realized I was really working with the relationship of orientation and handedness of the right side of my body to the path of my breath through my sinuses.
Over the past month I've been opening up what I called the "hay-lift" route earlier in this page. Where before I could only jerk my right knee directly toward my right eye from "outside my body", I can now imagine rotating my right thigh 360 degrees clockwise (from above) while unwinding the path to it 360 degrees counter-clockwise from around my spine, ending with a much shorter and more direct path down my right leg to the ground. Another image for the same perceptual change is of lifting my leg up out of the "portable hole" I used to be conscious of walking around in, and standing directly on the real ground.
What I learned this morning was how to bring my right eye along a corresponding path. Except that instead of my eye rotating and twisting, its perception of the world around me did the rotating, and my sense of direction (the one that often disagrees with what the GPS is showing) did the twisting. When the twisting was complete, my right nose boundary had a radically new relationship to the rest of my perception.
For most of my life, my right nose boundary, where my nose cuts off the view of my left eye toward the right, has seemed to extend from the back of my spine around to the right out at infinity. Through the work I've described on this site, it has gradually moved closer to my body and then inside my personal space, but it still seemed to extend out to the right from behind my spine. After this morning's twisting, the right nose boundary originates directly behind my left eye, and the path to it extends clockwise (from above) around the _front_ of my spine - as it logically should!
While that visualization is in place, the world I perceive around me seems dramatically tall and narrow. Actually, it seems approximately circular, about as tall as it is wide, and I realize that I've lived most of my life with an extreme "wide screen" view of a very small portion of the real height of the world - the bottom portion. I can sit here now and feel like I'm floating up through unimaginable height that I'd forgotten had ever existed. I've been having glimpses of this for about three weeks, since the gorgeous sunny spring day when pulling yet more cables through an old conduit caused me to walk back and forth along the same hundred-foot path dozens of times. I noticed that if I stopped watching where I was walking, and attended only to the trees above me, I could feel the dramatic height of the 50' oak trees along the path - but only on my left side. Today I can bring my right side along.
I still have not properly written about H. Rennert's "Vertical Displacement of the Visual Angle ... with a raising of the horizon" phenomenon. He published a series of papers in German psychiatric journals in 1969, describing how he was able to correlate the height of the horizon line in the drawings of psychiatric patients with improvement or regression of their condition:
... the more severe the schizophrenic episode, the higher the position of the horizon - ultimately, it may even disappear. At the same time a maplike perspective, or birds-eye view, of the landscape results, with houses and other objects appearing in the foreground.
While I was immediately attracted to the concept, I was never comfortable with the term "raising" of the horizon. I technically understood that raising the horizon meant raising the viewpoint as well, which implied looking down onto more of the terrain in a "maplike view". But it always seemed to me that my "maplike view" of the world was due to a _lowering_ of my horizon. My viewpoint seemed to have been squished down so low that I had no perspective from which to navigate, and therefore had to keep a separate mental map of my surroundings. In my lame efforts at drawing my world, I would insert "standard views" of objects at appropriate locations on my mental map, resulting in images similar to the ones Rennert published.
After today's dramatic experience of forgotten height, it is obvious that my viewpoint and therefore horizon actually have been lowered from normal for most of my remembered life. If this has been due to expanding the apparent width of the space around me, I wonder if that suggests schizophrenia produces a tall and narrow view of the world, as in having a shortage of personal space around one's body...
Today's transition to wakefulness ended with visualizing my lower eyelids as unbroken by other boundaries, while seeming to be viewing them from deep inside my head near the base of my skull, about where I remember the wounds of my tonsillectomy. I've written often lately about how my "right nose boundary" has been moving from right infinity toward the left, and recently to inside my right personal space. As I began attending to the physical world around me this morning, I noticed the right nose boundary had moved to the left of the objects my right eye is attending to, and seemed to be entirely in the upper half of the visible area.
Instead of seeming attached to the right edge of the central area I'm attending to, it was now attached to the right edge of the area visible to my left eye. The left eye's boundary followed my left upper eyelid toward the right, curved around the bridge of my nose, and then followed an elliptical path back along my lower left eyelid. My awareness of the nose boundary gradually faded from consciousness about midway down the visible area, with the curve of the nose seeming to blend into the lower curve of the eyelid, and the tip of my nose lost from consciousness. Actually the ellipse was more of an egg shape, expanding toward the periphery like the classic "aviator" style of spectacles.
If I intentionally stretched my lower eyelids down, the tip of my nose appeared in consciousness. While I hold onto this morning's visualization, this creates a conflict. When looking into the distance it feels like what I (now confusingly, it seems) call the right nose boundary is well to the left of my center of attention. But if I attend to the tip of my nose, it becomes obvious that the right nose boundary, the tip of my nose as seen by my left eye, is well to the right of the center of my visual area. After entering that space, I can sort-of retrieve this morning's experience when I look off into the distance, but in that mode the information on the computer screen is meaningless texture. To attend to what I'm writing I (at least at this point) must jump into the old space where I seem to be out between the two images of the tip of my nose.
When I make that transition, the parts of the world viewed through the peripheral half of the "aviator glasses" egg shape toward my right seem to pivot to the right and downward around the bridge of my nose, creating a feeling of extra space behind my body. Perhaps a better way to describe it is that "I" move out into that other visual space between the apparent tips of my nose, and objects that used to be directly to my right side slide around behind be and rotate clockwise from above while shrinking in size. As I do this, my nose feels shorter, and in fact I can intentionally create an even more vivid version of the "Pinocchio effect" than the one I mentioned above in August of 2008.
At this point it feels like the "new" configuration of boundaries corresponds to the world I saw through the lower, less negative insets in my childhood bifocals, my view of where my next footstep would land. As I've said, I couldn't read through those supposedly therapeutic parts of the lenses, but since my parents were assigned to make sure I did, I learned to read just above the transition in the other space. That's exactly how I feel at the moment - however much I'd like to be able to stay in this new configuration, the words on the screen are meaningless gray unless I return to my old "out between the tips of my nose" space.
When I look off into the distance and can make the transition from the old space to the new, I can watch my "maplike view" of the space around me expand into what I assume is a more normal 3D view. It is like unwinding a spiral that has curled up behind my body, with objects and the space around them expanding dramatically as they swing out toward each side. The most dramatic part is that I can watch the horizon rise up off of the "map" and into "real space". Or maybe what happens is that the space and objects below the horizon plunge downward from being on a flat map to being in a bowl with a vertical range to match what formerly seemed to be a dome sitting on the flat map above the horizon. In either case, I feel my body height increasing along with the perceived space!
Having seen that transition, I have a new appreciation for why Rennert says the horizon is lowered in the maplike drawings of schizophrenics. When I enter the maplike view, I see lots of apparent space below the horizon shrink down to a flat map. While I'm in the maplike view, I forget that space is missing. My viewpoint seems to be above the flat map, so it seems my personal horizon is raised.
Unfortunately, not only reading, but writing and all the precise technical activities I spend most of my time with seem locked to the "old" space. Being around other people, who expect me to occupy my familiar space, also pulls me away from the new insights I start each day with. Apparently this is going to be a very long, slow transition.
This morning for the first time I can watch one nose tip grow and the other shrink simultaneously as I turn my head relative to a fixed line of sight. The change which has made this possible is that both nose tips can now be kept clearly in front of viewed objects at the same time. Previously, only one nose outline could be in consciousness, and the other would appear to recede behind the non-figure objects it was crossing.
While I maintain the new perception, objects hidden from one eye's view are outside my body, where before they seemed to be inside my head. Objects between the nose tips (that were in the "bifocal space" while I wore them, and have felt like they were "inside my head" since, even though it was logically obvious they were not) are dramatically outside my body, anchored from below, and keeping them there creates strong kundalini currents in my lower spine. (I just realized my computer keyboard falls into that space - but it is not yet possible to keep it there while using it.)
While working through these changes, I became aware of a conflict in how I've been judging the apparent size of my nose "boundaries". When I'm attending to the tip of my nose while watching a distant object, and turn my head so that one tip approaches my line of sight, I see that tip get larger while the other one gets smaller. This is reasonable, since the rotation of my eye in its socket brings the approaching nose tip significantly closer to my pupil, and also higher, closer to the horizon of my line of sight, where it is compared to objects farther away. Thus the nose tip seems to get larger by both judgements.
If I do the same exercise while attending to the bridge of my nose, the apparent increase in size due to the approach of the pupil seems less significant, despite the pupil movement being a larger proportion of the distance to the nose bridge, but there is still a sense that the boundary approaching the line of sight gets larger. Comparing the outline of the nose bridge to the objects it is obscuring or revealing is the current issue... I've been thinking that the bridge of my nose dramatically increased in apparent size as my line of sight rotated away from it. I see now that was because I was visualizing it moving far outside my body toward infinity as I looked away from it!
I've been conscious for years that as my angle of view rotated away from the bridge of my nose, the dividing point between the part of the outline that was dramatically stretching larger and the part toward the tip which maintained its constant size longest seemed to gradually move from bridge to tip. (Probably a relic of the edges of my old spectacle lenses.) Only when the division reached the tip would the tip itself begin to change apparent size. Now that I've learned how to keep my images of my nose boundaries in front of all the objects I'm viewing, it is obvious that what was happening before was that at the division, I was moving my perception of the nose outline outside my body and beyond the objects it was revealing. Since it then seemed to be at infinity instead of right in front of my face, of course it seemed larger!
Since June I've been trying to join my peripheral vision to my central vision, all around, simultaneously. The best aid I've found for this is my little LED flashlight. It has an insulated-wire loop on the back which makes a good bite grip, and I often hold that between my teeth. Much more comfortable and aesthetic than holding the whole flashlight in my mouth. (Yes I know there are nice headlights available, but those have always made me uncomfortable, living in upper peripheral space but projecting out into my central vision area, like the bill or brim of hats that I've also never been able to tolerate.)
The flashlight projects a perfectly symmetrical central bright spot, with the intensity dropping smoothly off the central axis until it reaches 40 degrees where there is a bright circle surrounded by darkness. At 70 degrees off-axis, there is another perfect bright circle, a severe challenge for my current perception.
Because the beam originates about four inches in front of my eyes, this 140 degree circle seems slightly smaller when it falls on nearby objects. If I'm walking up or down my stairwell, the 140 circle is easy to keep fully in consciousness. If I walk outdoors at night, which is where I first noticed this, the circle is still quite distinct as it spreads out to fall on trees or buildings up to fifty feet away - where the forward displacement of the origin makes little difference. That puts the circle in a critical spot within my perception.
With intention, I can become aware of the whole circle and the objects it is illuminating. But if I then try to move, I feel the same kind of visual stress I felt as a child wearing the painful glasses. If I try to force my way through the experience I get the same kind of visual spasm and tearing I would get with vinegar in my eye. Or the movement I intended as straight forward will spiral off into a complete loss of balance.
I've been trying to join the same parts of my visual field together during the exercises I do when I first open my eyes each day. Clearly the division of the right and upper view from the left and lower view relates to the split of my right shoulder and back from my right hip and thigh. Today I found what seems to be a key to how this is maintained.
If I view the "whole circle" of the scene in front of me, and shift my gaze toward the left, the part of my perceptual system that orients me in space holds onto the objects I'm viewing, and the floaters in my visual field float randomly across that scene. If I shift my gaze toward the right, I "hold onto" the floaters, and the physical objects "float" out away from my body into an imaginary space instead of staying connected to the rest of the circle.
With every shift of my gaze to the right, it is as if I "pump" space out of my physical world and into that imaginary world I carry around over my right shoulder. But I'm getting better at consciously remembering the whole circle, and opening up that space to the right and above me. If only I could get through the painful "chemicals in my eyes" spasm...
Wow! I've been stuck trying to unite peripheral vision areas with my central vision for a long time now. I'm not sure today's "breakthrough" was any more important than the many others of the last year and a half, but it does seem to tie many of them together in a way that is new.
To review a bit, when I began this work I felt the boundaries where my nose blocked my sideways view were projected to infinity on the side opposite the viewing eye. It has taken years of insight followed by willful mental gymnastics to change that habit so that the visual boundaries along my nose seem to hover directly in front of my face.
The "trick" if there is one was to allow the perceived size of the nose to change as the eyeball turns closer toward it or farther away from it. Previously (possibly in response to a traumatic viewing of the film Pinocchio as a very young child) I had forced the perceived shape of my nose to remain constant as my eyes rotated, and sacrificed size constancy of the physical world just outside the nose boundaries in order to make that illusion possible.
This area in which I learned to "zoom" objects larger and smaller as they rotated toward and past the nose boundary corresponded to the bit of the world that was visible to the side behind my glasses and under their earpieces. Thinking about looking toward my right, the area is shaped somewhat like the lowercase letter 'b' but rotated 90 degrees clockwise so that the lower circle of the 'b' is the "zoom lens" area, and the upper bar of the 'b' is the spectacle earpiece extending back over my right ear. (Actually, the shape feels more like a '6' than a 'b', but we don't have a left-right reversed '6' character to use in the complementary description, so "b-d" seems more useful.)
I suspect I learned this adaptation to cope with the transition from the "minified" view through the negative power lenses I was prescribed for myopia, and the normal view that remained beyond the edges of the lenses. I remember I was continually tensing and adjusting my ears in response to my visual environment, and my ears were always painfully sore where the weight of my glasses pulled on them. At that time the top bar of the 'b' was perceived to follow the direction of the earpiece, parallel to a straight ahead gaze.
Gradually the top bar of the 'b' rotated inward toward my spine, and "I" got much smaller relative to the view ahead of me. I suspect the rotation continued until the view through the lower circle of the 'b' was along the same axis as the view straight ahead, and it became a (laid over to its left) 'd' when I looked forward through it - the opposite direction and "handedness". This overlap of two perceptual framework layers with opposite handedness allowed me to refer perceived objects to whichever would minimize the tension created by the motion of my surroundings.
But this has all been describing the view out below the earpieces of my glasses. Above the earpieces space was shaped much differently. It is still hard for me to access that upper space. For most of my life my sense of space above my head has been visually just darkness. Even now, when I try to see "up there", I get the kind of sensory overload created by blindingly bright light, with crazily conflicting spasms of my eye muscles. The only way I've known that space was through heat - the rays of the sun shining on my bare head, or the proximity of a stove or open fire.
For several weeks now, I've been working toward being able to feel "real" space beyond my nose boundaries - space perceived by the eye that sees what is blocked from the other eye. Space which extends upward above where the other eye's view is blocked by my eyebrows. Using the new "b-d" image, it is as if the upper bar of the habitual 'd' (which many years ago was a 'b' laid over on its right side so the arc matched my former spectacle earpiece) gets rotated outward at the back until it aligns with the former earpiece again, and then rotated another 270 degrees until it becomes a 'd' laid over on its left side with its the upper bar aligned with my eyebrows! (The same static orientation as the previous long-term state, but with a full twist around a vertical axis removed.)
When I can hold that visualization, my sense of the space below my former earpieces expands immensely until it synchronizes with the space I feel above my head. My nose seems to slide completely past the centerline of my body, leaving a totally unfamiliar expanse of face looking out at a half of the world that seems unencumbered by nose boundaries. I can finally imagine how it is so hard for "normal" people to conceive of even noticing their nose. And I can imagine it might even be fun to wear a hat!
There is one more tiny refinement that made up the most memorable part of today's insight. When the upper bar of the new laid-over 'd' (to my right) or 'b' (to my left) extends past my nose, it does not follow my eyebrows across to the upper bar of the letter shape on the opposite side. From the perspective of the eye looking through the lower circle, it follows the eyebrow above that eye, across the face and down toward the other eye. But from the perspective of the opposite eye, the top bar of the letter ends along its upper eyelid, not along the eyebrow.
This may be a personal quirk that I learned while wearing hard contacts that floated up and down past my pupils following the motion of my eyelids, or it may be the next challenge for me to understand. Stay tuned...
Another connection that has crept into my consciousness recently is to foot reflexology. I mentioned above how when I was young and wearing my oppressive glasses, I was continually twisting my ears around to try to reduce the tension their earpieces created. While some of that might have caused real-world effects by physically moving the lenses relative to my eyes, I suspect there was more to it. It appears that on ear reflexology charts, the point where my ear struggle focused corresponds to one's foot.
Now I've become very aware that while doing intense visual work, I continually twist my toes and feet around. The heels (which reflexologists refer to the base of the spine) remain relatively stable, but the "above the waist" shoulder-lung-heart area out toward the toes is in constant motion, seeming to be twisting around an axis leading to each eye point. The movement is most obvious when I'm sitting on the floor in lotus position, with my toes tucked behind my knees for warmth.
I've also been able to reclaim memories of how when I was young and struggling with lenses, I could adjust the stress while standing by raising my heels off the floor, standing on my toes. What I experience now is that the effect depends on the perceived twist around the axis from the spine area to the eye points, rather than just on the height of the heels.
I'm not aware of these effects when I wear the "dogger heel" Western boots I use for serious outdoor work here in the wilderness, but in those my feet are tightly jammed into the very stiff boots with heavy wool socks filling any available movement space. I'm left with the feeling of a single, immovable "hoof" rather than a complex system of bones and ligaments. I'm curious if anyone else finds the height of their heels affects their visual space. I've always had the impression that high heels were a sacrifice women imposed on themselves for the sake of fashion, and that the rewards were conceptual rather than physiologically mediated. Could there be other people who find heel height directly affects consciousness?
This probably deserves its own page and much more discussion, but I want to toss out a preliminary link to what may be another effort at describing the phenomenon of consciousness I call the psychoros. University of Massachusetts psychologist Arnold Trehub calls his version the "Retinoid System". He has placed the full text of his book, The Cognitive Brain (1991) on his UMass web page, along with several more recent papers. His pdf document Where Am I? Redux is a particularly accessible introduction to his thought.
Last April I wrote:
Using the new "b-d" image, it is as if the upper bar of the habitual 'd' (which many years ago was a 'b' laid over on its right side so the arc matched my former spectacle earpiece) gets rotated outward at the back until it aligns with the former earpiece again, and then rotated another 270 degrees until it becomes a 'd' laid over on its left side with its the upper bar aligned with my eyebrows! (The same static orientation as the previous long-term state, but with a full twist around a vertical axis removed.)
I'd actually forgotten the "b-d" image, but have continued to stretch toward the spatial configuration it described. The most productive path has been to begin at my liver and unfold a long-compressed space reaching up through my right shoulder blade into the visual space above and to the right of my central vision area. This newly freed space seems absolutely immense and hugely liberating! Compared to the area of peripheral vision which is now "lit up", my central vision area which can be seen by both eyes is maybe 10% of the perceived space - it used to feel more like 90% of my conscious perception. Its boundaries now float around out in front of my face, against a solid world of continuous peripheral vision.
This expanded peripheral area is the same space where I "turned out the lights" while sitting in church as a young child, and the same space I've occasionally seen light up with fragments of the real world or more frequently wildly pixelated bright colors. The key to feeling it as real space seems to be unfolding a long-hidden cardinal direction.
I've "always" had a hard time feeling north/east/south/west correctly. Of course I know logically how directions work, and have always overcompensated by compulsively studying maps, but my sense of direction has always required a pause for thought. As I wrote above when discussing driving with a GPS display, "Tiny bends in the road which were hardly noticeable on the map registered in my mind as corners where my body's sense of my direction of travel changed by a right angle.". Thinking back to childhood, I'd say I combined north with east - perhaps as part of the "consumed by the light" experience which seemed to originate from the northeast.
When I expand into my new peripheral spaciousness, it is like one of the four cardinal directions that has been folded up for most of my life unfolds over my right shoulder, flooding my perception with additional space. This new perception is not at all integrated with my sense of balance, and I'm frequently pulled back out of it by veering wildly off my intended path.
Adding to that conflict with proprioception, I find that against the new background of wide peripheral vision, there are errors of visual interpretation. The most insidious is that as I turn my head so that an object in central vision approaches a nose boundary, the object appears to expand, and to move toward the boundary more rapidly than it should. I see that back in 2008 I said "when I turn my head to the right and objects begin to disappear behind my left nose boundary, they seem to slide off to the left at an accelerated rate and become smaller and farther away". I guess the perceived size change depends upon whether central or peripheral vision is the reference, but the perception of accelerating motion toward the boundary is maintained.
My habit is definitely to attend to this illusory acceleration at the edges of central vision. It happens at the top and bottom as well as at the sides, as if my central vision is a magnified sub-image floating across a peripheral space where objects are all smaller. Every head movement seems to "pump" space out of peripheral vision and leave me ever more focused on the central area. Guess I know what to work on next...
I often take a break from routine to celebrate the full moon. Typically the insights I get are so far from expressible in words, I don't even try. But tonight I actually took notes!
I noticed two objective and related phenomena. The first is that I can now bring both left and right eye views of the tip of my nose into awareness simultaneously, and watch the apparent distance between them change! Obviously this means I'm varying the vergence between the two eyes, but the apparent distance between the nose tips (and the effort I'm exerting toward resolving a coherent visual image) varies rather randomly even while maintaining the same attention point and accommodation. The second is that I maintain two or more attention points out near the far edges of my peripheral vision, on the horizon (or at least on my personal horizon of the moment).
When I mentally attend to the "here and now", the nose tips appear to move apart, and the peripheral points appear to move forward, right up to the edges of the central vision area. But they don't move into consciousness as part of the central scene, they remain in an entirely separate spatial framework. My alternative, the space where I'm more comfortable in most ways, is to hang onto the peripheral attention points (where my sense of balance is strongest), back away from the here and now scene, and allow the nose tips to move closer together. I imagine if someone else was watching it would appear I'm "looking down my nose" at them.
To me it feels like I've entered a place where I can put the here and now into a longer perspective, both spatial (orientation relative to cardinal directions) and philosophical (long-term consequences, moral choices). The transition involves the kind of muscular stress to my eyes that I remember from wearing ill-fitted spectacles. But I'm never really free of those sensations...
The "peripheral attention points" seem to be digital, in the sense of popping suddenly in and out of whatever portion of awareness they occupy. For instance, as I walk through my huge old barn, there are windows, doors, and gaps that afford views of light and distance. It seems my brain navigates among these momentary sensations rather like a cell phone navigates among the fragmentary signals in an urban canyon - hopping from one to the next as I move. As long as I have locked onto two or three cardinal points, I feel securely oriented. To go from there to actually creating a "here and now" visual image requires intention and effort.
Since that full moon experience, I've discovered a vein of research which may connect. David Troilo, SUNY College of Optometry writes,
We hypothesize that the development of refractive state is determined by a confluence of several interacting factors including the shape of the eye, the spatial pattern of refractive state across the retina and the temporal characteristics of visual stimuli experienced. In addition to these, there may be individual inherited differences in eye shape and peripheral refractive state as well as the area of retina involved in the integration of the visual growth signal and the gain of the eye growth controller.
From what I've read so far, the theory is that human (and animal) eyes respond not only to the focal state at the central fovea, but also to the effects of lenses and accommodation on peripheral vision and on the transition between those modes of vision. Hopefully I'll have much more to say about this (and proper citations) in the future, but for now I want to include just the following diagram (from a paper by Earl L. Smith, III):
After several periods of living and working away from my isolated rural home this fall, I've spent the last two weeks pretty much hiding in bed fighting off the various respiratory infections I brought home. A state quite familiar from the parts of my childhood when I learned the visual adaptations I'm trying to undo.
This morning I spent hours exploring the topographic mystery that has plagued the right side of my diaphragm and the internal organs above and below it for most of my life. I've touched on this area before in this page:
22 Apr 08 (Moon 205 degrees from Sun) "hay-lift"
27 Dec 08 (Moon 2 degrees from Sun) "standing in my own shirt pocket"
20 Dec 09 (Moon 47 degrees from Sun) "Consumed by the Light"
Amazingly I've never tried to formalize what happens there. The one obvious anomaly is that my right sixth rib is displaced forward of the seventh rib where they meet, as if perhaps it was broken at the junction. The part attached to the sternum remains in line with the other ribs, but the outer part has moved out in front of the seventh rib and formed a large hard ball of bone and cartilage that is immediately visible and palpable. I don't remember any particular incident that was responsible for a break, though there were many possibilities.
This rib anomaly is one focus of a chain of linked experiences that plague my whole right side from head to toe. I'm sure it comes to attention now because I've been experiencing coughing fits, as I have many times in the past. They are not really functional, my throat and sinuses are generally clear, but a "tickle" anywhere along the twisted energy chain up my right side propagates back and forth among body parts that seem to be in conflicting spaces, prompting more coughing.
Other linked experiences include the twist in my right thigh that was part of seeing myself step into the "portable hole" created by my early bifocals, and the cramps in my calves when I try to release it. The "hay-lift" movement that forced me to brutally disregard my perceptions in that area and power through a range of motion that made no kinesthetic sense. The similar stretch required to pull a pistol from a holster on my right hip and guide it toward sighting a target well above my diaphragm level. The sense of "standing in my own shirt pocket", somewhat like the boy in the Escher drawing is viewing himself in a hanging picture. And perhaps most originally the "Consumed by the Light" experience, where I willfully ripped some part of my bodily identity apart so that I could resume breathing. At the root of all of these is a sensation of a huge empty space where my liver should be; I can't find reputable confirmation at this point, but I once read that it is common in Islamic folklore for the djinn to eat your liver...
One of this morning's insights was the role of the oboe in this experience. When I was ten years old, the school music teacher acquired an ancient and rickety oboe along with a $20 batch of other used instruments, and I was the only person in the school he thought he might manipulate into playing it. A marching band is no place for an oboe, but that was the least of my problems. By then I had been conditioned to always read through the lower bifocal areas of my spectacles, but the music stand held the music squarely in front of my face. Of course I didn't actually read through the bifocal area, I produced that illusion by keeping the dividing line just below whatever I needed to see clearly. But the oboe reed was extremely sensitive to the angle of my head, so I had to sacrifice my vision habits. As I remembered today, the ultimate torture was having to provide the constant, extreme breath pressure the oboe requires - while holding my arms and head in enforced positions and trying to read music in a part of my visual sense that really didn't work, surrounded by peers who already considered me hopelessly dorky. Right now I can "light up" all of my right-side problems by pretending to blow an oboe reed.
After all that memory struggle, I let go and relaxed for a bit, and noticed a surprising change in my vision. For probably every previous mention of "nose boundaries", I've thought of them as if "I" was located in the central vision area that can always be seen by both eyes. The nose boundary I saw to the right of my left eye's field of view, for instance, formed the right boundary of the area within which I maintained an illusion of visual rigidity, and anything my right eye could see beyond that boundary was subject to changes in apparent size, shape, perspective, brightness, clarity, and even existence.
I could always follow that boundary continuously around up over my forehead and down the other side, outlining a small window of solidity floating in the middle of a larger and very fluid peripheral area. I've been aware for a few years now that as I turned by head from side to side while fixating on a single object, the proportions of my nose would change, the side approaching the line of sight becoming larger and feeling nearer, while the other side receded into the distance. But always, the far nose boundary remained unbroken across the bridge of my nose, merging the nose and forehead into a single limiting line.
Today I was shocked to find that as I looked off to the extreme right, the tip of my nose as seen by my left eye felt like it remained to the left of me, while the angle from there up toward my nose bridge sloped dramatically to the right, becoming almost horizontal. Even more surprising, that line receded into an imperceptible infinity before reaching the bridge of my nose. Between that line and my eyebrows, space that felt rigid and real spilled off into the infinity behind me and above my head.
It was like having worn a parka or "hoodie" with the drawstring pulled down tight for all of my remembered life, and suddenly releasing the string and throwing it up and back over the top of my head. Most amazingly, I was able to watch as objects in my right-eye-only peripheral vision maintained rigidity while objects at that edge of my binocular vision changed apparent shape and orientation in jerky but obvious steps!
An alternative image for the difference would be that I have spent most of my life outside the sphere of my visual world, looking in through a tiny nose-boundary-sized window, and this morning I was able to place myself inside the sphere along with the objects I was seeing. It is ironic that my image of myself peeking in through the outer wall of a Copernican bubble I carried around in front of me all my life would seem to make my body relatively larger than the world inside the bubble. But the experience of moving inside the visual world along with the objects makes my head feel much huger - and having a "swelled head" was the cardinal sin during my childhood. I fear I took that a bit too literally!
Continuing the next day...
I just spent a long time trying to understand why this new world shape is so much easier to reach toward my right side. The most objective clue I can find is that when I gradually look toward the right (relative to the median or mid-sagittal plane of my head), the path my eye seems to follow heads directly for the bridge of my nose. By stretching that just a little bit upward, my attention and sense of rigidity of the world spill across the bridge into the peripheral area. When I gradually look toward the left, my eye follows a path that arcs downward and ends up perpendicular to the main line (nasal ridge, dorsum) of my nose, midway between bridge and tip. Instead of stretching in length and sloping more and more outward (approaching horizontal while rotating around a horizontal line from my spine to the tip of my nose), the dorsum seems to swing inward toward my eye around a vertical line through the bridge, and tilt even more vertically (relative to the downward sloping end of the arc, which becomes my reference) as it fills my field of view and completely blocks access to my left periphery.
With that awareness, I can intentionally override my habit and achieve the same opening sensation toward my left. When I succeed, it becomes obvious that my sense of the height of the visual horizon toward my left is habitually displaced downward, and I usually feel space is constricted toward the upper left.
The concept of "rigidity" of visual space that I've been using here is from the work of J. J. Gibson (1904-1979) at Cornell University. He wrote that perceiving the surrounding world as rigid was much more important to us than perceiving it to be vertical or rectilinear or having any other particular "good" quality.
Note on the Norms of Surface Layout, December 1974:
The main invariant of the permanent environment is that it is solid instead of viscous or liquid. The regularity of shape is not so important.
Perhaps the most appealing of his insights to me is that adaptation to distorting spectacles is not a problem just of the lens or prism effects on the retinal image. It is a problem of behavior in the physical world, where an infinite collection of "eye postures" and adaptations must be attached to physical stimuli.
Note on the Interpretation of Experiments Concerned with Perceptual Adaptation, January 1967:
I finally understood that my theory of the local recalibration of the neutral quality of lines, colors, and retinal motions could not explain the "situational" aftereffects discovered by Kohler. These effects appeared in (what I later called) the phenomenal visual world, not simply in the retinal visual field. They do not, as we say "move with the eyes" as afterimages do; they stick to the edges of things. They are aftereffects of wearing spectacles in the ordinary environment, not of simply continued looking through an optical device or looking at an actually curved line. They were so remarkable and so inconsistent with any existing theory of visual sensations that Kohler repeated the experiments for 10 years before publishing the results (1951). As he understood them, they seemed to prove that the effect of a local retinal stimulus was conditional upon eye-posture. Perhaps every sensation had to be conditioned to every possible eye-posture (see Taylor, 1962). More generally, the fact had to be not merely that a distorted retinal image got phenomenally corrected in the course of time, but that each special retinal image distortion in each possible eye-posture got corrected. There is no limit to the number of points, lines, or forms on the retina that would have to be "relearned".
Parenthetically, this is the difficulty that, in large part, has led me to deny the relevance of the retinal "image" and its neural projection for visual perception, and to postulate that the stimulus for vision is the structured ambient array of the light - the stimulus, that is, for an ocular system that registers its surroundings.
Gibson specifies some critical terminology for the discussion of the effects of "eye postures" on adaptation.
Note on the Terminology of Distortion in the Experiment on Adaptation to Prismatic Spectacles, February 1965:
1. Distortion (of form or pattern). This is the pattern entering the eye from a stable environment with a spectacle relative to the pattern entering the eye from that environment without a spectacle. It can be termed a "transformation" in the geometrical sense of the term, a relation between two forms that are in point-to-point correspondence...
2. Gaze-contingent Distortion. This is a new term employed by Hay and Pick (in preparation). It is the alteration of the form from an object in the environment as this depends on different amounts of refraction in the overall prismatic field, that is, the difference in distortion that corresponds to the difference of right-left or up-down in the field of view... Note that a changing distortion of form is obtained at the eye when either (a) an object is moved across any meridian of the total field with the head-and-spectacles stationary, or (b) a stationary object is fixed by the eye while the head-and-spectacles are turned on any axis. The amount of distortion depends on the position of the foveal gaze-line of the eye relative to the head or the position of the head relative to the foveal gaze-line. But the changing distortion depends on movement, and this leads to the third definition.
3. Sequential Deformation. This is a change of form with time. It is a change of the same form, not a geometrical relation between two forms, nor an abnormality of one form relative to a standard. It is a sequential transformation as distinguished from a geometrical transformation.
Note that a form that undergoes deformation by this definition will already have undergone distortion by previous definitions and that the two are not at all the same (See illustration). Evidence suggests that a sequential deformation is immediately noticeable, whereas a distortion, unless it is an abnormality, may not be noticeable. A "running" deformation can be detected as a visual event, whereas a distortion (as defined) can only be perceived by comparing or judging and, unless the perceiver has absolutes like vertical, horizontal, rectilinear and rectangular, this perception may be indirect. It is important to remember that a sequential deformation, as defined, is a visual accompaniment of eye or head turning, a feedback or reafferent, whereas of course a distortion is not. Deformation results from either eye-pursuit with stationary head or head movement of any sort with fixed eyes. The experience is that of rubbery motion or elastic change of phenomenal objects. ...
This is the adjustment to abnormal optical motions, the sequential deformations obtained with prisms. It is not to a biased pattern, or even to a biased pattern of patterns, but to a biased change of pattern. The spectacles alter the visual propriospecific feedback from movements of the body, head, and eyes. This is not muscular, or articular, or vestibular proprioception, but strictly visual proprioception (and proprioception in general is not a sense but a multiple input system that cuts across the senses).
It has always been obvious to me that the problem of wearing spectacles while moving is incredibly more difficult than simply wearing them while sitting in the optometrist's chair, and that the attention paid to this issue in the prescribing and fitting of lenses is hopelessly inadequate. As Gibson says, The spectacles alter the visual propriospecific feedback from movements of the body, head, and eyes. Adding this continuing stream of sequential deformations into the physical and psychological feedback systems that govern our health and well-being certainly had unexpected consequences in my case.
I've lately noticed objects that would habitually be felt as attached to the visual background jumping dramatically out into separate existence, being independently tracked as I move around them, and surprising me with their perceived height. I've quickly learned not to rely on these perceptions for my sense of balance! Those experiences are somehow linked to my sense (or imagination) of whether the sun or other illumination is coming from above or below the ecliptic. But I don't understand any of that well enough to write about it yet.
The one clear and reliable change is again in my perception of my "nose boundaries". In all of my previous writing about them, I'd been noticing only the part of my nose outline from my upper lip out to the tip of my nose and then up to almost the bridge - the part that was visible through my spectacle lenses.
When I first began working with this boundary it was projected out to infinity all around me, and as I turned my head from side to side, the same shape slid along my horizon. Sometimes I was aware that my eyebrows were also moving up above that part of the boundary, but they seemed to slide independently of my nose, and I did not try to connect the two areas. Gradually I brought the perceived nose boundary closer to my face, and became aware that as an eye turned toward one of the boundaries it got closer to the nose and thus the nose image seemed larger. It has taken from 2008 until now to have this become my expected perception.
This morning I was able to link my nose boundaries to my eyebrows across the bridge area of my nose. What was previously felt as a right angle corner between them became a smooth arc that seemed much larger than before. As either eye turns toward the arc, that bridge portion of my nose appears to grow much larger. The tip of my nose, which formerly seemed to grow larger, now actually stays about the same perceived size, but it seems to move downward dramatically - as one would expect if the horizon of view is up at the arc/bridge.
Again I'm reminded that I must have seemed to have been "looking down my nose" at everyone for most of my life. Sincere apologies - I had no idea! I'm also reminded of the Rennert horizon measurements, and wondering if changing the habitual sight angle relative to my nose might help me escape the "maplike view" and allow more objects to jump out into normal independent height.
I've discovered a "space" in my right peripheral vision area where the image can be much sharper than anywhere else I can see. I suspect calling it "peripheral" is misleading, because obviously in order to see this sharpness and color, I'm directing my foveal vision off to the extreme lower right, to a part of the world hidden from my left eye by my nose. But just looking there is not enough - I also must allow the space I feel in the opposite direction, upward to my left, to "adjust" in a way that stretches my eye muscles and throws the central part of my visual field out of focus.
It is always humbling to read back through this page, and see how I was dealing with many of the same issues six years ago. But the gratifying part is to see how my understanding and perspective have changed. My first 2007 entry above describes the interaction of this new "sharp" space with my habitual vision:
Rotating my head outward, trying to keep the nose bridge close-in requires total concentration, and quickly leads to visual overload - excessive tearing to the point of obscuring the view, reflexive lid closure, and painful combinations of eye, jaw, and neck muscle tension that feel "crazy". But it also leads toward spreading the 3D space of central vision across the nose bridge to the objects in peripheral space beside and behind me, so their size and orientation can be correctly visualized as they suddenly appear in central vision.
The overwhelming temptation is to allow the nose bridge to project toward infinity and pass outside the objects in the peripheral area, trusting their size and distance only after they have rotated inward past the arc described earlier. As they move from the nose bridge toward the arc, they gradually take up sizes and positions within a "bubble" of 3D space outside and in front of my body, in a process that does not generate mental or visual disturbance.
In 2007 the objects in central vision space seemed solid and three-dimensional, but I was aware they seemed to be in a bubble out in front of my body. If I mentally anchor myself out in that space, they still do. What is new is that I can now mentally anchor myself in the right peripheral space. The same mental shift that lets me see with exceptional clarity off to my right completely eliminates all the swirling and rotating and size changing by objects crossing the limit imposed on my left eye vision by my nose. The "nose boundary" that used to be the defining feature of my visual orientation is then reduced to a vague and faint phantom which is attached only to my left eye's perception, and seems to exist inside my head regardless of whether I mentally pull it in close or push it away.
When I'm solidly anchored in my right periphery, I can expand that area of clear and grounded vision inward just about to the edges of my computer screen. If the screen shows only a photograph, I can even include it, but if there is visible text I reflexively shift back to the central bubble and lose the peripheral anchor.
I had a hint of this experience on 1 Apr 12:
But this has all been describing the view out below the earpieces of my glasses. Above the earpieces space was shaped much differently. It is still hard for me to access that upper space. For most of my life my sense of space above my head has been visually just darkness. Even now, when I try to see "up there", I get the kind of sensory overload created by blindingly bright light, with crazily conflicting spasms of my eye muscles. The only way I've known that space was through heat - the rays of the sun shining on my bare head, or the proximity of a stove or open fire.
Now I'm sometimes able to extend the right peripheral clarity upward past where a spectacle earpiece would be, and into that formerly blacked-out area above the central bubble. I imagine myself mentally moving the impossibly warped bubble (like the whited-out spot in the middle of the Escher Print Gallery drawing) to the left, back, and through a (counterclockwise from above) spin to end up inside my head, and then the "lights come on" out beyond my forehead. Often quite like a science fiction animation of materialization, with tiny dots of light sparkling into existence and very gradually getting denser, while fluffy clouds of purest light blue fade in and out at points where the visual tension is too great.
I can even begin to walk around in this new space, so long as I avoid trusting any balance cues from it. Last time I tried to describe this (24 Apr 08) I was calling it "left-eye space", in the sense that my dominant right eye was not locked to the central vision area inside the bubble, where my normal sense of balance cues work:
The most dramatic is when I am able to notice the ground I'm walking on in "left-eye space". I can't intentionally look at it, because then my right eye takes over and I see the expected scene. If I can pay attention without triggering that switch, I see the ground movement speed up to a dramatic rate as my body moves forward between footfalls, and then slow to zero as the next foot hits the ground. I know from pushing the firewood cart that my body moves at a much more consistent rate than that, and in right-eye space I see consistent movement. What happens is that as I extend a foot forward, the space it is moving through is judged by my muscle sense, which is apparently still tuned to the old idea of how long my legs are. I visually see that my body is moving relative to the ground, but more slowly than my foot is moving forward. As soon as my forward foot is back on the ground, I shift to a completely visual sense of speed relative to the ground, and it seems like my body rushes forward. As a foot begins to lift off the ground there is a crisis of balance, especially if I plan to lift it up onto a stair.
Instead of saying, "my body is moving relative to the ground", it would be more vivid to say that the visual features of the ground seem to be moving relative to my sense of the surface I'm walking on. I trust my kinesthetic sense more than my vision, and one way to reconcile what I'm seeing is to imagine I'm walking on a horizontal movie screen, and the leaves, rocks, or floor tiles are being back-projected onto the screen from underneath. The speed at which the images move relative to the screen is "geared" to the speed it feels like I'm walking, but when I'm about to put a foot down the image movement relative to the screen slows way down. Once the foot is securely on the ground kinesthetically and I'm stepping forward, the images jump backward dramatically faster than the actual ground would move. A similar perception happens when I rotate my body - I'm aware of the kinesthetic ground I'm interacting with, the rotation of my body, and a third exaggerated rotation of the features I see on the ground.
I remember exactly when I abandoned linking my kinesthetic sense to my peripheral vision, and moved my "anchor" out into the bubble. I was a Cub Scout, and they have this "five mile hike" rite of passage that everyone must complete. With a pack... I'd never done anything even close to that, and while I tried my best to continue the elaborate visual processing that let me keep my central and peripheral perceptions linked, I was finally too exhausted to care. I remember just staring down at the gravel road and putting one foot in front of the other for miles, as the gravel appeared to move independently of what my feet touched. For the rest of my childhood I spent as much of my outdoor time as possible on a bicycle, where I was not plagued by the image of my feet touching the ever-slithering ground.
Later, after walking around thinking about this...
What I see when I'm able to expand my right peripheral vision down to the ground I'm walking on is somewhat like walking on a treadmill, with the pattern of the floor tiles, leaves, or gravel printed on the treadmill belt. (This analogy doesn't deal with the irregular motion of the belt/image with each step, but it does add other insights.)
I feel like my body is stationary, and I see the pattern moving backward under my feet. But my imaginary treadmill belt is longer and wider than a real treadmill, in fact its visual motion is more like the surface of a ball with a radius about the same as my height, though I feel like the ground I'm walking on is level. The apparent motion of the ground texture accelerates as it approaches my feet, and blends gradually back toward the state of my surroundings when I direct my attention out away from my feet.
The tricky part of this experience is the movement of my environment above the "treadball" surface. Objects at infinity obviously appear stationary even as the "ground" appears to move, as one would expect. A very nearby object like a table or fence raised above the ground "feels" like it is moving more slowly than the "treadball" as I approach it, but then, like the "ball" surface it gradually speeds up until at its nearest point the apparent motion is disorientingly rapid and often leads me to veer off course or lose my balance.
Overall, when I'm not strongly influenced by nearby objects, it appears the "treadball" surface is moving backward more rapidly than my surroundings - as if the treadmill had wheels and was propelled through my environment by some kind of geared speed reduction system. But simply by walking on tiptoes, I can exactly synchronize the apparent speeds of the belt and the world! Somehow the extra few inches of height make my world appear solid.
So, if this is an unusual state of perception, what do I see normally? Well, normally the world holds still and I move around in it. To do this I keep the world out in front of me in the bubble that I saw through my old spectacle lenses. As I've said before, it is a bit like watching myself move around inside a CAD model of the world, from a vantage point outside my body and outside the part of the world I'm seeing. When I walk through this world, I do not see the floor or any other object move, I "feel" myself move relative to the constant world.
When I walk toward an object, I do not see it get larger, even though its image gets more detailed and displaces other objects from my field of view. My experience is like "dollying forward" with a motion camera to change my position and also make the image larger, while simultaneously "zooming back" to make the image equivalently smaller. Everything I see always retains its constant objectively verified engineering drawing size. What changes is my sense of my own size and position, and the resulting tension in my body and eye muscles.
There are limits to how much of this zooming and dollying my body and brain can stand. When it gets to be too much, I "reset" my visual system to a new location and base orientation. Actually, my world is filled with cues that force frequent resets - doorways and gates being the most obvious. There are countless others, that I think of as "attention points", places where I compulsively focus my attention for at least an instant (and an eye blink) whenever they are available for viewing. Most often they are practical problems that need my attention, like missing bits of trim in my still unfinished house, or the orange crate full of surplus engineering parts that need to be listed on eBay.
If you've ever played with a photo-stitching app like Photosynth, imagine that the virtual world I live in is the composite image, while my eyes and body must cope with the dozens of individual views that get analyzed and stitched together to make it. At any moment, my eyes and body are feeling the tension between one single incoming image and the idealized composite world. Just like Photosynth can fit a close-up image into the composite to enhance detail in a small portion of a wider angle image, I'm able to "see" the same scene whether the momentary visual input is close or far.
Unless I've missed something, our visual and verbal languages for describing peripheral vision are quite inadequate. Photography can cope with 121 degrees horizontally in a rectilinear lens (a 12 mm lens in the 35 mm camera format), but beyond that everything is "fisheye", with no attempt to capture straight lines. Somehow our visual system is able to create a rectilinear illusion that completely surrounds our bodies and reaches from our toes to the sky. I'm not finding anyone talking about how exactly this happens.
I suspect the need for "rectilinearizing" the fisheye image our eyes provide is the source of the "treadball" phenomenon where apparent movement speed peaks dramatically as objects pass their closest point. When I'm able to escape from my habitual but exhausting "CAD model" process, I'm faced with raw fisheye data that trigger kinesthetic cues I'm not adapted to processing. I'm quite certain other people see this differently - sports would not exist if everyone saw like I do! Has anyone else ever tried to analyze how they represent visual space beyond the rectilinear image frame?
I just was reminded of the "Retinoid System" conceived by University of Massachusetts psychologist Arnold Trehub. In his paper
Where Am I? Redux he presents a rich background for the kind of experiences I've just described:
If we define consciousness, from the subjective point of view, as a transparent phenomenal representation of the world from a privileged egocentric perspective, it is reasonable to ask "where is the self in this phenomenal world?" We can also ask interesting questions about the correspondence between our phenomenal self-location and our self-location in the physical world. One striking implication of the retinoid model is that our sense of self is not necessarily confined within the sensed boundaries of our body, as will be shown below in the out-of-body findings. The phenomenal world and its contents are not anchored to the physical location of the body. The phenomenal world is always experienced from the egocentric perspective of the self which is not necessarily contained within one's phenomenal body, and in this sense, our phenomenal world is anchored around our self-locus, the origin of egocentric space. As we shall see, the question "Where in my phenomenal world am I?", and the question "Where in the physical world am I?" can have two different answers.
Sounds like either of my perceptual modes is consistent with the theory. I'm left to wonder why I chose what seems to be the more troublesome one.
An experience I could not have imagined a month ago has suddenly become so prevalent I can barely re-create the "bubble" world I saw for most of my life. I'm using the term "Immersion Stereopsis" to describe it.
What we commonly think of as stereo vision is Foveal Stereopsis or Macular Stereopsis. Google finds the two terms in about equal use. The proper term would probably be "Foveolar Stereopsis" (no Google hits), referring to the foveola, the central 1.2 degrees of arc within which we can read and acquire information via the "analytical signal path". The fovea technically extends to 5 degrees or as much as 8.68 degrees of arc (depending on whom you believe), well past the 1.2 degree foveola and nominal field of global stereopsis, and hugely beyond the 8 to 20 _minutes_ of arc of Panum's area within which sufficient binocular fusion for local stereopsis is attainable. "Macula" isn't even a proper designation for a sensory area, it is actually a protective pigmentation overlay that shields most of the foveola.
The two images from the left and right foveolae are captured from different horizontal locations, but combined into a single "3D" image in the brain. Stated more technically, "normal retinal correspondence" (NRC) is a binocular condition in which both foveas work together as corresponding retinal points, with resultant images fused in the occipital cortex of the brain. This is the aspect of vision achieved by "Stereo Sue" when she learned to direct her formerly strabismic eyes so they pointed toward the same object and the corresponding images could be matched.
Vision scientists also study Peripheral Stereopsis. Depending on the size of the target and whether or not it is moving, many people can judge the 3D position of objects that are not imaged by the foveas, that are up to 40 degrees off-axis from the foveal fixation point. This is obviously a very different skill from Foveal Stereopsis which expects image disparities of two minutes of arc or less.
While Foveal Stereopsis and Peripheral Stereopsis can be experienced and tested using various 3D display screens and a fixed body position, Immersion Stereopsis surrounds your body with space you can walk around in. In fact, body movement is an essential part of the experience. By far the most dramatic change I've noticed is that when I walk through my house I orient to the world outside the windows - which now seems solid and unmoving while I see and feel the edges of the windows, and the house itself as a single rigid unit, moving across the distant view!
I've always experienced stereo vision - but only inside the bubble of objects I was visualizing out in front of me. Beyond the bubble everything was like the flat backdrop of a diorama and provided no depth cues even if I was moving (I must have been actively suppressing them). Like viewers of a 3D movie on a limited screen, I learned to disconnect my sense of balance and body movement from the depth and movement cues I saw inside the bubble. My sense of balance has always come from the far periphery of my vision. As I wrote on 29 Sep 12:
The "peripheral attention points" seem to be digital, in the sense of popping suddenly in and out of whatever portion of awareness they occupy. For instance, as I walk through my huge old barn, there are windows, doors, and gaps that afford views of light and distance. It seems my brain navigates among these momentary sensations rather like a cell phone navigates among the fragmentary signals in an urban canyon - hopping from one to the next as I move. As long as I have locked onto two or three cardinal points, I feel securely oriented.
For all of my life that I can consciously remember, I've used the "nose boundaries" that I've obsessed about so frequently on this site to separate this peripheral, kinesthetic, "Where am I?" sense from my visual bubble, as effectively as the edge of the screen separates a 3D movie from the theater and the rest of the audience. A classic figure-ground dichotomy. But I've also separated everything "beyond" the bubble, the painted backdrop behind the diorama, from the moving 3D space, and felt it more connected to the peripheral area behind and over my head. (Imagine walking around wearing a 3D headset that does not obscure side vision...)
The dramatic part of breaking out of these habits was simply looking toward infinity instead of compulsively attending to the nearest relevant object. The reality was a lot more work... For instance, the view outside my entry door had been completely overgrown by nearby large trees, and I spent days last October cutting them back until I could see a continuous distant panorama beyond the porch posts. But then I was faced with the disastrously unfinished porch structure, that I had always avoided looking at or past. It was only in the last month that I finally completed the window framing and trim to the point that my unconscious gaze was willing to move past it to the far horizon.
Today I cleared several boxes of tools and building materials from the floor between me and the windows across the room behind my computer screen. I had not realized I was avoiding looking out those windows from here, even after washing them earlier this week, until just now! Suddenly when I move my head side to side, I see the computer screen, the window frames (with the whole attached room as a solid object!), and the nearby plants outside the windows moving proportionally in the direction opposite my head across the backdrop of distant trees. When I previously fixated on the junk inside my bubble, the flat backdrop behind the bubble seemed to move in the same direction as my head, as my axis of view pivoted around the nearer fixation point.
Yes, in both cases I could have temporarily forced myself to look beyond near objects, toward infinity. But the key to Immersion Stereopsis is looking _while moving_, and building a habit of looking toward infinity while moving through that particular location, so that my unconscious peripheral vision sense comes to trust the movements of the objects I'm immersed among. For people who can't imagine a visual world that isn't solid, consistent, and inescapable without sufficient alcohol or drugs, I'll provide some clues to my vulnerabilities.
An easily accessible analog is laser speckle. Shine a laser (a common pointer works, but a line projector makes an easier-to-see pattern with fewer anomalies) at a glancing angle across a fairly smooth surface, so it illuminates an obvious area. You'll see a busy pattern of tiny dots floating around the spot. Actually, what you're seeing is not an image of the distant spot, but an interference pattern reflected from the surface into all of the 3D space around the spot. Individual light rays from tiny irregularities in the surface spread in all directions, and as the rays hit a particular cone in your retina they combine "constructively or destructively" with all the other rays from other parts of the spot to create a lighter or darker signal than the rays hitting the next cone. This happens independently of the focal state of your eye's lens and imaging system - the interference pattern you see radiates out into the 3D space surrounding your eye, and some of it gets through your pupil.
For people who can't immediately see what I'm describing, here's a video. Amazingly I was unable to find anything anywhere on the web that showed the movement of laser speckle, but after many failed efforts I finally found a way to capture it.
Beam from a laser level at a low angle spreads from top to bottom of the frame. Camera moves slowly toward its left, at a distance too close for its lens to properly focus. Note how the white (overexposed) speckle pattern in the center of the red beam seems to be moving to the left faster than anything else is moving. [This was originally 720p. The 480 and 360 resolutions show the effect well; 240 and lower really don't let you see the speckles.]
The video shows what you will see when your head moves to the left, if you are too farsighted to focus at the distance to your laser spot. If you are too nearsighted to focus at the spot distance, the speckle movement will be in the opposite direction. If your focus is perfect, the speckle will not move relative to the rest of the spot, but it may still "boil" in place.
When you move your head relative to the laser spot, you may see the whole speckle pattern move proportionally. The outlines of the spot remain fixed, but the tiny dots seem to be crawling or flying across the illuminated area. If your vision is perfectly focused on the laser spot, so its image is focused exactly on your retina, the image and the interference pattern will move in synchrony and the speckle will seem to "boil" in place. Try moving in a different direction, up/down, in/out, left/right - you may find anomalies where movement is obvious.
If the speckle pattern seems to move along with your head, you are farsighted, the lens image is focusing behind the ray pattern. If you back away from the spot you should be able to find a distance where the speckle holds still. Nearsighted people will see the speckle moving opposite the direction their head is moving, or stated another way the ray pattern will move in the same direction the spot seems to be moving, only faster. If you have astigmatism you'll notice that the apparent movement speed, and the distance which stops the movement, vary with the direction you move your head.
Fun to play with, and actually used as a vision test, but how is it relevant? Because diffraction of ordinary non-coherent light through a regular grid, like a window screen, creates a very similar experience. I'm too myopic to actually resolve the window screen, but the movement of the pattern it creates is extremely obvious, to the point where I trust it for balance over any other factor. This happens with sunlight or moonlight coming in through a screened window, or with tiny point source high intensity lamps projecting out through the screen into the night. The apparent movement speed depends on my distance from the screen relative to the screen distance from the light source.
At night, it is similar to moving my head through beams of light in dense fog, the sense that there is a spatial grid around my head, but the screen grid mirrors my own movement instead of seeming to hold still like fog. In the daytime, there is still the sense of moving through a 3D grid, but in addition there is the lensed image of the screen and its boundaries moving at some less exaggerated speed - creating an obvious conflict!
It seems the "motion detectors" in my peripheral vision can use this conflict in multiple ways. If I latch one of the "peripheral attention points" I mentioned earlier onto the exaggerated speed motion of the window screen grid, it is equivalent to changing my distance from the window, or changing the speed with which I'm walking past it. Either one changes the apparent motion of the whole central vision bubble, and thus the expected size and motion of the objects inside the bubble.
But what if there's no window screen in view? It turns out that diffraction past any edge creates a bit of the same experience. If you're myopic enough, there is a tiny edge of discontinuous apparent motion along every window frame, porch post, tree trunk, or other occluding object in your view. Once your brain is trained to window screens, it is a small leap to being able to attend to anomalous motion along any contrasty edge. You might say, just wear your glasses so the diffraction rays move in synchrony with the image, but glasses don't work for far peripheral vision. I wore glasses every waking minute while learning all these habits out beyond their edges.
It is already getting difficult for me to recreate the way I formerly perceived moving through the world. Clearly it involved separating the movement I saw in the bubble from what I saw outside it in peripheral vision. I would "grab" a camera-sized mental snapshot of a bubble scene in front of me and hold onto its apparent size and perspective while moving, subconsciously adjusting my peripheral sense of how fast I was moving, in which direction, to make the illusion believable. The "zooming and dollying" analogy I wrote about on 26 May 13 suggests that keeping the image size constant while moving toward it would be rational - if our eyes had zoom lenses. But how could I avoid seeing perspective changes?
Right now it feels like what I did was fold my peripheral space in around the bubble. If I imagine looking at a scene in the far corner of the room with my new "immersion" vision, I can see that far corner, sense the two (left and right) peripheral corners, and feel the remaining corner behind me, making the room a solid rectilinear unit. Now imagine pulling the corner behind me in toward my body, in through the back of my head, and into the sinuses behind my eyes - without changing the size or perspective of the bubble scene I'm looking at. Now the far corner still seems to be a 90 degree corner, but the rest of the walls have been changed to an arc centered around the bubble scene and passing through my eyes. The corner scene is now a focal point beyond which I don't let myself see movement or feel distance.
Then imagine that the angle of the arc is variable. That allows both size/distance and perspective inside the bubble to be manipulated at will. Finally, imagine swinging the peripheral sense of both walls extending away from the corner in toward each other, pivoting at the far corner, until their near edges meet at my head, and then cross through my head and end up swapped! In place of the rectilinear immersion world, I created a world defined by polar coordinates, with the bubble scene at the center and my consciousness able to swing through any angle along the arc passing through my eyes. Kind of like being peripherally cross-eyed...
Interesting to compare this to 4 Jul 08:
Imagine you are looking between two vertical, floor to ceiling cords, within easy arm's reach and spaced left to right so they appear just inside the bridge of your nose on each side. The cords are anchored at their tops and bottoms, but elastic in-between. Reach out, crossing your arms left for right, grab the cords and pull the left one to the right, the right one to the left, like drawing an opposed pair of bowstrings, until they form a diamond shape in front of your face that just outlines your central vision area.
Within that diamond space, my sense of left- versus right-handedness is crossed, and I need to think abstractly about the direction I need to turn a water faucet or gas valve. When I imagine undoing my left-right crossing, I can't yet visualize keeping my body solid and just un-crossing the diamond area in front of my face. Whenever I try that I get the foreboding sense that if it worked I would find myself totally unable to read and write.
Reading, especially of a computer screen, is by far the most difficult activity to integrate into my new Immersion Stereopsis world. Whoa! I just discovered a clue... My dominant right eye tries to maintain a constant visual type size as I move my head toward or away from the screen, in the same way that I used to maintain a constant visual size for any scene in the bubble. My left eye, which for weeks has struggled to try to maintain image fusion with less and less success, now reacts to changes in reading distance with dramatic changes in apparent type size - just like the immersion experience provides what seems a hypersensitivity to image size changes with larger body movements.
Last time I wrote about how I "fold my peripheral space in around the bubble". I described a visualization I've unconsciously used to allow arbitrary modifications to the rules of perspective and size constancy for the objects in my central vision "bubble". I've since realized I use similar mechanisms for dealing with perceived motion while walking and driving.
When I'm experiencing the new "immersion stereopsis", walking forward causes objects to either side to appear to move backward. Objects at equal distances to the side move backward at equal rates, with near objects moving rapidly and the apparent speed of more distant objects decreasing toward infinity on either side. What breaks this solidity is my habit of visually grabbing an object to one side or the other and using it as a pivot. Beyond the pivot I lock the more distant objects together as if they were a painted backdrop, suppressing their small relative motions.
The pivot and the most significant objects on the backdrop retain their previous motion relative to each other, but instead of infinity seeming motionless, the pivot seems motionless. Nearer than the pivot I feel space is expanded, that I'm moving through much more distance than if I was immersed in the proper rectilinear world. Objects nearer than the pivot seem to be moving more rapidly than before, and objects beyond me, opposite the pivot, move at an even more exaggerated speed. But I also feel the space there is larger, as it would be in a polar projection from the pivot, so the exaggerated speed feels appropriate to my movement.
As I've mentioned, my world is filled with (mostly unconscious) cues that trigger me to look at certain objects - and grab them as a new pivot. Typically I swing from side to side among the different attention points in my environment. But some spaces have an inherent pivot. Both the house I grew up in and the house I live in now have a circle of rooms around a central core, a living space like the interior of a torus or doughnut. Depending on the seasons and temperatures and door positions, this inherent pivot gains more or less influence over momentary attractions.
Once I'm moving much faster than walking speed, the alternating pivot scheme gives way to a system with two continuous pivots, one on either side. Driving is like sitting still in a simulator, with a pair of carousels spinning to the sides, the straight ahead scene on a movie screen, and a road-printed belt spinning toward me below the screen. As I've noted when describing my struggle to reconcile the tiny bends shown on the GPS moving map with what seem like serious direction change corners to me, I'm hypersensitive to slight differences in the apparent rotation speed around the side pivots.
I suspect all of this originated as a way to deal with the minification of my visual environment from wearing negative lenses. Maybe if I had worn only single strength lenses I would have "adapted" as most people apparently do. But during the critical period when I was first struggling with them, my lenses were always bifocals, with the critical view toward where my next footfall would touch the ground being through an opposite positive lens prescription. Obviously it was more important to me to maintain my sense of direct touch to the ground, even if it meant what I saw off to the sides was a swirling illusion.
It turns out a sphere is the limiting case of a torus. As the hole gets smaller, a ring torus becomes a horn torus and then a spindle torus, and eventually a doubly-defined sphere. As illustrated on Mathworld.Wolfram.com:
I'm off to think about whether that might be a critical insight. Maybe the proper state of binocular vision is a spindle torus just slightly offset from a perfect sphere. Like 3" offset in 6' of sphere height? And my "bubble" is the center spindle of the torus? And the progression to an actual ring torus was the origin of my sense of left- versus right-handedness being crossed, and the foreboding sense that if I could uncross them I would find myself totally unable to read and write?
This morning I caught a glimpse of an odd bit of perspective that may link several of my ongoing mysteries. My normal forward vision blacked out for an instant, and what returned first was an image in my far right periphery - so far right that it was at least experientially behind my front-to-back centerline. The image included a sequence of floorboards running parallel to that centerline, and I was amazed to notice the vanishing point was behind me. The boards seemed to get wider toward the direction I was facing!
Combining the horizontal fields of view of our two eyes produces a total visual field of roughly 200 degrees. The left and right extremes are not very useful for seeing detailed patterns, but they are very good at detecting motion. So even before considering that we may turn our heads relative to the direction we are moving, and before including the brain's construction of a 360 degree world from our ongoing sequence of different 200 degree views, we are required to deal with rear vanishing points as well as the front ones familiar from art class.
The surprising part of my experience was not that a rear vanishing point exists, but that the experience of it seemed to be located in a different world from my conventional forward view. In fact, it seemed to be located in the space behind my right lung that I ripped open during the "consumed by the light" experience!
I've found another connection to the rear vanishing point experience. I've written many times about how my sense of where the boundaries formed by my nose as it blocks vision to each side from the opposite eye seem to be located. For much of my life they projected to infinity or the limit of my vision, but I've been bringing them ever closer to my face. I'd say that for much of this year they have been about as distant from the viewing eye as the hinge in the corner of the opposite earpiece of a pair of imaginary glasses.
Which reminds me how when I wore glasses the backs of my ears were constantly sore from the tension against the hooked earpieces. It is obvious now that due to the rotation of my eyeball and resulting change in distance and angle to my nose as I fixate on an object and turn my head, the distance from that imaginary earpiece corner to the back of my ear seems to change drastically.
Today's new experience was to see my right nose boundary as "inside my smile" - closer to my eye than the corner of my mouth. Suddenly the visual space that my right eye sees behind my nose but my left eye cannot see is solid, conscious, and in no danger of being swept by an outward and leftward movement of my nose into the part of the world that my left eye holds in consciousness. And my right nose boundary seems never more than an inch or so from my left eye, no matter how I turn my head. Completely disconnected from the imaginary earpiece, and much closer to my left eye.
But not yet inside my right eye! Well, I can imagine that the bottom part of the boundary, at the nose tip, and up through the part of the nose angle that was seen through my old glasses, moves inside my right eye when I turn my head to my left, but the part of my nose bridge that could be seen above the bridge of the glasses completely refuses to participate in moving inside my right eye offset.
I gather most people feel and see their nose as being in the center of their face, all of its visual experience located completely between their eyes, and that the world they see outside the offset of each eye from their facial centerline is completely uninterrupted. And that the corners of their smile extend far beyond the apparent offset of each eye. I would not have been able to imagine that until today...
The connection with the previous vanishing point experience was that, while keeping the experience of my right nose boundary "inside my smile", when I turned my head left and right the angle of the floorboards seen through that space which was newly anchored in right-eye consciousness pivoted dramatically around the center of the visual area. When I turned toward my left, the apparent vanishing point moved behind me, and when I turned toward my right it appeared to be in front of me - exaggerating the actual rotation.
I suspect if I could move the nose boundary completely inside the eye offset, this exaggerated rotation and moving vanishing point would not happen - everything seen to the right of me would be locked into a solid space that did not change shape with head rotation. Any discontinuities between the views of the two eyes would be dealt with at the opposite eye's view of its nose boundary.
I remember creating the situation I'm trying to undo now - I was prescribed to do eye exercises - while wearing my weird glasses - where I swung my line of sight all around the boundaries of my central vision. The goal was not stated, but I took it to be keeping the two eyes' images locked together inside that set of boundaries while sacrificing the integrity of the world seen outside them by either single eye. Moving the nose boundary out away from my face let me feel the space the boundary blocked was part of my central vision area rather than connected to that side's peripheral vision.
I recently happened upon a paper by McGill University Professor Emeritus
Ronald Melzack, an author of the "gate control theory of pain". In his paper The story of pain he suggests brain functions that parallel my concept of the psychoros:
Phantom limb pain after amputation of a limb is the most challenging of all forms of chronic pain. People born without limbs also feel 'phantoms' as well as occasional pain sensations (Melzack et al., 1997) and may even feel a whole vivid phantom arm or leg for the first time when they are adults (Saadah & Melzack, 1994). These extraordinary phenomena reveal that we are born with brain mechanisms that generate our subjective experiences of our body, our sense of self and pain (Halligan, 2002).
The neuromatrix theory of pain evolved from these facts (Melzack, 1989) and was later expanded to include stress mechanisms (Melzack, 1999). The neuromatrix comprises genetically determined, widely distributed brain circuits that generate patterns of nerve impulses that are perceived as the bodyself and pain. These 'neurosignature' patterns are usually triggered by sensory inputs but may also be generated by cognitive or homeostatic programs to cope with threats to the integrity and health of the body. They generate our subjective perceptions as well as our actions.
I identify deeply with the idea that I was born with a genetically defined "bodyself". It was subsequently damaged by childhood stress, and I now have memories and fleeting sensations of a differently shaped and configured body than I experience today - somewhat like feeling a phantom limb long after its amputation.
More importantly, I experience pain and this "bodyself" as mostly interchangeable. I learned early in childhood how to avoid pain by sacrificing the experienced integrity of my psychoros, and have followed that path ever since. I have not used any chemical painkillers for at least forty years - even for serious dental work - and don't own any, not even aspirin. Maybe I'm blessed with a life free from the pain most people experience, but I don't think so. I receive the information, but it is just that, information. If I chose to hang onto my preferred "bodyself" configuration and resist the challenging information, it would expand into what I imagine most people feel as pain. I choose to merge it with all my past insults, where it becomes a vague, tiny blip in the huge overarching pain of having lost my bodyself integrity.
Somehow I was reminded today how when my adult teeth appeared, the right upper canine or "eye tooth" (#6) grew outside the otherwise perfectly straight and normal row of adjacent teeth. Everyone called it my "fang". My parents took me to a hopelessly senile orthodontist who kept me in braces for most of four years trying to solve that one problem, while my friends and relatives were in and out of braces in less than a year.
Almost all of the web hits I found said "eye teeth" were so named because they are positioned directly below the eyes. Which isn't very satisfying or even true... But I found one thread that makes much more sense.
Apparently in traditional Chinese medicine, each tooth connects to one of the twelve meridians that project through the whole body. If you search for "tooth meridian chart" you'll find dozens of simplified but mostly consistent charts showing which organs and body systems are connected to which teeth.
I found one source for much more detailed information: Dr. Dawn Ewing is a naturopathic practitioner in Houston, Texas, and author of Let the Tooth Be Known, the book which goes beyond what's shown in the charts. She brings ideas from conventional and rather unconventional medicine together in a most intriguing way. Here's what her web site says about the connections to the eye teeth:
Tooth #6: Upper right cuspid Pituitary gland (intermediate lobe), hypothalamus, eye (posterior), sphenoid sinus, tonsilla palate, knee (posterior), hip, ankle (lateral side), liver, gallbladder, biliary ducts, deltoid, anterior serratus; spinal marrow & dermatomes SC1, SC2, STH8, STH9 & STH10; vertebrae C1, C2, TH8, TH9 & TH10
Tooth #11: Upper left cuspid (same except no gallbladder)
The lower cuspids both show "eye (anterior)" instead of posterior, ovary/testicle in place of pituitary and hypothalamus, no tonsils, and gluteus instead of deltoid/serratus.
(I'm assuming "tonsilla palate" means "palatine tonsil". The only exact match for that term I find on the web is hers.)
So many connections to my internal experience, I hardly know where to start! Wearing braces to drag the fang back into line was like having steel straps around my eyes, twisting and distorting everything I saw. The torture began the same summer my optometrist decided that the "plus lens" bifocal glasses were not working but the newly developed hard contact lenses would surely stop my progression to myopia. Suddenly the half of my world that had been seen through the bifocals, down just about where my next footstep would fall, larger/nearer than the rest of my view, was just gone.
Also gone, for nine years by then, were my tonsils. I hadn't missed them, but suddenly with my head feeling like it was caught in a spider web of steel, the empty space where they used to be seemed like a refuge, particularly on my right side. I remember it feeling like I had found the opening in the Flammarion engraving , and experimenting with sneaking more and more of my self back into the world where space had different rules.
But I had discovered that other world at least four years earlier, probably much younger than that, in the "Consumed by the Light" experience. Maybe I'm projecting from the new meridian clues, but the most efficient way to reach that "something, deep in my back behind my right lung" is to imagine rolling my deltoid muscle inside-out over my right shoulder. Actually I've struggled with that sensation most of my life, but always though of it in terms of the "round shoulders" I was nagged about as a child. About the time I discovered the tonsil escape, the round shoulders problem just went away.
On the other end of the path from my deltoid through that lung area is my liver and right diaphragm area, surrounded by dermatomes STH8, STH9 & STH10 - more landmarks on the same meridian. One of the ways I coped with the bifocal glasses changing the apparent distance to the ground was to imagine I was standing on my own diaphragm. (Like the viewer in the Escher Print Gallery lithograph is standing in the picture he's looking at). But only on the right side; on my left side my energy went directly to the actual ground level. The rhythm of my breathing kept both perspectives available as needed. One of the most traumatic changes of that period of my childhood was outgrowing elastic waist jeans, and having to wear a belt around the TH9 and TH10 dermatomes. Suddenly two body areas I'd mentally mapped to different levels were rigidly connected.
I just spent an hour going through pushup-plus and Pilates pages, and learned that I'm rather hopelessly confused about how the anterior serratus works. I can almost imagine what they're saying on my left side, but understanding what's happening on my right is going to take a lot more work. I've felt for years that my teeth curve smoothly around to my left at about the same radius from my tongue, but on the right there is a break at the eye teeth and the teeth behind there turn inward toward my spine. It seems the same thing happens with the serratus, I imagine a part of my self is out there to the right beyond my missing tonsil, and the part that is left to mind my body acknowledges that it occupies the leftover periphery to the left of my central self.
The bit of the book that is excerpted on the web doesn't explain what "eye (posterior)" means. Looking at my own experience, my upper eye teeth are clearly connected to my peripheral vision, the areas that are hidden from the opposite eye by my nose. The lower eye teeth and their "eye (anterior)" relate to central vision and seem balanced side-to-side, but off to my upper right is a peripheral vision area more important and central than the space I live in.
It is at least reassuring to find that there are known connections among these seemingly unrelated aspects of my self-manipulation.
This is not a new insight, I just happened to finally do the work of drawing it last night. I've been aware of this pattern in my unaided view of the Moon for many years. The really interesting part of the exercise was discovering the size disparity between what I see and how big the Moon supposedly should appear.
Wikipedia agrees with most other sources that the Sun and full Moon are about 1/2 degree of visual angle: Sun 31.6' - 32.7', Moon 29.3' - 34.1'. There is more uncertainty about the width of your thumb seen at arm's length, but most sources call the width of the full thumb about 2 degrees, and the width of the thumbnail about 1.5 degrees. Using that rough measurement, I've drawn the pattern I see with my unaided right eye, with the supposedly expected size of the Moon on the right.
My arms are long, so my thumbnail may be less than 1.5 degrees wide at arms length, but it is not off by a factor of two from the typical thumb-measuring stargazer. My outer circle of moons is twice the size of the expected Moon, and the inner sub-moons are half the size of the real Moon. Through glasses, the outer circles appear much smaller, but the inner moons are still detectable, and roughly the same size as with my uncorrected vision. How can this be?
If I unfocus a camera sufficiently, the blurred Moon image can grow to twice the size it occupied when in-focus. But that is only a fuzzy circle, with no internal pattern at all. The tiny sub-moons I see are not as detailed as the ones I've copied into my Photoshop image, but they do have sharp, distinct edges, and the general pattern of light and dark "seas" on the Moon is clearly recognizable in each one. A point source of light, like a tiny distant LED, creates a sharp-edged uniformly bright circle instead of the circle of distinct images, and the circle is filled with a slowly morphing mesh of curved, biological-looking cells instead of distinct images.
The most amazing part of this experience is what happens when an edge gradually occludes the view. If the edge is near my face, like one foot away, it slides across the whole outer circle of moons, gradually hiding more and more of them without changing the appearance of the unblocked parts. If the edge is distant, like fifteen feet away, it seems to slide across each individual sub-moon simultaneously, and when it has moved across the width of one sub-moon, all of them are totally hidden! At an in-between distance of maybe five feet, the edge appears to slide across each individual sub-moon, and it dims them all gradually as it progresses, but it does not totally obscure any of them until it has moved the full width of the outer circle.
My left eye which is more myopic sees the outer circle larger and the inner moons smaller, at least when used alone. With both eyes open and the images merged, the left eye inner moons seem the same size as the right eye's view, and the outer circle seems smaller than the left-eye only view. When I can avoid the impulse to merge the images, I can see the smaller moons and larger circle from my left eye alongside the right eye view, and I can watch the sizes change as the images merge. The size change seems to involve a left-right "flip" around a vertical axis; the image does not flip, but the mental sense of its handedness does. Clearly this is not just optical principles at work - my brain is deeply involved...
I've struggled many times to describe what I see (or feel) in my peripheral vision, and probably failed to clarify anything for anyone. This morning I found a simple, repeatable phenomenon I think I can illustrate with the help of Photoshop. Only one tiny strange effect among a dizzying multitude, but precise.
But first, some terminology. Searching the web, I find that for many people everything outside the fovea is "peripheral". "Peripheral vision is an area of vision that occurs outside of the 3 degrees of central vision and the 15 degrees of macular vision." For me, anything that fits in a (non-fisheye) camera viewfinder or on a screen is not peripheral. I worked really hard as a child to be able to see that central vision area of screens and glasses as a consistent space. I sacrificed the areas beyond the screen edges in the process. When I say peripheral I mean more like beyond the central ninety degrees. Looks like some sources call that "peripheral awareness".
In order to include the area where the interesting peripheral distortions were happening into my photographs for this exercise, I had to back up about twice as far from the objects of interest as my eyes were when I noticed the effect. That means the perspective in these photos is wrong, but at least the main objects should be recognizable.
The effect is that when I'm not blacking out my upper right peripheral area, and I tilt my head to one side or the other, the relationship of major peripheral visual features changes - gradually but dramatically and repeatably. For instance, if I tilt my head to the left, such that the camera sees the left image, I see the right image, with the far left windows much higher than the far right doors.
If I lean my head to the right, the far left windows line up with the glass in the doors, rather than with the top door frame. It seems so far that the concavity of the space, looking into a corner of the room, is necessary for this illusion to appear. Objects that I know are in a single flat plane maintain rectilinear relationships no matter how I turn my head.
I was surprised to discover that tilting my head while looking at these photographs exaggerates or undoes the distortions, despite the photographs being well within the central "screen" area of my vision. In a quick survey of other photos, it seems they create whatever effect I would see if I was actually in the photo location. Most remain "solid" and rectilinear, as does the computer screen itself. Only a few that capture large, concave, containing spaces trigger the peripheral effect.
An herbalist friend gave me a few eyebright capsules to try. I'd tried eyebright years ago and hadn't noticed any effects at all. But this time after taking only one capsule it seemed my attention was drawn more to far peripheral vision, which became brighter, almost like when the optometrist artificially dilates your pupils. Even small objects in central vision seemed a bit clearer and more distinct from their surroundings.
The next day I took another capsule (the suggested dose is two per day) and again the peripheral world seemed brighter and more coherent. So on the next day, the last of 2014, I tried taking two capsules. I spent a gorgeous warm sunny winter afternoon absorbed in working outdoors, paying little attention to my vision. By 5:30 PM I was back in the house making a very late lunch. I tried to read the day's eMail while eating, but by 6:15 I was unable to see the screen for more than a few seconds at a time. By 6:45 PM I was cowering on the floor under my worktable.
I've experienced what I call "alkaline tears" before. Two episodes even made it onto my personal log calendar:
03/17/11 alkaline tears? 02/20/13 painful tears lacrimation research
It feels like strong acid has been splashed into my eyes - my eyelids spasm tightly closed and tears gush out everywhere. Always before it was one single intense event which gradually subsided and did not repeat for months.
Though it feels like acid in my eyes, I've confirmed with litmus paper and pH strips that the tears are in fact slightly alkaline. But only slightly - the litmus is unmistakable but the pH strips don't even get to 7.5 - which is well within the reported normal range. So I don't think the pain is chemically induced. I think it is a spasm of my eye movement muscles.
This time the spasms just kept happening, for hours. About every twenty seconds, just when my eyelids had relaxed enough to let me wipe the tears away and start to see again, I'd get another spasm and another gush of tears. I gave up on reading and tried taking a shower. The hot water against my eyelids was relaxing, but the spasms continued. I threw some oil and vinegar on the salad greens I'd brought in earlier, ate them in-between attacks, and then hid in bed. I remember being still awake at 3:34 AM when my phone announced my internet bill had hit my credit card. So that's almost ten hours of continuous spasms.
For days I was afraid it would begin again, but it hasn't. My eye muscles and eyelids were very sore... I did not take any more eyebright until Jan 5. One capsule a day since then has not triggered any spasms. What does almost trigger one is attending to apparent movement in the visual area that would be blocked by the brim of a baseball cap.
For as long as I can remember I've been totally revolted by even the thought or wearing a baseball cap, or any kind of brimmed hat. Parkas that tied around my face and framed my visual access around the sides as well as across my forehead were not a problem. So I'm only imagining the effects of a baseball cap...
I've written repeatedly about "nose boundaries", the limitation each eye encounters when it tries to look across the body midline into the area the other eye can fully see. When I first described them, the boundaries seemed to project to infinity at each side of my field of view, or expressed another way, both of my eyes seemed to be inside whichever nose boundary I was aware of at any moment.
It seems crazy and impossible to me now. The boundary my right eye sees when looking to my left is now quite obviously and solidly anchored to the middle of my face, between my eyes. Instead of seeming to look along the near side of the nose image, my left eye shows me a full unobstructed view of the world to my left. My right eye shows me a shadowy nose that expands dramatically as I turn my head to the right and the pupil of my right eye gets closer to the tip of the nose.
That works just about up to the bridge of my nose, where spectacle frames would interrupt the view. Above the bridge, and from there toward the "brim of a baseball cap" area, my sense of what is solid and stationary gets hopelessly lost, and it is easy to find view angles that start to trigger one of the familiar spasms. Looking to my right, I'm not as confident the nose image is anchored to the middle of my face, and I more easily fall back into old patterns of distorting the right eye's unobstructed view to make it fit the left eye's sense of how near the nose image is.
The sure way to trigger an immediate spasm is to attend to the "brim of a baseball cap" area, directly between and slightly above the two points where the nose boundaries meet the bridge of my nose, and very slowly slide my head side to side (along the ear canal axis, without rotating it) while insisting on seeing the visual image move in the opposite direction. Topologically, that's an impossible space. The images from the two eyes have been merged into a single world view, and the interpupillary distance between them no longer exists in that world view. But the brain that is combining the two disparate images has to deal with it somehow...
It feels like I learned to project all of the tension and conflict of merging the two eyes' views into that "brim" space, and then sacrifice my awareness of how that part of my view appeared to be moving. When I force myself to attend to the "brim" area, I see nearby objects moving opposite my head movement direction, mid-distance objects relatively stationary, and far background objects following along with my head movement in the exact opposite of their proper motion! The movements are directly proportional to distance, as if that part of the world is mounted on a rotating carousel that automatically mirrors my head movements.
But if I'm moving my head ninety degrees to the right of my straight-ahead view, everything closer than infinity along that straight-ahead line should appear to move to the left. Nothing should rotate, and nothing should appear to move toward the right. With intense concentration, I can force myself to see that, even seeing trees 500 feet away move properly relative to the horizon - for a move of about my interpupillary distance. Any farther and my eye muscles spasm, killing the experience.
For that brief moment, I feel like space is real and solid all the way to infinity, both directly in front of me and in the far peripheral views off to each side. No part of it is moving relative to any other part, the only movement is my body within this solid framework.
Eyebright seems to enhance this experience, by reducing my compulsive attention to particular nearby objects, and encouraging awareness of a 360 degree ball of reality surrounding my body. My herbalist friend says it makes her feel happy, much more effectively than an antidepressant. I'm beginning to think it might even teach me to smile!
Like wearing hats, smiling is something I've never done. I just stepped through all of the old family and school photos that have made it to digital form, and there is not a single one where I have a tooth-baring smile. A closed-mouth smirk is about as close as I ever got. Ironic, since throughout most of grade and high school the other kids called me "Smiley". I know I responded to their incessant teasing by trying to smile pleasantly and show it didn't bother me, and I suppose they recognized how far from a real smile my performance was.
I found several aunts who bared their teeth smiling, and discovered my father did also when he was with them, even later in life. I found photos with both of my parents in full tooth-baring smiles, but only when they were courting and newlyweds. Since then they only show the closed-mouth smirk I apparently copied. In their parents' generation nobody ever managed even that much of a smile.
If I exaggerate the sense of the 360 degree ball that eyebright puts me inside, and force myself to stretch my upper lip into a tooth-baring smile, and imagine pulling the "brim of a baseball cap" space back inside the 360 ball, I can reach a state where the whole "nose boundary" issue goes away! The obtrusive shadow images of the sides of my nose shrink downward until they seem to merge with my exposed upper front teeth, and the 360 ball closes in around them. The "brim" area, which can then be clearly seen by both eyes, becomes my primary connection to the visual world, and that view spreads to each side and down as if my nose is gone and both eyes can see the whole ball. Instead of both of my eyes seeming to be inside whichever nose boundary I'm aware of at any moment, now both seem to be outside the nose boundary!
But moving my head in that state triggers spasms, so there is more to be learned here.
This is not a change in my personal experience, just an insight triggered by a journal article I happened to read this morning.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, March 2014, Volume 8, Article 135
Allocentric directional processing in the rodent and human retrosplenial cortex
Rebecca Knight and Robin Hayman
The paper presents a good introduction and review of research on how rodent and human brains relate egocentric direction (left-right) to allocentric direction (N-E-S-W). In rodents, "head direction cells" have been studied via directly implanted electrodes since 1984. It is now possible to record many cells simultaneously in free-roaming animals. Humans are a bit squeamish about having probes jammed deep into their brains, so the scientific view of our own process is pretty-much limited to what can be experienced while trapped inside an FMRI scanner wearing a virtual reality headset. It appears the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) is a key brain structure for both species. "We conclude that in both rats and humans, the RSC is involved in integrating selfmotion cues with stable, distal landmark cues so that egocentric viewpoints can be mapped onto an allocentric frame of reference."
What grabbed my attention was "stable, distal landmark cues". While many of my recent posts here have been excitement at actually beginning to see and move among stable relationships with objects at a distance, for most of my life I've been consciously fixated on near objects, while everything beyond that attention point was a swirling two-dimensional backdrop. But I've also been aware that I always maintained a single subconscious anchor point somewhere within my visual environment - typically something I was avoiding looking at, a problem I didn't have the time or resources to deal with at the moment. Movement involved choosing a new anchor point toward the intended direction, and letting go of the previous subconscious fixation.
The Berkeley Psychic Institute called these fixations "attention points", despite the negative nature of the attention. Apparently they are a common experience among people who spend most of their time "out of their bodies". For most of my life my allocentric world was an "engineering drawing" viewed (in my experience) from well outside my local environment, and the closest I came to an egocentric world was observing how it was "drawn" inside the allocentric "drawing". Being able to imagine my ego actually surrounded by an egocentric framework, and an allocentric framework where multiple distal objects retained a constant apparent relationship, is a very recent treat.
The old attention points persist, for awhile, even after their visual manifestation is gone. Yesterday I spent most of the day solving a problem with the wall paneling in the kitchen that had bugged me for thirty years. The original carpenters used warped wood that was far too wet, and when it dried a gap wider than the tongue-and-groove opened up, leaving a crack open into the insulation space. A perfect attention point, that you don't want to see and don't want to think about, but want to keep track of in order to avoid looking at it. When I actually look in that direction now, the stress is completely gone and that bay of paneling has joined the window bay I fixed last week in a vista of stable, distal landmark cues.
But when I'm not consciously looking at the former problem, my subconscious, maybe my retrosplenial cortex, still tracks it according to its old historic relationship to my self-motion sense. It is like a black hole sucking space awareness away from my new solid visual world, continually tempting me to revert to locating myself via a single nearby object.
What really sucks me out of the new solid space and leaves me clinging to the old attention point is reading. If I look at this screen while I'm feeling the new egocentric world, the text has somewhat the visual texture of Arabic, and about the same degree of meaning for me - none. Yes, I'm myopic, and moving close enough to the screen eventually brings English to awareness. But it also brings back the compulsive clinging to the old attention point in direct proportion to the readability of the text. It seems I can only read when I'm "out of my body".
When I was forced as a child to wear the "plus lens" bifocals, I absolutely couldn't read through the bifocal part unless I was "too close" to the page - which my parents were assigned to prohibit by constant nagging, and which was too painful anyway, probably due to lens misalignment. I was forced to learn to _appear_ to read through the bifocal add, so I learned to keep the bifocal line right under the words I was reading, and that was close enough to keep the adults happy. But the left and right bifocal lines did not align vertically, even in the centers of the page I was trying to read, so what actually happened is probably much more complex than my memory of it. I'm beginning to think I reprogrammed whatever part of my brain interprets letterforms...
One more complication... If I tilt my head way back so I'm viewing the screen at the angle of the old bifocal adds, the "Arabic" view does not happen. The text clearly has the shape and texture of English, but I still can't read it unless I get even closer than with normal angles - and trigger the "out-of-body" attention point reference. More to be learned...
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