Take a moment to think about the various spaces that you spend your day in both indoors and outdoors. Are they vast? Confined? Cluttered? Open? Some combination of some or all of these?
The spaces that we frequent have an effect on our well-being and I’m sure quite a bit could be said on this topic from a variety of perspectives. I’m going to look at it from the perspective of posture, specifically relating to how the eyes are affected, and in turn the rest of the body and the mind.
Living in a large city, I encounter a fair number of relatively confined spaces, or at least spaces that are more confined compared to what I became accustomed to as a child growing up in the suburbs. Sitting in Prospect Park in Brooklyn looking out on a vast (for New York!) open lawn and then back at my blank screen, thinking about what to write, feeling a little stumped, this topic came to mind as I gazed back across the lawn. Spending time in a space that is more open than what I’m used to gives me a sense of taking up more space. One thing that I note in particular is the effect that the expanse before me has on my eyes. Being able to gaze far ahead feels like an opportunity to give my eyes a rest. It’s relaxing and has a softening effect on the muscles in my neck, back and shoulders. Softening those muscles helps me to decompress and release up to my full height and width and to breathe more fully. I feel like have more space to think and to think differently, perhaps more creatively.
This experience leads me to recall a vacation that I took about 10 or so years ago. I was living in Paris at the time and visited some friends in Switzerland. I was doing a lot of play-writing and had my notebook with me with me, in which I was working on my next project. Sitting outside and looking out much farther than I had been on a daily basis in the city, I found myself suddenly inspired to complete the basic structure and story-line of the play. Softening the focus of my eyes helped me to release chronic tension, which helped me to think more clearly. Chronic holding and compressing in the body is distracting and takes us out of the present moment and may perhaps be a source of what is commonly referred to as “writer’s block”.
You may have heard that it’s helpful to look at a distance far from your screen from time to time throughout the day, if you spend most of your work day at a desk. Keeping the eyes from fixing on one point at close proximity can help your whole body to expand, improving your posture. You’ll relax your body, and in turn your mind.
Try this quick exercise to feel how your eye muscles are connected to your neck and back muscles. Hold an object, such as a book about six inches from your face. Focus on it. Next, quickly move your book and focus on the next closest thing, whether it be a wall, window, building, or trees across a field. Do it a few times and notice the ripple effect that the adjustment of the focus of the eyes has on your neck, back and your whole body. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below.