This past weekend while attending an energy medicine workshop, I had the chance to work with a friend on her photophobia. In the past I’ve been with her when we came outside into bright sunlight, and observed her flinching, reaching into her purse with her eyes hardly open for her prescription sunglasses. (Normally she doesn’t wear any glasses during the day, using only reading glasses or a weak distance prescription to drive at night. “Needing” these sunglasses is another reason I’d like to break her of the habit of fearing the sun.) When we were together over the weekend outdoors in the California sunshine, I gently asked her if she’d noticed this reflex behavior of hers, and if so, if she’d like to work on it a little. She trusts me, so agreed.
First I talked about how the sun is food for the eyes, good for our whole body, helping not only our eyesight, but also nourishing the pineal gland and the brain. I reminded her that life wouldn’t have developed on this planet without sunlight, and that fish who live at the bottom of the ocean are blind because they get no sunlight. I pointed out that she tends to walk with her head tilted down when it’s sunny out, which is not good for her neck. I took this chance to give a very brief Alexander Technique lesson on good body alignment. The 3 key directions to remember are to keep the top of the spine (between the ears, where the skull balances on the spine and is supported) Up, the shoulders (or back of the neck) Wide, and the face Forward. If you’re ducking away from the sunlight, you’re not doing this, thereby throwing your whole body out of alignment and causing unnecessary strain.
Next I had her close her eyes and stand with the sun to her side, feeling the warmth on that side of her face and cheek. Then she slowly rotated her face toward the sun (eyes still closed), then away, the classic Bates sunning technique. I made sure her spine was straight, and that she was not straining, which I could tell because her face remained relaxed. I talked about making friends with the sun slowly, as you would with a person you don’t know well and don’t totally trust yet, that forcing herself to accept more sunlight than she is ready for now is not doing her any good. If it doesn’t feel good, it’s probably not good for you!
Finally, I pointed out that she could get a wide-brimmed hat or a visor if she knew she’d be looking into the sun, like at a beach. I taught her the strobing technique, which I learned from Esther van der Werf (Visions of Joy), of spreading your fingers wide and moving your hands up and down in front of your face. This creates quickly moving shadows on your closed eyelids if you’re facing the sun, like a massage of alternating sunlight and shadow for your visual system, very relaxing. She liked it a lot.
Throughout the lesson, I kept emphasizing that the sun is GOOD, saying when I go outside and it’s sunny, I raise my arms toward it and inhale deeply, closing my eyes in relaxation and letting my facial tension melt away. I didn’t tell her that I then scan around the sun with my eyes open, noticing how relaxed I feel — she may not ever want to do this. I did say that being able to accept brighter levels of sunlight helps with night vision (which I know is starting to be a problem for her), that it exercises the pupil’s ability to expand and contract and so let more light in, no matter what the illumination level. I’m calling this a successful lesson, even though I may have to reinforce some of the concepts a few times. I think I made the sun a new friend!