CANE ENABLED | Audio Interview
Update: You can now access the second part of the interview with Meir Schneider here: Vision Improvement Through Self-Healing Part 2. Below the Part 1 audio is the interview transcription. Enjoy!
Welcome to Bold Blind Beauty, the home of Beyond Sight Magazine and our September 2020 Cane Enabled segment. In addition to celebrating all things related to the cane, including safety and usage, personalization, this monthly series also shares broad perspectives from those in the field, including parents of blind and visually impaired children, advocates and exciting news on the technology front. Cane Enabled is published on the fourth Monday of each month. This month, we are featuring the electric and exciting Mr. Meir Schneider, the pioneer, an author and educator, a therapist, founder of the School of Self-Healing in San Francisco. Meir Schneider overcame, congenital blindness, and developed original self healing approach of exercises to improve vision and increase brain flexibility. Meir Schneider self-healing method through bodywork and movement. He uses movement massages and techniques and therapies combined with visual imagery and proper breathing techniques to create an effective approach for improving health and function. So I would love to give a warm welcome to Meir Schneider this morning in California’s San Francisco. Good morning.
Hey, good morning. It’s so, so nice to be on your show with that very valuable work that you’re doing.
Thank you so much, Meir. I know a lot of people in our community probably have never heard about the unique stuff you do and never heard about you yourself. So let’s take the next few moments and really delve deep into that. Meir, you have an incredible story. You were born to hearing impaired parents and you know, you had cataracts yourself as a very young child and as of, due to that, you had, you’re deemed legally blind. So can you share that incredible inspiring journey with us?
It’s interesting. I was the blind son of Eda and Abraham in Tel Aviv. The whole deaf community knew me as the blind son. I’m proud of the fact that I was the quickest braille reader in the state of Israel as of sixth grade and got books after books in braille. One thing that was good about my childhood was the difficult thing about my childhood. There were two kinds of institutions for blind kids. One was an institute where you have blind kids in Jerusalem. The other one was in Tel Aviv where I lived, which was in- integrated us with other kids, which I think is the best way of doing it. And there was a braille class that was teaching us two teachers, later on there were three teachers, taught us to integrate. So we spent two more hours every day in school to learn and to relearn what was there on the board that we could never see.
Here was the challenge and here was the greatness: kids, isolated me, kids fought with me, kids tricked me. Teachers stood up for the kids because I did not take it from anyone. So sometimes I would hit the kids. Also, at home, I was a rotten kid to begin with. I would play with other kids, fall into puddles. You have to see my mother’s tears when she had to wash and that time, there wasn’t a washing machine of today. She had to wash with her hands and there was a machine which you would roll all the time you know like, like they used to do in the past. And my mother would cry because I would always come with clothes of somebody who was in a puddle. I would sometimes be hit, beaten. Sometimes parents of other kids would hit me and I would ride a bicycle and fall downstairs, hit trees and hit people.
And sometimes I would play in, in unfinished buildings and that was scary to my parents, that was scary to my teachers, it was scary to everyone, but I can tell you that in high school, the first thing that I fought for is to go to trips with other children because sometimes they would go to a high mountains and decide to exclude me. And I fought with it so much that eventually I was taken to those trips and there were pre military training and they were trying to get me out of the training and I refuse to be, get- getting out of the training. But when there was rifle, they were winning. They didn’t allow me to hold the rifle and direct it anywhere. There were soccer games in high school. And I can tell you that every, every group wanted me to belong to it.
And the reason is if I would think the ball is somewhere, I would run, run there and want to kick it. The problem is sometimes I would kick, kick someone’s leg and it hurt. If you would want to beat me up for that, no other kid would let him do it. He said, “That’s the blind one. What are you doing? You can’t do that”. And then I would run to, it said, Hey man, I don’t have the ball. It’s somewhere else. But when I would kick, I was a very, I kicked very well, it went to the other side of the field. So that was the beginning of my life. I guess, in some ways not accepting where I was, not accepting my disability, not submitting to people that told me to accept it and dreaming about a different reality. And then it came, we went to an optometry institute in Jerusalem and they found for me a lens, which was 38 diopters.
Like the normal lens is about two diopters, you know, 38 diopters. I would put my nose in the book and I would read letter after letter. I would get terrible headaches. I would have to resort to braille again again, but I started that way. And then I learned eye exercises. I spent 13 to 16 hours a day working on my eyes while in school, while at home, running to the roof, 10 times a day to do an exercise called sunning. The result was in about four months, I was able to see large print without glasses, not reading, but I’m saying signs. I was able to slowly get rid of my braille. I was able to read regular books. Eventually I was able to live as normal life as possible. These days already for 38 years, I’m driving and I just renewed my driver’s license a couple of weeks ago, which makes me very, very proud.
It, it, I don’t have the vision that other people have. I’m a very careful driver. I drive in the middle lane and if there’s a slow truck in front of me, well, I’ll drive behind it. I don’t need to move from one lane to another, unless I need to exit. I even learned some places I go to, what’s the best lane to exit with. And I don’t like it when I have to change three or four freeways. I like to take the same freeway or change once, sometimes twice, but I don’t like to change it again and again. So I’m very careful and I know my vision is not perfect, but just like I learned to function as a blind kid against everyone’s wish as normally as possible, the rebellion blind kid, I learned to function with lesser vision almost normally like other people are.
There was a boutique downstairs from my house and they gave me money, which is similar to 50 cents to put a cover on the boutique shop every single Saturday when the shops were closed in, in Tel Aviv. And one of the owners of the boutique so many, few years after I’ve done it. And she says, “You see? How come you see?” And I thought she’d be happy, but she wasn’t because I kind of broke the code. I was the blind kid in that street. And how come am I changing her understanding of who is who in that street? So that was one thing. But I must say that it gave me real good training for these days because these days I have a Berlin wall from the scientific community, from the general public and the wall is that lack of belief that things can change.
That is my difficulties these days. That’s what makes the work of people like Pam who helps with community outreach very difficult because you get a small portion of the population that may believe in the fact that real change can happen. Now, understand me right, I’m very realistic about the change that one can have, but there is such incredible pessimism of the medical community of what can be done. So that kind of trained me to that the fact that controversy is a part of my life.
I think that’s amazing. And so when the change came, how did you create that change? What is that change of, you know, the self-healing therapeutic movement and through exercise, were you able to disprove them wrong? And like that lady who said, wait a minute, you’re supposed to be the blind one on the corner. It’s almost like she had supremacy over you because she was sighted.
It was more like I destroyed her world. Like you’re a world where this is here and this is there. And I took it away. You know, it’s very, very interesting. So to begin with, I’ve learned that my eyes were under continuous stress and this is something that I want to say with great empathy, but people don’t understand how hard it is for people who are blind to be blind. That actually you work very hard to not see.
And in my case, it was the nystagmus, the involuntary movement of the eyes. When you look at point A your eyes are moving to point C and when you look at point C they move to point B and you just don’t know where your eyes are going to move to and my nystagmus was 300 movements per minute. And so a powerful exercise that Tibetan yogis did for 1500 years, generation after generation and Dr. Bates, who was discredited by the medical profession ,and was an ophthalmologist himself, have discovered separately years later is that you wrap your hands and you put your hands very gently around the eye orbits. You never put pressure on the cheekbones and you visualize as if you see nothing. And I could not visualize nothing. I saw stars. I saw continuous movements because my optic nerve was so you irritable and irritated and it still is to some extent, I still have a problem when somebody sits against the window and I’m sitting opposite, they will look too dark still. So it’s not like I completely overcame that, but it was an important exercise for me, which we call palming. Some people call it cupping, but I call it palming. And it’s well written in my book Vision for Life that is also on Audible. And also my book Awakening and my book Movement for Self-Healing. All of them are on Audible.
What are, what part is the eye orbit?
The eye orbit- the eye orbit is pretty deep, but when I cover my hands with the eye orbit. I covered the cheekbones and the forehead.
Okay, got you.
The eye orbit is also the temples and everything that encases, the eyes, the bones in the back of the skull, the sphenoid. But anyway, you relax the eyes. I relaxed. It took me something like two and a half months to get my movements from 300 movements per minute to 60. In the meantime, I learned to escape the sun. I was given dark glasses so sun won’t bother me. But that is the opposite of what I learned with eye exercises. What I did instead is adapt to the sun. And I really believe in adaptation instead of escape from danger. For example, this morning, I was running on the beach. I had many admirers who felt, wow, you’re crazy. Cold, breezy weather in the summer of San Francisco with all kinds of droplets from the fog that have not dried yet. I told you before we were talking that, Mark Twain said the coldest winter ever spent was one summer in San Francisco.
Well, I ran and people looked with great admiration, some people are growing in my neighborhood. Don’t know anything about my work, but knows about this nut who is running, with a bathing suit in cold weather, sometimes bath. When the weather is warm, I bathe in, in an ocean that nobody wants to put their toe in. I don’t find it to be that cold. But what I’m saying is it is so important to adapt to nature, adapt to the cold, if you can. Of course, when you’re talking about cold, like you have back East, like in Toronto, or like in Pittsburgh or something, well, there’s a limit to how much you can adapt to it, but you can adapt to at least three seasons out of the year. And you can adapt to a small extent, at least to the snow. I remember in Quebec, I was teaching people outside in the cold.
They felt uncomfortable long before I felt uncomfortable. And in Tel Aviv I taught people in great heat, even though there was air conditioner, felt uncomfortable, they did. So the point is being able to adapt and finding ways to adapt is important. By the way, the way I felt comfortable in Tel Aviv is swimming in the sea for an hour before I started my day so my body cooled. And that was another story. But returning to the eyes, how do you adapt to the sun? You close your eyes. And by the way, when you close your eyes, no UV light penetrates into your retina. So there’s no problem with that. And then you move your head all the way from side to side, 180 degrees from shoulder to shoulder. And that’s what we call sunning and lo and behold gave me few months of that and the light did not bother me as much. And only that, that was the beginning of me being able to read print without the magnifying lens.
I used to use either the 38 diopters or glasses of 20 diopters with two magnifying lenses to read what’s written in books and it was so hard. I mean, it still was hard into the time that I was doing work on my eyes, things on the reading was always slower and harder for me. And it, this is the one good things that I’m happy to belong to the library of the blind and dyslexic and get all kinds of books I can listen to. And until today, I mean, I would prefer to read a page on a book, but I did read books when it came to college.
For those who may be wanting to find out more about Meir and what he does, you can find his works at self-healing.org.
Meir was born with congenital cataracts to deaf parents. After five unsuccessful surgeries, leaving him with massive scar tissue, he was declared legally blind. At 16, he discovered eye exercises that helped him develop his vision from 1% to 70%. He now reads, writes and drives. The practices he used and developed became the basis for the Meir Schneider Method of Self-Healing combining breathing, massage, movement, bodywork and visualization techniques. Meir founded the School for Self-Healing in San Francisco in 1980, where he teaches and works with thousands of people with a wide range of degenerative conditions such as polio, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis. Meir is a world-renowned therapist, lecturer, and author of several books, translated into 16 languages.
- Meir Palming: Palming is an ancient practice going way back to Tibetan Yogis in caves. Palming is deep relaxation for the eyes. Meir is passionate about palming, he once palmed for 11 hours and then got his driver’s license! Here, Meir is putting the palm or cup of his hands over his eye orbits while putting no pressure, repeat, no pressure on the cheekbones (as that would inhibit some of the needed blood flow to the eyes). His elbows are on a special palming stick that is available for purchase through the School for Self-Healing. A tabletop with a pillow on it works well also!
- The Beyond Sight Magazine cover features this above image of Meir Palming. “Beyond Sight Magazine” masthead is teal with black text. The dot on the ‘i’ in ‘sight’ is the eye used for our 2020 Year of Vision Campaign (described HERE). There are lines of text that say “Vision Improvement Through Self-Healing | Palming, The ancient Tibetan practice.” In the bottom right corner is a teal circle with an illustration of Abby Bold Blind Beauty’s fashion icon who is walking with her white cane in one hand and handbag in the other. She is wearing heels and a stylish dress made of panels resembling overlapping banana leaves. The dress panels gently curve from her nipped-in waist to just above the knee. She’s also sporting her signature explosive hairstyle and yellow text Cane EnAbled” is under the circle.