Joy van der Werf's personal vision history
My eyesight was perfect
when I was a child; but my vision changed at the age of 18 when
I was in
business college in The
Netherlands, where I grew up. When
my parents noticed my excessive
squinting as I tried to read TV subtitles, I had to have my
eyes tested by an optometrist, who promptly prescribed a pair
of glasses for nearsightedness.
I hoped these glasses would make me look more intelligent....
No such luck...
I didn't particularly like wearing the glasses. They made
me feel like I was no longer part of the whole picture, instead
they gave me the impression of being a mere observer of the
world around me. The glasses really seemed more of an
obstacle than a help to me. So I cunningly 'lost' them,
to the dismay of my parents.
In my mid-twenties I tried eye-exercises from a book about the
Bates Method. Alas, I did not have enough discipline to
stick with the exercises for very long, and I did not notice
any improvement. So I got used to the blur and made do
with this slightly deteriorated visual acuity for sixteen years.
Learning about health
My first introduction to holistic health came in 1991 when I read the
book Fit for Life written by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. That
led me to learn more about the science of health, especially the effect of diet
on health. Studying health was a proverbial 'eye-opening'
experience for me, and it caused a major change of direction in my
life. In 1998 I decided to leave my well-paid NATO job in Germany
and I began traveling, in search for something more healthful to
In 1999 I attended a health expo in San Francisco, where I met
Tom Quackenbush, author of Relearning to See. I
was very skeptical about natural vision improvement due to my
previous failed attempt with eye exercises, but Tom told me
the Bates Method was not about eye exercises at all. His
book intrigued me, and I wondered if by reading it I could perhaps
keep my eyesight from getting worse. If I could remain
at my slightly blurry level of 20/50 vision, I reasoned, then
I could avoid needing glasses for the rest of my life. So,
I invested in Tom's book, and threw it in the back of my van
where it stayed with the rest of my belongings which accompanied
me on my nomadic journey.
Improving my eyesight
It was several months later, during a 14 day water-only fast, when I finally
took time to read Tom's book. I was living in Costa Rica at that time,
a country well known for its natural beauty. To my amazement and delight
this natural beauty increased as my eyesight improved by following the
suggestions outlined in Relearning to See. The abundant flowers
became even more colorful than before, and my clarity improved to 20/20. This happened within just
two weeks. This method seemed
to work! And it really didn't involve any eye-exercises. Wow.
Not only could
I maintain my visual acuity, but I was actually able to improve it! I
was thrilled with my renewed vision.
My first student
These quick results caused me to ask my friend Ted to join me
in an eyesight experiment. Ted was much more nearsighted
than I was; he used glasses a lot for seeing in the distance.
I challenged him to go without his glasses for a trial period
of one week. He hesitantly agreed, and I hid his glasses
to make sure he wouldn't cheat.
We checked his current visual acuity with an eye-chart.
I was astonished that he could not even read the large top letter
from 20 feet away. So his vision was worse than 20/200
(or worse than 6/60 or 10% in European numbers). Not letting
that discourage us, we went through the book together, discussed
its contents, and began to apply the newly learned natural vision
habits on a daily basis. We were both amazed with the
improvements he made. Four weeks after handing me his
glasses, he was still not using them, not even missing them,
he could read the top 4 lines of the eye-chart, and began to
be able to read the 5th line (20/50 acuity). In my enthusiasm
I sent a "Thank you!" e-mail to Tom Quackenbush, at the same
time expressing my interest in learning more about natural vision
improvement. A few months later I was enrolled in Tom's
Teacher Training Program.
Further personal progress
During the Teacher Training Program (Summer of 2000) I discovered
that my left eye was amblyopic, meaning that I favored my right
eye for seeing. My brain basically ignored the picture
coming in through the left eye. So I had some 'unlearning'
to do, and the muscles around my eyes were at times sore as
they slowly gave up the tension that I had held there for so
By the end of Tom's training my visual acuity had progressed
to 20/15, better than average, and my mental approach to vision
became much more relaxed. A few years later, in the Summer
of 2003, my left eye somehow 'woke up' and I was suddenly able
to see depth. I realized I had never before seen the 'spaces'
between things of different distances the way most people see
it. This wonderful new 3-D vision was an enormous thrill
While teaching an eyesight class in October 2005 I checked my
own distance acuity and was very happy to read the 20/10 line.
Another check in January 2006 confirmed it holding steady
at 20/10. I am delighted with my current eyesight, and
look forward to improving even further.
Found my mission
As part of the teacher training I found some more friends who
willingly let me practice my teaching skills on them. Their
improvements added to my enthusiasm for this work and I realized
I had found my purpose in life. I have been teaching natural
eyesight improvement ever since my certification, and derive
great pleasure from my new life's mission.
In 2003 and 2004 I undertook further training in natural eyesight
improvement with Dr.
Marc Grossman, OD, a behavioral optometrist in New Paltz,
In the spring of 2007 I had the privilege of working two weeks
with Dr. Neal Apple, MD, an ophthalmologist in Silver City,
New Mexico. Following Dr. Apple around in his daily work
with patients gave me deeper insights into the eye, which I
have really appreciated.
Although I don't yet know everything there is to know about
natural vision, I do strongly believe that what I do know needs
to be shared with the world. The message that eyesight
can be improved in a natural way should reach all those many
people who are fed up with their glasses and wish they could
see better without them, but do not yet know that this risk-free
I have since become a well-known Bates Method expert with three books in print, and I am
regularly asked to speak at vision conferences. I presented
a workshop at the International Holistic Vision Conference (IHVC)
in Spa, Belgium, in 2009 and gave the closing speech at that
conference. This resulted in an invitation to give a keynote
lecture at the British Natural Eyesight Conference (BNEC) in
London, England, in 2010 and 2012.
Invitations followed to speak at many IHVC conferences, such as Milano, Italy (2011 and 2013), Madrid, Spain in 2015 and Frankfurt, Germany, 2019. I organized the 2nd Professional
Conference of the Association of Vision Educators which took
place in Pacific Palisades, California, in May 2015 and this led to speaking at the AVE conferences in Boulder, Colorado (2016) and Oregon (2018).
Check my travel plans and schedule
for more events.
See lectures & workshops
for information on what I like to talk about.
I give group classes and teach private lessons in many places,
mainly in the USA but also in The Netherlands and Italy. People
from all over the world take lessons with my via Skype.
I just as happily teach individual private sessions as I do
groups, whether 6, 60 or more people. Many people experience
clearer vision in the first hour of practicing better eyesight
habits with me. (Please read the testimonials
of people with better vision)
Breathing added to the vision
Our eyes need oxygen to function best, and learning
relaxed deep breathing is a great asset to vision as well
as life in general. In 2004 I experienced major improvements
in my breathing after working with Mike
White. Since my training with this amazing breathing
coach, I have expanded my classes by adding his very effective
Optimal Breathing Development© techniques.
Visions of Joy
It still amazes me how few people are aware of the option of
natural eyesight improvement. All that most of us know
is that when our eyesight deteriorates, we can choose between
either (stronger) glasses, or becoming a guinea pig for the
currently popular laser surgery industry. It is my mission
to increase public awareness of our natural option. This
is why 'Visions of Joy' came about. I have great passion
for this work - through this website and by offering a
variety of eyesight improvement classes I aim to help you
get out of lenses!
I encourage you to use this website as a resource, and please
check out the other
vision educators sites too. The teachers listed there
all have a similar goal of helping people to better eyesight
naturally, however, many of us have developed slightly varying
ways to achieve that goal. Feel free to try out the various
approaches and find what suits your needs.
Evaluate everything, and keep the good.
Enjoy your path to clarity!
Esther Joy van der Werf
Read articles by Esther
interviews with Esther
I was certified as a Natural Vision Educator by the Natural
Vision Center (NVC) in August of 2000 in San Francisco, California.
I am a board member of the Association
of Vision Educators in the USA and am on the faculty of
Vision Educators Training Institute.
I'm also an Optimal Breathing ® Development
Specialist, trained by Michael
Grant White in 2004.
In 2006 I trained with Dennis
Lewis, author of Free Your Breath, Free Your Life, and The
Tao of Natural Breathing, and I am certified to teach his Authentic
I am a teacher, not a doctor
Let me make clear that I am purely a teacher - I am not an ophthalmologist,
an optometrist, or a medical doctor, therefore I do not diagnose
nor prescribe, but I do love to educate. I do not diagnose
or treat any eye or lung diseases, nor do I prescribe corrective
lenses. When I talk about what I would do if I had specific
eyesight or breathing problems, it is up to you whether or not
you decide to try something similar for the benefit of your
eyes or lungs. In that regard, please read the disclaimer.