In Focus 4-15-2005

Spending time with a Big Island visionary

By: Marty Wentzel

Ever since I was a grade-school kid in glasses, I have longed for 20/20 vision. So when I heard about a Big Island offering called Vision Fitness, I signed up in the blink of an eye.

It’s one of several unique Fairmont Orchid Hawaii classes developed and taught by Calley O’Neill, who started at the hotel in 1997.

It’s easy to love O’Neill: With her long, blond hair and broad smile, she captivates clients like a sunset draws dreamy-eyed couples.

But during her Vision Fitness classes, O’Neill wants participants to channel love inward and, in particular, toward their eyes.

On a quiet oceanfront lawn, seven of us sat in a circle of beach chairs as O’Neill outlined the philosophy behind Vision Fitness.

“The eyes are always telling us the truth, but we are often too busy to hear it,” she said. “When your eyes say you’re tired, you get a cup of coffee and go back to work instead of relaxing them.”

Memory loss and eyesight reduction are largely caused by stress, she said, and no one knows that better than O’Neill.

As a young activist working round-the-clock to better the world, O’Neill said she took little care of herself.

“I wanted to heal the whole planet, but I wasn’t healing myself,” she recalled. “I became incredibly stressed.”

Through yoga and other fundamental wellness practices, she gradually learned how to relax and increase her awareness.

Unlike more mainstream fitness classes, Vision Fitness examines a client’s psychology, history, nutrition and emotions.

O’Neill listened intently as we discussed not only our own eye and memory history, but that of our family members.

Using reference materials, she discussed the eye’s anatomy and explained how vision is linked to memory.

She discussed nutrition, encouraging us to eat carotene-rich foods like spinach, carrots, cantaloupe and dried apricots.

From there, O’Neill taught techniques to improve our visual well being, including how to move our eyes to strengthen muscles.

We focused on a far away spot and gradually brought our point of view closer. Then we massaged our brows and meditated a bit.

During the class, she encouraged us to continue the exercises at home.

Later, O’Neill told me that offering Vision Fitness at a Hawaii resort makes perfect sense.

“Clients come to this incredible place to relax, so they’re ripe for this sort of class,” she said. “Hopefully they will go home to a less stressful life.”

O’Neill said her class is also designed to awaken the consciousness.

“I am much more of an alarm clock than a teacher,” she said. “I want to slow people down so Hawaii can touch them.”

Back home, in front of my computer, I try to remember what O’Neill taught me.

I take time to relax, drink more water and move my eyes around.

While I can’t claim that my sight and memory have vastly improved, I do know I’m better off for having spent some time with Calley O’Neill, one of the Big Island’s true visionaries.


Vision Fitness, a 75-minute class designed to teach the basics of maintaining and improving eyesight and memory, is offered to clients ages 10 and older, Saturdays at 10 a.m. at Fairmont Orchid Hawaii. The cost is $15 per person, and it’s open to guests and non-guests of the resort. When clients stay at the Fairmont Orchid and purchase the hotel’s Activity Pass ($30 per adult, $20 per child ages 5-12), they can participate in Vision Fitness and other wellness classes for free.