THE VAGUS NERVE

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2019 has been a year of striking contrasts. On the one hand, I finally got my first book of poems published. The appreciation and love that poured in, put me in a many-hued reverie. On the other hand, I was decidedly neglecting my health and ending up feeling listless all the time. Wasn’t I the one who always reprimanded people on valuing material gifts, but abusing their own bodies, the most precious gift that life bestows on us? Somehow, my innate wisdom had abandoned me, returning to survey the damage a little too late.

There’s a Japanese phrase ‘Kuchisabishii’, which means “when you’re not hungry, but you eat because your mouth is lonely.” At some point or the other, we are prone to emotional eating and drinking, but when indulgence becomes habit, it is a cause for concern. It is a sign that something is wrong at a deeper level. Thankfully, life provides a U-turn on most paths. Now I’m bringing the focus back on wellness; exercising, trying to eat sensibly and most importantly, regaining the mental calm that is imperative to stay on the path.

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On hindsight, this year certainly has been the perfect teacher, stern and relentless in its lessons but compassionate and fair too. There were times when the ground beneath my feet seemed to be slipping, when nothing gave me hope and my otherwise radiant smile seemed totally jaded.  Just in time though, some good karma found its way back in the form of an extended hand, urging me to take baby steps all over again.

Recently, while listening to a podcast, I learnt about the ‘Vagus nerve’, the so called “nerve of emotion”. It is the largest cranial nerve that relays messages between the brain and the respiratory, digestive and nervous systems. It is this neural pathway that determines your ability to find calm by activating the “relaxation response”, thus decreasing stress and inflammation, the underlying cause of all dis-ease. It has now become clear to me why yogic practices such as pranayama and meditation are so important. Establishing an optimal vagal tone should be our top priority in this increasingly stressful world that we live in. If you’re into resolutions or goal-setting, put that on top of your new year’s list. If not, do it anyway.

Another way to improve your vagal tone is to train yourself to experience life mindfully and practice a sense of oneness. Just living in the moment, laughing without restraint, experiencing loving relationships, feeling gratitude and connecting with nature are some easy ways to do so. Allow joy, love and calm to permeate you. Eliminate all things negative. As another year comes to an end, I’d like to tone down my waywardness and put up a wholesome motto for 2020: Love, humility and well-being.

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December is always about an easy, magical buildup to Christmas and a brand new year. The twinkling fairy lights are the best mood-setters and just sitting by the Christmas tree, listening to cheery songs makes me feel grateful for all the little blessings received. It is also the perfect time for slowing down, reflecting on the year gone by and making positive changes.

If you ask me to summate my year’s worth of learning into one word, I’d say, ‘serve’. Make a contribution. As a writer, touching a heart with words of hope, reminding someone to appreciate the little things and sharing personal experiences that others can gain some insight from, seems a good place to start. The upside of this is that when you unwaveringly focus on being your best self, the futility just falls off. Each choice you make creates a ripple effect in your life and consequently affects the life of others. A kind heart, a clear mind and dedicated work can be your best service to humankind. Everyone has purpose, find yours. And promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. Here’s looking forward to a year full of abundance! Happy 2020.

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WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS

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There’s something about early morning walks that fills you with hope and affability. I’m saying that now, but frankly, I’ve arrived at this bit of wisdom after a lot of foot-dragging! Mom had been raving to me about the benefits of walking for an eternity. Of course, like always, her wise words bounced right off my disinclined ears. I couldn’t bring myself to dress up and step out of the house first thing in the morning. It was too much effort.  But since I started ‘The Mind Declutter Project’, I’ve been more open-minded and willing to give anything a go.

So recently, when mom started her rant again, I dusted my walking shoes, dug up my track pants and toddled along to the neighbourhood park. At first, I just wandered about, exploring the trail, checking out the joggers and gawking at the hard-core sprinters with open mouthed awe. The first couple of days, I just enjoyed the backdrop. The new blooms in multiple colours, the lush greenery, the butterflies flitting from one flower to another, the incessant chirping of birds and the perky squirrels scurrying around filled me with delight. I got so busy admiring nature that I forgot everything else.The walking just happened side by side.

A week later, it became evident that the apathy was being replaced by enthusiasm. I started spending more and more time in the park. The exertion seemed to bother me less and less, my stamina surged and the bonhomie of my fellow ramblers added to my buoyancy. I discovered songs I didn’t know existed on my playlist.  And I enjoyed the favourites even more, simply because now I had the perfect setting to enjoy the melodies. Most days now, even after I’m done with the exercise, I hang around on my favourite bench just to enjoy some more music. One of these days, I’d like to climb atop the wooden deck which looks out over the mangroves in the distance and write. It looks like the perfect spot to lose myself.

It’s been a couple of months now and I’m completely hooked. I try not to miss a single day. It’s an adrenaline rush I am not willing to pass up. I’ve tried other forms of exercise earlier, mostly indoors, but the simple act of putting one foot ahead of the other is therapeutic, enthusing and humble all at once. It’s free too. So if you aren’t already walking, I urge you to try it.  Pick some good music, lace up your walking shoes and get going!  It’s the easiest way to gain health, declutter the mind, find perspective, may be make some new friends or just space out. The air is ripe with possibilities.

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