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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JUST ONE CANDLE

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Lazy weekends, dishevelled hair and clandestine conversations. The kind of conversations that spring from nothing in particular; just sitting cross-legged on unmade beds, all heavy-eyed and sipping on tea. And then the words tumble out revealing long-kept secrets, drawing wide-eyed gasps. Once the hearts are emptied, the laughter rolls out, bouncing off walls amid little sighs of relief. So we sat there until the skies turned from clear to dark, and we into mere silhouettes. No one tried to reach for the light switch. We stayed that way for a while until our stomachs started rumbling and I got up to cook dinner.

My cheeky girls threw me an invention test. To make pasta sauce out of whatever I could find in the pantry. I rose to the challenge. The chatter moved to the kitchen and from there to the couch until the pasta and the words were wiped out.

This weekend I slept a lot too. It’s very unlike me. Most nights, I barely catch about 5-6 hours of sleep. And as a rule, I never sleep in daylight. But when the body starts protesting, you got to listen. So I curled up at every opportunity and fell into deep slumbers. What with all the lazing and snoozing, by Monday morning, I was energized and new.

So yeah, when I gloss about decluttering, a rule that should always take precedence is this: Follow the basics. We seem to forget that bonding, eating and sleeping are at the very core of our well-being. If we falter there, we are bound to regret it at some point. I am doing pretty good on the bonding and eating; so from here on, I plan to sleep as much as my body needs me to.

Good, sound sleep springs from a relaxed mind, advises my significant other. He should know. If anyone sleeps like a baby, it is he! As for me, my thoughts can get more tangled than my earphones. So that’s a challenge I have thrown at myself now.

Many years ago, I learnt how to meditate and practiced it too. It is said that when you reach a point of ‘no thought’, you have mastered the art of meditation. During that time, I sometimes fell into these little cracks between the avalanches of thoughts. Those were the ‘eureka’ moments. But life got in the way, I got in life’s way and somehow I drifted from that path.  Now I am tip-toeing back into that zone. It’s going to be an uphill climb, slippery at times, tedious at others, but I shall persevere. This time, I hope the cracks are wider and deeper.

It’s about stepping out of the darkness. Just one candle can be enough to chase the shadows away. We can choose to be in the light. We can begin in this very moment.

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