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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YUGEN

img_20181225_171239Strangely enough, on Christmas day, I found myself on an inter-state train journey. The gradually changing landscape seemed metaphorical, reflecting the hazy passage of months gone by. Memories and thoughts bounced around in my head, keeping me awake through the 13-hour journey. Thankfully, my fellow passengers were a merry lot. They chatted with me, shared food, laughed and felt like family. Like they say, anything is possible on a train journey.

As everyone settled in for a snooze, I stood leaning against the doorway, basking in the soft rays of the setting sun. It felt like a ‘kairos’ moment; the perfect time to let go of all the accumulated heaviness of the past year. In classical rhetoric, ‘kairos’ refers to a proper or opportune time for action. As the train chugged along, I felt ready to get ‘back on track’.

The next morning, as I stepped out onto the red soil of my native land, there was a lightness in my step that had been missing for a while. Despite the unexpected heat, everything seemed to spark indescribable joy. The Japanese call it ‘Yugen’, a profound awareness of the universe that triggers feelings too deep and mysterious for words. It is this very awareness that can supposedly turn our life around.

When he was little, my nephew sometimes would go and sit in the bathroom by himself. When asked why, he would sheepishly say, “I made a mistake, so I’m grounding myself”. It was endearing and hilarious at the same time. Grounding, unlike physical punishment, is a more positive corrective action. By taking away freedom or privileges, children are essentially taught to understand the consequences of their actions.

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As adults, we need grounding too; a different kind, but a lot more restorative. The earth is a huge battery that contains natural electric charge. For safety and stability, most everything in the electrical world is connected to it, whether it is an electric power plant or your refrigerator. That’s what the term ‘grounded’ means, also known as ‘earthing’. The same applies to us too.

We are bio-electrical beings, but thanks to modern city life, we become so disconnected with the earth that it is inevitable that we find a depletion of energy. Reconnecting is the only way we can charge our human batteries and remain healthy. Walking barefoot on a sandy beach or a stroll through the park is sufficient to begin with.  The countryside, for me, became the right place to initiate this kind of rejuvenation.

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On one of my recent jaunts through the National Park in my vicinity, I chanced upon the oldest tree there. Just touching that beautiful tree trunk uplifted me. How mightily it has stood the test of time, through rainstorms and harsh winds!

That is my goal for 2019. To stay strong, majestic and beautiful as I brave everything that life throws at me.  And that is my wish for all of you too.

Whatever else you may have planned for the coming year, remember to experience ‘Yugen’ when possible, ‘ground’ yourself and stay vibrant. Keep bringing yourself back to the awareness from time to time. Do it often, and remind yourself that all of your power is in your awareness.

Michael Bernard Beckwith sums up the awareness of this power when he says, “Remember to remember!” Make this your theme for 2019. Cheers to a sparkling new year!

 

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Grounding information sourced from, ‘Grounding the Human Body: The Healing Benefits of Earthing’ by Clint Ober, Gaetan Chevalier and Martin Zucker