Tag Archive 'vagus nerve'

Feb 21 2012

Our 4 Inner Allies & How They Help Transform Our Lives – #89

Did you know that we have within us four super allies that can help us heal and transform our lives? Some of us have more of one than the other, but when they work together, they are a formidable team. I’ve been aware of these internal forces for the last 3 years on my adventure with cancer, but I didn’t have a name for them until now.

Tom recently attended a training where he learned how to facilitate healing and transformation by using these four archetypes that are within each of us, and in every culture in the world: The Lover, Magician, Warrior, and King. When he told me about them I was excited; it helped me delineate and put a name to these old friends that have been helping me traverse my cancer journey, and life in general.

This week I’m going to Las Vegas for several days with Tom for a family reunion with his 7 brothers and sisters and possibly their spouses/partners. I look forward to spending time with these wonderful people. However, this trip challenges me for a number of reasons. Therefore, I’ve decided to enlist my 4 super allies in transforming my fears into fun! Here’s how:

THE LOVER

Description: This ally gently guides us in facing, feeling, and embracing whatever’s happening. It welcomes, listens, nurtures, and asks questions like, “What are you feeling right now? What’s happening inside you?” The energy of The Lover invites a deepening into what we’re experiencing. It doesn’t want to ‘fix’ us; it only wants to hold us in a spacious embrace of love, acceptance, and discovery as we follow, allow, and unwind whatever is happening. It’s usually best that this ally be the first one we enlist when we begin exploring our issue because it brings us to the heart of the matter.

Example: I check in with myself, asking, “What are you feeling about going to Vegas?” As I explore this, I’m aware of feeling concerned that I’ll be stressed, over-stimulated, and depleted by the big energy of the Vegas trip. I’m afraid the stress will suppress my immune system and trigger my cancer, which seems quiet and/or dormant right now. I don’t want to awaken the beast!

Speaking of beasts, as I go deeper I’m aware of another fear I have: when I’m stressed, my ‘Jan-dora’s’ box of embarrassing personas has been known to burst open and out pours the likes of Ms. Huffyton, Chopped Liver, The Incredible Sulk, Miss Fit, and the dreaded…Ms. Thunderfull! Oh my!

My Lover ally smiles knowingly, and embraces all these many me’s, all the meany, moody, messy me’s. When these characters aren’t invited to the party, they tend to crash it. The Lover welcomes all the many me’s with open arms.

THE MAGICIAN

Description: This ally has the super power of imagination, vision, creativity, and thinking outside the box. It shows us new possibilities, new ways of seeing things, new ways of being.  It invites us to imagine, “Who would I be without this issue, this fear, this story I tell myself?”

Example: I’m visualizing myself in Vegas having a wonderful time. I see and feel myself being centered, relaxed, and happy, playfully being with whatever, and whoever, shows up. I imagine myself enthusiastically telling friends after the trip, “I had a great time! It was not only fun, but it was healing as well.” My Magician energy is helping me envision this as if it is already so. And so it is.

THE WARRIOR

Description: This super ally confronts, takes action, and gets things done. It is firm, direct, practical, and purposeful. It asks questions like, “What needs to happen here?”

Example: I ask myself, “What do I need to do to help myself stay calm and centered?” Here’s the action plan I’ve come up with: When I’m in Vegas, I will take 10 deep abdominal breaths throughout the day. That triggers my Vagus nerve (how appropriate for Vegas!), which in turn triggers my immune system and my relaxation response. I will also dance and wiggle my pelvis like Elvis every day for at least ten minutes to reduce tension.

I plan on allowing myself plenty of time to take space, rest, and recharge my energy while there. I’ve already talked to Tom about exchanging lots of relaxing oxytocin hugs, and keeping the lines of communication open, clearing the air as we go along. (I find that when I sweep things under the rug, I end up getting the rug pulled out from under me!)

THE KING/QUEEN

Description: This is our higher self. It is the energy of love and joy. This super ally encourages us to: “Remember who you are. Remember that you are a beautiful soul. Remember that you are loved and guided and safe, no matter what. Remember that you are on a mission to discover and express your inherent magnificence.” It sees the higher truth and the deeper meaning in everything. It wants to be of service to self and others.

Example: As I tune into my higher self and see the Vegas trip from my soul’s eye view, I see that it is a perfect opportunity to practice being fully present in the midst of big energy, to keep coming home to my heart, breathing through my heart, seeing myself and others, even Vegas, from this higher perspective. “Namaste Vegas — the higher being in me sees the higher being in you.” I intend to look for the joy and beauty in everything around me.

Viva Las Vegas, and Viva the Lover, Magician, Warrior, and King! Accompanied and aided by these four formidable allies (and the fantastic Tom), I plan on having the time of my life!

Are you aware of these powerful allies in your life? How are they helping you heal and transform into your highest self and live your best life?

In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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Aug 13 2011

No Hurry, No Worry – #77

Years ago I saw a movie in which a busy, stressed-out woman was diagnosed with terminal cancer and, understandably, she was terrified.  She started working with a Chinese doctor who taught her the healing power of relaxation and told her to repeat the mantra, “No hurry, no worry.” She said those words often and followed his healing regimen and was eventually cured! Those words have stayed with me over the years and I often say them to myself whenever I feel stressed. “No hurry, no worry.” Or, as my teenage niece says, ”Chillax!”

There’s a direct correlation between stress and illness, especially cancer. We all have cancer cells in our bodies and a strong immune system is what keeps them from multiplying. However, STRESS SUPPRESSES THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, and in some people this allows cancer to grow out of control. Stress also creates an acidic condition in the body, which cancer thrives on. In addition, stress creates inflammation, another dangerous breeding ground for cancer and other illnesses.

When I think about what probably most contributed to my having cancer, the answer is stress. Many years ago I was aware of how much tension I had in my body – I noticed a habitual clenching, particularly in my stomach and pelvic area. I had the thought, “If I ever have health problems, this is where it will be.” Sure enough, three years ago all hell broke loose down there, starting with a ruptured, necrotic, gangrenous appendix, the worst my doctor had ever seen, followed by the discovery of uterine cancer, and finally recurring uterine cancer.

Since stress turns off my immune system, in order to heal I know I need to relax. I can hear a frantic part of me imploring, “RELAX OR DIE!” But it’s hard to relax with a cancer diagnosis – while tension is a precursor of cancer, it is also a natural reaction to it once you have it. Therefore, I am diligently committed to cultivating a relaxing path of “No hurry, no worry”, which includes meditation, exercise, visualization, and trusting that I am loved and guided and right where I’m supposed to be.

Lately, I’ve added a new refrain, “Viva La Vagus!,” in celebration of the amazing vagus nerve. (I’ve been singing the Elvis song, Viva Las Vegas, in my head all day!) I’ve recently learned that the vagus nerve activates the immune system, and deep, slow, abdominal breaths activate the vagus nerve. I was alerted to this when my brilliant scientist friend, Peggy LaCerra, wrote on Facebook, “When people are panicked because of an illness, I tell them to simply take 10 VERY DEEP breaths repeatedly throughout the day because, when we breath deeply, the diaphragm drops to the bottom of the thoracic cavity. The vagus nerve – the main ‘neural cable’ of the parasympathetic system runs through the diaphragm muscle. When the diaphragm drops down and then rises and drops down and rises repeatedly, it stimulates the vagus nerve and initiates a shift back to a parasympathetic state.” The parasympathetic state triggers a relaxation response and activates the immune system, helping our bodies heal, repair, and renew.

I’ve since been researching the vagus nerve and found that taking the deep, slow, abdominal breaths that trigger it promotes healing in numerous ways: it oxygenates the body (cancer hates oxygen), creates alkalinity in the body (cancer is said to flourish in acidity and wither in alkalinity), helps control obesity (which is another risk factor for cancer and other illnesses), reduces inflammation, makes our lymphatic system work better, improves memory, fights depression, lowers blood pressure, enhances brain and heart activity, purifies our blood, aids digestion, rejuvenates our skin, and reduces pain. Deep breathing delivers a wealth of health benefits! And it’s completely FREE! I just need to remember to do it!

The healing power of breath is not news to me. After all, my e-mail address of the last ten years has been JanBreathe, because I wanted to remind myself to breathe. I’ve also studied breath work with breath master Gay Hendricks, and learned well the importance of conscious breathing. Yet…I forget, I go unconscious and revert back to my old habitual shallow breath.

But now, knowing that the best chance I have of completely healing from this life-threatening illness is having a strong immune system, and knowing that deep breath triggers the vagus nerve which in turn triggers the immune system, I’m all about breathing deep, slow breaths all day, every day! I want to live, and, also, it just plain feels good! What I’m finding as I’ve been focusing on deep breathing is that it energizes and enlivens me. When I’m fully breathing, I’m fully alive. When I’m shallow breathing, I’m shallowly alive. “He lives most life whoever breathes most air.”-Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

I can see where early in life I unconsciously adopted a life strategy to breathe shallowly as a way to blunt my feelings. The flaw in that strategy is that shallow breathing contributes to stress, tension, illness, anxiety, depression and more things to feel fear about. Fully breathing is committing to being in my body and feeling my full aliveness, including being willing to feel all my feelings.

One of my favorite cartoons shows in the first frame a man sitting at a desk with a blank look on his face. In the second frame his eyes are wide open and he looks vitalized and excited. In the third and final frame he once again has a blank expression. The caption reads, “Herb has a brief but intense near-life experience.” As I breathe deep, slow breaths throughout the day, I’m having a prolonged and intense near-life experience! I’m feeling invigorated and calm at the same time.

Being a multi-tasker, when I can remember, I add a smile to my breathing, (stimulating healing endorphins), and say the words “I love you” (activating healing oxytocin). As an added bonus to all the health benefits, I’m finding that focusing on deep breathing is an instant portal to the present moment. That’s the place I want to be.

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

I say a big YES to fully breathing and being fully alive, fully in my body, AND fully healed! I’ll breathe to that!

How about you? Are you committed to fully breathing and being fully alive? No hurry, no worry – just take some deep, slow breaths and join me in a spirited chorus of “Viva La Vagus!” Here’s to a stimulated immune system and a stimulating life!

In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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