Day 44 - Ways to Make Your Eyes (and Etc.) Feel Good
Before I stopped drinking coffee, I walked around feeling as if someone had punched me behind the eyes. Like my brain had little arms that kept whacking the dark side of my orbs. I thought it was fatigue, allergies, a possible need for glasses. I never thought: caffeine.
I feel like I have two bright grapes on my face now. It’s so weird. I’m like an ambulance without a stretchered victim. I’m just a face looking out at the world without a burden. I’m a crew on board a boat that threw off unnecessary weight. This face of mine is sailing.
I've been thinking a lot about my eyes. Things are starting to add up.
When I was talking at the Indiana Adoption Conference about writing, I had everyone in the audience do an exercise my coach Katie Peuvrelle taught me years ago that helps you get focused, calm, and in an optimal learning state. Ideally, you would have someone to assist you, but you can do this perfectly well alone.
Sit in a chair and have someone stand behind you, holding their hands a foot or so from your face, fingers touching as if they were making you a finger hockey mask. If you are doing this by yourself, use your own hands. Slowly separate your hands, pulling them around an imaginary bubble that surrounds your head. Keep your eyes looking forward, but soften your focus so you can also see the fingers on either side of your head. Move your hands apart until the fingers disappear from view, and then bring them back until you can see them again. Stay in that place, looking forward with soft vision, seeing both in front of you and out at your fingers at the same time.
Supposedly you can’t feel angry when you are in this mind state. When I am there I get so relaxed and focused I always forget to try to get angry. I don’t want to try, actually, because soft focus feels so good.
When you are in a room full of people doing this, you feel the energy shift. The room gets gentle. If it could purr, it would. I love it. I spend much, much more time forgetting to be in soft focus than actually doing it. It’s particularly good when you have been staring straight ahead at your computer for hours. That kind of focused attention strains the tiny sub-occipital and occipital muscles that connect your head to your neck and can lead to all sorts of problems, most notably headaches and migraines.
Speaking of your neck, here’s another exercise you can do that, I was told, helps to reset your atlas. Your spine is a long snake of bony wonder that begins (or culminates, depending on your POV) with the atlas, the first cervical vertebra. When your atlas is out of alignment even your feet can be affected. Your legs can be different lengths. You can suffer from dizziness. Google atlas and misalignment to see the astonishing list of maladies the imbalance of this small bone can cause.
A misaligned atlas can also impair the smooth functioning of the Vagus nerve (https://upliftconnect.com/12-ways-unlock-powers-vagus-nerve/), something, if you are adopted, you should know about just as you know when you get a pet you need to feed it. (The Vagus nerve is what helps you access the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest part of your being that makes life sweet, makes life a hammock instead of a cave of anxieties.)
Your eyes affect the positioning of the atlas. Remember, in the body all things are delicately interconnected. My friend Carolyn Yates, giver of all things wonderful, presented me with a book called Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve. I love this book because it not only explains anatomy in a way that is easy to understand, the author, Stanley Rosenberg, gives very simple exercises you can do on your own to help this nerve hum.
Here’s the first exercise. I heard Brooke Thomas talk about doing it on a recent episode of the podcast Bliss and Grit (http://www.blissandgrit.com/blog/awakening-nervous-system-2), so you could also hear what she has to say about it and how she uses it if you are so inclined.
It’s so easy. You can do it seated or lying down. Cup your fingers around the back of your head with your thumbs open--see the photo below. Without moving your head, look all the way either to the right or the left, and hold that gaze until you either take a settling breath (a sigh) or you swallow. Then look in the other direction and do the same thing. If you find yourself getting agitated, look in the other direction first and then come back to that side next.
That’s it. It's a tool to help the body settle into the parasympathetic state.
In the book, Rosenberg gave a simple exercise to see whether your Vagus nerve is balanced that drove me nuts because 1. My Vagus nerve did not appear to be balanced. 2. No matter how many times I did the above exercise, I could not get it to balance. And because it’s something you can do in the rearview mirror, for example, it’s easy to get compulsive about doing it. Or for me to get compulsive about doing it. Until I forgot and stopped.
So that’s the warning. Here’s the exercise if you want to test your resilience to compulsive behavior. You have to make sure the lighting is right, because you need to be able to see your uvula (open your mouth and look at the reverse middle finger hanging down, giving the world of your throat the upside down bird. That’s your uvula. Say ah ah ah.
If your Vagus nerve is balanced, supposedly, both sides--supporting this fleshy bird will lift the same amount. Mine does not. My left side just hangs there. Supposedly the exercise I provided helps to balance both sides, and, truth be told, I stopped looking down my throat because I like how I feel when I do the eyes to the side exercise, and I do not like how I feel when I see both sides of my uvula not lifting equally.
Note to self: Patience, Grasshopper. Rome was not built in a day. Learning to live in your body is a process. Enjoy the ride.
See you tomorrow.