vagus nerve

(cleaning up all the hooks, re-stringing them on new elastic)

I was talking to my online group today about Thupten Jinpa’s book, the Fearless Heart, in which he talks about compassion. He notes that in the western culture, the whole basis that we as humans understand ourselves and our government, etc, is based on Darwin: dog-eat-dog, the strong survive. But in Tibet, untouched by such definition, the human sense of self and relationship is based on compassion: we are in loving relationship with self, others, the world.

One part of his in-depth discussion lightly touches on the vagus nerve – which is one way scientists can measure change in the body based on compassion training or meditation. What I didn’t realize is what this nerve correlates with. It’s sometimes euphemistically called the “cuddle nerve” since it is nurtured initially by the mother holding the infant. But it goes on to regulate heart, digestion, and immune function as well as anxiety. Meditation directly affects this nerve that runs up through your neck between head and abdomen.

So, I felt this huge ah-ha when reading this. I’m sure that I have been affecting my darn vagus nerve with meditation. I won’t bore you with retelling the struggles that got me to be so scheduled – to get myself to consistently slow down and be still. But it’s wild to kind of understand why/ how it can be so therapeutic.

Cuddling yourself. Yes. Easy on the vagus nerve.