In the last fifty or so years, medicine and science have predominantly looked forward with only an impatient nod to the past. Happily now, as we respect Planet Earth as an integrated whole, a complexity of diverse webs all converging directly or indirectly to create Nature’s present-day manifestation, we are recognising the crucial necessity of looking back to nature to inform a vital, sustainable planetary harmony. Science is recognising that the billions of years of DNA formation within our complex biologies hold many secrets to wellness and healing.
I like to bring this awareness into my daily life. Particularly into the very basics of my being: breathing and regulating my parasympathetic nervous system. If I simply focus on those two aspects, my whole day can look positively different. Being in and watching nature can give and teach us so much. I have replaced asking, ’What do I want?” with ‘What would my nervous system want?’ I am giving a directed voice to my inner wisdom. The nervous system will always choose the best possible guidance for my mind, body, and soul. Of course, this practice took many years of conscious effort before it became a habit, and nature itself proved to my most reliable reminder.
Nature is Our Greatest Teacher
I lived for a while in the subtropical rainforest of Northern New South Wales. The house was perched high with great tall windows. It was also at the top of a valley where the birds swept through. At a particular time of day, with a certain light, the birds mistook the windows for a flight path and flew directly into them.
The first time I experienced this I was genuinely upset. I went out onto the deck and saw the bird seemingly dead. Then I noticed its eyes gently flicker. It lay still for at least a minute with the eye movement and some twitching in the feet. I thought the bird must be short-circuiting its last traces of energy.
Next, the bird trembled with a disproportionate life-force. The eyes were wider and its whole body shook spiritedly. After a few more hearty shudders the bird scrambled to its feet. Tentative and with a look of keen focus, as if it were listening to itself, I was ignored. The bird’s throat opened and exuded sounds, deep resonant vibrations, proportionate to a motorbike in full throttle or a cat’s purr amplified or a Tibetan Monk’s deep reverberating OM.
More time was spent quivering, the wings unfolding and shuddering as the extension grew. A few feathers here and there dusting the ground and then again, a stillness as if self-diagnosing. Suddenly, with an air of magnificent confidence, the bird took flight. Strong and aligned and back on course.
In the telling of this story to friends, I learned this was a common phenomenon.
Moving from Mind to Body
I have walked into windows and poles myself. Sometimes quite severely. I didn’t take any time to integrate the shock or assess any minor or major damage. I immediately felt embarrassed and wanted to quickly get away from any public gaze or worse, people laughing at my clumsy idiocy. My mind had kicked in and shame arose overriding any self-care. I was in my mind and the bird was in its body’s natural response for self-diagnosis and recalibration.
The uncomplicated wonders when there is no mind to feel ‘embarrassed’. Just a central parasympathetic nervous system governing the reality and the healing assessment. I wanted to learn from the bird. I vowed next time if this happened to simply sit and take stock, to breathe and feel into the experience and perhaps gently let the kindness and self-care in. Listening to my body would enable my central nervous system to discharge pain, shock, and trauma in an animalistic, primal physical way. How the bird dealt with the shock just made sense to me on all levels.
Later in life, while training to be a therapist I took courses in Peter Levine’s work around the somatic (relating to the body, especially as distinct from the mind) experience and trauma healing. Everything that I had observed with the bird was there in his teachings that looks to nature for a more authentic way to process trauma. I was so changed and in agreement with this work that I became even more determined to practise it in my daily life for minor or major traumas and also in the soothing of other people’s trauma. The most important aspect of the work is to be still, natural, calm, and to assess the situation from a body perspective. The mind, with all its brilliance, can kick in for appropriate action responses when the correct body-scan and prognosis has occurred.
When I cut my finger, I take a moment before the obvious first-aid. When a car pulls out in front of me, I notice my breath and heart rate. When I see someone fall, I don’t rush them to their feet but lay with them, make eye contact and reassure them. Ask them to take a few moments to feel what’s truly going on. Paramedics who are trained in trauma response now know not to move the injured person until a full body assessment, preferably with the injured person’s participation when possible.
Tapping into Our Innate Wisdom
I love how more and more we are turning back to nature for answers and examples. More and more letting our bodies communicate their primal and innate wisdom. And I am encouraged and excited that the science behind the art of somatic healing is being taken very seriously. I am particularly interested in the bird’s throaty song while recovering after its brutal accident on my deck all those years ago. It struck me as a tuning fork, a gentle vibrating the complex cellular communication system of the central nervous system.
I have since discovered the power of the OM mantra in trauma work. How it activates, stimulates and restores the vagus nerve functionality. Quite basically put, the vagus nerve is a network superhighway for health and healing information. There’s a very simple method that I have borrowed from chanting circles, Tibetan Monk rituals and various pranayama yoga breathing techniques.
It’s making the OM sound resonate and reverberate from the back of your throat–the deeper the better. If you close your mouth gently you should feel the vibration on your top lip to the point that it might ‘tickle’ your nose. Keep the breath easy and relaxed. Finish your OM out-breath, pause and begin a slow unlaboured in-breath. You will find a tone or note that suits your particular vocal biology. I do this as many times a day as I can–when driving, on the loo, in the shower, waiting for the lights to change, walking on the beach and of course at Yoga and Kirtan.
Exploring the Gifts of OM
In many ways, the mystics and the esoteric healers have been speaking about a means of communication with our inner body wisdom for centuries. And we’ve been lost in the mystery and the magic of the wonders of the OM meditation and chanting. But until now we’ve never had the true proof that the vagus nerve activation by OMing is in itself a true health tonic. And the best thing about it? It’s free. It’s your birthright.
We are examining the ancient folklore and mythology of OM and letting the empirical evidence speak for itself. Even if you don’t want to read about the ancient story of OM. If you have no desire to read the ancient scriptures and dive into the fascinating history, you can still OM, call it ‘Healing-Humming’ if you will, and you can experience the results for yourself.
We’d love to hear your experience in the comments with regards to OM chanting or other sound healing techniques that stimulate the vagus nerve and dissipate trauma in the body.
If you would like to know more about the sound vibration of OM and the vagus nerve, click on the button below.
Much love and a big OM to you all.