Parasympathetic bliss is a term I started using to describe post-gong bath the state of being completely empty, yet completely full, wanting for nothing and being simply content to exist. This is what parasympathetic nervous system dominance feels like, when we give it space to switch on and do its job of repairing the body.
There are people who attend my gong baths or book Reiki sessions with me regularly to keep it blissful, but many busy urbanites have to find ways to extend relaxation beyond a few days post-session, and it is not always an easy task in such bustling city as Shanghai. I described my dragon lady toolkit before, and here are more very small, simple steps that can help to maintain your well-deserved bliss. Most importantly, it does not require adding anything to your life, this one is all about subtracting – I feel relief from this approach just as I am typing this!
Maybe you will remove things one by one, giving yourself a week or two to adjust to new habit before proceeding. Maybe you just go cold-turkey – it’s all highly personal and I am not surprised when people tell me they have intuitively been adopting this approach.
So, for the sake of extending the calm after a gong bath or Reiki session, after calming acupuncture, if you are experiencing anxiety, for our stable, healthy nervous system and thriving mental health:
No reading news – this one was huge for me. I understand, there is value in being informed, sometimes directly related to the job one does. For those living overseas it can be another link to home country. But at one point I realized for me it was an awful habit of loading my brain with horrors of the world first thing in the morning, when I was reading 2(!) news apps on my way to work. I removed both, and it’s been a few years of “blissful ignorance”.
“Headline stress disorder” is a psychological term that surfaced in 2016, and it describes anxiety, depression and hopelessness as results of being tuned to the news around the clock, which is especially tough on empaths. It is not surprising, that it would fuel emotional eating, sleeplessness and general sense of overwhelm. I remember hearing Oprah Winfrey describe in an interview about her career how everyone eventually becomes desensitized to the tragedies, and news outlets have to make everything bigger, bolder, louder, just to get through. My mental health is more important at this point than having some conversation starters from newsfeed.
No horror movies or blockbusters or computer games – same idea. Yes, an adult probably knows it’s all make-believe, but just knowing it is not enough and it all looks awfully realistic these days. The same neurological pathways that process the sensationalist news headlines are involved in processing this load of fantasy world, and movies are very good at creating anticipation, fear, shock and all the other emotions by artfully manipulating visuals and sound. Where there is emotion, there is biochemical feedback, and while the guts and glory on the screen are fake, the anxiety is very much real.
No coffee. It’s delicious (well, some of it for some of people:), it’s synonymous with energetic start of the mornings, and you can’t take a step without seeing a new hipster roastery pop up. It is also a VERY strong stimulant that can be associated, in large quantities, with osteoporosis, adrenal fatigue and even menstrual disorders due to strong action on body’s hormonal regulation.
I just had a conversation with a friend who quit coffee recently – she said first couple of days withdrawal headaches were bad, but manageable, and then she experienced such profound improvement in quality of her sleep that it instantly cancelled out all the temporary negative symptoms she had.
When you are tired – you need to rest, not borrow energy from your future self by downing a cup of coffee, which is basically stress in a cup that taxes your adrenals, elevates cortisol and disrupts blood sugar regulation. Stable blood sugar is the biological basis of calm, so while you are at it, avoid sweets, including date and cacao energy bites. I love me some raw cacao desserts, but they are caffeine wrapped in sugar all the same.
Careful with tea as well – it has very strong stimulating properties as well, especially if tea leaves are ingested whole, like matcha. If you want something to awaken your senses in the morning, lemongrass and ginger infusions are excellent, just cut up fresh spices and steep in boiled water.
Minimalism – not giving away every last thread, but a “meaningful life with less” as perfectly described by The Minimalists duo, Ryan and Joshua. They have a book, a great podcast and a documentary, and are the most non-judgmental minimalistic duo ever. To me it feels like everything we own takes up space in our auras, and adding possessions can feel like a burden. We spend energy to earn money that we use to buy things that will later require energy to be maintained, dusted, stored, and even flea-marketed, that is a lot of energy spent on stuff. Everyone’s minimalism will look different, but some areas that immediately come to my mind are:
1) Kitchen. We are so inundated with the need to eat variety, that we often end up with load of items that perish before we consume them. I did a series on home cooking that touches on everything from basic kitchen equipment to pantry to storage that can help keep you stay nourished and minimize waste. I am not a minimalist kitchen owner, but I like my organized clutter of gadgets, spices and a giant freezer. My minimalism is sticking to just a few fresh items in weekly shop, cooking bulk and eating “leftovers” for days, I’m happy with that.
2) Skincare, haircare and makeup. With all the product layering, must-haves and rainbow highlighters I would probably leave the house by 3 pm, so I keep it really simple and the 17.5-step programs are really not my thing.
3) Cushions, throws and rugs, travel memorabilia, wall art, books on shelves, vases and trinkets, photography walls and vignettes – every item creates visual anchor and to me they seem overwhelming. And each one has to be dusted. There is a reason spas are so minimalistic, and mid-century modern and Scandinavian styles haven’t gone out of fashion for what feels like decades – there is so much space and beauty in restraint. Have you ever been to a Japanese zen garden? When I grow up that’s what I want my garden to be like! My souvenir trick on travels is to buy spices or foods and natural kitchen towels – and while I cook with them and wipe with them, I am always reminded of the great time on a trip.
4) Digital clutter. As of today, I have 14,168 pictures in my phone memory and about 28G of podcasts. Cleanup is in order *shocked emoji*
5) Wardrobe. Full closet with nothing to wear? Or just things that we didn’t really like but purchased to feel better, or to change things up, but slide back into comfort quickly? Reasons are many, footprint is enormous and fashion marketing is relentless. Along with phone picture memory, this one is probably the hardest one to just declutter once and for all, as gatekeeping is in order afterwards to prevent new things flooding in. How is your wardrobe minimalism expressed?
Marie Kondo’s book “The life-changing magic of tidying” can be a great starting point, her ideas about clutter are way beyond “throw everything away” but more about giving yourself permission to live with less and only the things you truly cherish. If you do declutter – there are many ways to find new life for your old items through second-hand groups, giveaway groups, swaps or open houses, charity donations and recycling projects for things that are beyond repair. I use WeBox and Green Initiatives Re:form boxes for electronics and worn-our textiles.
I hope you give yourself permission to drop some things from your plate and find more bliss, and sustain this state. Whether in sound vortex of a gong bath, or through meditation, yin yoga, acupunture and myriad other modalities, make sure to take daily sips of rest. Just lying down and thinking of nothing for 20 minutes a day can bring a sense of inner space and being one with the Force.