Being a force for positive change

For most of my life, I’ve wanted to be a force for positive change. Instilled in me by my grandfather, he would often remind us how important it was to speak our minds and to question. He taught me to be respectful, thoughtful and to give back and never ever take privilege for granted. Everything can change in a heartbeat.

Last night, when I was sharing with a fellow type 1 friend about my upcoming online yoga challenge, she said: “this challenge is so needed in the world!” It was a sweet compliment but it made me think.

I’ve always seen yoga and yoga practices as life changing, transformative and something that anyone can benefit from. In fact, I can remember when I started teaching teachers I had this goal of training enough people so that everybody in the whole world would do yoga. Nearly 17 years later just about everyone in the world does do yoga.

Well almost.

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So besides all the hype, how can yoga make a difference? Why is it so needed? Because whether we live with a chronic disease or not. We are all suffering from stress and burnout. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded. Bombarded with must do’s and have’s. Sometimes trying to decide where to put my energy, money and time is enough to make me want to sit down, cover my ears and scream, “Enough!”

In my personal experience if yoga can offer one thing it’s simplification

When I keep things simple and eliminate the complications it gives me breathing space. Instead of long drawn out yoga postures which include bending into pretzel shapes. I do the same easy routine every day. It’s nice to add in a more complex move every now and then but I’ve learned it’s not necessary. Some forward bends before dinner and a few moments of quiet reflection prepare me for a good night’s sleep.

Living with diabetes means it’s even more important to stay calm and balanced.

As a yogi and yoga teacher, I’ve learned that understanding how the mind works is key in handling stress and achieving balance. When I first started practicing I learned to meditate and observe my thoughts. Later I learned that watching my thoughts (mindfulness) is just the beginning.

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Even more powerful is knowing who is having the thoughts. Knowing the thinker. No matter how big the thought, the thinker has to be there. Without the thinker what thought?

When life gets overwhelming reminding myself that I am the thinker of the thoughts, puts everything in perspective.

We spend our whole lives obsessed with our thoughts, trying to banish them or tame them. And when we can’t resolve the thoughts our mental health suffers. I can sometimes spend way too long obsessing about my thoughts about diabetes. The quicker I catch myself going off the rails the better. I like to think of it as fishing for thoughts. If a thought starts to swim away I catch it and hold it close. When you try to hang on to a thought it quickly dissipates. Thoughts are ephemeral like that. But when you try not to think about something all you do is think about it more.

Yoga is so powerful in meeting the mind head on. Instead of trying to squash thoughts we can focus on something like the breath, or a sound, or a posture or even work with hand gestures. There are so many ways to bring the mind into a one pointed focus. And the cool thing is that these practices are for everybody.

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When I tell people that I teach yoga I can get a variety of responses but the most common one is Yoga? I’m not good at that. I love sharing that yoga is so much more than the physical practice.

In general, the physical practice is designed to:

  • detoxify and purify the physical body bringing it back to its natural state.
  • help the mind to slow down

On a deeper level, yoga practice suspends for a moment all the ideas, thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. That’s why we feel so good when we finish the practice. All the thoughts we’ve been getting lost in seem to disappear and we feel calm and peaceful.

Once the nervous system gets the hint that we don’t always need to be in the stress response (fight or flight) we spend more time in the relaxed part of our nervous system.  This means our tendency to habitually react to stressful thoughts, events and experiences also relaxes. This is so helpful when we live with diabetes. The more I can look at the numbers on my meter and stay calm. The less I react to my feelings about diabetes and the better I feel no matter what’s happening.

When I was putting together my upcoming yoga challenge, Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga, I thought about what sorts of things I wanted to share. Rather than making each step about a physical postural practice I wanted to focus on the core of what yoga actually does, balance and calm the nervous system.

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In the challenge I’ll be sharing:

About Ayurveda and how to discover your ayurvedic type

A short physical practice to improve circulation

Mudras (hand gestures) for balancing the emotions

How sound (mantra) works to heal the nervous system

A calming breathing practice that you can do anywhere anytime

How to give yourself a nurturing foot massage that promotes deep sleep

And a creative mandala (yantra) exercise to inspire gratitude and devotion

These are the practices I do every day to be a positive force for change in my own life with diabetes and I am so excited to share them with you too.

If you’d like to join the challenge its free and you can sign up here.  

 

 

Letting it all go

I’ve been tearing up quite a lot lately. It could be that I finally have a home again after 6 years of non-stop travel. Or the fact that so many of my childhood dreams are bearing fruit. Or that, besides all the good in my life, I still find it hard to accept the daily ups and downs of diabetes. No matter what the reason for my tears I know that taking the time to sit and be with my vulnerable heart enables me to be stronger and to deal with whatever challenges come my way.

As my holiday gift to you, I’d love to share this simple technique to release the feelings that can threaten to overwhelm us during this sensitive time.

And…I wish you a very happy, settled and balanced holiday season!

with great respect…

Rachel

The Sat Yam meditation

Place your hand on your heart. Feel the warmth of your hand at your heart and notice your breath. Take a few moments here to let the mind settle.

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Bring the heels of your hands together and extend the fingers so your hands are in the shape of a cup or lotus (padma mudra).

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Imagine that inside your cup/lotus are all the emotions and feelings that haunt you. Don’t think too hard about it. See what arises.

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As you inhale, lift the cup/lotus by straightening your arms sending the emotions back to pure unconditioned awareness.

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As you exhale, open your arms to the side and surround yourself in a fine purple mist.

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Repeat this a few times, lifting the cup/lotus overhead on inhalation, surrounding yourself with a fine purple mist on exhalation.

Repeat the moving meditation a few more times silently adding the sound Sat on inhalation and Yam on exhalation.

Let go of the movement with the arms, resting the hands on the thighs.

Continue to chant internally: Sat as you feel the breath moving up the spine to the crown of the head on inhalation; Yam surrounding yourself in the fine purple mist on exhalation. Think of it like an internal fountain replenishing itself with every in and out breath.

Finally, feel the sound Satyam resting like a pulse at the centre of your heart. Rest there for another few moments.

When you’re ready, gently open your eyes and head into your day.

 

 

All I really want to do is eat chocolate pizza!


Welcome to day two of Diabetes Blog Week. Already its been an intense smorgasboard of words and images to take in. I am absolutely loving this years posts and it’s only Tuesday. Huge thank you to Karen from Bitter Sweet Diabetes for making this happen. Todays theme is The other half of diabetes- Tuesday

We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?

Oh my god I love diabetes- said no one EVER! But I can live with it. Why? Because I’ve worked for years to refine my attitude towards adversity. When I was a kid I was super competitive. If someone said I couldn’t do something I was determined to prove them wrong. Simple dares, like I bet you can’t climb to the top of that tree to complex ultimatums like; if you quit college you’ll never be a success were treated with equal merit. I made sure I climbed that tree, quit college and lived a successful happy life.

Living with a type A personality however is a double edged sword. I obsess about the numbers on my meter as much as I try and perfect my to-do list. I sweat over my doctors visit espousing to be the perfect Zen yogi when all I really want to do is eat chocolate pizza and give up!

I actually think my frustration helps me cope. Allowing myself to cry, be angry and feel hopeless gives me a break from the part of me that strives for perfection. In fact, every now and then I let myself be a disaster area. Test strips all over the floor, a handful of almonds (yep that’s my comfort food) and binge watching ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’

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But besides slacking off I do see yoga and yoga practices as a lifeline. Having solid tools to calm my mind and nervous system makes a huge difference to my mental emotional state. Especially when I am dealing with a week of frustratingly high blood sugars or panicking over lows.

Coming back to my breath, slowing down and gaining perspective through quiet reflection are just some of the ways I cope. I also look to my partner for support and advice. He doesn’t have diabetes but he has incredible wisdom and knowledge and is always reminding me that even though the body has a disease, I can never be the disease and that my thoughts about the disease are much more trouble than the diabetes itself.

Learning to manage my thoughts, seeing them for what they are and knowing myself as that presence in whom all thoughts come and go creates a space for me to accept what’s happening. It’s not always easy but it helps.

And then there’s my absolute favourite tool for changing my attitude. The breath!

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 Try this simple technique to let go of stressful thoughts, worries and negativity

You can do this sitting in a chair, lying down or simply standing in line at the post office. Breathing in for an even count imagine you are breathing in love, joy, peace and calm Doubling the length of your exhalation breath out stress, negativity, fear or whatever it is that you want to let go of. Keep going until you find you’re hardly breathing and totally relaxed.

That’s it!

With great respect… Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.

What keeps me on the straight and narrow

its 5.30 am and I’m high. High on life, love and the pursuit of happiness?

I wish!

I’m looking down the barrel of a big fat 11, thats 11mmol/L. Bummer drag was a phrase we coined in high school.

Yep that feels apt.

The thing is I’ve done nothing wrong. There is absolutely no reason for this insane number. And I know in comparison to some it’s not even that bad. Nothing an extra shot or two couldn’t resolve. But that’s the thing. I only get one shot a day…

Don’t get me started about the medical system here in Australia, the lack of access to technologies, the way they progress you through medications. Whats’ free and what’s not. But still it’s better than having no access to medication. So really I’m not complaining.

I know this sounds like a rant but really I’m trying to segway.

Because this is how I cope.

Y O G A

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I’m going to verticalise it.

Y
O
G
A

YES
Opportunity
Gratitude
Awareness

These four simple words keep me on the straight and narrow.

YES to rest, walks in nature, whatever makes me feel good. Yes to a daily yoga practice, breathing, stillness, meditation. Yes to LOVE, friendship, support. Yes to Insulin, blood sugar checks, Doctors and CDE’s. Yes to whatever helps me to do my best every day to manage the unmanagable.

Seeing everything as an OPPORTUNITY… to grow, accept, relax, be patient, create boundaries. Communicate, advocate, reciprocate.

Being Grateful. ( no explanation needed)

Wherever AWARENESS goes energy flows. That means if I’m thinking about that stupid number, I’m going to keep thinking about that stupid number until I’m more stressed out than I was before I looked at that number.

 So what’s the solution?

I have a choice… I can look at that number and remind myself that a number does not define me. I have a high reading. Thats all. Theres 24 hrs in a day and anything can happen.

I’d rather be aware of the beautiful sunny day, the plans I’ve made to meet a friend. The love I feel for my partner and the excitement of a new project on the boil.

And You? What keeps you on the straight and narrow? I’d love to know…

with great respect…Rachel

 

 

Seeking Balance

When I first started Insulin I wondered if there were any other yogis out there like me who’d been diagnosed with Adult Type 1 Diabetes . It didn’t take me long to find Melitta Rorty. Melitta is a true advocate for LADA (Latent Autoimmune Disease in Adults or Type 1.5)  I find Melitta’s blogs and articles refreshing and grounded because she breaks open the difficult topic of misdiagnosis. Recently we had a chat because I wanted to find out what yoga postures she used on a daily basis to stay calm in the face of the daily diabetes grind.  There was so much juice in the conversation that I asked her to share some tips for practicing yoga with diabetes. Enjoy…Rachel 

“I started practicing yoga in 1994, six months before I noticed my first symptoms of diabetes. When I was newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, at the age of 35, I was in extreme despair—I thought my life was ruined. But yoga saved my life then by allowing me some space and freedom from constant thoughts about my disease, and yoga continues to save my life today by helping me stay calm and focused despite the daily grind of self-care that those of us with Type 1 diabetes must do. I recommend yoga to anyone who has to live with the stress of chronic illness.

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Yoga is a practice that uses poses, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation to balance mind, body, and spirit. In the West, hatha yoga, which involves stretching the body and forming different poses while keeping breathing slow and controlled, is most commonly practiced.  Yoga has much to offer people with diabetes, and probably its greatest benefit is stress reduction.  Diabetes is exacerbated by stress, and yoga is a useful tool to reduce stress.  It can both set the stage for better overall health and also reduce the stress associated with the myriad of details necessary for our daily diabetes care.  High levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol raise blood glucose levels, and thus reducing stress is integral to good blood glucose control.  Yoga cannot cure diabetes, but the many benefits of yoga (stress reduction, increased sense of well-being, discipline, and focus) can help make the disease more manageable and have beneficial impacts on blood glucose control and on our lives.

For me, exercise, yoga, and meditation are my “magic pills.”  If only it were so easy as to pop a pill! 

To give you an idea of my routine, I attend a weekly class with a wonderful, experienced teacher.  I also have a morning home yoga and meditation practice.  My simple back care yoga routine plus meditation gets my day off to a good start.  Yoga has an immediate physical and practical impact on my health but it also affords me an emotional benefit over time.  Below are some of my tips for practicing yoga with diabetes:

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Asanas:  As with any physical activity, one must listen to and respect what your body tells you in the moment.  It can be risky to practice some poses, for example crow pose (bakasana), when you have low blood sugar or even close to low blood sugar.  Also, if you have diabetic complications such as retinopathy, many inverted poses are contraindicated.  This is where a good yoga instructor (or doctor or your own research) is worth his/her weight in gold.  Come to class early and don’t be afraid to talk with the teacher and ask questions.

Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs):  I almost always turn my insulin pump down for yoga class.  I am a “blood sugar burner,” meaning physical activity drops my blood sugar significantly, and I need to be careful to avoid hypoglycemia.  I always have rapid-acting glucose handy.  For a particularly vigorous yoga class, I turn my pump down by 80% at least one hour prior to class and for the duration.  For my regular yoga class, I turn my pump down by 50% one hour prior to class and for the duration.  I place my CGM on a block or some other raised space so that no one steps on it.

Meditation:  Many people say that they can’t meditate because they can’t keep their minds still.  Thoughts end up swinging through their mind like monkeys swinging from branch to branch in the jungle.  But virtually everyone will have “monkey mind!”  The point is to meditate, to be mindful, and to be in the present moment.  I practice a very simple style of meditation, breath meditation or Insight Meditation; meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg is my guide and resource.  There are countless tools to help you with your meditation practice.  Just find a quiet space, and give it a try.  Even a moment of quieting your mind can bring you a sense of peace.

Magic Pixie Dust:  Sadly, within the yoga and meditation communities there can exist “magical thinking” that is harmful to those of us with Type 1 diabetes, or any other serious disease.  Yoga cannot cure us; yoga cannot get us off of exogenous insulin.  A yoga teacher once yelled at me in the middle of class and said “Why do you have to wear that [my insulin pump], why can’t you take it off for class, how can you do inverted poses with your insulin pump on?”  This kind of ignorance and lack of compassion can push people away from yoga when it could be a beneficial part of their healthy lifestyle.  Because of that incident, I now do more to inform yoga teachers about my Type 1 diabetes and the medical devices I use to manage it (insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor).  Before a recent yoga and meditation retreat, I let the teachers know I have Type 1 diabetes, and let them know that my devices are on vibrate mode, but still make some noise.  I received the most compassionate response.  Yoga should foster compassion within us and for others; teachers who truly care for their students demonstrate compassion and not judgment.

If you are new to yoga, the best way to start a yoga practice is to find a competent teacher with whom you feel comfortable, and whose style speaks to you.  Many yoga studios now offer Yoga Basics classes or an introductory yoga series of classes.  These “yoga training wheels” classes can be especially beneficial for those who have no experience with yoga, because even beginning classes can be too advanced for those just starting out.”

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Melitta Rorty is many things:  traveler, geologist, nature enthusiast, yogini, and advocate.  She is also a person living with Type 1 diabetes.  In 1994, Melitta discovered yoga and a lifelong passion was born.  This passion would become her salvation in 1995 when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Originally misdiagnosed as having Type 2 diabetes, she almost lost her life because of the wrong diagnosis.  Her mission in life was born of that experience and she now works to educate, advocate, and inform about the importance of proper diagnosis and early treatment with insulin for patients with Type 1 diabetes.  Melitta is eternally grateful to all of her yoga teachers (Barbara Voinar and Tias Little being her current teachers).

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Taking on the World!

Today is World Diabetes Day. In just a little over a year my life and my understanding of Type 1 Diabetes has changed dramatically. A year ago I was in tears at the thought of having to inject for the rest of my life. I felt defeated and devastated, because I’d assumed that all the hard work I’d put into my health hadn’t paid off. But I was wrong. Having diabetes isn’t my fault. Type 1 Diabetes is an incurable autoimmune condition with a genetic componant. It runs in my family. My great grandfather had it, my great uncle had it and now so do I.

I try and be polite when someone insists there IS a cure, or that if I eat such and such I’ll feel better. If it hasn’t worked for 10% of the 380 million baby, it ain’t gonna work for me.

And I refuse to just act like everything’s normal. This is a fragile disease. I feel fragile. It’s okay.

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It’s that sense of fragility that drives me onto the mat. I’m convinced the practice of Yoga keeps me sane. Especially 365 injections later.

Oh my god…. did I just say that?

Last year I didn’t know anyone with Type 1. 365 days later I’ve met and made new friends, found a worldwide support network, started a blog, written for magazines like Insulin Nation and A Sweet Life, been an ambassador for BEYOND TYPE 1 and had my story and tips for thriving with diabetes published in a #1 Best Seller.

And I’ve managed to keep up my practice, teach yoga worldwide and enjoy the support of my loving partner John.

I can’t imagine what the next 365 days will bring but the future excites me.

As the technology improves to make life with this disease easier, as Insulin becomes smarter, as more of us contribute resources towards a cure and as our understanding of the causes of the disease refines, you never know. I might just be able to say that one day I used to have diabetes.

In honour of all the emotions, the challenges and struggles my offering to you for this special day is this simple heart balancing meditation…with great respect Rachel

What’s stress got to do with it?

More than  two years ago I connected with Dr. Lauren Tober, a clinical psychologist and yoga teacher. When we met there was an instant rapport. I loved her quiet, yet strong commitment to supporting others to be healthier and happier. She’s initiated projects like, Capturing Gratitude, a photographic happiness project and her e-course, a daily dose of bliss. Each one of Lauren’s offerings give solid tools in bringing you back to balance. I asked Lauren if she could share with us her understanding of the relationship between stress and the breath and to offer a mini practice from a daily dose of bliss.  I hope you enjoy her perspective and practice as much as I have. 

“Being stressed sets off a cascade of reactions in the body and brings us into Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance, otherwise known as the Stress Response, or the Fight-Flight-or-Freeze Response.  A number of stress hormones are released, including adrenaline, which signals to the body that our lives are in danger.  And when the body believes our life is danger, it slows down any non-essential functions like digestion, resting, healing and reproduction and focuses on responding to what is perceived to be an immediate and physical threat to our lives. Importantly for diabetes, when the Sympathetic Nervous System is dominant, epinephrine and cortisol are released, which raise blood sugar levels in order to boost energy.  If our life is in danger, we need to be able to run away or fight to save ourselves, so the rise of blood sugar levels gets more fuel to the cells so we can face whatever challenge we’re presented with.

The function of the Sympathetic Nervous System is to help us to save our life when it is being threatened.  It has a very important function, and without it we might not be here today at all. The problem is not that we have a Sympathetic Nervous System, or even that it is activated from time to time.  The problem is that we spend far too much time in this stress response. 

The Relaxation Response

Ideally we spend the majority of our time in Parasympathetic Nervous System Dominance, otherwise known as the Relaxation Response or the Rest-Digest-Repair-and-Reproduce branch of the nervous system.  And when our lives really are in immediate danger, like we’re being attacked or we step out in front of oncoming traffic, our Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in to save our lives. Then once the danger is over we move back into Parasympathetic dominance, and go about leading calm, balanced, happy and healthy lives.

a daily dose of bliss yoga for diabetes

The problem is that these days many of us are feeling stressed about non-life threatening events and are rushing around trying to meet largely self-induced deadlines.  Stress has become a part of our daily lives. Our bodies don’t know the difference between the stress resulting from an immediate life threatening situation and the stress of trying to cram too many things into one day.  So our body responds with these age-old life saving responses, whether our life is really in danger or not.

So what can we do about it? 

Life can be stressful, especially living with diabetes, and telling yourself to ‘just chill out’ doesn’t always work.

Thankfully, there are some wonderful breathing practices that are widely accepted by both the scientific and yogic communities, that can support us to move from Sympathetic to Parasympathetic dominance, or from stressed out to chilled out. Extending the length of the exhalation is my favourite way to calm the nervous system and instigate the relaxation response.

Find yourself a comfortable position to sit in, press play, and I’ll guide you through this simple but very effective practice.  It only takes a few minutes.

Dr Lauren Tober is a Clinical Psychologist, Happiness Coach and Yoga Teacher based in Byron Bay, Australia.  With a passion for health, healing and happiness, Lauren integrates the best of western psychology with ancient yogic wisdom, both on and off the mat. 

Lauren is the founder of Capturing Gratitude, a worldwide photographic happiness project, and A Daily Dose of Bliss, a highly acclaimed online yoga course for emotion regulation and bliss.

Lauren’s work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Australian Yoga Journal, the ABC, Well Being Magazine, Australian Yoga Life Magazine, Elephant Journal, Peppermint Magazine and more.

Lauren believes that happiness is our true nature, and that yoga, self compassion, gratitude, creativity and community help us to cultivate happiness in our lives on an everyday basis.

To join Lauren’s community and download a free gratitude meditation visit www.hello.laurentober.com.

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meditation for yogafordiabetesblog

Notes from my morning meditation practice

Every morning I diligently roll out my mat and do a simple breathing and meditation practice. And each morning I hope for the best; moments of calm amidst the storm of thoughts. What I’ve learned through years of consistent practice is that the mind is not supposed to be still. In fact its job is to remind us that we’re awake. Thoughts are like photographs, they remind us of situations, events and ideas. I’m fascinated by how a thought can blossom into an idea, which becomes a rambling vine of flowers tumbling from mind onto paper.

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This morning I was thinking about how mindfulness techniques are designed to cultivate awareness. But what does it mean to cultivate awareness? Is awareness a garden that needs planting? Awareness isn’t something that grows. Have you ever tried to compare awareness to anything? Awareness is like…

Awareness just is.  When I say I am cultivating awareness I’m making awareness personal. But how can I personalise consciousness? It’s like trying to own the sky. Perhaps what I really mean is that I am observing a mechanism, which thinks, defines and categorises thoughts.

Catching that I’m thinking is the beginning, knowing the thinker is the final resolution. Cultivating awareness is often associated with mindfulness. And meditation is seen as the tool. But immersed in the act of meditation one must assume the role of meditator. Losing oneself in the role “ trying to meditate” one can never realise oneself as the meditation itself.

Awareness, meditation, yoga are all words for the same thing. That objectless, nameless presence in which the world of objects including the objects of our thoughts play out.

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One cannot do awareness one can only be awareness, that which is already existing. One can’t make awareness one’s own and there’s no need to. It is that in which everything is owned. All thoughts, even the thought of being awareness resolves in awareness…

So what’s more important growing awareness or knowing who is aware?

For the Love of Habits

I’m super disciplined when it comes to managing my diabetes.That is until about four in the afternoon, when all hell breaks loose.

I can trace my troublesome behaviour back to my teenage years. I’d come home from school open the fridge and snack and snack….. and snack!

Do I blame my bad habits as a teen for my LADA diabetes? Of course not, but habits do die hard.

In yoga philosophy, a habit is called a vasana. Something you do over and over. It’s like carving a groove in a piece of wood, the more you do it, the deeper it goes. This can be as simple as the habit of driving a car or like mine, the habit of eating things that aren’t good for me at snack time.  A vasana isn’t good or bad. It’s innocent, natural, we are all at the effect of our habits.

The biggest habit of all is our identification with the body, this really comes into play with a chronic disease. Because we believe we are our bodies, habitually and innocently we’re identified with the body, hence everything that affects the body affects us. So when the body doesn’t feel well or something doesn’t work, we see ourselves as the problem.  The more we identify with the thoughts about our body, the more we identify with the body itself and this just intensifies the habit of identification. In the end it’s a tightly wound spring waiting to snap. We forget that we have a disease, we are not the disease.

One of the beautiful things about Yoga practice is that by merging breath with movement, the mind is happily occupied. Tools to harness the mind are invaluable when it comes to managing our habits. We need a strong and disciplined mind if we are going to maintain our health. For some, this comes naturally but for others, it’s not so easy. The physical and mental practices of yoga are brilliant for teaching the mind to concentrate, to move beyond distraction and develop will power.

When the mind is focussed in on one thing it loses itself in the object. In everyday life this is completely unconscious. Losing yourself in cravings for this or that, stressful thoughts, even losing yourself in your expectations of how things should be in relationship to your diabetes management.

Taking the mind out of its preoccupation allows you to take a breather. To step back and just be. Something we find hard to do when we are on call 24/7.

Rachel Zinman Yoga candle meditation

As the theme for the week I offer you this simple candle gazing meditation called Tratakam.

It’s a beautiful practice to do before bed. It helps to trigger the hormones that induce sleep as well as prime the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxed part of the nervous system) it’s calming, nourishing for the eyes and develops your will power and concentration if practiced regularly

With great respect….. Rachel

1. Light a candle and place it at eye level in a darkened room or in the evening before bed with the lights out

2. Take a comfortable seat and gaze at the candle. Be aware of the breath but don’t try and control the breath. Keep your eyes open trying not to blink

3. When you feel the eyes begin to tear, close them and see the flame as a reflected image at the point in between the eyebrows

4. When the image of the flame fades open your eyes again and repeat steps 1-3

5. Your candle gazing meditation doesn’t need to be more than 10 minutes but you can go longer if you like

6. On completion of the meditation, lie down relax and let yourself float into a deep rest

Acceptance

A Guest Blog from Therapist, Yogi and Type 1 Diabetic, Michelle Sorensen

I recently attended a conference on mindfulness meditation and how to incorporate it into cognitive behavioural therapy. The room was full of mental health professionals like myself, looking to integrate these skills into their practice. Many openly spoke of their desire to learn the skills for personal use as well. One health psychologist sitting next to me commented, “Mindfulness is really about preparing for dying. We are all going to need these skills.”  I am currently watching my father decline with advanced Parkinson’s disease, and watching my mother struggle to accept the changes, and I completely understood what she meant. My father is so accepting of what he cannot control, and so he did very well for a long time with his disease by focusing his efforts on what he was able to control. And simply accepting the rest.

Fighting a battle against illness makes sense in terms of aiming to extend life, maintain quality of life and nurture our spiritual development. However, there is also strength in accepting that death is inevitable for all of us, as is suffering and disappointment throughout life.  Acceptance can help us to develop resilience and flexibility. To develop resiliency we need to be able to better separate out what we cannot control from what we can control. There are problems in life with diabetes that we cannot always eliminate…. but we can develop better resiliency in facing those problems.

Accepting your diabetes

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few short weeks before turning 25.  There had been a lot of stress in my life in the years leading up to the diagnosis, as well as lot as of happy moments and exciting developments.  My stressors were the usual stressors for that time of life.  For example, I had to complete a thesis study for my psychology undergraduate program.  The statistics and defence took me out of my comfort zone.  However, the intensity of my stress was higher than it needed to be.  That part was self-imposed and rooted in my need to perform well and please others. I think being more mindful about locus of control would have made me more resilient and less stressed.

Then I took a year to work, save money and apply to graduate schools.  I had many friendships I tended to.  Phone calls always had to be returned, plans always had to be kept, requests always had to be responded to.  Disappointing someone was never an option for me.  I was not self-aware, no one had ever taught me that people pleasing was a problem.  That was my most problematic disease.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, it was a tipping point. I began to recognize how exhausting my social commitments were, how stressed I felt by the idea of letting someone down.  It took me much longer to realize that I had some very dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs. If someone doesn’t like you, that means you are unlikeable.  If someone is disappointed in you, that means you are not worthy. 

In grieving my diabetes and the ensuing changes in my life, I had to go through some very painful emotions. I experienced denial, believing I would discover I did not have diabetes after all. I experienced the fear of an uncertain future and was terrified by the description of horrible complications stemming from diabetes. This led to a period of depression. I felt angry towards those around me at times, who did not know how to support me.  I bargained with the diabetes gods, striving for perfect control and hoping in turn I would avoid long term complications. Instead I was left shaken by terrible lows as I overcorrected my highs. 

But as I grieved and moved towards acceptance of my diagnosis, I had to accept other things. I had to accept I could not please everyone, and that did not mean I was not good enough. I had to accept that life was not perfect, and that’s okay…. it never was before diabetes either. I had to accept myself and who I am, with all my imperfections.

Today I still have moments I feel frustrated or fearful about my diabetes. However, I try to be mindful and focus on the present moment. After all, that is all any of us have for sure: right here, right now.

Accepting your diabetes

Michelle counsels people with diabetes, combining her knowledge of cognitive behavioural therapy with the experience that comes from living with Type 1 diabetes for 16 years. She is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario in Canada. She also enjoys speaking to health care professionals about how to incorporate more counselling into their interactions with patients.  Michelle sees psychological support as often being “the missing piece in diabetes care”.