The wonder and magic of a life with diabetes

Woohoo! It’s here! Diabetes Blog Week!

For the next 5 days I’ll be writing on a specific topic along with other diabetes bloggers, sharing how I navigate the world of diabetes. Below is the first topic and my corresponding thoughts.

Tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your life that you never could have expected?

The nervous system is a delicate thing, tiny fibers that crisscross the body and send signals from your brain to different key areas, telling it to move, breath, digest, feel etc. For some reason nine years ago, mine started to go haywire. Being a long time yogi I consulted my yoga books to see what the problem might be. After months of research, I reached my conclusion.

I was in the middle of a spiritual crisis.

Thinking that I was on the fast track to enlightenment wasn’t necessarily the best approach. For starters, it kept me from questioning my physical symptoms or seeking medical answers. If I had known that diabetes isn’t something you get from poor diet and lifestyle, or that it doesn’t just affect children, I would have dug deeper.

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Back then there wasn’t much awareness about the signs and symptoms of diabetes.  Even now when I tell people I have Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults ( LADA) they scratch their heads and look at me funny.

Finding out that there was a reason for the strange jittery sensations, erratic digestion, food sensitivities, a constant sugary taste on my tongue and the feelings of exhaustion was a total relief. It’s not that I was happy to have diabetes, it’s just that my search for answers caused so much internal havoc, that having an actual diagnosis released the pressure valve.

I cried a lot those first few weeks after diagnosis. It felt so good to let go.

It’s been quite a journey since then and aside from those initial feelings of relief, I spent years trying everything I could to conquer the beast. What I’ve learned though is that you can’t ‘conquer’ diabetes. It’s not a country you can invade and call home.

Am I the proud owner of a life with diabetes? hmmm….it’s hard to put that answer into words…

What I can say is that diabetes has changed me for the better. It’s made me raw, honest and put my feet on the ground.  It’s also motivated me to open up and share through my writing more about what it means to live with chronic illness and spread awareness about the disease.

Diabetes has also inspired me to be deeply grateful. I used to take life for granted. I’d wake up every morning, dive into the day and never stop and think. Wow! I’m alive.

Now, I make a concerted effort to stop, look around me, drink in the beauty of this life and remember…

Life is precious. It’s not a given.

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If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

Holiday Surprise

I can’t believe we are a quarter of the way into December. My inbox is already teaming with gift ideas and strategies for surviving the holiday rush. Instead of coming up with tips and tricks for my own brand of ‘surviving the holidays’  I’d like to share some exciting non holiday news.

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I may have mentioned in previous posts that my partner John and I have been building a house over the last few months on an incredible piece of land in South Africa. Finally at the end of November, we moved in!

Instead of focussing on social media content and how yoga can help manage your diabetes, I’ve been focusing on home contents. It’s been quite exciting making a house into a home and knowing that our home will eventually be a hub for people to come rest, rejuvenate and be with themselves.

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Our centre is called the Sundaram yoga & adventure park. Sundaram means “the Beautiful” and beautiful it is.  Right now our centre is a simple dwelling on a virgin piece of land surrounded by an 150 million year old indigenous forest with sweeping vistas of mountains down to the sea. Eventually it will be a network of cabins and studios to host workshops of all sorts for people from all over the world. I’m especially keen to host Yoga retreats for people living with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes…so stay tuned for more on that one.img_0144So with all the excitement on the ground, my blog has been gathering dust …but 2017 is just around the corner  and my goal is to serve up some awesome meditations, yoga practices and more to usher in the new year… until then have a wonderful holiday season!

with great respect…

Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my first year on Insulin? Get my free ebook here.

 

Be the Sweetness You Are

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about loving kindness. We are told by countless self-help gurus that in order to move forward on ‘the path’ we have to love ourselves. I can remember way back in the 90’s having a counselling session where I was told that unless I learned to love myself I’d never find a way to move forward in my life. Looking back all I can say is, hogwash! I’ve realized through trial and error that loving oneself isn’t an action. We can’t do loving because we are the love itself.

Rachel Portraits 2015-6 copyBut what exactly does that mean?

Love is such a powerful feeling. Think about how it feels when you hug someone. Tingles and warm shoo-shoo feelings in the heart and a sense of safety and completion flooding every ounce of your being. Feeling love for someone is so powerful that somehow we are convinced that that’s what self love should feel like too. But what if love isn’t a feeling. What if love isn’t tangible and what if… we are loving ourselves 24/7 and the only thing standing in our way is that no one has ever told us that love is not an action.

Put simply, love is being yourself. And how hard is it to be yourself? It’s easy… you’re doing it every single day.

As a reminder I often think about when my son was born. Just a few minutes after his birth I understood something I couldn’t have possibly understood before. Babies are pure love. They ooze love, exude love just by simply existing. So what’s the difference between a baby and you? Absolutely nothing. That love baby is still looking out of your own eyes how ever many years later. If there is anything that separates you from the baby it’s the ideas, beliefs and conditions you’ve innocently absorbed and taken on. Sometimes it’s described as the layering affect. You identify with emotions, feelings, situations as yourself and then you believe you are the shame, guilt, depression, misery etc. But you can never be those things…they are just things you have.

IMG_8952It’s easier to drop what you have than what you are. Try dropping your awareness? I dare you. Try to be unconscious right now! Unless you hit yourself over the head with a hammer it’s impossible.

So being love is a no-brainer and loving yourself is effortless. What’s effortful is clinging to your concepts about love, about what love should look like and what it takes to love yourself. Think about how many times you’ve berated yourself for not taking care of yourself, for not going that extra mile, for not getting it “right’. Whose imposed those expectations? Where are those ideas about what self love should look like coming from? Un-peeling the layers is not some psychological process it’s not even about letting go, it’s actually the opposite of that.

By being you and and simply existing in the creation you are enough. In fact, you’re more than enough.

Think about it. What do you take with you when you drop your body? Do you take an emotion? An object? A relationship? Money? An idea or belief? At the moment of death, quite naturally you let go of everything. And imagine understanding that by simply existing, you are enough. How loving would you feel? Where would you need to direct love? What work would you have to put in to love yourself?

Absolutely none!

IMG_4490Love is already gained; like a drop in the vast ocean of water. No matter how much the drop thinks it’s a drop it can only ever be water. No matter how separate you feel from love the truth is, love is all there is.

So being sweet to yourself is easy because without trying, without even knowing it you are the sweetness itself.

I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here …. with great respect, Rachel

DIY wedding bells and diabetes

Last weekend I attend a three-day farm wedding with a twist. I can’t actually put into words what it means to see someone you love give their heart and soul to someone else.  But what I am bursting to say is… this was the best wedding I’ve ever been to!

The happy couple wanted all their friends to come together, meet each other and experience community and the power of co-creation. A Do-It-Yourself wedding.

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Gone were the wedding planners, elaborate tents, hired caterers and contracted musicians. Forget celebrants and fancy rings. Imagine 58 people staying in busses, tents and haylofts. From the moment we arrived the farm was a hive of activity. The farmhouse kitchen spilled over with home-grown lettuces and courgettes, homemade cakes and breads. Once we unpacked we were encouraged to roll up our sleeves and join in.

A huge barbecue was lit, picnic tables were erected and people began putting together vegan foil parcels to throw on the grill. By the time the sun went down the grill turned into a massive fire pit surrounded by laughing, smiling eyes.

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The next morning under a clear blue sky about 15 people showed up for early morning yoga. At the end of the practice I asked the group to place their hands on the earth and imagine planting seeds for the bride and groom. I decided to join in on the exercise and imagined them living a successful and heartfelt life together. It was hard not to cry.

After Yoga everyone contributed to brunch. Someone had made a giant fruit salad, someone else had cut slabs of cheese, the breads remerged as did vegan pancakes. My partner and I slipped out for a walk into the surrounding wheat and corn fields and by the time we returned the wedding preparations were in full swing. People were hanging photos of the happy couple from trees, Others were busy setting up a photo automat booth with costumes and an old fashioned camera. There was an activity to make a “memory game” with hand drawn cards and a close knit group were busy decorating the area for the ceremony with paper flowers (hand made of course) and flags. There was literally an army of people cutting up vegetables for the vegan feast to come after the ceremony and then there were the cooks busy making the food.

IMG_8972I decided to get involved in the flower arranging with the bride. She wanted bouquets for the parents and flowers for the tables and an elaborate garland to decorate the table for the wedding party. As my hands touched each stem and I began to bring the flowers together I thought of her grandmother who had a gift with growing and arranging flowers. We both agreed this was actually the best part of the preparations, being knee deep in roses, cornflowers and baby’s breath. What a pleasure to watch her create her own bouquet and choose the flowers for her headpiece.

When it finally came time for the ceremony we were greeted with a classical trio of flute, cello and violin for the wedding march (the cello player was one of our cooks, the violinist had made the lights for the trees and our flautist had created the wedding cake.)

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We heard the story of how they had met, they exchanged their vows and rings and planted a tree together. Then it was our turn to sing a song and offer our congratulations. As the ceremony merged into the celebration dinner there were speeches, skits, movies, stories and more amidst the cutting of the cake and the first dance. The celebrations continued till the early hours and there were still a few stragglers greeting the dawn when I woke up to make my breakfast.The morning after was yet another marvel as the group banded together after another amazing brunch to slowly ‘bump out’.

IMG_9047On the train ride back to Berlin I took a moment to reflect on the whole experience, especially as it was the first time I’d done something like this since I was diagnosed. It wasn’t easy to cook my food or eat at regular times while having on average five hours sleep each night but to my amazement my blood sugars managed to stay level. In fact, on the Sunday I woke up slightly low.  It was quite a surprise and contrary to my idea of what makes a perfect diabetes day.

Perhaps a dose of joy, love and celebration is just as good as a controlled diabetes management plan.

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photo by Jessica Zumpfe

I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here …. with great respect, Rachel

I can’t do it alone!

Why does it take crisis to realise we can’t do it alone? Even though we come here and leave here all by ourselves, the reality is, we can’t survive without the touch, love, friendship and support of others. It’s primal and it’s necessary.

Living with a chronic condition makes things even tougher. No-one can know the heart wrenching emotions, the frustration, the feelings of helplessness. Yet we soldier on, smiling, laughing even being there for our friends. People think we’re strong, amazing, they admire our resolve. They think we can do or be anything.

How many times have you gone home after a social outing and thought. “ This sucks, it’s hard, I’m so tired of having to be in control, when it’s so out of my control.”

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I’m writing this because this is how I felt for 6 years after my diagnosis. I was the only one I knew living with diabetes. I didn’t reach out once. I pretended I was normal and thought that if I tried hard enough I’d stop having diabetes. Heck it wasn’t even there. I fooled everyone else too. My friends and family saw me struggling but no-one thought I couldn’t beat it. Once my brother was brave enough to say, ‘Why don’t you just suck it up and go on insulin?’ My angry reply? ‘It’s complicated OKAY !’

Looking back I was misinformed, living in isolation and believing the stories I made up in my head.

Yoga definitely helped. It gave me breathing space. It calmed my nerves. It helped me to grieve. The minute I got on the mat and started stretching and bringing my mind to my breath. I came out of isolation. I felt connected, peaceful.

And yoga helped me to reach out. Surely there was someone else out there like me who was living with diabetes and loved yoga. My first attempts at connection were modest. I looked online and found someone. She looked like a nice person. I sent her a message. I waited for a reply.

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We made a connection, swapped stories and I followed the thread. When you try hard enough to thread an eye through a needle eventually it works. And in the process of stitching gradually all the little pieces of fabric come together into a fabulous garment. That’s the miracle of sewing, what appears seperate becomes whole.

With yoga it’s the opposite. The true purpose of the practice is not to stitch up all the little pieces till you reach a point of wholeness.  The practices of yoga are the reminder that you are nothing but wholeness, completeness with or without the practice.

What I had to come to terms with in my own life was that isolating myself wasn’t actually going to help me accept my diagnosis. I had to get that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help and I needed to ask for it too.

And so here I am. I’ve spent over a year working on a book which shares the depth of my personal journey from diagnosis to acceptance with an in depth guide as to how yoga helped me do it.

A how to guide for anyone wanting to bring yoga into their daily diabetes management plan. To get the book published I need help, yours!

If you love yoga like I do and want other people with diabetes to benefit then I’d love you to come onboard and  pledge your support. You don’t have to have diabetes or even know someone with diabetes to get behind the project. Every little donation counts.

I truly can’t do it alone.

Want to know more? Check out the video below and visit www.pozi.be/yoga4diabetes

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

If you could give yourself the perfect gift what would it be?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the spirit of giving. Every year around this time I think about  what I can give to others. I love heading online or into a store and picking out little things to give to friends and family. While browsing I also check out things that I might like. A book, a dress, a new kitchen gadget. But usually, being quite unattached to ‘stuff’ I don’t buy anything. 

But all the shopping gets me thinking. If I was to give myself the perfect gift what would it be? What do I really want? Probably foremost on my mind would be a cure for Diabetes. But to be honest that feels impractical and certainly not something readily available. So instead, what about a wish list? Things like….

a home

a regular steady income

endless opportunities to share yoga with people who really can benefit from it

blood sugars in range

perfect digestion

a consistant cardio exercise program

ability to eat a wide range of foods while maintaining good blood sugars

time to write, express, share

time for fun with my partner

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okay so that’s THE LIST

But if I had to choose just one gift, material things aside, what would it be?

I mean what would you choose?

Self Love? Patience? Happiness? Peace? Beauty? Nature?

I’ll let you in on a secret.

Already the wholeness that you seek, nothing is missing. This is the meaning of YOGA. Already WHOLE, COMPLETE AND PERFECT JUST AS YOU ARE, you just don’t know it. In fact without you creation would be incomplete. Your presence completes the picture.

So what does that mean? To know this is the perfect gift. YOU are the perfect gift. What a hoot!

So here’s wishing you the best most satisfying holiday season ever and as a special gift from me enjoy this simple soothing yoga practice. Make sure you download it from dropbox so you can do the whole practice.

with great respect…..Rachel