A meditation on kindness

This is going to be a rant…

I’ve been low lately. Low in glucose levels, energy and motivation. Motivation to write this blog and be active on social media. Other than wanting to share through my channels what we can do as individuals to make a better world, I can’t watch the endless stories on Instagram anymore, even when I like the people who share them. I’ve got no time for superficial nonsense and I could give two hoots about how to live a better me. This is it baby, I AM me.

My inbox is crammed with junk mail and there’s no end in sight. The weather is way too hot, too cold, and here just up the road 21 homes have been destroyed due to raging bush fires. Last night we went to see the Joker. I came out with a headache. This movie is all about the making of a villain. No superheroes in sight.

But who is the villain?

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As far as I see it, we have been complacent too long (me included). If we don’t do something, say something and change our behaviour not only towards the planet but each other we are all ‘the villain’. I don’t care which way you lean. Be a decent human being. Those people putting themselves on the line deserve our support. Better yet put yourself on the line. Start with your own home, reduce your carbon footprint.

And all of us dealing with the high cost of Insulin, crap insurance and lack of money for medication, devices etc, the situation isn’t looking up. I had a meltdown the other day realising that if I am somewhere where access to medication becomes impossible for whatever reason, I and countless others seriously wouldn’t have long to live!

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last 4 years, you’ll know I am super positive. I always try and see the good in things. I use my yoga practice to support my mental and emotional health and absolutely believe yoga and knowing its true meaning can solve all our problems.

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Photo by Jaime Kinsella

So even though I have been feeling disheartened I’m also excited. Excited that things have finally got to the point where there is a possibility that we can breakthrough our complacency and come together. I truly wish for this with all my heart and I believe it can happen. Being part of the diabetes community has taught me that.

When I’ve needed an extra sensor, syringes or a shoulder to cry on someone’s been there. It feels natural to help others when it comes to chronic illness. It’s not our fault and if we can’t turn to the people who understand, life would be bleak. I trust that even though crisis is the worst and impossible to face, it also calls out the best in us.

When I was in 9/11 in NYC and walking through the streets to make my way home, I walked along the 59th street bridge with 7,000 people shoulder to shoulder. We held each other in that embrace. Nobody was arguing, complaining or attacking. We were one breath, one body, helping each other home.

This post today is a clarion call. What small act of kindness can you do today to make a difference? It could be something personal or planetary. This is what is meant by the practice of Karma Yoga, Selfless service. The yoga of action.

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Recently my friend and mentor Eve Grzybowski started a group on Facebook called Climate Yoga. Asking Yoga teachers to find ways in which they could act off the mat to support the climate movement. The group grew from 10 to 200 or so in a matter of days. This shows how yoga can be a springboard for anything we care deeply about.

Why? Because during your yoga practice you learn to cultivate compassion for yourself. A posture may not be easy, your breath may be inhibited, you may feel too tired to stretch or hold a pose. Being kind to yourself is the first step in learning compassion. I often talk gently to myself on the days I don’t want to do anything. Reminding myself that if I just do two or three poses it’s enough.

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The same goes for how we can contribute to this huge behemoth of climate change. Think about two things you could do today and every day to reduce your carbon footprint. It might be something as simple as walking somewhere you would normally drive. ( p.s also great for blood sugar management) Going meatless on Mondays. Bringing your own bag to the supermarket.  In fact if you’d like a list I’ve found this one to be really cool.

And if you’d like to get inspired to ‘be the change’ you wish to see in the world. Try this simple loving kindness meditation.

Loving Kindness Meditation

Sit comfortably or lie down.

Bring your awareness to the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.

Remember the happiest moment in your life and feel yourself happy and smiling.

Visualise sending yourself feelings of love, kindness and joy.

Think of 3 things that you love about yourself.

Think about ways in which you are kind to yourself.

Then say to yourself. May I remember myself as pure loving kindness. May I remember my natural strength, peace and joy.

Next think of someone you love and extend that loving kindness to them. Wish peace, strength, happiness and joy for them. Feel yourself sending them love and imagine them sending love back to you. Think of the things you love about that person.

Repeat the same loving kindness words for someone that you don’t know so well. A neutral individual.

Now repeat the same process with someone or something you feel is hostile towards you or you feel hostile towards. This could even be directed at the anger and frustration you feel towards your diabetes

Go back to step one. Direct loving kindness back towards yourself. Feel yourself as love, peace and joy. Feel how love peace and joy is the nature of every human being. Feel your compassion extending out from your heart to every single creature of the earth. Feel it like a giant heart pulsing through the whole of creation….

Finish by bringing your awareness back to your breath taking some slow deep belly breaths.

With great respect…

rachel

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Photo by Jaime Kinsella

To clean or not to clean

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So, this I found out is a thing… A cleaning hypo. I thought it was just me. Not long after picking up a mop, running the vacuum cleaner or even just sorting and tidying my closet I get the tell-tale signs. Skin crawling, thoughts scrambling, confusion and an overwhelming sense of fatigue.  Doesn’t everybody feel like that when they clean? Apparently not!

I’ve got friends who tell me they get high on the buzz of a hoover and the sweet smell of lemon floor wax and don’t get me started on how Marie Kondo and the Konmari craze has taken over everybody’s households.

But seriously…having to stop and drop a glucose tab in the middle of my cleaning foray is super inconvenient. Like who wants a low when your packing and tidying for a trip away? Or worse at the storage unit when you’re supposed to be a helpful hand to your husband?

It wasn’t until I happened to see my diabuddy Christel Oerum’s post about having to treat a hypo in the middle of vacuum session that I realised, this happens to everyone. According to Christel, the reason why vacuuming affects blood sugar so much is that it’s basically steady state cardio. The heart rate comes up a little and you end up moving around quite a bit even if you have a small place. She suggests making sure not to have too much insulin on board ( IOB) before cleaning.

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My problem is that I’m in such a routine with my insulin dosing that I have trouble planning ahead. I.e cleaning in the morning when I have dawn phenomenon would be better than an after lunch declutter session.

The other thing I’ve noticed with a cleaning hypo is it lasts for hours. No other form of exercise seems to do that for me.  If I was keen to clean I could actually use that as a great form of blood glucose control.

Move over Yoga, lets scrub, mop and vacuum the sh..t out of everything right?

Fuggedaboudit! I’d rather roll out my yoga mat, do a leisurely sun salutation, cross my legs and meditate.

Wishing everyone a super wonderful start to September

with great respect…

rachel

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low blood sugar, hypoglycemia

That Low Blood Sugar

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It started just like any other day. Well not quite. I still hadn’t experienced a low low blood sugar even though I’d been taking Insulin for almost two years. To be honest I was terrified of the unknown. I’d hear the horror stories. People fainting, not being able to talk, brains not functioning. If you’ve ever had a low blood sugar you know exactly what I’m talking about.

But here’s the thing; having never experienced a hypoglycemic event I actually had no idea what people were talking about. I mean I could imagine it being awful, but I had never actually felt it for myself. So my fears weren’t based in fact. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have them.

And then it happened!

So randomly and for no reason. It wasn’t about over injecting, it wasn’t about exercising too much. I just started to feel really anxious and shaky and itchy all over. I assumed I was having an overdue panic attack. Except I was just standing over the sink, lost in quite a pleasant thought so what the F…ck. What was there to freak out about? I went over to my husband and mentioned I was feeling a rush of panic. He suggested we go outside and talk it through.

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I didn’t think to check my blood glucose levels, forgot my glucometer, didn’t bring a juice box with me. NADA

For the next 15 minutes or so while my sweet husband talked me through my ‘anxiety’ nothing budged.

Luckily I decided to check my levels. Casually, well not that casually because I was shaking from the inside out, I pricked my finger. The number that stared back at me was nothing like I’d ever seen before.

2.7 mmol!

Seriously? 2.7?

The strange thing was even though mentally I knew that was way too low and I was itchy and shaky and wanting to eliminate everything from my body with a good trip to the loo, I wasn’t frightened. I felt frustrated and curious instead.

Even though I’m sure it was only a matter of seconds, the walk from the living room to the kitchen to get some juice, felt like a lifetime.

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Photo by Pâmela Lima on Unsplash

It was only while I was waiting for my levels to come back to normal that I started to feel the terror. Why didn’t I check my blood sugar sooner? Why did I think it was something else? Why didn’t I do the most obvious thing? Where was my rational mind?

Umm… yep, that’s a low blood sugar event. You don’t think properly.

After my blood sugar came back to normal and in the subsequent years, I’ve had so much gratitude for that first scary low blood sugar. It helped me to face my fear and to lessen my anxiety about my levels in general. I was able to watch my blood sugar rebound and to see that I was okay. I learned subsequently to test how many grams of glucose I need to bring my blood sugar back to a safe range.

As someone who lives with LADA ( Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) and still producing a tiny amount of insulin I can get away with ½ a glucose tab, sometimes even a ¼  when I am just below where I’d like to be. I love the idea of sugar surfing keeping my levels in range with a little bit of sugar and a little bit of insulin.

I’ve also become more vigilant about checking blood glucose levels regularly especially when I feel slightly off. I.e. itchy around my tummy or vague in my thinking. And I’ve learned to let go of expecting perfection with my blood sugar management.

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So if I’m about to teach a yoga class and my blood sugar is at 4.3 I don’t hesitate to treat it. I’d rather not be checking my levels in the middle of demonstrating down dog.

Another super cool tool I use for soothing anxiety and settling the nervous system during and after a low blood sugar event is mudra. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know how passionate I am about mudra for diabetes. A user-friendly tool which is literally at our fingertips.

In a recent interview with Lesley O’Brien from Ayurbotanicals, I go through mudras which help engender fearlessness, increase circulation and give pause for self-reflection.

Join me in the practice below

with great respect…

Rachel

P.s I’ve tried these gummies below and they work effectively to bring up my levels fast 🙂

Hypo Hot Mess

You’d think I’d be used to being on the razor’s edge but I’m not.  Like a mother who forgets the pain of childbirth, I keep forgetting what a fine line it is to live with diabetes. Maybe it’s because my memory is selective, or that I still find myself going into denial. More likely it’s because I’m burnt out from all the nitty gritty stuff I have to do to stay alive.

Hypos are the worst. Every time a low comes on I think, “Sh…t  I’m going low. What time is it? Can I wait 15 minutes and then eat lunch. Nope? Ok, just take ½ a tab. That’s probably not enough. Wait 15 min. Sh…t still going low take another ½… No, strike that, take 1 tab. Wait 15 more minutes (by now I actually feel low… sensation of ants crawling all over my body, mind like a wobbly wet piece of jelly). Ok, just take another tab and be done with it. (check my blood sugar 10 times in 15 minutes). Crap my fingers hurt.

After it comes back up I cry a lot. Later I think about adjusting my basal but worry that if I do I’ll go high. Eventually, I adjust my basal, wait to see what happens and tell myself, “Next time I’m going to take ¼ tab. Next time I’ll trust my body and my intuition. Next time I’ll take less insulin.”

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My last big hypo happened right before I was supposed to teach a yoga workshop on mudras ( yogic hand gestures). I was sitting in front of 15 experienced yoga teachers while furiously checking my blood sugar. The trend arrow on my mySugr app wasn’t looking good.

I freaked out! I’d driven all that way, spent weeks preparing had gathered an awesome group of yogis, only to have the whole thing crumble because of my broken pancreas and stupid carb to insulin miscalculation. I kept telling myself, “Push through you’re stronger than this maybe it won’t keep plummeting. Start teaching you’ll be fine.” But no matter how strong I thought I was, I couldn’t fight reality. My body wasn’t going to kick in and save the day. I had to share through my vulnerability. It was either that or bale.

Stepping up meant sharing with the group that I was in the middle of a hypo, that I’d taken some glucose tabs and had to wait 15 minutes before I could teach. I felt awkward, my brain wasn’t clear enough to communicate, but the smiling and compassionate faces of the group gave me heart.

“Living yoga is about being with what is,” I continued, “and sometimes ‘what is’ sucks.”

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Luckily within a few minutes, I could feel the glucose bringing my brain back online. The class flew by and was loads of fun, but later I felt drained, weak and really emotional.

Before my diagnosis, I would get tired after teaching, but it was a good tired. The kind where you knew you had worked hard enough to deserve a rest. Hypo fatigue is something else. 24 hours later I still find it hard to focus, my nervous system is overly sensitive and I’m prone to panic attacks. In a way, it’s akin to burning oneself accidentally. At contact, it burns sharp and hot, but that’s not the problem. It’s the lingering throbbing pain that’s tough to withstand. Plus Hypos aren’t always just a one-off thing. When a Hypo, builds on another Hypo it takes days to recover. It’s a challenge not to lose heart or worry that I’ll never get on top of things.

As I mention continuously in my blog posts I really have to take my hat off to yoga. The physical practices of posture and breathing definitely help. Lately, I have been using the deeper practices like mudra (gesture) and mantra (sound) too. Holding my hands in certain positions really calms my emotions and repeating a mantra like OM is soothing for all the systems in the body. In fact, so soothing that chanting lowers my blood sugar.

In honor of being a Hypo Hot Mess, this weeks offering is a simple 5 element mudra sequence. As you go through each mudra feel harmony coming into the body, relax and breathe. You can do this anywhere anytime, focusing on one element for your practice or including all five.

With great respect…

Rachel

 

When Gratitude Steps In

About two weeks ago I had my worst low ever. We were on the road driving. Luckily I wasn’t at the wheel but being somewhere between Jugiong and Gundagai (yes those are names of Aussie towns) it was still scary.

As it was happening I kept racking my brain trying to figure out the why. I hadn’t over injected for lunch or had I? Did I take an extra unit of basal insulin in the rush to leave that morning? I’d already had a near low the day before. Was I just that little bit more sensitive to Insulin from our sunset walk the evening before?

Whatever the reason, the one and a half tabs I popped weren’t working fast enough.

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I had to play the waiting game. We stopped at a fancy pub and I made an obligatory visit to the loo. Every time I go low I might as well have a tiger chasing me. The feeling is exactly the same. While in the lavatory I kept a close eye on my levels but sadly the numbers weren’t looking good. I couldn’t make my trusty mySugr app lie. The numbers surrounded in color-coded circles kept going lower. Orange had been replaced by red.

I popped another tab while my body began to shake. Everything looked blurry, I felt blurry and at the same time, my thoughts were like sharp bubbles that I could catch and get lost in. I made my way back to my husband who was waiting for me at a lone picnic table and told him I was still low. He held me and we waited. I kept testing and finally ten minutes later it came up a few points. We got back in the car. Disaster averted.

The rest of the day I felt fragile like I’d been poked with a stick. The days that followed were filled with unmanageable high readings. And I was scared to take insulin. I took it but I was still scared. I went to sleep at a higher level just to be on the safe side. And when I woke up higher I didn’t correct. Instead, I waited for it to gradually coast down by midday. Every time I tried to gather the courage to be a bit more accurate with my dosing I couldn’t do it.

And it dawned on me. This is what burnout looks and feels like.

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It’s taken me two weeks to find my confidence again. Gratitude has been the first step. In the depth of the low, I remember thinking quite clearly how grateful I was that I could still think clearly enough to test my blood sugar, that I had glucose tabs on hand, that my partner would come find me if I hadn’t come out. I felt grateful for my breath which I began to watch rising and falling in my chest. As the next two weeks unfolded, I was even more grateful for my daily yoga practice.

The ability to step on the mat and feel peace, calmness, stillness. The reminder that the experiencer, the seer, the one having the highs and lows is unaffected. As much as I want to believe I am my body, I cannot be my body. My body is something I have. As much as I think I am my thoughts about my disease. My thoughts are something I have. As much as I want to think that I am the disease, diabetes is something I have.

The depth of gratitude cannot be underestimated. I know it is a way of being that works in any situation, any crisis. I believe it is an essential yoga practice.

If you want to know more about gratitude and how it shapes my life with diabetes I recently sat down with my good friend Lauren Tober the creator of A Daily Dose of Bliss and A Grateful Life Podcast to share about Yoga, Diabetes and why I practice in my P.J’s.  Listen to the podcast and if you’d like to join us on a Daily Dose of Bliss registrations are open now.

Podcast on Gratitude with Rachel Zinman

with great respect…

rachel

 

That Mysterious low

It finally happened! I’d heard about it, read about it, feared it, even dreaded it. But one can’t stave off the inevitable. At some point, if you live with diabetes and take insulin you’re going to have a mysterious low. Today it was my turn.

It would have made sense if I’d had lower levels when I woke up or hadn’t thought I’d seen the number 8 mmol just 20 minutes before. I’m not someone who ever crashes fast. In fact most of the time I’m a big flat line. Being a LADA ( Someone who lives with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) I still produce some insulin and use a low carb diet with moderate protein and fats to keep things balanced. I take a small dose of long acting insulin and time my walks and yoga practice around the time my insulin begins to wear off. Usually, if I am heading towards a low, I feel hungry. So I’ll grab a high protein, hi fat snack to keep things in check. Plus I check my blood sugar all the time. I mean, I use test strips like Candy!

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So what the heck happened?

I have no idea! I noticed my hands were shaking when I sat down at my computer around 6.45 am. I checked my blood sugar levels, had my morning injection, (which had burst a small capillary, but I’d made sure there was no bubble or bruising under the skin) and decided that I should eat something to get grounded. I chose a small avocado which had a bit of a bitter taste, didn’t think much of it until I started feeling like I was itchy under my skin.  I never feel like that… usually, if I’m itchy it’s on my skin and I can see hives or something… but this was like a slow skin crawl… and I was shaking… I cooked an egg to have with the avocado and sat down to eat it and offhandedly remarked to my husband that I was shaking while I was eating which was weird. I didn’t think to check my blood sugar. Instead, I went to the bathroom ( probably too much information here but anyway…) and had a panic attack. Heart racing out of my chest, feeling even weirder I called out to my husband… “I’m feeling weird and now I’m having a panic attack.!”

My husband says, “Let’s go outside and sit in the sun.” So we sit down and he asks me what I’m worried about? I say, “I don’t feel worried it feels physical”…then I lift up my shirt to examine my imaginary hives…the skin keep crawling and I keep feeling weird. But the panic has subsided…we sit in the sun for about 10 minutes and then I think about checking my blood sugar.

My husband is standing right there when we get the results 4.1 mmol…I panic. My husband says, “Check again.” I pull out my other meter, it says 3.8 mmol…I panic more… my husband says, “Check one more time just to be sure.” I check again on my first meter…3.9 mmol.

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I RUN TO THE FRIDGE

My husband is trailing behind saying, “Stay calm don’t panic.”

I don’t listen, I open the fridge find my juice popper ( we have our juice in small bags here in Australia) The straw is missing! URGH!!! I get the scissors and cut the bag open and drink a big gulp. My husband says, “Okay stop there, it will be enough.” I’m like, ” NO! I can drink the whole thing.” I guzzle down the entire 200 gms of juice in about 1 minute. Then I lean against the counter, wild eyed.

I’m thinking to myself… and how long do I have to wait for my blood sugar level to come up?

I carry another juice bag and my meter back to the living room and sit on the couch… trying to figure out what happened. I was sure that the last time I’d checked my level was right before I ate. So I went through the log on my meter. I was shocked! I checked at 6.45 am… and then checked at 8.07 which was when I saw the low.

I’d started having breakfast at 7.30 am… so couldn’t have checked just before I ate. Had I imagined the whole thing?

I’ve heard people say that when you’re low you don’t think like you normally do. But I had no idea what that meant. I remember feeling completely aware of everything that was going on. So it seemed super weird that I didn’t do the one thing I was supposed to do…

CHECK MY BLOOD SUGAR!

And my husband used to me reacting to foods or having panic attacks in the loo didn’t think to ask me to check either.

Once my levels had returned to normal… (well not quite I did overshoot with the 200 gms of juice and am now running at about 9 mmol)  I’ve had a chance to reflect on what worked for me during the mystery low.

  1. I didn’t freak about the skin crawling sensation. I stayed calm and tried to figure out what it was
  2. When I started having the panic attack the first thing I did was calm down and breathe deeply, Then I called my husband
  3. I went outside into nature and put my bare feet on the earth
  4. When I finally did check my blood sugar level, I checked a few times just to make sure it wasn’t a mistake on the meter
  5. I knew exactly where to go to get what I needed, took the remedy and managed not to eat everything in site
  6.  I waited calmly for my levels to return to normal, watched my breath and trusted my body
  7. I decided to do a yoga practice to support my adrenals and to bring more circulation and blood to my brain to help stabilize my levels after the low
  8. I drank quite a bit of water knowing that I would go a bit higher than I liked from the juice to flush excess sugar out of my system
  9.  Lastly, I hugged my husband and counted my blessings for all of the above!