It’s all attitude baby!

From that first moment I was given a glucometer to measure my blood sugar I thought about success and failure. In fact, I considered my diagnosis the biggest failure of my life. How could a yoga teacher, who’d dedicated her life to living in peak health, be diagnosed with diabetes? I still have moments of absolute disbelief. Like last night during my injection after dinner, I couldn’t help remembering my life before diabetes and thinking… how did I get here?

My diagnosis was a defining moment, so was my denial for the following six years. My capacity to handle my diagnosis was zero. My fight to change it was a ten. Facing my fears, taking medication and starting the process of healing my bruised ideas of who I was and how life should be, was a huge step. Luckily, I took it.

In my world every day is a gift. I see my ability to want something better, my desire to live, as a blessing. What other being in the creation has the ability to desire, to strive and to dream? Humanity has been given the gift of desire, how we use it…that’s up to us.

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Living with diabetes has given me plenty of desire. Goals like a normal A1c, constant time in range, accurate use of insulin, healthy exercise, a good night’s sleep, meaningful work, a happy relationship, a place to call home. For the most part I live the life that I’ve chosen and I’m happy.

But what if I couldn’t live that life? How much have and do I take for granted? Including my ability to desire? What about the people who can’t afford their medication, don’t live a stable and comfortable life? It’s very apparent here in Africa how difficult it is to live comfortably with diabetes. Access to technology that supports blood sugar management is only available to those with money and good medical aid. Even the information about diabetes is limited. Most ignore their diabetes and hope for the best. Diabetes is not a condition one can ignore. Eventually one way or the other it gets you. Hence the 24/7 dance we do to stay in range. It’s in the moments that I forget my diabetes (which has happened) that I have to remind myself. Woman…you have diabetes…check your blood sugar!

So what is success? The wisdom teachings from the tradition of Atma Vidya (Self Knowledge) take an empowering track.

Instead of thinking of success as what you have or hope to achieve. Think of success as your capacity to handle whatever life gives you.

Based on our desire’s life will present itself in four different capacities.

  1. We will get precisely what we expect
  2. More than what we expect
  3. Less than what we expect
  4. The opposite of what we expect

Framing this through the lens of diabetes, imagine…

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You decide to have pizza, you estimate the dose, and at the two- and four-hour marks BOOM you’re coasting on a perfect number. You’ve done pizza, before and aced it. You high five yourself because you got exactly what you expected.

You decide to have Pizza, you dose, then have dessert, stay up late binge-watching Netflix and you still have perfect numbers. Way more than you expected. Did your pancreas decide to work again or what?

You decide to have Pizza, dose and woops go high and have to take more insulin at the four-hour mark. The pizza wreaks havoc and for the next day or so you’re rage bolusing and fighting highs. Definitely less than you expected

You decide to have Pizza, you take a bucket load of insulin, or plan a dual wave on your pump to catch the high and for some unknown reason, the whole thing tanks before it even gets started. You’re going low, so low you crash at the restaurant, even worse, the EMT’s have to come and you wind up in the hospital. This is totally the opposite of what you expected! Worst case scenario.

The way we normally see success is in the end result. i.e. dosing goes perfectly. Success! Dosing goes even better than planned…super success. Dosing doesn’t go quite as expected. Damn, almost. Pizza night ends in disaster. What a mess!

Here’s the twist. Think of success as the attitude you take towards getting what you expect, and more than you expect. Instead of comparing a win to a loss. Take a win and see it for what it is.

Let me explain:

Having something go the way you want, isn’t personal. Yes, it may be your past experiences that enable you to dose perfectly. But what about all the factors you can’t control? The amount of cheese in the Pizza, what’s going on with your insulin sensitivity, how much stress is on board and the other 39 factors influencing your blood sugar? As much as we like to think we have the power in any given situation, we don’t. The one thing that is absolutely guaranteed is that nothing is under our control. That includes our existence. Can you claim ownership of what brought you into existence? The only thing we do know is that we exist. But what is existing? That’s a mystery.

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When you get the dosing right for Pizza, did you do it? Or was it the dance between you and all the unknowns. We are always dancing with unknowns. That’s the most incredible thing about being alive. We don’t know who we are, how we got here, or what we are doing here. We’re not given a road map at birth as to the nature of who we are. We are taught how to navigate life on a relative level and more often than not we make mistakes. Life would be so much easier with instructions!

Seeing getting what you expect or more than you expect with dispassion, not getting carried away and expecting that to be the new normal builds your capacity to deal with getting less than you expected or the opposite of what you expected. It’s called equanimity. Happy regardless of the outcome. Happy isn’t elation or ecstasy. It’s acceptance.

Whatever I get, whatever life brings, the lows, the highs, the challenges, the frustrations, the blessings the amazing opportunities.  They aren’t good or bad. They just are. It’s not about me. Life flows through me and the more I accept what comes without making a judgement. The greater my capacity to deal with whatever comes next.

with great respect…

rachel

The serenity prayer

I’m absolutely struck dumb by what’s happening at the moment. New year is usually about setting goals in my diabetes management, upping my personal yoga practice and setting out a plan for the year. With my newsfeed and mind consumed with the unbearable tragedy of the bushfire crisis in Australia, the craziness of the presidency in the US and the spectre of the Climate Crisis, yoga is my rock of support.

It was in the aftermath of 9/11 that I learned that having a committed yoga practice could make a difference to how I responded to the crisis at hand. Yes, I made donations and did what I could to help others, but I also recognised I needed to care for myself. As the stress and tension mounted in the weeks and months after 9/11 we had the anthrax scare, the Iraq war and the very real destruction at ground zero. I remember feeling terrified to head out into the throng of NYC to teach. I forced myself to face my fears because I knew that teaching yoga and attending classes would bring me back to set point.

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Since that time, I have learned through the deeper teachings of yoga called Atma Vidya that the nature of self is peace. Peace doesn’t disappear. I do. I’m the one identifying with the fear, uncertainty and shock.  Yoga helps me to calm down and direct my energy towards what I can do to make a difference. It might be to share on my FB feed an article or story to spread awareness, a physical donation to an organisation, or something as simple and personal as nurturing a seedling in my garden.

Whatever I can do, I need to be calm and grounded to do it. Making decisions out of fear doesn’t work. When everything feels completely out of control, and there is no one to turn to for comfort because everyone is in the same circumstances, there is great support in taking responsibility for what can be done.

 “God Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”-serenity prayer

I consider prayer one of those responsibilities, and it’s something I work with daily in the form of Bhakti yoga, the yoga of surrender and devotion. Another way I take responsibility is to catch myself in the act of reacting to a situation, thought or circumstance.

This is what enabled me to act in the chaos of 9/11. Instead of dissolving into a puddle I took practical steps to cope with the feeling of overwhelm and devastation. What could I do to get our family home and safe? At the time walking over the 59th street bridge was the answer. Now in the midst of an obvious climate and ecological crisis, with Australia in the limelight, I am determined to do my best to take practical steps to be part of a global shift.

When I got married in the 90’s we built our house on an intentional yoga community out of mud bricks. I also built my own composting toilet. We had solar power, rainwater and huge veggie gardens. I had a home birth in water and brought my son up on organic food and a minimum of TV and tech. We spent hours outside in all types of weather. I read to him constantly. We baked and sang and lived very simply.

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By Jacob Zinman-Jeanes

Looking back, everything I did in my 20’s and 30’s was a blessing. I was healthy, grounded and idealistic. Little by little though my idealistic bubble began to burst. We needed to use pesticides to poison alien trees on the property, our solar batteries crashed. It was easier to run our new computer and other electrics on mains power. It was more convenient to have an indoor toilet. Cell phones came into being and we all know how things have changed in the last 20 years.

Our advancement seems to have been our undoing.

Going back to basics, starting a garden again, looking at how we can be more self-sufficient, recycling, reusing, reducing and travelling less are all good places to begin. However, there are still millions and millions of people out there who refuse to change their habits. It’s hard not to feel frustrated and helpless. I refuse to let it get me down. Instead I have added them into my responsibility prayers.

“Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.” – Serenity prayer

With great respect….

rachel

Please watch this very sad yet beautiful tribute to whats happening in Australia at the moment. You can find out more about how you can help the bushfire crisis here 

The day I forgot my insulin

Forgetting things is normal. Like forgetting my wallet when I go to the store, or my phone or car keys. It’s usually a hassle and requires some unexpected backtracking, but in the scheme of things forgetting stuff is no biggie. But insulin? OMG! Who knew?

Suffice it to say I have never ever forgotten to bring my insulin with me on a trip. No matter how big or small if my outing includes a meal, I put it in my purse and that’s that. Until the other day. For some ridiculous reason, I forgot it.

And  I didn’t realise I’d forgotten it until we were already miles and miles away.  The morning had run as usual, yoga practice, followed by cooking my lunch, packing it and loading up the car. We were heading to Knysna, a picturesque town on the Garden Route here in South Africa. I’m not sure whether it was distraction, the fact that diabetes wasn’t number one on the list that morning or what. Once I realised what had happened there was absolutely no way I could forget. I was freaked out and mildly hysterical. Even though my husband encouraged me not to be.

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Our purpose driven trip turned into a race against the clock. If I don’t eat my lunch around 1.00 pm my blood sugar tanks. I am not sure exactly why, it’s either the long acting insulin peaking or my own insulin kicking in. Regardless I eat lunch to stop the drop.

As my blood sugar started to tank my husband suggested I eat my lunch. Nope…can’t do that. If I do I’ll go high with no way to bring it down for another 2 hours. The only solution was to fast and eat when I could dose. In the meantime I downed a few glucose tabs amidst a grumbling hungry tummy. I also downed my feelings; frustration, anger and fear.

Fasting wasn’t a problem, but heading to the local bakery to buy Christmas cake was. As I stood in line looking at all the bakery delights I felt defeated. This has been me now for over 11 years. I don’t eat gluten, sugar or dairy because it messes with my levels and my delicate digestion. I don’t usually get upset standing in the bakery line, in fact I don’t care, but today with a perfectly good lunch sitting in the car, fasting and skirting an endless low I was livid. Why can’t I just this once enjoy apple strudel! F…k

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As soon as we got home I ate my lunch. It was 3 pm. I calculated that we could still eat dinner at the normal time so that my schedule wouldn’t be too interrupted. Just because I craved normalcy after this hiccup didn’t mean it happened. The most annoying thing about a mishap in routine is that I have no idea how it’s going to influence anything. It’s a total experiment. It’s not just the physical stuff that goes topsy turvy, it’s my emotional responses.

Despite my efforts to use my go to practices for mental and emotional stability, i.e yoga, breathing, meditation and the teachings of yoga (Atma Vidya), I reacted. After lunch I had a tantrum. It made no sense, it was ugly and probably a result of pent up anxiety.

Reaction sucks. There is absolutely no point in blaming others for enjoying life and doing what they normally do. I could have gone to the chemist and gotten some insulin, I didn’t have to fast for the day, I could have stayed in the car rather than gone to the bakery. I could have relaxed and accepted that this sort of stuff happens, people forget stuff, even big stuff. I didn’t. It’s my style to do things the hard way.

It’s been a few days now since my major stuff up and it’s been interesting to reflect. I’ve learned some really valuable lessons.

  1. When travelling always bring insulin. Put it in purse.
  2. Fasting works, but it does have after affects. I ended up struggling with lows for a few days afterwards because it increased my insulin sensitivity
  3.  Stay balanced during a crisis. Don’t succumb to hysteria. Put things in perspective
  4. Be kind! Be kind to one’s self and others. No one no matter how close knows how it feels to live with diabetes.
  5. Take stock and be grateful! Just 4 hours without access to insulin is nothing compared to someone who can’t afford insulin or lives in a  country where access is limited or non existent.
  6. Never ever forget insulin again!

With great respect…

rachel

A joy to be alive

I can’t believe its the last day of Diabetes Awareness Month. When I set myself the task of writing a post a day it felt daunting. How was I going to come up with something to say every single day about diabetes? Turns out it’s not that hard. When you live with diabetes 24/7 there’s always something to say!

That’s the thing about the passage of time, it’s a human construct. We’ve decided based on a calendar we’ve created as to what time, day and month it is. Have you ever wondered what time it is on the sun? Timeless.

Living with diabetes is like that. It never ends. I’d like to think there’s a cure around the corner, but I’m realistic. For now the management tools we have available are enough. I’ve added yoga, ayurveda and a primarily plant based whole food, organic diet. I use every peer support group available and do my best to give back to the community. That’s the cool thing about living with type 1 diabetes I’m not alone. In every country around the world I know people just like me thriving.

At diagnosis I isolated myself and lived with guilt and shame until it became imperative that I educate myself about my condition. I still can’t believe it took me six years to do that. It shows how much the internet and knowledge around the condition have shifted in the last decade. A very good sign.

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With such positive changes in the way the general public and the diabetes community perceive diabetes I can only hope and pray that the situation around insulin pricing also changes for the better. No one should have to pay for their life.

Living with diabetes certainly isn’t boring, it’s a never ending kaleidoscope of unpredictability that put’s me on the razors edge. But I’m up for the task. It’s given me a strength I never knew I had, a conviction to make a difference and a willingness to let go of my ideas of how I think things should be.

Living with a chronic illness is more than just rising above a condition. It’s about living life to the fullest without preconceived notions, other people’s standards or idealised projections.

It’s a joy to be alive.

With great respect…

rachel

Take that diabetes!

Yesterday, somewhere above Antarctica I celebrated my diaversary, the day I was diagnosed with diabetes.  11 years ago my life took on new meaning. At the time I had no idea why or how. I was stunned, shocked and miserable. I can honestly say that 11 years later I am the happiest I’ve ever been.

My life didn’t take a turn for the better just because of diabetes, at diagnosis my marriage was also undergoing serious strain. Diabetes forced me to get real about what was and wasn’t working in my life. Anything that contributed to stress had to go.

I didn’t heal all at once, rather it happened in stages. I started by changing my diet, eating more whole foods, ditching leftovers, eating more consistently. I added Ayurvedic regimes like daily self massage, herbal tonics, sipping hot water throughout the day and making sure I was heading to bed before 10 pm. I added daily meditation and pranayama to my yoga practice, activities, like flower mandala creation, long morning walks and time to reflect. I had a space in my house where I built an altar. A place to remind myself to be grateful each and every day for life and all its gifts.

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Eventually my marriage ended and my son moved to Melbourne and it was time to sell our family home. That’s when I packed up and moved to Goa. At that point just two years post diagnosis I didn’t know that I was living with type 1 diabetes, I still thought it was type 2, or some sort of mistake. All the health practitioners I went to see insisted it couldn’t be diabetes. So I went to India hoping for respite, or even a cure.

The cure came after I met my husband, John and as I mentioned in a previous post when I discovered the profound teachings of Atma Vidya, Self-Knowledge. Being given the gift of seeing beyond my condition and circumstances as an individual changed my life permanently. It was the turning point for every single moment in my life where I had tried to lay blame. Like the idea that I had brought diabetes on myself, that there was something that I had done wrong to ‘get’ this disease either real or imagined.

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I learned that taking responsibility for every action and reaction isn’t some sort of cosmic destiny, it’s being a grown up. There is no reason ‘why’ I live with diabetes. It is what it is. It’s up to me how I live with it moving forward.

So here I am 11 years later living a life I could only have dreamed of.  So to celebrate this momentous day I say thank you. Thank you to diabetes, for my life.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Take to the Skies

As I am just 24 hrs out from travelling again I thought I would share another post I wrote for Beyond Type 1. I am a well seasoned traveller, but geez travelling with all my gear sends me bananas. This time we will be away for 6 months, which means I am carrying 6 months worth of needles, CGM’s, insulin and test strips. So much stuff that my husband has to carry some in his suitcase and carryon as well. If you are curious to know my top travel hacks for travelling with diabetes keep reading.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury

I live between three or more continents in one year, teach yoga internationally and I’m a Type 1 diabetic. This means I have to travel regardless of my health condition. Is it easy? No. Do I enjoy it anyway? Yes. Recently, I participated in a twitter chat to share people’s experiences around flying with diabetes. It gave me a chance to share some of my personal insights — how I use yoga to stay balanced and to inspire others to feel more confident about taking to the skies.

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I carry on me …

  • long and short-acting insulin in Frio wallets
  • two glucometers
  • needles
  • test strips
  • a letter from my doctor
  • ALL MY FOOD!

I also check ahead to make sure that the country I am flying to has access to the type of insulin I need and that I can get a hold of test strips. I google for everything. It’s probably obsessive, but I want to minimize my stress as much as possible.

Before I was diagnosed, I felt free to go just about anywhere and since my diagnosis, I haven’t let diabetes stop me — I’ve just adapted. Being diagnosed as a LADA Type 1 eight years ago, my onset was slow. For the first six years, traveling meant making sure I had all my own food with me and only staying in places where I could cook for myself. When I did go out to eat I always called ahead. I was managing my levels by staying as low carb as possible and had quite a few food sensitivities, so sometimes eating out was a tough call. I always thought that when I went on insulin things would get tougher. I was wrong. Insulin has actually made traveling so much easier.

Instead of trying to use food and exercise to stay in range — nearly impossible when you’re stuck on a plane for 16 hours with airline food — I can cruise through the trip with my once-a-day shot of long acting insulin. I’m not on fast acting yet, so I can’t comment on what it’s like to fly and bolus. But I’m convinced that traveling with your own snacks, not only for hypos, but for your own sanity, absolutely helps you to feel better when you land.

Read the rest at Beyond Type 1...

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

World Diabetes Day…again

Today is World Diabetes Day and to be honest I’m flat.

The fire emergency here in Australia combined with higher blood sugars have kept me from my usual enthusiasm. But it’s not just that. It’s hard to put a positive spin on diabetes all the time.

All I can say is my daily yoga practice pulls me out of the doom and gloom. It reminds me that as much as I like to get lost in the details around my health management it’s never going to be perfect. Control is necessary but there has to be some wiggle room. Giving myself a hard time isn’t productive. I’ve learned to relax in the tougher poses, to breathe deep and find stillness. These mini lessons are perfect metaphors for the ups and downs of this disease. And believe me I need that right now.

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Today marks the birthday of  pioneer Frederick Banting and as such celebrates the discovery of insulin in 1921. Before 1921 they didn’t even know what insulin was. Every time I think of this I’m gobsmacked. 1921 is not that long ago yet I take so much for granted when it comes to all the available medication and tech. Here in Australia there is subsidy for our medication and equipment. I am stunned that this isn’t the case in other countries. No one should have to pay for life saving medication!

Luckily there is an initiative out there to help those in need. Its called Type 1 International and their mission is to support local communities by giving them the tools they need to stand up for their rights so that access to insulin and diabetes supplies becomes a reality for all.

Please join me today on World Diabetes Day in supporting this wonderful organisation.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Meditation for diabetes

Yeah so diabetes is no picnic. I think I’ve pretty well established that in the last 10 blogs. There are however so many ways yoga can help. Working with a strong focus for the mind through sound and imagery is one. When we give the mind something to do and draw it out of its habitual need to identify with thoughts, our sense of individuality is suspended leaving us with SELF, the nature of which is peace, contentment, oneness or more aptly put, YOGA.

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I learned the beautiful meditation in the video below from my teacher Alan Finger when I was living in NYC. I invoked it quite often, especially after being in 9/11. I found that taking my feelings and releasing them back to source was a profound way for me to come to terms with all the emotions that seemed to be piled up on top of each other as my body worked to release the shock.

My diabetes diagnosis was also another moment where I worked with this meditation. I was actually terrified at diagnosis, felt ashamed and alone and had no idea how I would recover from something that I knew had no cure. These feelings of helplessness dissolved into the simple focus of the practice and soothed my worried heart.

If you live with diabetes, or are just needing something to soothe and support your nervous system I invite you to join me for the meditation below

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

It’s not up to me

Setting myself the task to write something every day for 30 days about diabetes to spread diabetes awareness is definitely daunting. I live with diabetes for 365 days a year and deal with it 24/7 so it should be easy to articulate that right? In reality the way I deal with diabetes is deeply private.

After spending 6 years ignoring it and then spending 4 years shouting about it via writing a book and being a fierce advocate through social media, it’s been interesting to spend this past year taking a break from the need to externalise my experience.

In 2019 I set a goal to lower my Hba1c, heal some of my underlying digestion issues and be brave when it comes to taking Insulin. I started 2019 using the Diabetic Health Journal, created by yogi and  diabetes health coach Lauren Bongiorno, with incredible results. Writing down daily goals, things I was grateful for and staying accountable made a big difference. My Hba1c went from 6% to 5.6 % in 6 months. If you’re not sure what that means it’s like dropping your cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Moving it from a pass to a win.

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I also went into hyper drive with my digestion, adding different supplements, bone broth and more variety into my daily meals. I worked on stored trauma with network spinal analysis and neuroimmunology sessions. Finally I made sure to keep up a daily walk and my twice daily yoga practice.

Making a concerted effort to shift some deep seated patterns has been an interesting process. I didn’t necessarily make great strides or have major revelations, instead I settled more into accepting what is.

“What is” might not be what I want but if I can accept it that’s a pretty good place to be. It’s how I dealt with diagnosis after fighting it for so long and pretty much how I manage my finicky digestion and volatile blood sugars and everything else that comes my way.

My latest go to phrase for everything is, ” It’s not up to me” That’s not about not doing everything I can to stay balanced. It’s about understanding that I don’t know the recipe of creation.  Letting go of needing to know, enjoying the gifts I’ve been given and trusting that whatever comes is perfect, goes a long way in helping me manage my condition.

I never expected to be diagnosed with diabetes but now that I have been I can honestly share it’s a blessing in disguise.

More on that tomorrow  #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

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It’s here! diabetes awareness month

Diabetes! The one word in the english dictionary I never really wanted to focus on. I can remember the day I was introduced to the word by my high school girlfriend. She wore a medical bracelet around her wrist and ate sugar free candy. She told me it wasn’t much fun having it, but little else. It wasn’t until my own diagnosis, thirty years later that I understood the gravity of the burden she carried. Living with diabetes isn’t like living with a slightly annoying flatmate. It’s a 24/7 alarm bell that never stops ringing.

After diagnosis I tried to ignore it, big mistake! For me ignorance has meant nerve damage and digestive issues that don’t abate. But I’m not bitter. I’m grateful.

This month is #DiabetesAwarenessMonth. I’ll be posting every day sharing how yoga and mindset has helped me to navigate this journey.  I’m not sure how I’ll fare, it’s a big task but I’m going to give it a shot (no pun intended).

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So why should everybody know about Diabetes?

Well for starters 425 million people worldwide have the condition. That’s a lot of people. And that’s not counting those with undiagnosed or misdiagnosed type 1 and type 2. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world. It’s also a disease with no known cause or cure and with ridiculously high priced medication in a country, like the US.  Managing diabetes also has no set treatment rules. I.e Insulin is not a cure! It’s like managing Jello. There’s a whole lotta wobbling going on.

Lately I haven’t been waving my diabetes flag here on the blog or elsewhere. For personal reasons I needed to jump off the bandwagon for a while. I worked pretty hard for most of the year on getting my numbers in range. For non diabetes friends, that means I’ve worked towards having normal in range blood glucose levels. When I achieved my goal halfway through the year I took a writing break. It’s been a good exercise for me in looking at the topics which really matter to me. It’s also given me a chance to step back from all things diabetes and just be.

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Whether you know about diabetes, live with diabetes or know absolutely nada being is seriously cool. Being means being okay with the ups and downs. Being is all about taking each day as it comes. Without doing anything being is always happening anyway. So being conscious of being takes it to a whole new level.

After quite a lot of being…I’m feeling like doing again…Phew!

I hope you’ll join me this month here and on my social media channels. Do comment below if you’d like me to post about something specific like what postures I choose to do, what I eat to manage my levels or anything else.

See you tomorrow!

with great respect

rachel

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