It’s not easy living with diabetes, sometimes I feel like I am pushing a wheelbarrow laden with rocks uphill. Just when I think I’ve reached the top, the rocks tumble out. It’s on those days that it’s challenging not to lose heart. I sometimes wonder if having LADA (Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) makes it doubly difficult. I can still remember the heyday of croissants, skipping meals just because… and sleeping like a baby through the night. The shock and the grief are overwhelming sometimes but I consider myself lucky. As much as I get frustrated and want to give up, that much I also want to live as joyfully as I can. When I wake up I’m happy and hopeful. That’s been me for most of my life.
In the system of Yoga, we look at life’s challenges from a fresh perspective. Instead of thinking, why do bad things happen to good people, we understand that how we react to one situation is very different to how we might react to another. And the way we react is not only based on our personality but our conditioning and inherent tendencies. Modern science calls those tendencies, DNA. In yoga, it’s called Karma. Karma, however, doesn't mean that whatever you put out comes back like a Boomerang. Karma means ‘action’ the actions we take and the subsequent results. If one keeps making bad choices the results will reflect that. If one makes a positive choice the outcome will reflect that as well.
So how does one come to terms with the actions the body takes without our consent. I didn’t ask my body to stop producing beta cells. How can I use my understanding of yoga to come to terms with my diagnosis?
In yoga, you don’t just learn about the physical body and how to stretch and strengthen. We also explore the body as an energy system. In other words, beyond our physical visible body is a subtle body.
Let me explain; when you want to go from point A to point B you move your body. But when you imagine yourself moving from A to B you use your mind. The body is gross, the mind is subtle. Thoughts are the subtle aspect of the mind.
When it comes to a physical issue there is usually some way to mitigate it or fix it, but when it comes to the mind things are much more amorphous. In fact, science is still trying to work out how the mind works.
Yoga postulates that our subtle body is filled with invisible energy pathways called nadis. Each nadi is a conduit for life force. The two most important nadis are related to the sun, our active side and the moon, our passive side. These two main nadis cross at the pubic bone, solar plexus, chest, throat and the point between the eyebrows.
These crossing points are called Chakras (which in Sanskrit means wheel)
In yoga, when it comes to the heart ‘chakra’, which converges at the center of the chest, we receive and express self-love and compassion. I consider both essential ingredients to the day to day management of diabetes. A healthy heart is a loving and compassionate heart.
The expression of love is indescribable. A subtle movement that ripples not only out to others but reverberates inside, love enables us to drop our fears, relax and be open. Understanding the nature of love and being loving is huge when it comes to living with diabetes.
My personal journey with this hasn’t been easy. It’s work to be kind, understanding and patient with myself. I have a tendency to beat myself when my levels aren’t consistent or when I feel frustrated and full of regret. When these feelings arise rather than trying to suppress them or getting overly caught up in them I transform them through the following simple and powerful visualization.
I visualize a lotus flower at the center of my heart and imagine that the lotus holds all the difficult feelings and experiences associated with living with diabetes. As I breathe in I visualize myself throwing all those experiences back to the endless and vast universe and as I breathe out I surround myself in a bubble of pure purple light. I repeat this action again and again until I come to a place of surrender and gratitude, sitting quietly and feeling a glow of light in my heart.
This simple but powerful practice is my way of reminding myself that beyond all my ideas and notions of how I think life should be the message of the heart is love. Love is always there.
Love is who we are.