Practicing Mindfulness

Just as I want to be happy and avoid suffering, so does everyone else. I’m breaking out my laptop on the tail end of a guided meditation. It’s 11:30 P.M on a Monday night and those six minutes of mindfulness were so relaxing and brought to my attention the lack of breathing time I get throughout the day. Class to class, studying to working, and in the moments in between anticipating the next chapter of the day. What’s for dinner? How’s my blood sugar? What assignments do I need to work on? When do I need to change my site next? We breathe because we biologically need to but rarely to keep us from mentally burning out from these kind of questions throughout the day.

This might be an eye-roll trigger but I try and do a guided meditation at least four times a week. I wish I could do it every day since each session only takes five to ten minutes out of my day and I know they are beyond worth it but to be honest, sometimes I just forget. Each day there is a new meditation to reset those gears and bring awareness to my hard working body. Today’s meditation emphasized this idea of understanding that you and the people of your city, state, country, and world are all on the same platform as you. They are no higher and no lower. Everyone strives for happiness, when they’re not happy, they are then avoiding suffering. This drives people to look for happiness in drugs, sex, and alcohol. Things that provide a high intensity happiness; a burst of dopamine that they can detect a mile away.

I sometimes feel guilty for being stressed. The guilt comes from understanding that there are people who would gladly take my stress off my hands to avoid their own. People whose homes were washed away or burnt to the ground, people whose countries are in the midst of war, even people with type 1 diabetes who can’t afford any kind of medical care. My stress can’t compete. The guilt though, is adding a whole new stress that I can do without. T1D can trigger a high intensity stress within seconds. This happens when I’m already running late and will just make it on time…before I get an alert that my reservoir is low so now I’m five minutes late to class. The stress comes when you go to stay the night at a friends and you remember your hairbrush, toothbrush, a change of underwear…but forgot your blood glucose monitor. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. If you remembered a reservoir change, then you forgot the test strips.

Meditation can be like a speed bump during a crazy week that says, “Hey, slow down or you’re going to lose control.” I wouldn’t necessarily say I know how to meditate… because meditation is very difficult. It’s difficult for many reasons, one being that when you’re a twenty-something in a transitional period balancing work and school underneath the shadow of type 1 diabetes, being in the present moment is like trying to reach something on the top shelf; so close, but not close enough. This frustrates me nearly every time I sit down at the beginning or end of my day to meditate because I feel incapable of achieving complete mindfulness. Each time I try and acknowledge my thoughts while giving my full attention to the sounds, smells, and feeling of the present moment, I start racing through my to-do lists and over thinking everything that may have happened to me or what will happen that day.

Then it hit me. Low blood sugar. I can’t ignore a hypoglycemic episode. No matter the task I’m involved in, when I feel the slightest hint that my blood glucose is dropping, my attention immediately races to that feeling. Whether it’s a slight dizziness or weakness in my legs, I feel the blood glucose levels in my body dropping. This is mindfulness. As a diabetic, being in tune to how our body feels is one of the most important things we can do for our health. I know the feeling of my BG rising quickly by the fatigue that hits me, making my eyelids feel heavy. Or the slightest slur of my words that indicates low BG. Being mindful can save our lives. So I guess I’m not all that bad at being mindful, but it’d be nice to be mindful in a way where I don’t think about my blood glucose levels, or when I need to change my site next. So I’ll still practice. I’ll practice because sometimes those ten minutes I spend sitting at the edge of my bed are the only silent ten minutes of my whole day.

Here are some ways I like to be mindful:

1. Headspace – This app was a huge jump starter for my meditation practice that I continue to use. The app provides you with ten minute meditations, giving you assistance and context before starting in order for you to get the most out of those ten minutes. The lessons here do not pressure you but rather, understand that you might not have the hang of mindfulness yet and that is O.K!

2. Counting my steps– I don’t mean with a step tracker around your wrist, although I do like using that feature on my watch. I first got this super simple idea while reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Mindfulness can be practiced during something as easy as walking down the street to get your coffee, or walking from class to class and just taking those small moments to count your steps. Right foot. Left foot. This acts as a blockade to all those overwhelming thoughts that are trying to pry their way into your head so you can overthink them.

3. Intuitive Fun (?) – I kind of just made this name up. To me, this means doing something that makes your heart smile. I get caught up in planning a lot that I don’t take the time to do something that deep down in my heart I really really want to do. Some nights I want to crawl in bed at 8 o’clock and draw or read, but I won’t because I feel as though there is something with more value that I should be doing with that time. Though in reality, the most value is in allowing myself to do the things I want to do because this is way of showing yourself compassion.

4. Routine – This is a thin line to balance on. Having a routine can be comforting or stressful because when you’re settled into one, it’s fantastic but if something changes (say your alarm doesn’t wake you up or you run out of milk for your coffee), you can lose balance and feel out of control. I like to have a morning routine because the morning is one of the only times of the day that my time isn’t committed to someone else. At work I’m accommodating customer’s needs and during class my attention is dedicated (almost) entirely to my professor. But in the morning, I workout, I do my makeup and hair, and make an espresso while cooking up breakfast-the best meal of the day.