Being in the present can also help keep you from getting hung up on past events. We all know someone who is always reminiscing, either grieving their losses or remembering the good old days. Either of these practices can lead to extreme feelings of sadness or even depression over what has been lost or guilt over what should have been done. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to change the past or recapture it; you can only apply its lessons to life now.
With diabetes, it is important to learn from the past, so as to not repeat the same mistakes. Living in the present doesn’t mean you should ignore the lessons of the past; rather, it means that you can spare yourself significant sadness and guilt by letting go of it and living in the now. Freedom from both worrying about the future and remaining overly attached to the past is a key goal of mindfulness meditation, which helps a person practice staying fully present for whatever he is experiencing now.
Getting started with meditation
Mindfulness meditation can be learned through reading books and listening to CDs or tapes (see “Meditation Resources” for some suggestions), but starting it alone would require a great deal of focus to stay committed to the practice. I believe that the most effective means of learning this form of meditation is to seek out a class or a teacher in your area. These classes are often offered through hospitals, clinics, and meditation centers; some churches and Buddhist centers may also offer programs. Classes may be called “mindfulness meditation” or possibly “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program.” In a class, you will learn the basics of dealing with stress through the use of meditation practices, group support, and brief lectures. This type of class helps when barriers, such as difficulty staying focused, arise or when questions about what is “normal” to experience while meditating come up.
I mentioned transcendental meditation as another type of meditation that I learned early in my meditation practice. I used transcendental meditation for quite some time and found it to be useful, particularly in times when I was tired and needed more rest. I found it helpful to get a different type of rest than sleep provides; in 20 minutes, I could feel as though I’d had a two-hour nap. If you are interested in this form of meditation but don’t want to seek out formal teaching, you can try the following exercise, which may help you with getting more rest when you need it. First, create your own mantra (a word or phrase that is repeated over and over to help calm your mind). An example of a mantra is the word “one” or a phrase such as “peaceful mind.” Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and eyes closed, and repeat your mantra for the next 10 minutes. If this is enjoyable, do it daily for a week, then increase it to 15 minutes, and the next week go up to 20. Try to meditate at the same time each day if you can; while not essential, such regularity will help you build meditation into your daily routine.
The two main stumbling blocks in transcendental meditation are falling asleep and drifting. (In fact, these are common barriers for all types of meditation.) It is not unusual for people to fall asleep when they close their eyes and relax; this usually means that you needed the sleep. So set an egg timer or your watch alarm so you will know when your time is up. Drifting, or daydreaming, is an-other issue. You may enjoy the drifting feeling, but to meditate and gain the benefits of meditation, training yourself to focus requires some concentration. When you notice yourself drifting, come back to your mantra and begin repeating it to yourself again. Mastering this process takes practice, and it is normal for most of us to have our minds wander, so don’t be surprised when it happens; just repeat your mantra.