Quieting the Storyteller Mind

My mind is a storyteller.

My mind, like yours, has one job – to keep me alive. One of my mind’s favorite tools to do so is to tell me stories. It tells me stories to keep me safe, to keep me alert, to let me know I can always be doing better. It tells me stories for very good reasons but it never knows when to shut up.

It has no automatic off switch.

If I do not make a deliberate space in my life to stop and notice the storytelling, it will just run amuck with me creating needless anxiety and feelings of depression or being overwhelmed.

Each time I prick my finger to test my blood sugars or to get an A1C at the doc, the storyteller kicks into high gear. Before I even see the number, my mind begins to tell me stories about how I didn’t walk enough or do intense enough yoga classes over the last few months. It will tell me, “In four seconds, that number is going to pop up and you’re going to see that you didn’t give enough insulin. You should be a better carb counter.”

My mind has an infinite list of “shoulds” that doctors, loved ones, strangers, and even other diabetics have participated in helping me acquire.

Sure, these people are generally just concerned for my wellbeing or trying to offer me something that has worked well for them but, the problem is, this leaves me in a constant state of striving. I am perpetually holding myself up against an imaginary, ideal diabetic that knows all and does all things related to diabetes management perfectly.

As I am sure you can imagine or relate, this leaves me in a state of exhaustion. And, like a diabetic hamster stuck on its wheel, it is unsustainable.

When I notice that I am being dragged underfoot by my desire for things to be other than they are, I must remind myself to sit. To set an intention of cultivating what Jon Kabat-Zinn called an attitude of “non-striving” in his book Full Catastrophe Living. This is the beginning of giving myself permission to exit the story my mind is getting wrapped up in.

As I begin to cultivate this attitude, I am careful to remind myself that this is an active practice of non-doing, of being with things just as they are in their present reality. It is not a passive resignation to forego my diabetes management but rather an invitation to open up to my experience in the present moment just as it is. An invitation to notice my breath, my physical body, to notice the quality of my mental state and where I am emotionally.

Most importantly, it is the action by which I get my head out of the whirlwind of anxiety caused by striving for things to be any way other than they are and feel my feet planted firmly in the rich soil of my embodied experience where I can connect to and execute the next right move for me and my diabetes management.

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