Just a few months ago, I was introduced to the actual practice of Buddhism, not just an image of smiling man spreading peace through the world through inspirational messages. I'd always been fascinated by a religion that was based on a positive foundation and what seemed like the go-to belief system for pacifists. You never hear anything bad about exploring zen or a negative experience with meditation. It turns out that Buddhism (as most things) has transformed over the many years since its establishment and the specific branch that I was welcomed to was Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism. It's a more contemporary group that encourages mostly youth to become more active in the community by creating a better world through chanting and helping others find happiness. The Nichiren tradition is closely related to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, and SGI is a lay organization that focuses on the Japanese teachings of Shakyamuni and the Lotus Sutra. There is a lot to their history and vision of the future, but I will keep the bullet points to how I found Buddhism as a perfect model for my relationship with Type 1 Diabetes.
If you have a spare moment, try looking up the branches, doctrines, schools, and history of Buddhism... it's mind-boggling. There are several essential points that are common to all, and I won't risk disrespecting the religion by attempting to explain things I don't yet fully understand. I do encourage everyone to explore other beliefs and values among world religions, it's beautiful to see an underlying connection of loving oneself and others in other cultures.
Here's what spoke to me the strongest in my newfound immersion of Buddhism: we all possess a Buddha nature, are worthy of respect, and can each achieve enlightenment. There are some leaders but the people founding and organizing the groups are just as capable of becoming a Buddha as anyone they aided. We each exist as a bodhisattva, on the path to enlightenment and striving to bring others along with us. How beautiful is it to be surrounded by people who want what's best for themselves just as much as they want the same for you?
SGI members chant Daimoku as a large part of their practice as it calls forth our inner potential to reach Buddha status. There is a founding faith that all people are worthy of respect and humans have an equal right to dignity. There is no set path to enlightenment, nor can anyone do it alone, and I see that as a close parallel to living with Type 1. Enlightenment would be ultimate well-being, and we are all able to achieve such health while existing with the same amount of potential, Is it possible? The belief is yes. Is it easy? Heck, no. Are there levels along the way to reaching perfect health? There sure are! Buddhism is a very encouraging religion and phrases a lot in the positive, which my psychology-minded self appreciates. It's not about "you HAVE to be perfect, there's no other option" or "don't mess up or else terrible things will happen" the way some religions focus on sin and how we are not worthy of a deity's acknowledgement.
Buddhism is also blissfully impartial to given circumstances and rather emphasizes the way that you can succeed on your journey. It also supports counterdependence, where we all share a common goal and the way to get anywhere is by helping others to do the same. While we can work together to great a greater community, remember no one can create your happiness except for YOU. You have the power to be the greatest you possible, no one else can do that.
The teachings of the Buddha have the sole purpose to alleviate suffering by valuing positive mindsets and actions more than our attachments. If we let go of our wants to HAVE and CONTROL, then our mind will find peace and a pure mind will become enlightened. This is a bit tricky because we do indeed need things and want control but I think on a subtler level, if we focus on what's in our hearts and not the noise of the outside world, then we can be better in touch with our own health and improve upon our individual process.
So be a Diabetic Buddhist: Free yourself from harmful actions and words, be mindful of your own thoughts and feelings (both emotional and physical), do right by others, and be a creator of good. Whether you're a monk in Tibet or a Type 1 warrior in Minneapolis, these are words that we can find as anchors to our often tumultuous situations. Love is possible if we first understand, so by quieting our minds and understanding ourselves, we are able to recognize the quality of life we are capable of.
Acknowledge what is weighing you down and meditate on ways to find freedom.
Reach out to others and help all you encounter.
Show yourself compassion, you are deserving.
Believe the good you do will be returned to you by the universe.
Be present for all the moment is worth.