Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Stimming as Spiritual Practice

In Autism and the God ConnectionWilliam Stillman correlates “autistic repetitious activities — which can increase serotonin production leading to states of altered consciousness — with identical activities deliberately engaged for spiritual gratification by those of religious standing: Gregorian chants, reciting the Rosary, the ecstasies of the whirling Sufi dervishes, shamanic drumming ceremonies, and the rhythmic rituals of certain tribes. It is incongruent that such spiritual repetition equals mantra, but autistic repetition equals stimming.”

Following up on my post from last week, Autism as Meditation, I invite you to view the two videos linked below. Consider how our ideas about what we are seeing and hearing define it as spiritual practice or disorder.

Whirling to Touch the Divine

“Whirling is a way to reconnect with a deeper nature inside ourselves,” announces the speaker in the video linked below.

Sufi Whirling

Autistic Girl Spinning

When autistic children spin, it is “obsessive-compulsive behavior.”  An undesirable stim.  Just plain weird.

Autistic Girl Spinning Beauty

It’s all how you look at it.

If you are noticing that you have beliefs about your autistic or neurodiverget child that you want to change, here’s how.

1.  Make a list of what you believe about your child (or yourself.) You may include items such as:

  • My life will always be difficult (with this child).
  • My child does a lot of really weird stuff.
  • My child will never _______________.
  • My child always _______________.
  • I’m a bad parent (because ________________).

2.  Give each statement a validity rating on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is not true at all and 10 is very true or very intense.

This is a subjective, internal rating of the intensity of feeling you have about the truth of the statement.  When you ask yourself, “How true is this for me?” write down the number that pops into your head.
3.  Use the basic EFT recipe to begin shifting the hold these beliefs have on you.

Do a round (or more) of tapping using as many of the following phrases. Modify the statements or add your own to accommodate your own individual feelings.

  • Even though my life will always be difficult, I’m still a good person.
  • Even though my child will never ________, I can love him AND myself anyway.
  • Even though I’m a bad parent because I _________, I’m doing my best and that’s enough for now.
  • Even though my child always _________ and it’s so (frustrating, embarrassing, painful), I choose to love her and myself anyway.

4.  After a few rounds of tapping, give each statement a validity rating again.

Are your feelings less intense or more? As you tapped, did memories or feelings come up? If yes, you can continue tapping on these new feelings. If the memories or feelings are very intense, breathe deeply, imagining the breath flowing into your heart. Stop tapping if this feels right. 

5.  If the feelings are less intense, look at the statements again.

Consider how you can begin shifting your beliefs. Start small! Choose something positive and new that you can believe and that you can see relatively quickly. Perhaps you can envision your child putting on one article of clothing without protest or allowing you to place a new food on his plate. If you don’t believe that your child will get dressed easily, can you believe that there is a possibility that she will be more cooperative.

6.  Continue to believe a new impossible thing every day.

Need help changing how you see your child?

I offer a support group and coaching that shows you how. 

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Autism as Meditation

They gaze into the distance or lose themselves in focusing on some object. Their concentration is intense without being strained. Sometimes, they make strange movements with their hands as they chant the same mantra over and over. We may not understand what we see when  we watch monks in deep meditation, yet we are awed. Why then, when our autistic children engage in similar behaviors, do we despair?

  • Why won’t she look at me?
  • Why is he doing that thing with his hands?
  • Can’t she be still for a minute?
  • Why does he have to repeat the same phrase over and over?
  • It’s like she’s not even here!

In The Autism PropheciesWilliam Stillman writes “…if we always presume the competence of the person within, the non-verbal individual with autism exists in a perpetual state of meditation – always pondering, reflecting, considering, processing, and very carefully observing.”

Shifting Our Perspective

We have a strong sense of how things should be in the world. We know how people are supposed to behave. We know how children should develop.

When our children deviate from the shoulds and supposed tos, we hasten to set them back on the worn path that people have walked for millennia. It is human nature to want to fit in. Belonging to a group and demonstrating our usefulness to it was once essential to survival. Rejection from the group meant almost certain death.

Interestingly, as humanity evolved, it was not those who fit in but those who stood out that are remembered.

A Facebook friend recently posted: “Ludwig van Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Edison, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, and Vincent Van Gogh were all autistic.”

We can’t posthumously diagnose these people with autism, but one thing is certain: All those who devoted their lives to doing what everyone else did are long forgotten. We remember and venerate individuals who deviated from the norm.  In their own times, they were considered odd and eccentric. Their ideas and talents were often scorned. Today, they are recognized for their genius.

As we consider the possibility that our children’s differentness is an asset, our view of them and ourselves begins to change.

If we teach every child to focus on compassion for one hour, once a week, we could end all violence in one generation.

The Dalai Lama

It appears that our autistic and uniquely magnificent children already have this focus. We can learn from them.

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