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A friend of mine, a fellow yogini, got diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer.  Suddenly she had only a short time left, a few weeks maybe, before she would die. Her husband tried to be brave, but one day he completely lost it, drowning in his sorrow.

Mara was not a strong, emotionless person. Yet she looked at her husband and said sternly, “Control the reactive processes!” Her energy and focus remained centered and inward, from the moment of diagnosis to the moment she passed. It was remarkable.

Mara’s words are coming back to me a lot lately. We are on vacation with Joseph, which is difficult for two reasons: One, there’s no getting away from the autism, and, two, Joseph’s reactive processes are even less controlled. Just to cope he is stimmy and perseverating and going out of his way to try to get Blue Eyes and me to react.

JosephIn the past few days, as I think about controlling the reactive processes, I see that Joseph is both my greatest blessing and my biggest curse. Yogananda said,  “You must stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds,” and I think about this when, for the (I am not exaggerating) hundredth time that day, Joseph starts talking about the tracts he’ll record on his CD.

Or when he is too anxious to be alone: to sleep, to use the bathroom, to be in a room by himself, for God’s sake. Or when he does his weird autistic dance, in private or in public, contorting his body and wriggling his fingers and singing in a strange, otherworldly way.

It’s all amplified by being away from his familiar environment and I understand that, but man do my reactive processes want to react.

Part of it is the way I ‘should’ on things. A vacation ‘should’ be fun, stressless, effortless. I hear my sometimes-therapist in my head saying, “But Joseph has high anxiety and his autistic tendencies come out big time when you travel. Why would you expect anything else?”

Right. Why would I expect anything else?

What a great situation for a yogi. What a wonderful chance to watch the mind and its resistance – to smile at the struggle it creates because it’s not getting what it wants. What an opportunity to dig deeply to stay in my center, especially when the kid who knows my reactive processes intimately would like nothing better than to pull me out of it. What a joy to just stay present, letting each moment be what it is without adding shoulds, what-ifs or resistances to it. What a reminder to call on God and legions of angels for their help.

What a blessing to finally sit down, after way too long, and write a blog post.

Control the reactive processes.

God help me.

 

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Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears. ― Marcus Aurelius

Last Saturday I went to San Francisco because my best childhood friend was going to be there. It’d been fourteen years since I’d seen her, and I loved every minute of our time together.

Tamara said something that’s stuck with me. She’d read an article that pointed out how, here in western civilization, we expect life to be good, smooth, easy. Thus we are disappointed and upset when something goes badly or not as planned. What if, the article suggested, we adopted the more eastern view that, essentially, life is full of struggle and suffering? Then we could be pleasantly surprised about the good things that happen, rather than bitter and distressed about the bad.

(I was pleased to find that the girl who was my best friend at the tender age of six was probably a wise soul, given that, forty-some years later, she was pondering this sort of thing.)

So your kid gets a diagnosis of autism. Instead of plunging into despair, denial and depression, you think: “Of course. This fits nicely into the struggle that is life.”  And on you go.

My friend, Jaquelyn, loves her pottery class. The running theme in her class is wabi-sabi, a Japanese phrase meaning flawed perfection. Jaquie might be forming a bowl when, at some point, she finds a crack or an inconsistency somewhere. “That’s the wabi-sabi,” she’ll say. The class agrees that the flaw only adds to the beauty of each creation.

And so it is with Joseph. When it gets difficult, I am now more accepting that it’s supposed to be. The challenges Joseph presents fit perfectly into the struggle of life. Joseph and his autism are wabi-sabi: imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Just like the rest of us. How beautiful.

pepsi generationThis is in direct opposition to the American “It’s all good” attitude.  I blame the media for a lot of this expectation of perfection. Like the Pepsi Generation: those young, beautiful, on-top-of-the-world  people who have not only Pepsi, but everything else they’ll ever need in life. No wabi-sabi there!

Of course, one in four Americans is on anti-depressants, trying to find their own personal Pepsi Generation. Lotsa luck, guys!

Expecting life to be difficult doesn’t mean I’ve turned into Eeyore. Rather than moping about,  I find myself much happier with lowered expectations.

Rabih Alameddine says, “…What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little; only stories of events affect us.”

Want to be happier? Listen to the stories your mind tells you about how it “should” be, and see what happens when you change the stories.

Blessings!

 

 

IFJoseph turned ten yesterday. He had a wonderful day and was greatly celebrated both at home and at school. This morning he came into our room in a grumpy mood. With deep feeling he said, “I want it to be my birthday again today!”

Wouldn’t it be nice to be greatly celebrated every day? In this spirit, I am working on seeing what’s good about the people in my life and acknowledging that to them. I have a friend who, when her husband comes home in the evening, says, “Thanks for going to work today.” A small thing, but a big small thing. I think about how I would feel if I got thanked for making the dinner or doing the dishes or just for who I am. I want to notice those things in others. There is, after all, so much good in people — in the world in general. If we have the eyes to see.

When Joseph was little, I used a Halloween analogy to explain God. You know how people dress up in all kinds of costumes on Halloween? I’d ask. Well, every day is Halloween to God. God dresses up like you and me and every single person in the world. God dresses up as light, as color, as sound, as plants, as animals. And the trick is to see God through those disguises, because s/he is right there!

When you gaze out at the ocean, Yogananda said, You will be looking directly at me, United with my Beloved on the altar of the horizon.

God even dresses up as autism. It’s not God’s best look, to my way of thinking, but nonetheless there He is. When I look beyond the veil of flapping and tantrums and lack of eye contact, I see Her. I don’t know why God chose this particular costume, but why not? God is, if nothing else, playful and mysterious.

The divine play, the yogis say. The lila. When we celebrate the lila and the many costumes of God, then we are able to see God behind the whole adventure.

Spirituality to me means having a joyous spirit. I don’t know about you, but I am at my most joyous when I remember who is throwing the party, and when I realize that we are all merely players in a play. Then I smile inside. Then I feel that Presence within, around, everywhere. And I celebrate.

There You Go Again

~ by Adyashanti

Ever since I stepped out of imagination
and into the heart of things
I have become so much less spiritual.

Heaven, hell and earth
hold no meaning for me anymore.
For I am neither coming
nor going, nor staying put.

All I do is notice all the various ways
that Light weaves itself into dreams.
When someone asks me who they are,
or what God is…
I smile inside and whisper to the Light:
There you go again… pretending…

Wishing you a day of celebration. Because wherever you go, and whatever you encounter, God is.

All things in this world are impermanent.
They have the nature to rise and pass away.
To be in harmony with this truth brings true happiness.
— Buddhist chant

The path of yoga teaches us to accept both the good and the bad with even-mindedness. We are reminded that life is like the ocean, and we learn to surf the waves as they come — big treacherous ones, tiny smooth ones, and everything in between. Identify with the unchanging ocean, the masters tell us – not with the waves. The waves – life itself, and all that transpires with it – are temporary.

I think about this not only when life is rough, but also when things are good. Like now. Joseph has suddenly shot forward in his development. Things I’d given up on are things he is now doing. Little things that are big things, like untwisting a twist-tie on a bag and then twisting it back up. Or tying his sweatshirt around his waist by himself. Starting a zipper. Calmly maneuvering his way through crowds. Riding a bike. Making a friend. Enjoying a birthday party without panicky nervousness ahead of time. Going to the big Thanksgiving gathering and leaving me to sit and watch the game with the guys.

Early on in this autism journey I learned that, according to child development, a kid cannot jump from A to Z. So if (or shall we optimistically say when) a kiddo achieves some recovery from autism, s/he has to go back to where they left off and build from there.

playing with dollsI wonder if that’s what’s happening as I watch Joseph play with dolls. In the past dolls have figured a teeny tiny bit in his play, like a random person on a train, but the important thing has been the train rather than the person. Now the play centers around dolls and dialog. Oh, they do some interesting things, like go for rides in shoes, but the most important thing is the interactive relationship between the people. With dolls and many other things, Joseph is playing in ways he’s never played before. And trains — the years-long obsession — are way in the background.

All of this is amazing progress. A few important things happened almost at once, and I think they helped to bring the surge about. For one, the family whose two kids stayed in our guest house for a couple of months and played with Joseph a lot. For another, a 23 yo nephew who came to stay for the last three months and took on the big brother role, like getting Joseph on skis for the first time. The social skills group Joseph is in. And his own maturing process.

Now the family is in their own home and our nephew leaves today. The social group continues and I hope and pray that Joseph’s developmental surge does, as well. But will it, without the people stimulation he’s been surrounded with lately? Sigh. The yogi part of me knows that everything is always changing, rising and falling like the waves.

So I breathe in gratitude for what is now. And I breathe out the attachment, the wanting to hold it this way. It is so not in my hands, and trying to make it mine is a sure way to make myself miserable.

After all, the God who brought all these ingredients together at the right time is the same God who is now removing some of them. If I trust in the one, it behooves me to trust in the other.

Here I am again: face to face with trust, and with the lack thereof. I know better (sometimes) than to trust my thoughts — haven’t they let me down over and over again? Even people, as lovable as they are, are subject to whims and wiles and unpredictability. So what, or who, can we trust?

In yoga we have the concept of sankalpa, which means will, purpose, or determination. It’s a way of harnessing a positive purpose, kind of like a New Year’s resolution. My sankalpa right now is that I trust the process to mold Joseph, and me, exactly as we need to be molded. I trust that God’s hand is firmly in it, and I trust God’s timing.

Then I remember. It is worth saying it twice in one little post:

All things in this world are impermanent.
They have the nature to rise and pass away.
To be in harmony with this truth brings true happiness.
— Buddhist chant

Joseph started a social skills group last week. We are calling it a playgroup but nonetheless it is a social skills group, led by a Speech Therapist named Daphne.

Joseph has been having some trouble parting from me when it’s time to go to school. It had become something of an issue, even bringing me to tears as he would cling to me outside his classroom, crying and pleading with me not to go. Picture the anxious kindergartener clinging to their parent on the first day of school, and you’ll get the picture. Except that Joseph is in third grade and it’s been happening every day this year.

This shifted recently, and the only things I can credit that to are time and the fact that I shifted, as well. I decided not to get anxious when Joseph got anxious, but to calmly kiss him, tell him I loved him and I’d see him later, and leave. This actually made a big difference, and I’ve been feeling really good about it.

So. We go to the social skills group for the first time. It’s just Joseph, Daphne, a boy named Luke, and a teenage helper. Luke’s mom stays in the waiting area, which is a very short walk from where the kids are meeting.

Joseph, however, will have none of that. I have to walk over to the room with him, which I do. Then I try my kiss-and-go approach, with the reassurance that I’ll be right in the waiting room.

Joseph will have none of that, either. Clinging, crying, embarrassed but determined, he says, “Don’t go, Mom! Don’t go! Don’t leave me!”

windowI don’t want to stay in the room with the group, so Joseph comes up with a plan: I am to sit outside the room in the hallway, facing a window that has the blinds drawn, so that he can occasionally pull the blinds aside and make sure I’m still there.

Sigh. I pull up a chair and sit in the hallway. I listen to the muffled sounds inside the room. I can’t see anything around the blinds. I am very thirsty but I don’t dare walk to the lobby for some water, in case he looks out and I am gone. I have no book, nothing to do but stare at the window for the next hour.

So I sit there and contemplate the fact of suffering.

Suffering, Gangaji says, comes from an idea we hold of being a victim. Whether it’s God we hold accountable, or circumstances, other people, ourselves or whatever, we have the idea that we’ve been wronged. Whenever we remember the wrong/s, there is thought, emotion, and momentum around it. What would happen, she asks, if we just let it go. Yes, we’ve been wronged — sometimes terribly so — but maybe it’s time to stop punishing the tormenters, even if they don’t deserve it!  She invites us to experience putting an end to victimhood and feeling joy instead of suffering, just for a change. That way, she says, if we want to go back to suffering, at least it’s a conscious choice.

So, the window seems to ask me, what’s it gonna be? Is this an hour of suffering or a chance to relax with me and enjoy some quiet contemplation?

It is tempting to feel wronged. Wronged by autism and wronged by an anxious kid who makes me sit and stare at a window for way too long. But I kind of choose the latter. I mean, it wasn’t too bad, really, sitting there for an hour. Eventually I even got someone down the hallway to bring me a glass of water.

What I’m saying is, I’m really looking at suffering and victimhood. I know that if I can work with my inner narrative, then no matter what is happening externally, I can be content. Yoga is all about living from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

It’s a funny thing, listening to Gangaji. The people who come up to speak with her are often full of suffering. They have stories of great sorrow, or mighty struggles going on in their lives. But by the end of their talk, they almost always end up laughing. Really laughing, I mean. Like they see it’s actually hilarious. Like they finally are in on the joke, and what a joke it is.

I fully expect to be staring at that window again this week. But this time I’m coming prepared. I’m bringing water, a book, and even more conscious choice. I want to laugh hilariously! I want to put an end to feeling like a victim and embrace the joy beyond the story. It is a great story — and what would I post about without great stories? — but, like the lady says, how wonderful to be conscious about whether or not one buys into the suffering.

Two days ago, Joseph and I were headed for the grocery store when he asked if we could buy him a Lunchable for the first day of school.

For those of you blissfully unaware of what a Lunchable is, suffice it to say that it is a pre-packaged, highly-processed container of “food.” Lunchables keep our children slim, healthy, and on top of their game — NOT. But they are really tasty and they include a sugary treat, so of course kids love them.

Joseph’s been feeling nervous about school, so I thought, What the heck. At least he’ll have something about his first day to look forward to. And I told him yes.

We get out of the car and walk through the parking lot. Suddenly Joseph looks at me, smiles a wicked smile, sticks his hand down his shorts and grabs his you-know-what.

This is his thing lately: Act in inappropriate ways in public for the fun of it, and also because it pushes Mom’s buttons.

So I give him a consequence. I tell him we’re not buying the Lunchable.

He is immediately reduced to tears. Can’t it be his last warning? (No — I’ve done way too many of those.) Can he have another chance the next time we go to the store? (Yes — but it doesn’t help his upset.)

Oooohhh he is upset. If I weren’t totally determined to buy my 5-lb bags of carrots for my morning juice, which I am completely out of, I would turn around and go right back to the car. As it is, I decide to drag my totally messed-up autistic kid through the store with me.

Joseph cries. He moans. He buries his head into the crook of my arm, which is where it stays for the duration of the shopping trip. Everybody looks, of course. I grab the carrots, mentally dropping all the other items on the shopping list. I drag him, sobbing and groaning, into line. Naturally, the lines are very long, but a kind woman standing at the next register comes over and asks if I want to go in front of her. Whoever you are, caring woman, may you feel the repercussions of your kindness every day for the rest of your life.

We make it to the car, carrots and all. I put on my sunglasses, start the car, and cry as I drive home. It never gets easy having a child on the spectrum.

A big part of it, I think, is that I am used to being successful. I pick an undertaking, or it comes my way. I give it a lot of thought, prayer, time and energy, and it almost always comes out well. I am good at manifesting. I am good at relationships. I am successful at generating money. I am a great yoga teacher. I am just plain good at stuff.

But I am not successful at turning my child into a normie. I have given Joseph more time, energy, thought, and prayer than everything else combined and still he is not who I want him to be.

Ha ha! Isn’t it great?!! It’s just what the yogis say: Give something your full energy and then let go of the outcome.

And it’s also just what the Buddhists say: The mind loves to compare. “This is not as good as other parents have it.” “Why does my kid have to be so different from other kids?” The comparing mind hates to come up short against anyone else. Hates it.

I get sucked into the darkness, but eventually I remember what to do. Up my meditation time so that I can calm that comparing mind and re-identify with my (and Joseph’s — and your) true nature. Add in some juicy prayer time where I can deeply let go and let God. Bring in more yoga postures, because they bliss me out. Spend time with good friends so that I can laugh and enjoy myself. And stop doing Facebook for a while.

I get in trouble when I do too much Facebook — FB, to its close friends. The comparing mind really jumps in. Photos of happy kids on happy trips with other happy kids. Posts about children who say and do amazing things. Awards the children win for being so normal and nice and good at stuff. And, of course, all the happy parents, as well.

Attachment to outcomes and a comparing mind are misery-making. Trust me, I know. So just for today, I stay in the present and allow life to be what it is.

Just for today, I tuck into my heart the words of John Milton from Paradise Lost:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.

* *

Update: In this morning’s meditation, the first lines of the 23rd psalm came to mind. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. I’ve always thought “I shall not want” was a reassurance, but perhaps it’s not! Maybe it’s a commandment. Reign in our desires; be content with what we have. The Lord is our shepherd, and so there is no reason to want for anything else.

This is the kind of thing that meditation brings up, and it is the reason I love spiritual practice! Wishing you (and me) a glorious day of not wanting.

I am reading a great book , a true story called Dying to be Me. To make a lovely long story extremely short, this woman had a near-death experience (NDE). One of her insights there was this:

I understood that I owed it to myself, to everyone I met, and to life itself to always be an expression of my own unique essence…Being inauthentic also deprives the universe of who I came here to be and what I came here to express.

She writes about the ultimate perfection of everything. She was given a choice: If she chose to die, for instance, her husband would soon follow her, and that would be perfect! On the other hand, if she chose to go back, she and her husband would work together on their passion, and that too would be perfect!

I look at Joseph and I wonder about the perfection of his autism…and the perfection of being his mother. This week has not felt like perfection. Blue Eyes just started a new building job and has been absent until bedtime, school has been doing STAR testing so the routine’s been totally different, and the teachers are trying to make up for it by plying their students with wheat and sugar. In other words, I’ve been single-mothering an off-balance, artificially hyped-up kid who, this week, melts down regularly and can hardly put two sentences together in a coherent fashion.

In meditative fashion, there is the part of me who objectively watches myself fall apart. “Huh! Interesting!” It observes. “She can’t keep it together even though she knows it’s not for real — even though she’s practiced for years staying calm on the inside no matter what’s going on externally.”

The other part of me, hooked-in emotionally, despairs for today and tomorrow. Not only tomorrow tomorrow, where he probably will once again wake up way too early and I won’t get my meditation time and he will be tired and crabby and a royal pain in the butt. I refer also to the other tomorrow: you know, fellow autism parents — the one where your grown-up autistic kid is alone, isolated, lonely, impoverished, homeless, and terribly mistreated by his/her fellow man. Yeah, that tomorrow.

Not my idea of ultimate perfection.

Anita Moorjani, the author of Dying to be Me, was living a life consumed by fear when she got cancer. After four years of fear and struggle she succumbs to death, where her “deceased” father and “deceased” best friend tell her to go back and live her life fearlessly.

I have wondered about people who have amazing NDEs: Do they ever have a bad day afterward? Anita says she has times where she feels disconnected:

When we live completely from the mind over a period of time, we lose touch with the infinite self, and then we begin to feel lost. This happens when we’re in doing mode all the time, rather than being. The latter means living from the soul and is a state of allowing. It means letting ourselves be who and what we are without judgment. Being…means that our actions stem from following our emotions and feelings while staying present in the moment.

Oh yeah. I can stop and just breathe for a moment. I tell my yoga students that one of the great things about the breath is that it’s always present — so, the moment you tune into it, you too are present. That gets you out of your crazy mind for a blessed moment, which can create a gateway into more moments of realizing our connection with the Universe — and, oh yes, even the ultimate perfection of it all.

Ram Dass talks about how we are all sandpaper for each other, smoothing out each other’s rough edges. Well, this week Joseph has been one hell of a sandpaper for me, and having my rough edges worked on has not been comfortable.

But those who get more than a glimpse of the other side come back and tell us to get out of the comfort zone. Live your life fearlessly! They say. Be totally authentic! Know that you are deeply loved and cherished, simply because you are you!

Breathing this in. Somewhere in my soul I know this is the truth. I know my son is just perfect and so is this life of mine, which gives me endless opportunities to practice profound teachings in the cold light of day.

Endless opportunities to open to the perfection of this moment. Endless opportunities to let go of fear and embrace the gift instead. To go forward in faith and security, loving and feeling loved.

Amen.

 

Our church had a fun bounce house set up for the kids this past Sunday. Us parents chatted as we watched our kids leap and tumble about. Blue Eyes and I got into a conversation with a man who told us that he had five kids: four girls and one boy.

“What I didn’t know about girls,” he said, “is that they cry so much!” I assured him that it never really stops, and we smiled together. Then he pointed out some of his girls, one of whom was standing at the entrance to the bounce house — sobbing her little eyes out. Blue Eyes patted him on the shoulder and said, “Sainthood is just around the corner for you, mate!”

I loved this man’s response.

He said, “Not me. I’m just broken all the way through.”

I’ve thought about this broken-all-the-way-through concept ever since. I mean, really, what is a saint but someone who is broken all the way through? Saints are known for their humility, for their understanding that they are not the doer. At the same time, this brokenness, this submission, allows the light to shine — bright and unhindered — right through them.

Look at Mother Theresa. As the “saint of the gutter,” she often performed the lowest of tasks. She couldn’t have done that if she wasn’t broken all the way through. Yet she could be fierce when necessary. She was one tough lady on a mission from God.

The way I see it, God breaks us in order to use us more completely. That’s why Mother Theresa, while being completely humble, was a force to be reckoned with.

Here’s one of the great things about having an autistic child: it breaks us. Not just once either, as it would if some horrific event occurred and then was over. It’s a daily, hourly, sometimes moment-by-moment breakage.

Just for a moment, imagine you’re in your soul-body looking at what you’d like to learn in your coming lifetime. Maybe it’s major doses of humility, surrender, and openness. But how to accomplish such amazing gains in one short lifetime?

“I’ve got an idea!” your guide says. “How about you have a child who relentlessly challenges you and requires constant looking after. A child who may always be a child, no matter how old s/he gets. A child who doesn’t understand social norms and so embarrasses you in public many times over. Can you imagine how much that would teach you?”

“Yeah, baby!” your soul-self says. “That’s what I’m talking about! ” And into this life you leap.

As hard as it is having this very different kid, my soul self is content. The desperate clawing — the wishing, hoping and praying that the situation was otherwise — marinates slowly with the balm of acceptance and surrender. Daily I am more broken and, when I am in the God Zone, I feel my heart getting more peaceful because of it.

Hinduism has a trinity God-head: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the creator of all of life. Vishnu preserves it, and Shiva? Well, Shiva is the destroyer.

You may ask, what is a destroyer — a God of death and destruction — doing among the top three Gods? Lord Shiva, you see, destroys all that is false within us. He destroys particularly the ego, which includes delusions, desires and attachments.

The energy of destruction associated with Lord Shiva has great purifying power. Destruction opens the path for a new creation, a new opportunity for beauty and truth.

So hip hip hooray for our autistic children who, by breaking us all the way through, destroy our false desires and illusions.

May we remember, now and then at least, that Lord Shiva’s dance of death and destruction represents the most essential goodness. May we remember, now and then, that powerful things are happening within us because of our journeys.

Lastly, may we open and surrender to that power of good — so that, as saints in the making, it may flow through us ever more freely.

Blessings.

Sometimes, just before Christmas, I go to an eight-hour meditation. It’s always a stretch, but many years ago I attended one that went beyond being a stretch to become  a nightmare.

What happened was that I sat for eight hours of meditation without being able to meditate. My mind simply would not be still. I did my pranayamas (breathing techniques). I practiced my mantra. I prayed. I worked on my kriyas. But my mind kept running on and on. There was nothing I could do to calm it down so finally I stopped trying, and spent the better part of the day just watching this crazed, obsessive, unhappy mind.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The meditation finally ended and, while everyone else filed out happy and relieved, I staggered out feeling I’d just been engaged in a long, intense battle. And I’d lost.

But as I stepped out of the temple, I received this amazing realization. It was about fear. I suddenly saw, in detail, how fear had run my entire life. I felt how fearful I was in that very moment. I realized how much power I’d given to fear, how many decisions I’d made because of fear, and how fear was in charge of me, rather than the other way around.

You know when it’s a real insight, vision, whatever, because it shifts you permanently — and this one did. Since that time, I’ve been much more observant about fear – more aware of it. I haven’t always been able to get past it, but at least I’ve had more awareness about it, and it hasn’t run me as much.

What does fear have to do with autism? Ha! Even the word autism can inspire fear in people’s hearts. I believe that there is massive collective fear around autism — especially in parents of autistic children. Certainly I have had relentless, unending fears around Joseph and his autism. Fears that wake me in the middle of the night for months on end. Fears that hurt my health. Fears that cripple me in subtle, invisible, but destructive ways.

I’ve been considering these fears lately, and have realized something more: At the end of every fear, there is a question mark.

The fear can be about anything, but for me, it’s often around autism. Perhaps I’ll be running one of my familiar fears, like this one:  “Nobody will take care of Joseph after we die.”

When I dive under the layers of this fear, or any other fear, I see the question mark hanging on the end of it. The question at the foundation of every single one of my fears is…

God, are you really here with me?

That’s it. That is the question mark hanging on the end of every fear. So I’m shifting the way I deal with fear. Now it’s not about the fear. It’s about getting to know God better. It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship. I am focusing on deepening that relationship.

It’s something of a Catch 22: If I’m fearful, I can’t trust God and therefore God can’t make Him/Herself fully known to me. But the way to truly let go of fear is to let God in. Heh heh. One of those divine ironic twists that God seems to be so fond of.

The master, Paramhansa Yogananda, says, “When the consciousness is kept on God, you will have no fears; every obstacle will then be overcome by courage and faith.”

Putting my reliance on God doesn’t mean I don’t do practical things to take care of Joseph. But it does mean that, rather than acting out of lack, I act in faith and with courage. My Father/Mother/Friend is with me, now, and besides that, there are legions of angels just waiting to be called on.

I am calling on them! I am taking God at his word these days, and I feel the shift. Because I am more aware of God, I feel more abundant in every aspect of my life. And as I become aware of how I am loved and looked after, then I know that Joseph, you, all of us are loved and cared for just as much.

God is so much bigger than any of my stupid stinking fears. I’m going to be on the lookout for those fears, and for the question marks hanging on the ends of them.

Keeping my consciousness on God is no small thing, but I think of the Warrior pose in yoga. It involves strength and focus, as well as relaxation and openness. I’m going to be that Warrior, on and off the yoga mat.

I think that fear cannot exist in the same space as pure love. So when those autism fears come up, I’ll be striking the Warrior pose, relaxing into the Love that is, and watching those question marks fade away.

At five this morning, I was awakened by the sound of Joseph coughing in his room.

Not so long ago, this would have shot a lightning bolt of adrenaline through my body. He’s awake already! my mind would say. Today is going to be a very rough day. He’ll be sleep-deprived and he’ll be out of control with autistic behaviors.

The prospect of my going back to sleep would then have been impossible.

This morning I still felt the shot of adrenaline, but it wasn’t a lightning bolt. It was a mild electric shock that came and went. I dozed a bit more, woke up and went down the granny flat where I do my spiritual practices.

When I sat for meditation, I watched the disturbance in my mind. I have set up a strong pattern of allowing Joseph to disturb my equanimity. Since awareness is half the battle, I didn’t do anything but watch closely, almost admiring how very much I’ve allowed what Joseph does and doesn’t do to affect my mind and my emotions.

Yoga talks about how much attachment and desire can take us off-balance, and that is what I was witnessing this morning. I am attached to Joseph getting sleep so that I can have a good day. I strongly desire him to not act autistic, so that I won’t be embarrassed.

There they are: attachment and desire. The root of all suffering.

Having witnessed these things, I then took my attention to the Divine.

“You know what a screw-up I am,” I said to Him/Her. “I would like to be more even-minded, but this is what’s going on right now. No sense pretending otherwise.”

My vrittis (attachments, desires) were really whipping up a storm. My mind responded by making up what appeared to be a very realistic story: What a horrible day it was going to be. We had a social occasion with NT’s (neuro-typicals) that afternoon, and Joseph was going to be a total mess because of sleep deprivation. He’d stim, scream and say loud, inappropriate things. I’d have to spend the whole time trying to calm him down and would be completely humiliated. I should probably just cancel the whole thing.

Fact is, this all used to be true. When Joseph didn’t sleep because of gut troubles, he behaved as if he was severely impaired. It was excruciating for me.

What I was experiencing wasn’t present-day stuff, though, and I knew it. But I couldn’t keep the trauma in my being from playing out, so I watched it. Fear, worry and terror washed over me in crashing waves. I stayed present to it, as best I could.

Then it was done. Some traumatized part of me had needed to be listened to, and I’d managed to listen. I landed back in my body, breathed some, prayed some, and gave God a deep pranam (bow).

It was around seven when I walked into Joseph’s room. He came down for breakfast and then said he was tired. He crawled into bed and slept for two hours. The rest of the day was great.

Last night I dreamed I was a war veteran. I don’t know much about post-traumatic stress disorder, but I wonder if I have it. No matter. I trust the process. I honor the process.

If this is how I am to let go of the past and move forward, then so be it. Bring it on, God! I am ready.

I am on a liver cleanse. I’ve done this same cleanse every year or two for the last decade, but it seems I always forget the hard part until I’m in it again.

A long time ago, I was in the habit of using food in a very destructive manner. Then I enrolled in Overeaters Anonymous, went to therapy, faced many demons, worked the 12 steps hard and, with a lot of help, made my way out.

So why is this cleanse so difficult? Because I still use food to go unconscious, but in small ways — it doesn’t run my life the way it used to. Getting very conscious about my food — and, therefore, about my child with autism and my life itself — is challenging. And my body hurts. I feel like one big, toxic mass.

But you know what? I’m going to stick it out. This is a four-week cleanse and I am on day four — which, though difficult, is nevertheless easier than day three was.

The part of me that wants to grow, that wants to be conscious, is delighted. I get to work on self-control. I get to give it to God instead of diving for the object that alleviates my awareness. I get to witness the grasping mind wanting so badly to grasp.

Do you remember that movie, Airplane? As things go from bad to worse, the pilot keeps saying things like, “Guess this was a bad day to give up alcohol,” as he downs a drink. Later it’s, “Guess this was a bad day to give up heroin,” as he shoots up.

That’s what my mind wants to do. Guess it’s a bad day to give up unhealthy food.

Ha! Not a chance, mind. This thing is bigger than both of us.

What I’d like to do in my life is focus not so much on my problems. I want to focus instead on God and the amazing grace of his/her presence in my life. Instead of the problem of autism, I want to focus on the power and profundity of parenting a child with autism…of how it’s changing me.

I gave a talk to a mothers’ group last week. I spoke with them about authenticity. I shared my challenges about raising a son with autism and I invited them to speak authentically.

It was beautiful. Lots of tears, plenty of laughter. For days afterward, in my own little life, I felt the cords of connection between me and these women I’d never met before — but who met me on such a deep level.

I was only able to be so real with them because of where this journey with Joseph has brought me. It has brought complete havoc on the person I was. It has cracked the cracks and removed the mask and brought me to my knees — which, I might add, is not a bad place to be.

Not bad at all.

So I think I’ll just stay here on my knees. Knowing God’s depth-less love for me, for Joseph, for every single one of us. Knowing that there is a plan — a soul agreement — around this journey, even if I can’t see it. Trusting that God will guide me to the next step I am to take — and that this is all I need in this moment. Meeting God where I am, toxic mass and all.

Courage. To one and to all.

I lived in a yoga community for about fifteen years. Think modernized Amish plus the teachings of Yoga, with a reverence for Christ mixed in, and you’ll sorta get the idea.

It was an awesome experience. There was a period of about six months where three of us met every morning and meditated, in the temple, for three hours. That evening we’d meditate another hour. The fabric of my life was different during that time: I saw the Divine in every stitch.

Eventually the phase of living in community ended — but my meditations, my inner life, continued. For most of my adult life, meditation has been my rock, my spiritual nourishment. It’s where I’ve received guidance, gleaned insights, got upliftment and inspiration.

Now I don’t meditate much. Joseph is quite psychic, like many kids with autism, and he is tuned into me big-time. 95% of the time I wake up in the morning and, within two minutes, Joseph wakes up. And no, we do not sleep in the same room. And no, I don’t move – just lie there, awake, with my eyes closed. And, still, it happens. So I don’t get my morning meditation time. And in the evenings I’m tired as anything.

I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that for reasons I don’t understand, God would have me not meditate too much in this phase of my life. I miss it. A lot.

And yet, I also find the gifts that God lies scattered around, like small jewels reflecting the sunlight. I work more on being present now, and on feeling God’s love within me no matter what I do or where I go. The veil of what is and isn’t spiritual is fading before my eyes, and I see how the inner life flows into the outer life and vice versa.

I notice I’m becoming more sensitive, in a spiritual way. I feel people thinking about me more often and, when I check in, that’s what’s happening. I feel darkness around people — or light. I give massage on occasion and I now notice so much about someone  just from how they lie on my table, from the way they breathe, from how they hold their muscles.

I am feeling my intuition muscle growing and developing. I am depending on it more than I ever have before, and it is holding its own. For example, many people who knew and worked with Joseph, including Blue Eyes, didn’t want him to go to kindergarten, but I knew it would be ok. And it is.

I am really leaning on my intuition about John, our new RDI consultant, at the moment. The feeling I’m getting is that he sees the world only through autism lenses and, therefore, he doesn’t see Joseph clearly. But I’m willing to wait and make sure my intuition is right before taking any steps to change/end our relationship.

It is great to be growing in these ways. And I still miss my deep inner life. Oh, I do I do I do. But there is a time for everything, and this is my time to have dishwashing meditations rather than temple meditations.

I heard once that the deep yearning to feel God’s presence is as sweet to God as someone having regular sadhanas (practice). I am counting on that!

I am still astounded at how much anxiety and trauma lie within me from the early years with Joseph. A couple of nights ago I had nightmares all night long: Joseph laughing and running down the hallway in the middle of the night when he should be sleeping; Blue Eyes making too much noise and waking Joseph up; that sort of thing. I felt my overwhelming frustration, anxiety and rage about it all.

I tossed and turned, and woke up about five times that night. In the morning, I discovered I’d left my Xanax on the bathroom counter instead of taking it the previous evening.

Yes, Ms. Spiritual has resorted to Xanax in the last years to get her though the night. It helps me to keep my hold on sanity. I think I have post-traumatic-stress-disorder.

Everyone always talks about the compassionate Buddha. I think the Buddha was/is compassionate because he lived so many lives. Therefore, he understood what everybody goes through. I know I am so much more compassionate than I used to be. I honor people’s journeys — and whatever ways they find to handle their challenges — so much more than I used to.

There is, perhaps, nothing profound in this post, but sometimes it’s just nice to sit back and have a look around. A state of the state address, if you will.

When your kid gets an early diagnosis of autism, one of the questions that looms in front of you — that wakes you up at night and ruins your meditations and taunts you for never doing enough to “fix” your kid — is this:

Can my kid make it in a mainstream classroom?

Making it in a mainstream class stands for so much: normality first and foremost, and functionality, and competence, and capability — to say the least. There is a lot riding on making it in a mainstream classroom.

But, having been in mainstream kindergarten for three days now, it looks like it really stands for a lot of other things. Things like following directions, sitting still, watching the teacher, raising hands, answering questions, working on your own, working with others, and speaking only when spoken to.

I’m going to hazard a guess that, eventually, Joseph will be able to do most or all of these things. In only a few days he is already getting the routine, learning to raise his hand and pay more attention to the teacher. The aid stands over him and works with him constantly, and he is learning a lot from her.

So I’m supposed to feel happy — aren’t I? It’s kindergarten. It’s not just the ideas about the thing, but the thing itself. And it looks like Joseph will be okay at it.

But here’s one other thing:

One of the yamas that yoga discusses is ahimsa, which translates into English as nonviolence. The obvious practice of ahimsa is not killing, hurting or maiming other creatures. But ahimsa can take place on very subtle levels —  including the practice of not harming another person’s enthusiasm.

And as I watch the teacher and the aid shushing the kids yet again, or telling a kid (usually a boy) to sit back down, or to keep their eyes on their paper, or to put the pencil down and wait, or to scoot up to the table, or whatever, I feel, well, torn.

I mean, of course the kids need to learn their manners and discipline and the art of listening. But “eyes on the teacher” doesn’t mean they’re actually watching. And “pencils down” when they’re quietly doing something fun and creative just seems wrong. When did we get so controlling and conformist?

There is another special needs kid in the room. She has been told what to do so much that you can see she just wants to explode. She is just barely holding it in. Some of the kids — boys, in particular — look so bored. Is this Joseph’s eventual fate: suppression and boredom? Is this what we’ve worked so hard for him to do?

It’s interesting to see the difference between what RDI teaches (“Oops! You forgot something!”) and what they do at school (“Remember to push your chair in!”). RDI wants the kids to observe, to reference, to think for themselves. The school? They want the kids to push their chairs in.

Certainly Joseph can learn to follow orders and to do things “right.” That’s not usually a high-functioning autistic kid’s problem. Can they — will they — slow down and let him figure something out by himself? Can they — will they — encourage him to pretend? Can they — will they — scaffold him during recess, when he doesn’t know how to interact with the other kids?

I don’t want a teacher who just controls and instructs. I want a teacher to fall in love with my kid’s potential.

I’m being harsh. I’m being Mother Bear, up on my hind legs, feeling protective of my cub.

Let’s start again: Joseph is in kindergarten. He likes it! He told me today that he’s got a new girl he loves (he loved someone at preschool). The other kids seem open to him. What surprises me is that quite a few other kids have special needs, too — though not autism — and he fits in a lot better than I expected. He is adjusting. He is hungry to learn. He keeps bragging about the fact that he’s in kindergarten now.

So the problem lies not with Joseph. It’s me who is having existential angst. And maybe, after a year or two, when Joseph can go without an aid, we can transfer him to one of the more alternative schools around. One that helps his mind to blossom, exercises his body and nourishes his soul.

God willing.

Just now I laid by my son as he fell asleep. I turned to watch him as his eyes closed and his breath evened out to sweet, rhythmic ebbs and flows. I felt such love in my heart for this amazing soul, and deep gratitude for the very difficult but profound journey we’ve had with him.

In some self-growth group I was in — can’t even remember which now — we used to say, “Trust the process.”

That’s it, isn’t it? Trust the process. Trust the journey. Trust God.

Trust.

Not ideas about the thing, but the thing itself applies not only to kindergarten. For me, in my journey, in my life right here and right now, it needs to also be applied to trust.

Not ideas about trust, but trust itself.

*title originally created by the poet Wallace Stevens

I love our meditation group. Every Tuesday night, friends — old and new — come over to join in meditation together.

We started it a year ago and it was a huge stretch, given that we were exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually from our journey with Joseph. One of the biggest obstacles was that I didn’t feel I had the energy to get the house clean every week — much less have any spiritual clarity or inspiration to share.

But here’s the thing: it wanted to happen. So I got out of the way and let it happen. Now I find that it’s easy to keep the house up. Instead of having to clean for three hours because we invited friends over, I just run the vacuum cleaner over the rug and say, “Come on over!” A kept-up house is an easy house to keep up. Wish I’d discovered that years ago!

And the energy has come. At first we were simply exhausted every Tuesday night. But something’s shifted in the last year, and now all three of us look forward — with energy — to sharing our Tuesday nights with fellow devotees.

This last Tuesday, I got inspired by a loyal member of our meditation group: our cat, Ollie. Ollie, like all members of his species, has perfected the art of deep relaxation, and this is what he was practicing while the rest of us meditated. At some point I heard him heave a deep SIGH of contentment — the kind of sound you make when you’re slipping even more deeply into rest, when you’re surrendering perfectly.

I immediately imitated Ollie, heaving a deep SIGH and just letting go into the Light. More and more in my meditations there is a part where I simply rest in God, and Ollie providentially reminded me to do that.

It was, in a word, Divine.

Sweet rest. Sweet letting go. Sweet, sweet surrender. I am remembering to lay down my burdens and be who I truly am: a child of God. I lay my head in Divine Mother’s lap and allow her to cradle me. It nourishes me on a deep level.

I’ve been thinking about the concept of holding lately. We hold others in prayer; we hold them in our thoughts; we hold them in our hearts; we hold them in the Light.

A lot of people have held me in the last four years, since getting the autism diagnosis. Some were old friends, some were family; some were new people who showed up, I believe — professionals and new friends — just to hold us through our struggles.

It’s been so intense. Words cannot express. Sometimes life hits you so hard that you can’t stand up by yourself. I never could have made it without being held. I am eternally grateful to those who did the holding — and to God, who held me up through them.

I listened to a pastor speak recently. He told about a dreadful tragedy that befell him where he and his beloved wife got into a car accident. She was killed. He went in and out of consciousness, but finally woke up for real in the hospital. At that point he was told about his wife’s death.

The pastor said that the first thing he realized was that, as tragic as the situation was, God was in it. And that this God was the same God that had been there before the accident.

So powerful. And so true of all of it — the whole journey — mine, yours, everybody’s. God is in it. This is what I held onto when it took all my strength to get out of bed in the mornings. This is what kept me going when I felt so hopeless about Joseph. This is the concept I clung to even when I didn’t feel its truth anywhere near me.

Now, with Joseph making almost daily progress, with sleep happening for him and for me, with a beautiful, supportive group of people to meditate with, I feel grateful. And humble.

What a life. What a journey.

Thank you, God, for being in it.

I grew up in a determinedly non-religious, Jewish family. I believe that I always felt God’s whispers in my heart, but I didn’t know what to do with them. In my college years, as I experimented with various drugs, my longing began to emerge more fully.

How I wanted a spiritual teacher. I remember one night, looking up into the stars, beseeching the heavens for that person who would teach me about spiritual matters, who would help me to know God.

That was the first time I ever got an answer from the Universe. It was: wait.

I was both terribly depressed and absolutely thrilled that Someone, Something had responded to my call. And I waited. And I watched.

When I finally found that my path was an inner one of meditation and a more universal view of God, I dove in headfirst. Things were rosy and exciting. Many times I felt God’s quiet, inner presence guiding me or loving me. And I loved her back.

Then I got an email from my best childhood friend. Her brother, Daniel Pearl, was the reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped in Afghanistan. The Pearls had taught me all I knew about the Jewish religion and our families had been very close for a while. I had watched while the Pearl children went to Hebrew school. I celebrated Passover and Sabbath with them. They are exceptional, talented people who live their lives with integrity.

After Danny was brutally murdered, I had to process through all the grief and horror just like everyone else who’d known him and loved him. And one of the discoveries I made was that I had a belief that ran like this:

If I do everything right, God will leave me alone.

Leave me alone in the respect that He won’t do anything horrible to me, in that tragedy won’t touch my life too terribly. But when I saw what happened to the Pearls, knowing that they “did everything right,” I realized that the game was much bigger than I thought.

So, I asked myself, why do I even try to connect with God if she won’t take care of me, won’t  play nice with me?

Ultimately I came to the fact that I am a part of God. I cannot separate from him no matter how he treats me, and I will always want to connect more deeply for the same reason a wave always melts back into the sea.  We are one.

But this God figure is tough. She is not only awesome; she is awful. It is the awful grace of God that one runs into in one’s life,  once or twice or more often – depending on what kind of lifetime you’re having.

The Goddess Kali, from the Hindu tradition, personifies this tough aspect of God. Ma Kali is a black-skinned Goddess who wears a garland made of 52 skulls and a skirt made of dismembered arms. In two of Her hands, She holds a sword and a freshly severed head that is dripping blood. She can appear to be wrathful and terrifying.

I knew an Indian man who was an ardent follower of God as Kali. He prayed to her constantly, worshipped her daily, constantly asked her to appear to him. For around 25 years he never stopped asking to see her in form. He longed, he wept, he pleaded to see her for himself.

Well, one day as he was praying he looked up, and there she was. Do you know what he did when the object of all that longing was finally there, right in front of him?

He screamed in terror and ran.

The Goddess Kali can do this to people.

Since autism entered my life, I have felt Kali as a constant companion. Her ferociousness has blown me away. Her willingness to sever my ego is enough to make me scream with pain.

And yet. Kali is said to be a most compassionate mother because she provides moksha, or liberation, to her children. She is the destroyer of unreality. When the ego sees Kali it trembles with fear because the ego sees in her its own eventual demise.

Underneath all the scary parts of Kali is the loving Mother, who is sweet, affectionate, and overflowing with incomprehensible love for Her children.

At this point in the autism journey, I can see both these sides of Kali. I am amazed at how surgically precise she is at removing my illusions, and how willing she is to do so — without anesthesia, I might add — for my own good.

But I am not so scared of her anymore. A few years wrassling with one’s opponent can build up, perhaps not friendship, but most certainly respect. Mostly now I feel her when, for example, the pangs of wanting a neurotypical kid get strong – when I feel I missed out on most of the fun of raising a child. I hear her laugh when I indulge in self-pity.

And I have come to trust her. God, in the form of Kali, is tough. The epitome of tough Love, if you will. But fire, while searing, is also purifying. Sometimes now, in that roaring fire, I will feel her love. I will know that the Mother is with me, tenderly looking out for my highest spiritual potential.

So, I have learned, it’s most certainly not about doing everything right in order to avoid the Big Lessons from the Big Guy. What a relief to give up on that one.

It’s about learning to surrender into that which is hammering at you, learning to see with clarity beyond the illusions in front of you — and, most importantly, to really, really know that it’s all being done out of Love. We came from Love, we will go back to Love, and Love is here and now, always, always.

In my journey, it’s required tough love to bring on an experience of true love. Such is the dance of spirituality and autism.

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone. Joseph (and, therefore, Joseph’s family) has been dealing with anxiety issues once again.

Sirens are very hard for Joseph. He can take other really loud noises but there’s something about the combination of  loud sirens combined with the thought of ambulances, fire trucks and other vehicles rushing to an emergency that just freaks him out.

A friend and her boy came over the other day. We took a walk over to a bus stop that was a little further away, in order to give the boys some exercise. Then we caught the bus into town, which is something that the boys love to do.

But on the walk over, we heard siren after siren after siren. Just when we thought it was done, another would start up. Poor Joseph. The only way he can cope is to stop whatever he’s doing and cover his eyes until it’s over. Not his ears, mind you (we couldn’t actually see the rescue vehicles), but his eyes.

So, as the sirens wailed nearby, my friend turns to me and says, “It’s almost like it’s on purpose!”

It feels that way sometimes. Like God is up there saying, “Let’s turn the heat up for little Joseph and see if he can take it.”

Covering his eyes when he’d actually be a lot better off covering his ears. It makes me think about everything we do in order to feel safe.

Just a few days ago, I heard President Obama say that the primary job of the government is for the protection and safety of its people; that’s why we’re at war. I think about all the insurance we buy in order to feel secure; the “safe” places we put our money; the fact that we create a nest egg at all. We wear armor, physically (for snowboarding, skate boarding, etc.) and psychically (keeping people at an emotional arm’s distance). We buy nice houses in good neighborhoods — sometimes behind locked gates. We take our Xanax and our homeopathy. We say our mantras and our prayers.

I once met a woman who’d lost 100 pounds. She said that the hardest thing about it was that now people stood closer to her. She didn’t have that physical fortress around her, keeping them away.

Safety. Amazing what we’ll do for it.

My little boy doesn’t feel safe at times. More than most. Toward the end of his school day he frets, sometimes panics, about whether or not his mom will really come to get him. Dogs are a constant terror. Crowded new places are no bed of roses, either.

It’s the limbic system, where the rational part is not calming down the primitive part of the brain. How do you battle something like this?

Two things work a little. One is called approach and study. So there’s a dog up ahead. I take Joseph’s hand, we stop and I say, “Oh look, there’s a big dog over there. Do you think he looks friendly (I am trying to teach him dog body language)?”

If Joseph doesn’t immediately panic about the dog’s presence, we can talk about the wagging tail and the ears up and the dog’s general demeanor. Theoretically, we can then edge up a bit closer and study some more, but we haven’t gotten to that point yet.

However. We do have friends with a mid-sized dog, and we have graduated from the dog being banned outside when we visit to the dog being held on our friend’s lap to Joseph actually touching his tail on our visits.

And that’s the second thing that helps a little: repetition. Over and over we visit this dog, Miles. Over and over we talk about how sweet Miles is, and again and again we bring Joseph over to get to know him.

That’s our little anxiety/safety issue, but I’ve been thinking about safety on a larger scale, too, and I’ve come to one undeniable conclusion:

NO ONE IS SAFE.

Our community is being rocked right now because a sweet 8 year-old girl was in a car accident last week. Her skull is fractured, she’s in a coma, and she’s got titanium rods in her legs. Will she survive? If she does, will she be brain damaged? Nobody knows.

This is a family that, two weeks ago, I would have envied a bit. Loving parents who got to raise a nice, neurotypical girl.

But sometimes everything we do to be safe just evaporates. Our very foundation is whipped away, and we have nowhere to stand. It’s terrifying.

Unless and until we realize that we are in the hands of God, and that is that. We can do all this stuff to feel safe, but the truth is it’s not our business: it’s God’s.

And this leads me to another undeniable conclusion:

EVERYONE IS COMPLETELY AND ABSOLUTELY SAFE.

Why? Because God is holding us all in His loving arms.

What is the biggest fear? Death. We tell Joseph that death is going home to God and, deep in my being, I know that this is true. Going home to the Source of unconditional love, light, and peace. How unsafe is that? And we don’t have to wait ’til we die to access this Source. It’s available here, now, always.

Here’s the part we don’t get: though life on this planet feels very unsafe, there is an invisible, intangible cable connected to us.

God’s got our backs.

I wonder sometimes how differently I would live if I really, truly got that, in every fiber of my being. That I was safe. That God, in Her depthless love, was always with me, protecting me, caring for me. Would I be lighter, feel freer, see the humor in what is now only viewed with fear?

How about Joseph — how differently would he live if he could get that he is truly safe, on every level?

I suppose it is a question we could all ask ourselves. And then, when we feel that safety, we could focus more on the invisible cable that connects us to God than on the jump (or, let’s face it — the push) off whatever cliff’s edge we’re currently teetering on.

Joseph is doing some quantum leaps at the moment. The way we can most see it is in his drawing. You see, his coloring has been mostly squiggles and blobs and blurs, which he has interpreted as trains or thunder or some other objects.

But the other day, in preschool, his amazing teacher taught him how to draw faces. She got a mirror out so that he could look at his own face, and she had him look at hers as well. They figured out together that there are two eyes toward the top, a nose in the middle, and a mouth underneath.

And now Joseph draws face after face, with bodies, legs and feet, too! It’s an exciting step in development. One of my friends, who hadn’t seen him in perhaps a month, couldn’t believe the changes when she saw him yesterday. So hurray! for progress.

We were driving home from the store the other day when Joseph said, “There’s another silver Matrix!” Sure enough, right in front of us was the exact same make, model and color car that we drive.

I started waxing philosophically to Blue Eyes. Maybe that’s me in a parallel universe, I said. Maybe that me has a neurotypical kid. I wonder how she is different from this me?

So, Yoga Mother with the neurotypical child, how are we different? Have you had to learn patience as well as I have, repeating the simplest thing endlessly in the hopes that your child will one day grasp it? Have you tasted the humility of your child being different, being disabled, of your child (and, therefore, you) not fitting in when you’ve desperately wanted him (and you) to? What is it like to not have been imprisoned in walls of isolation — walls we are only now really breaking out of?

Most importantly, other Yoga Mother, I want to know what your spiritual life is like.  Have you experienced drowning in your own delusion — in stress, anxiety, hopelessness — the way I have?  Have you ultimately come to the knowing that God gives it all to us — that S/He weighs it out, measures it, makes sure it’s just right, and then sends it along — even if we never really understand why?

I think, other Yoga Mother, that the spiritual difference is probably the greatest difference between us. It’s not that you aren’t spiritual; it is the most important part of your life. But you haven’t been tested the way I have, and so you haven’t been forced to dig more deeply than you ever thought possible. You haven’t been broken open the way I have, so you haven’t experienced the same magnitude of comfort, grace, and simply the presence of Almighty Spirit with you every infinitesimal step of the way.

Would I trade with you, Yoga Mother of a neurotypical child? Yes. No. In a minute. Never.

Guess I’m not ready to answer that question. 😉

I have a friend who has recently turned 60. She says that, when you look back from that vantage point, everything that’s happened makes sense. She’s had some whopping challenges in her life — so, coming from her, this was no light observance.

And that is where I end today’s post: with trust. Trust that this journey is my journey. I wasn’t meant to be in that other silver Matrix. This road may have some incredible bumps, but it’s my road, my journey. So I bless you, other Yoga Mother, and let you go your way while I, with trust, an open heart, and the grace of feeling God all around me, go mine.

It’s Joseph’s screaming that gets me more than anything else. Or maybe it’s his screaming on top of major sleep deprivation — for both of us.

I mean, I understand that regression is part of moving forward for ASD kids — and even, in less extremes, for all kids. But just now it seems that we’re spending equal time in both departments. And I’m getting bloody tired of regression.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to feel that your kid is — after years of hard, non-stop work — recovering from autism: looking you in the eye, speaking with you, sharing his inner world with you — and then to have him fade away again before your very eyes?

Actually, “fade away” doesn’t do it justice. He’s screaming. He’s barking like a dog until late in the night and early in the morning. He’s fixated on certain things, like our cat’s comings and goings. And he’s very, very anxious.

So I’m not sleeping well and I’m feeling pretty anxious myself. As a long-time yogini, I give myself a really hard time about not being able to stay even-minded through these things. And then I give myself shit about giving myself shit. I mean, why can’t I lay off myself and have a human experience sometimes? Why do I have to be Super Yogi all the time?

Maybe it’s time to get my father’s critical voice out of my head. But we’ll save that subject for another blog.

Blue Eyes wanted to leave early for work this morning. I told him he needed to stay because I was going to abuse this kid if I was left alone with him.

It’s not true in the legal sense — certainly I wouldn’t have hurt him physically. But emotionally I was ready to break down and scream right back, say some things I’ve never said and, God willing, never will say. Things like wishing sometimes that he’d never been born or how sick I am of his autism — that kind of thing.

I’ve taught yoga and meditation for 20+ years, and so have probably told people thousands of times to breathe. But sometimes it is just hard to breathe. And if you can’t breathe some of those full, deep, renewing breaths, then your mind and body are both really tense. That’s where I was this morning.

After I dropped Joseph off at preschool, I drove to a nearby trail and took a walk. I walked fast, for two reasons: I had pent-up energy to expend, and I knew it would force me to breathe.

So there I was, walking up a hill, breathing (finally), and suddenly I remembered: it’s all stories.

It’s all stories! The mind makes ’em up like crazy. Especially when we panic. And if we believe the crazy, anxious mind making up wild, horrible stories that very likely won’t come true, then we go into a downward spiral. Anxiety, crazy thinking, scary stories, anxiety, crazy thinking, scary stories.

I am discovering (again and again and again and again) that the answer to everything is this: BE PRESENT. Even more fun, be present with an open heart. Feel the Divine presence, look for it, listen to it, and know that guidance and help are here. Now.

So this blog’s title, In Search of: Serenity, is a catch-22. If you’re in search of something, it means you don’t have it. It is something you have to obtain, procure, acquire somehow.

When I am present, when I let go of the stories, then serenity is who I am. There is no need to go anywhere or to do anything to get it.

Right now I have an easier space in which to be present and open. In a few hours I will pick up Joseph and it will probably be more of a challenge (or so says my mind). Well, I’m going to practice now, while it’s easier, and we’ll see what happens when it does.

The very nature of life is impermanent. I am playing the  role I have chosen and Joseph is playing the role he has chosen.  It won’t last forever; it is only now and now and now.

Peace.

family Are you like me in that you wonder about this immense and growing epidemic of autism? Why is it happening? I mean, besides our toxic environment and the unsafe amounts of vaccinations and gut-destroying medications that are administered to our children?

My ears perked up when someone asked Byron Katie, the spiritual teacher, about the massive increases in autism. Her take on it is that these kids are a metaphor for us: living in a fog, in their own blurry world. She said that they are reminding us to look at our own fog; they are serving as a mirror to the rest of us.

This brings us to yoga. Yoga is defined in many ways, but I think I will satisfy every devotee if I say that, simply put, it is the path of waking up. It also applies to Buddhism:  Shortly after his enlightenment, for instance, a couple of his friends asked the Buddha what had changed for him. He replied, simply, “I am awake.”

Another word for this awakened state is superconsciousness — a higher, clearer awareness, one that transcends our usual modus operandi. The opposite of living in a fog.

I’ve been pondering the connection of autism to my own personal state of consciousness – or unconsciousness, depending on the moment.

I haven’t always lived consciously. There were some painful things that happened in my childhood, and my favored way of coping was to live subconsciously. As a teenager I discovered how eating vast amounts of wheat made everything blurry (Surprise! My kid is allergic to gluten!), and I used it extensively to numb myself.

What followed, of course, were various legal and illegal substances and behaviors — all done with the mostly unacknowledged desire to not be present. I could go into detail, but chances are that you have your own version of having been there and done that.

By some grace, I started waking up in my early twenties, and my path became one of continued awakening. As the years went by I found great joy in being present, in having a calm, clear mind, in connecting to my heart and to the Sacredness in everything and everyone. I stayed away from those addictions that brought down this awareness.

Then we got Joseph’s diagnosis: autism. I remember telling a friend that, upon hearing the diagnosis, I developed an insatiable craving for chocolate. She kindly went and got me a number of chocolate kisses, which I consumed very quickly.

It was HARD to be present to such a painful thing. If you haven’t been there, you can’t possibly relate; if you have, I don’t need to tell you. I slid quickly down into a depression, which started a negative cycle between Joseph and me: I slid down, he regressed, which made me slide more, which made him regress more.

People started telling me I needed to go on antidepressants. If one person says it, fine, but it started coming from different sources: friends, neighbors, a therapist.

I pondered it and asked inwardly for guidance. The thought of not being able to feel so deeply — of having a bit of numbness to help me cope — was deliciously tempting.

Let me say right here that I strongly believe there are times when antidepressants are appropriate. For some people. it is right at this juncture: shortly post-diagnosis.

But I went to hear a local spiritual teacher speak. I chose her particularly because she has a pair of brain-damaged twins, so I figured she’d understand where I was coming from.

After she gave a talk, she invited questions. From my pain, I spoke of Joseph’s diagnosis and my well-meaning friends’ advice to go on antidepressants. I asked her opinion.

This woman does not beat around the bush. She said that, for me, antidepressants would take away the growth I could gain from this experience.

It was what I needed to hear. Once again, I chose the painful path of being present.

You know what? She was right. I find that so much of parenting Joseph is about being present with him. It is transforming to open to the amazing person he is.

When I am present I find that, underneath all of our roles, labels and superficialities, we are simply two souls, two hearts dwelling in Love.

And that is what I mean by superconsciousness. Parenting Joseph is really not about autism, nor is it about recovering from autism. It’s about both of us recovering ourselves and awakening to who and what we are: spiritual beings having a human experience.

On some soul level we chose this path – Joseph with autism and me as his mother. Where is the learning, the dance, the joy in it? How can we grow and play with it?

It is only my resistance that makes it painful. While I can’t always stop myself from resisting the autism, I can always step back and watch my thoughts. I can watch the resistance and see how it stops me from being present, from enjoying the gifts of the moment. How, to be specific, it makes me miserable.

Then I can breathe and start again. Open to the present moment. Ask for help. Let my heart do the seeing instead of my mind. Escape, but not to a lower place — to a place of higher awareness.

Another thing Byron Katie said regarding autism was: don’t wait until your child is better to love him or her unconditionally. Do that now. This seems to be what the Universe is asking us to do. Now.

Before I got pregnant, I prayed for a spiritual teacher in the flesh. I guess you could say I got what I prayed for.

The path of awakening is not for spiritual cream puffs. It is the samurai sword of slashing away what doesn’t serve one’s highest awareness. It will never look the way your mind and ego want it to.

I don’t know why autism is such an epidemic. I do know that the ego seeks the way of ease. The soul, on the other hand, seeks to grow. Every autism parent I know is having their rough places, their unconscious spots, blasted away by this experience.

I hate to say it — but on the soul level, what more could we ask for?

picnic in the parkWhen I was a teenager, I did the est training. I remember that the trainer spoke about the uselessness of hope. To demonstrate, he held up his car keys and said, “Hope that these keys don’t fall.” Then, of course, he dropped his keys to the ground. Hope doesn’t work, does it? I saw the proof with my own eyes.

Looking back, I see what a disservice that was to me at such an impressionable time. For many years after that, I didn’t allow myself to hope. When I got consciously onto a spiritual path, I realized how wonderful hope was and I allowed that spark to reside again in my heart. It’s made a huge difference in my happiness quotient.

For ASD parents, hope seems so very, very important. What else could keep us going when there are no signs of improvement in our chldren? I believe that hope is the best medicine parents can take in our situation — a direct antidote for the depression that can come along with having a child on the spectrum.

3 1/2 years ago, when Joseph was diagnosed, I had very little hope. I was bone weary and grieving in body, mind and soul. But the human spirit is resilient, and we had the grace of a team of people who held us up as parents and worked with our kid.

And now — after years of RDI, biomedical treatment, occupational therapy, blood, sweat, tears and prayers, Joseph is on his way to recovery.

I do not say that lightly. I say it with trepidation that the gods will quash me for my audaciousness.

But I also am not the only one saying it. Yesterday Joseph’s swim teacher – a tough German lady who stands no nonsense – told me that, in all her years of working with ASD kids, she’s never seen one grow so much so fast. I watched the swim lesson and I saw it, too. She asked, “Whose turn is it?” and Joseph said, “Mine! Mine!” Later she gave him a hard time for jumping in too soon and he argued with her. It was great.

And then there was today. Joseph’s preschool teacher pronounced him cured, healed. She said she can’t even talk about mainstreaming him anymore, because there is no special needs kid to mainstream.

So, you see? I am not making this up. Joseph has been on Valtrex for ten weeks today, and it has made an amazing change in his life, in our lives. But he had to be ready. It took all those years of helping to heal his gut, of strengthening his immune system — basically of laying the foundation — before Valtrex could step in and do its magic.

I know he is doing years’ worth of development in weeks, and I appreciate the raves from his teachers. But I don’t think I can let up yet: We’re not all the way there. We still have crowds and gatherings to work on, pronouns to get right, vocabulary to build up.

I also have yet to hear Joseph say, “Mom, look!” You know how some mothers feel they will die happy when their kid gets married? I feel that way about when I’ll hear, “Watch me, Mom!” for the first time.

But you know what? I think these things are coming. I hope they are coming. I pray they are coming.

Yes, I got hope. And how grateful I am for it: that thing with feathers that perches in my soul.