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As spring break loomed on the horizon, Joseph began asking about going to Arizona. He’d never been there before and he wanted to see Sedona and the Grand Canyon. He also wanted to see Las Vegas, which is on the way.

I had recently quit my regular part-time job and am hysterically happy about having spare time.  Blue Eyes was up for going, and we like to encourage adventuring in Joseph…so a vacation was born. We’d spend about a week and a-half driving to and from, and exploring the wild west.

Friends told us we would have a wonderful time. Arizona was one of their favorite places and it would be amazing. To most of them, I smiled and said I was looking forward to it. To one of them I explained that Joseph could have a hard time with change so it would probably be challenging. To Terese, who has an autistic kid of her own, I said that Joseph could be such a pill on these trips that it would no doubt be difficult.

Perhaps “a pill” wasn’t quite the right expression. Sleeping in new places is usually difficult for Joseph, going to new places (especially crowded ones) is difficult, and not getting his way is also hard. All three of which are happening on this trip to some extent. Add to this the fact that Joseph had recently finished a round of antibiotics and was displaying pronounced symptoms of autism and candida (much flapping, fingers constantly in mouth, etc), and we were headed for quite a time.

Yesterday was day three and was supposed to be “his” day. We had made it to AZ and had booked a train ride up to the Grand Canyon. Challenge #1 occurred when Joseph went to sleep late and woke at 4am, resulting in three straight nights of sleep deprivation. We arrived early at the depot to watch the cowboy shootout but, as soon as the first “shot” rang out, Joseph screamed and cried and would not be calmed down. Blue Eyes quickly ushered him out of the bleachers amidst the looks of curious families.

My impression of age 13 is that the volume’s been turned up big time. Joseph’s always been one for constantly making noise (“verbal stimulation” in the vernacular), but it’s really gotten worse lately. Walking around the incredible, breathtaking Grand Canyon naturally inspires a reverent silence — but my constant companion was a nonstop noisemaker which was, to put it mildly, draining. And disappointing. Yogananda used to say that, if someone got your goat, they got your inner peace — so don’t let them get your goat. Well, my goat went galloping down the canyon and I haven’t seen it since! So my disappointment was for both the experience of the canyon and in myself for losing that goat. ;-(

At one point, in a small crowd, a little chipmunk appeared. Of course everyone was thrilled to see the cute little guy. Everyone else, that is. Though he was quite a distance from it, Joseph started screaming in anxiety and the only way to calm him down was to find a quiet place in which to sit for half an hour.

I sound like I’m blaming Joseph but I also blame myself. Before the Grand Canyon trip, I forgot to pack nutritious snacks and had let him load up on carbs (hotel breakfast, anyone?). Things have been quite good with Joseph — many breakthroughs this year — and so I thought this trip would be easier than it is. I didn’t prepare myself for a difficult day, so the fall was greater. The idea that expectations set us up for being disappointed at some future point certainly applies here — but the expectations were so unconscious that I didn’t realize they were there until, well, now.

Speaking of now, it is 2:20 in the morning and I am in the hotel bathroom, typing away and dreading the fact that Joseph may wake up anytime and give us yet another difficult day, tainted by sleep deprivation. Is it an autistic thing that he simply can’t nap during the day unless he’s deathly ill? And if positive expectations bring future disappointment, what does dread bring? As my own private guinea pig, I hereby postulate the following effects of dread: Insomnia (did I mention 2:20am?), negative mindset, and separation.

Ah yes, separation. Where is God in all of this? Of course I know that God IS — but I’m not feeling the Love. What if I just take a moment to soften my body and open my heart. What if I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths and release some resistance.

Then I realize that the thoughts are not my thoughts. They come from I know not where and they go I know not where. They are there, but who I AM is something much greater.
Jaw softens, shoulders drop. Heart remembers.

And then, oh gloriously then, there it is: The felt inner communion. The spaciousness of Spirit, more breathtaking than any grand canyon. A shared silence filled with understanding and even amusement. A remembrance that this is just a tiny blip on the radar of life, and especially of life beyond. The reassurance that always, always I can come to this place – no matter what is happening externally. In this I can rest. Time to go back to bed.goat

Hello, little goat. Welcome home.

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Professor Temple Grandin, perhaps the best-known person with autism next to Rain Man (who, I remind you, was a made-up character), once commented that we need to keep the lives of our autistic kids interesting. I have pondered this many times over the years, agreeing with her that presenting new and exciting adventures to Joseph keeps him interested, engaged and challenged.

But when your kid has anxiety — which is extremely common for people with autism — it has to be looked at slightly differently. bell-curveOur RDI consultant once drew us a bell curve like the one to the right. The line in the center separated the two sides. To the left he wrote “Productive” and to the right he wrote “Unproductive.” There is a point, he explained, where challenge simply becomes unproductive. While you don’t want to make Joseph’s life too cushy (too far left), you also don’t want to immerse him in events that produce unproductive anxiety (right).

But anxiety is unpredictable and often irrational, so you don’t quite know what is going to push someone over the edge. Like last week, for example…

We went camping. Fun, right? Blue Eyes and I both come from camping families and we have wonderful memories of the adventures we had on those trips. Joseph was excited: we camp every year for a few days so he knew, more or less, what to expect. Blue Eyes had even fixed up our relic of an RV, and we took that along (I happily spent the nights in a tent next to them.)

anxietyThe first morning, anxiety struck. Why? Who knows. Dogs were leash-only, so that was okay. Maybe being out of the routine? Somewhere new? We were in Lassen National Park: Volcano territory. Like a volcano, Joseph’s anxiety built up and exploded out – hot, fierce and uncontrollable.

What we forgot since we last went camping is that campgrounds provide a great view into other people’s lives. There is nowhere to hide a kid who is loudly expressing his fear, resistance and anguish. Think humiliation.

On the other hand, other people couldn’t hide either. We watched happy families with excited kids who were loving — and making the most of — every minute of their camping experience. Living so openly, side by side with typical families, really got to me for a while there. I felt terribly sad.

By the third day of some difficult times, Blue Eyes had a brilliant insight: Part of Joseph’s anxiety had to do with the structure of the day. If we’d done a morning hike and returned to the campsite for lunch without any particular plans for the afternoon, this was perceived by Joseph as a high-stress situation. Whereas Blue Eyes and I looked forward to a few empty hours, our kid did not. He’s not like this at home, but we had to roll with what was happening there. It worked to say, “Let’s take half an hour to rest and then go for a bike ride.” It didn’t work to say, “Let’s do whatever we want for the afternoon.” This helped. A lot.

Looking back, I don’t think I handled the anxiety well. I was irritated. I hated that others could see and hear our troubles. Why couldn’t Joseph just reason himself out of this? Why was he behaving in such a ridiculous way?

But the beauty of reflection is the learning that comes from it. I don’t fully understand Joseph’s pain and I doubt I ever will. But rather than judge him (to take another view of the bell curve: unproductive behavior), I want to feel compassion for him and support him (productive behavior). We are going to get to work on this anxiety, starting with an Ayurvedic specialist who focuses on kids with anxiety.

During one of the low points of the camping trip, Blue Eyes pointed at our sweet dog and said, “That’s our gift.” Then he gestured toward Joseph (who was out of earshot) and said, “That’s our work.”

Paramhansa Yogananda, in a letter to one of his devotees (though I think in actuality all of his devotees), said,

Everybody’s difficulty is different and he or she has to win that test of karma…I will never give up my job about you….Not only will I ever forgive you, but ever lift you up no matter how many times you fall.

This, I believe is the work of us parents, especially those of us with special needs kids or rebellious kids or troubled kids. Our kids come in with their own karma and their own tests. We can’t change that, but we can let them know that we won’t give up on them. We will ever forgive them, ever work with them, ever help them to be all they can be.

Dang, it’s hard. But here I lean on Yogananda again, with these excerpts:

I shall ever be with you and through Divine Mother guard you from all harm, and will constantly whisper to you guidance through your loving self.

So do not become discouraged and tired…

A smooth life is not a victorious life — and I will give you lots of my good karma, so you will get through.

…not only will I invisibly help you but visibly, through many here.

IMG_1977Opening to receive that good karma. Exhaling a big exhale and allowing my own anger, resistance and anxiety to dissolve as I remember, yet again, that this work is much greater than just Blue Eyes and me. The Universe offers unlimited support, if only I allow it in.
Blessings.

One of the trippy things about having a kid with autism is that, unless your kid happens to be displaying autistic symptoms right at that moment, s/he looks pretty normal. This is why having to take my ten year-old, normal-looking son into the ladies’ bathroom is an excruciating process for me.

It’ll be like this: we’re out and about, miles from home, and Joseph or I needs to use the bathroom. So far so good, right? We walk to the facilities and, naturally, they are separated into men’s bathrooms and ladies’ bathrooms.

(Allow me a slight digression. In Australia, they are labeled “Male Toilets” and “Female Toilets.” I always wondered, how do they know the gender of a TOILET? But, as I say, I digress.)

This is where we run into trouble. As usual I will say, “Do you want to try the men’s?” And as usual, Joseph, filled with anxiety, will answer with a resounding “NO!”

Still, every now and then he will actually open the door and stick his head in. Then he’ll pull his head out and say, loudly enough for the poor, innocent man to hear, “I can’t go in there. There’s a MAN in there!” Or he’ll just say, “I can’t! I’m too scared!”

And so, here we go again. Into the ladies’ bathroom, me and my ten year-old, normal-looking son.

Now, Joseph knows full well that it’s weird for him to be in the ladies’ bathroom. Believe me, I’ve tried to shame him out of the practice any number of times. But instead he hurries into the bathroom, rushes into a stall, closes the door, and asks loudly, “Mom! Where are you?”

Once he’s figured out that I am close by he continues his interrogation. “What are you doing, Mom?” “When will you be done?” “Aren’t you done YET, Mom?” Then, just for a little extra entertainment, he’ll start in with, “Mom, there’s another woman in this bathroom! Help me, Mom! Help me!” (This latter statement is because he’s embarrassed to be in there — thanks to me — and doesn’t quite know what to do once more women arrive.)

The good news is, once Joseph starts acting like this, people quickly figure out he’s got a disability and I can show my face again without being embarrassed. So, see? It all works out. Ha ha.

You could say that it’s yet another thing I need to surrender to. You could point out that it’s the practice of building humility through humiliation. But please don’t. I’m just not in the mood to see the longer-rhythm good that could come out of this.

bathroom signWe are on vacation in Oregon. Beyond the horrid days like the one I outlined in my last post, we’ve been truly enjoying ourselves. And THIS is a sign I saw outside an Oregon bathroom at a campground.

Glory be! I LOVE this sign. I want this sign on every public bathroom from here to Timbuktu.

But until that happens, can you do me a favor? If you see some normal-looking kid in the wrong gender bathroom with his/her parent, just smile pleasantly and look the other way. It’s not nearly as bad for you as it is for that parent. You can trust me on that.

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.

 

I have a large, lovely, crazy, wonderful extended family. When we get together for the holidays, there is usually around 30 people. ‘Most everyone is happy to see everyone else, and there is lots of conversation, laughter, and catching up.

In any gathering like this, you can see that some people get more easily overwhelmed than others. You can find a brother-in-law sitting alone reading, or a teenager lying on the couch listening to her ipod.

But what do you do when your kid is really, really sensitive? And shy? When s/he gets overwhelmed very quickly? And doesn’t know how to fit in?

We managed to avoid most of these difficult questions this year, because we missed Thanksgiving. We were in Maui.

But when we came back, I started to miss my large, lovely, crazy, wonderful extended family. So we called my older brother, Dan, and invited ourselves to his house for an overnighter.

I prepared in advance for this visit by listening to an RDI Webinar that gave  tips for holiday visits. One of their strategies was to make sure that the child with autism had a quiet place to retreat to.

Hearing that was a real “Ah ha!” moment for me.

You see, my younger brother, Aaron, has two lively young girls. As much as we love them, when we’ve stayed there I’ve seen Joseph get very withdrawn. He gets w-a-y overwhelmed and there is no private, quiet space for him to recover. He always sleeps badly.

I haven’t known how to explain to Aaron why we can’t stay with them, but now I have the words: Joseph needs a quiet place to retreat to.

Dan and his wife, on the other hand, have kids who are grown and gone. So half of  their house feels like a peaceful sanctuary.

Another plus is that Dan has a dog. Normally the mere presence of a dog would make the whole visit unthinkable, as Joseph is terrified of them. But this is no ordinary dog: this is a chihuahua. All four pounds of her.

Because she is so tiny, Joseph is not really scared of Randi. Randi is the one and only dog in our acquaintance who has this distinction, so it is no small thing. She is a great practice dog for us.

The RDI Webinar said to find roles for Joseph as much as possible, as it’s not always easy for people with autism to know what to do — how to fit in — among other people. So I got him involved in drawing and then giving the drawings to people. When it was dinnertime, he helped with table setting and various other things.

It worked really well. And then he slept beautifully.

Yesterday there were only the five of us, and then this morning two of Joseph’s cousins (the grown-up kids) arrived. At first, Joseph kept his distance. But eventually he felt comfortable enough to join us at the kitchen table.

Later, when it came time to go out, he requested that his cousins ride in our car, one on each side of him. This was big.

When they first sat beside him, he covered his eyes (he is both autistic and shy. I don’t know which was happening there — maybe both.) But slowly the hands came down and he connected, smiling and talking with them.

So there it is. Nothing monumental, but these small steps in connecting are huge steps for Joseph.

My hope is that, as Joseph makes these connections with members of his extended family a bit at a time, it will eventually be easier to be with more of them at the same time.

*            *         *

Joseph isn’t the only one in our little family who needs a quiet place. That’s one of the main reasons I meditate. My teacher says to create a portable paradise of peace within, and I don’t know what I’d do without that peaceful place.

Since Joseph was born to parents who meditate, we will, when the time is right,  teach him to do it as well. So perhaps he’ll learn to access the peace that passes understanding within his very own self.

Wouldn’t that go a long way in being able to stay centered and unshaken in crowded gatherings? We wouldn’t have to stay only in houses with quiet places when Joseph comes from that quiet place inside.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Joseph learns to turn inward for his solace — to turn to God for the calmness, peace, and serenity he needs.

I find it absolutely invaluable to live my life (as best I can) from the inside out, where my internal world defines my external world. It gives me much more serenity than living from the outside in, where what’s happening externally determines my level of serenity– or, more often, my lack thereof.

So what will happen when Joseph learns to live from the inside out? What will happen when autism meets yoga?

Stay tuned, dear reader, stay tuned.

A tan, a memory, a view, a photo: There are many great things that you take home from a vacation. One of the most powerful gifts we received on our trip was a new perspective.

You see, as we were packing up for Maui we told Joseph that, since we were doing only carry-on luggage, he could  bring just two small toys along. He chose his two newest trains, procured just days before we’d left.

And that was ok. On the flight over, those trains provided some amount of entertainment for him — and later, when we’d settled in at our friends’ house,  they brought him some sense of familiarity and he played with them here and there.

Now, as I have mentioned in previous posts, Joseph is a trainiac. He loves all things trains, and his favorite pastime is to lay out those wooden train tracks and make the trains go on them. It’s basically his default behavior. So it was a big deal, for all of us, that he didn’t have enough train stuff around to occupy his attention for long.

It was, in fact, a great thing. Without trains exercising their massive tyranny over his mind, Joseph started to use his imagination in other ways. For instance, one evening he assigned Blue Eyes and me the role of the little kids at his preschool. As our teacher, he put us down for nap, came in to check on us and then, when it was time, he roused us and got us up out of bed.

There were many other ways where he was simply more present and available to us than he’d been in years.

Then it happened. A wonderful friend and her child, who live in Maui, came over to visit. My friend thoughtfully brought some toys to leave with us while we were there. Why didn’t I tell her not to bring trains? I guess because I didn’t think that her kid — a girl — would be into them. But — sigh — she was, and so when they left, we had about 8 trains sitting on our floor.

I think that sometimes Divine Mother makes things really obvious and exaggerated, so that we can be sure to get the point. In this case, we got to see how the presence of those trains deeply changed the fiber of our interactions with Joseph. Suddenly there were these huge obstacles between him and us; things we had to peer around, compete with, and play second fiddle to.

And there was no doubt about it: in the final score the trains won, and we lost.

I hear that Thomas the Train very specifically markets their products to autistic children. If this is true they are, unfortunately, brilliant at it.

A number of years ago, when we first started RDI, we had packed up all of those  blasted trains and put them away in a crate up on a shelf. We took them down only occasionally, because it was obviously an obsession for Joseph. But as time went by, we got lazy and the trains become more and more available to him. We didn’t really notice when the obsession started taking him over.

However, the difference between Joseph without trains and Joseph with trains during our trip created too much of a contrast for us to ignore.

So today we met with our RDI consultant while Joseph was in preschool. We explained the whole train thing. We talked about wanting to pack them all up again, free Joseph from his obsession. We wanted to take all his train books away, as well. I explained that my visual image of this is like removing cigarettes from him — that’s the kind of harm these things are inflicting on Joseph.

Our consultant was with us 100%.  Do it. Do it now, she told us. Not slowly or gradually, but in one fell swoop. The two of you should sit down with him this afternoon (presenting a united front), and explain why you’ve done this.  Expect him to cry, to grieve. Then have a low-key activity ready that you can do together. Take the trains down once in a while, but don’t let it be a regular thing anymore.

Fearing the worst, I stepped into Blue Eyes’ truck as they were pulling in from school. We chatted a bit, and then we explained to Joseph what we’d done, and why. We tried to emphasize that we’d done it because we wanted him to play with us — not with his trains.

It was as Kelli predicted. He cried, first with real despondency. But, as hard as it was to see him grieving, I kept getting the image of Joseph puffing away on cigarettes and me finally removing them from his reach. This made me strong.

Truth was, he got over it surprisingly quickly, though I’m sure it’ll come up again and again as he goes through withdrawals.

I do not mean “withdrawals”  humorously; I truly think that this is a serious obsessive addiction for Joseph, and that it is not going to be easy for him to give it up.

But through the afternoon and evening we kept Joseph doing things with us. He helped Blue Eyes clean the fish tank and then I played tour buses with him. The evening culminated in Blue Eyes getting out the guitar and the three of us singing Christmas carols. We felt like a real family, where every one was a  fully participating member. It has been a long time since we felt this way, and it feels so g-o-o-d.

So the parents have stepped up to bat. The kid seems happier already, though I know that his pain will come and go.

What we did today was to steer our boy away from choosing Door Number One: the non-people door. We helped him to choose Door Number Two — which, though less predictable and more uncomfortable than the world of things, is nevertheless a world of infinite dimensions, nurturing connections and richness.

It was a small step for our boy, but a huge leap for his potential to develop. We are feeling proud and competent, and I think that Joseph is already reaping the benefits of more parental attention.

Because of this change, he is a changed boy. He is learning that there are many other fun and interesting ways to interact with  the world: the wondrous, unpredictable world of non-trains.

I have an ongoing love affair with the Hawaiian islands. They have captivated my heart ever since my first visit at 18. I’ve been to Hawaii as a tourist, a backpacker, a honeymooner and a mother-to-be, but never before as a mother of a special-needs child.

The last time we went to Hawaii my belly was 6 months swollen. We knew it would be our last real vacation for who knows how long, so we milked it for everything we could: lots of snorkeling, going to the movies and out to dinner, lying on the beach, and reading books uninterruptedly. Since then, I have pined for the islands — the fresh winds, the warm ocean, the lush jungles, the whales and turtles and tropical fish, the relaxed atmosphere.

So when some friends offered to let us housesit at their place in upcountry Maui, we jumped at the chance. We are even missing Thanksgiving, and, trust me, my extended family is not pleased with us. But having an autistic kid is a huge challenge financially, and the opportunity to do Maui on the cheap (bonus miles air tickets, even!) was too irresistible to pass up.

I consciously tried not to lean on old memories of Hawaiian vacations. I reminded myself that Joseph has trouble adjusting to new people and new places, and that this would not be easy on him. I knew I would see other kids his age doing things with enthusiasm and joy, whereas he would be timid and withdrawn.

But, try as I did to steel myself, I wasn’t prepared for being in Hawaii with autism.

Parts of it have been okay – good, even. Joseph has surprised us in his willingness, happiness even, to hike long distances along rather difficult trails. He has some sensory defensiveness going through overgrown places – God forbid a fern should brush against him – but, overall, he copes pretty well.

Staying in one place has been a real blessing. After the first couple of days, Joseph was quite comfortable in the house. It’s quiet and peaceful here, and that has made a real difference to him.

The beach has been hard. For some reason, Joseph has always had trouble with the beach. He just doesn’t know what to do at it. He’s somewhat frightened of the ocean, so swimming is out. Unless we set him up in a role – “Joseph! Let’s build a sand castle!” – he resorts to doing his strange autistic dance with sudden, sharp movements, and singing the Pirates of Caribbean song over and over again. People look strangely at him. It’s embarrassing.

Blue Eyes signed up to finish his scuba diving certification here, which meant that, for two days, Joseph and I were on our own. I had the bright idea of us going to Lahaina with Blue Eyes for his 2nd day of diving, and staying at a resort. This way, Joseph and I could play in the resort’s pools during the day, and Blue Eyes could join us when his training was over.

So we splurged and went to one of the more fancy spots for a night. A beautiful, lagoon-like pool snakes around, inviting you to swim, relax and enjoy yourself.

But Joseph didn’t receive the invitation.

We went first to the kids’ pool. Other children, some much younger than him, went running in, jumping in, shouting and laughing with enthusiasm and joy. They splashed, they swam; they called, “Mom! Watch me!”

Joseph and I spent the morning with me trying to get him comfortable enough to enjoy the wading pool. He resisted. I resisted him resisting. He felt incompetent. So did I. A good time was had by everyone but us.

We finally retreated to our hotel room, where Joseph said he wanted to spend the rest of the day. It was 1pm.

I railed inside. Here we were in Maui, having spent a lot of money to be at this fancy resort, and he wanted to just stay in a hotel room? And play with his trains?

Ok, I reasoned to myself, let’s give him an hour. He needs some time to chill. I turned on the TV and watched Seinfeld while Joseph played. Seinfeld was funny; I laughed – I needed that – and started to let go of my judgments of Joseph and my resistances to being on vacation with autism.

It wasn’t how I wanted it to be. But, I asked myself, was I going to base my happiness on whether or not life was behaving the way I wanted it to? Or could I choose to be happy, content, with what was being given — and not given — right now?

As I got more grounded and centered in my heart, I was able to turn off the TV and be present with Joseph. I was able to love him for who he is. We sat on the patio together while he ate a snack.

I looked at him, feeling the love in my heart. He looked back; we communed deeply with our eyes. Then, suddenly, he chanted a long “Aaauuuuummmmm” and, still chanting, placed his palm on my ajna charka at the spiritual eye. He held it there for about 30 seconds before taking his hand away and smiling at me.

He’d never done that before, and I don’t know where he got the idea to do it. But it lifted me to a new place, where I realized anew that this is a great soul acting out a role. And that this is a role he has taken on as much for me, for my growth and learning, as for his own.

I’ve always loved the Sanskrit phrase smritti, meaning divine remembrance. That little act of Joseph’s has reminded me to look beyond the surface of this life – to see that the embarrassment, the resistances, the heart’s contractions – the messiness of life in general when you have an autistic child – are all leading to a place of openness, strength and ego-unraveling. A place where the channel of love can flow more freely and more fully.

So, yes, on the surface we are simply – and frustratingly — on vacation with autism. But just as diving beneath the surface of a warm Hawaiian ocean allows one to become aware of a whole different world, full of wonder and harmony, we also have the invitation to experience our vacation in a vastly different way.

This is one invitation I don’t want to pass up.

Later that afternoon, we made it back to the pools. More on that in my next post.

Aum, shanti, and aloha.