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I have a close friend who is deeply Christian. This is unusual, because generally I steer clear of Christians — for the sole reason that they tend to regard my spiritual outlook as, well, dead wrong. I get the impression that, though they think I’m a nice person, they also think I’m headed straight for hell once this earth journey is over. I don’t mind if they think that, but it doesn’t make for close friendships.

For this reason it took me a long time to mention A Course of Love to my friend Ellen. After all, A Course of Love (ACOL) is said to be Jesus’ words coming through Mari, a woman who is alive and well in this day and age. When I did finally mention that I was co-leading a group on Friday mornings, I hoped we could leave it at that. But she’s seen how this course has shifted me, so she asked for specifics and even indicated an interest in attending. I gathered up my courage and explained how ACOL came about, dreading an anticipated response that the Bible was Jesus’ only true word and the only one we’ll ever need.

Ellen is a surprising person, though, which I guess is why she’s my only Christian friend. She said, God spoke through prophets way before Jesus’ time. Why wouldn’t Jesus continue to speak to us now? Then she attended and felt that the words really spoke to her. I don’t know if the course will stick for her, but I am really, really impressed that she attended.

It is amazing to feel Jeshua (most ACOL people refer to Jesus in this way, which is the Hebrew pronunciation) permeating my heart, mind and soul. I mean, wow, it’s like he’s whispering into my ear sometimes. That’ll change your life. For the first time ever in this life, I have actual experiences of joy.

It’s interesting to feel so fed spiritually on the one hand, and to have an intense 13 year-old autistic kid on the other. I understand why so many families stop having kids after an autistic one shows up – they are a lot of work! Add to that the hormones and turbulence of teenagerdom and, wow, that’ll change your life too.

I am so grateful that Joseph has friends. He invited his two besties over last week to hang out. It was the first visit for one kid, the sweetest Aspie (Aspergers) kid I’ve ever met. Within the first five minutes, he’d pointed out the spider web in my dining room, but never mind. We autism parents overlook that kind of thing. 😉

For the last few months I have taught yoga to Joseph’s 6th grade class in the barely-clandestine hope of getting him interested in it. While it succeeded with most of the girls, it’s been an “Eh” experience for the boys, which I can understand. Most hatha yoga classes are 95% female, after all.

Through the years, Blue Eyes and I have tried to get Joseph interested in yoga and meditation. It would be so good for his anxiety – and everything else too! But Joseph has resisted it at every turn, so we have dropped the subject for the last few years.

However. Tonight I was listening to an amazing guided meditation by a man associated with ACOL, someone Jeshua speaks through. It led me to a very deep place and I experienced the Christ presence pouring through me. I can’t remember the details of the conversation with Joseph, but later on we were talking and I said, “Well yeah, especially when Jesus is speaking to you.”

“WHAT?” Joseph exclaimed. “JESUS?” We talked about Jesus coming through these channels, and he was incredibly interested. I realized that, for him, Jesus was some dude from way back when who’d told people to love each other and who’d been dead for a long time. “How can I talk to these people?” He asked me. “There’s so much I want to know about my future.” I said that the message from Jeshua was to learn to listen within, to get quiet enough to hear that still, small voice in oneself. It’s about a relationship between each one of us and him.

Joseph asked some questions then about meditation, and I guided him through a 5-minute session. It ended very positively, and we agreed that we’d do that every night before bed.

Once again, wow. Not only does Jeshua still speak and write, he also still works miracles. A little meditation practice could go a long way in helping my kiddo through the teen crazies. Thank you, God.

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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.

 

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.

We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.
~ CS Lewis

Painful is how I would describe life as an autism family. I hit bottom around the pain (again) just over a week ago. Joseph is nine now, and the sweet, cheerful little boy has been taken over by a rebellious, yelling, smart-ass, sometimes hitting kid who is almost as tall as I am.

Forget the blues: I had the blacks. I felt swallowed up by a deep, dark hole of despair. Bruce Springsteen sang in my head: “Had a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. I went out for a ride and I never went back.”

That’s what I wanted to do. Sometimes I wanted to take my husband with me and sometimes I didn’t, but I definitely wanted to ditch the kid. Hop in the car, drive away and never come back. Such a sense of freedom, of liberation, that thought gave me.

Well, on Thursday I did hop in the car and drive away, but it wasn’t quite that dramatic. I was only gone four hours and my friend, Terese, did the driving. It was where we went and what we did that made the all the difference.

We went to session one of a five-week Love and Logic course.

In this classroom, other parents were struggling. Not only parents with autistic kids, of course, but all the parents. Two of the kids were getting emergency crisis intervention. One girl had just called her mom a fat pig who didn’t know anything. Another was getting cyber-bullied. I heard stories that made my curly hair straighten.

Then — ah, then! — we were given tools. It takes two to engage in an argument, we were reminded. If you’re playing tug of war with your kids and you let go of the rope, the game is over. We were taught how not to engage in shouting matches, in power struggles, in efforts to control. And to do our part with love and empathy.

We were reminded — and this one was huge for me — that the reason we decided to have kids was because it would be fun. Raising a family is meant to be fun. AND kids need to make contributions, just like Mom and Dad do. Though Love and Logic doesn’t often use the the word responsibility, it includes everyone doing their part.

On Friday, Joseph and I were talking about lifeguards. Joseph is very interested in lifeguards and the rules around pools. He asks questions like, What would happen if I ran at a water park? What if I was rough with a little kid at a public pool? I was answering logically, saying that the lifeguard would get him in trouble. If he was really naughty, I told him, he’d probably have to leave the place.

Well, this got Joseph anxious and he started to yell. Loudly. And rudely: “STOP TALKING ABOUT LIFEGUARDS! I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANY MORE ABOUT LIFEGUARDS!”

The old Yoga Mother would try to calm him down. Or maybe even yell back at him. The Love and Logic mother, though, immediately and intentionally went brain-dead. This brain-dead moment stops me from reacting, gives me a second to reclaim my center.

Then I didn’t say anything. I could have used one of the many brilliant Love and Logic one-liners (“How sad.” “Don’t worry about it now.” “I love you too much to argue.”), but it’s much more natural for me, with my yoga background, to exhale loudly. Not sarcastically, not meanly –just a loud sigh.

And that was it. With my sigh I let go of the rope, and the conversation was over.

Replay scenes like that a dozen times a day, and you’ll get a sense of how Love and Logic is impacting our lives.

I’m realizing that I’ve been too flimsy around the boundaries, not modeling the calm, centered person I want him to become. Acting more like a drill sergeant (“Clean this up! Now!”) than a consultant (If it was me, I’d do it this way — but it’s your choice.).

What I know for sure is that it hasn’t been much fun. And now it is again. The autism is still there, but I’m realizing that we can have fun anyway. Saturday eve we went to a waterpark — what a blast! Yesterday we went on a hike with friends, and Joseph copied his younger friend by crossing funky, shaky bridges over the creek without fear. A new milestone for my usually timid young man.

IMG_2745Bottom line? I believe God wants us to have fun. It adds such a richness to life, and then we get to share that joy with others. So what the hell, let’s have fun — and, if we’re not, let’s figure out why and make the changes needed.

It’s funny, in a way. If we hadn’t lost our RDI Consultant, I don’t think I’d have taken this Love and Logic course. John was such a strong support for me that I would have struggled gallantly on. But with him gone, I’m having to fill in the gaps — and it’s turning out to be really good for me, for us.

Even lower bottom line? Even though, as CS Lewis said, God’s best is painful, it’s important to remember that it’s also the best.

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.

We deal with anxiety over here.

I might step outside ten feet to put things into recycling bins. Joseph, upstairs, will hear the door open. He’ll call out,

“Mom?”

“Mom???”

“MOM!!!! YOU’VE LEFT ME!!!!” (This last one is to be read in a panic-stricken, terrified voice.)

How many times has this scenario repeated itself? Hundreds. Maybe thousands.

Sometimes it happens if Joseph is downstairs and I go upstairs. Then it changes its tune just a little:

“Mom?”

“Mom???”

“MOM!!!! I MISS YOU!!!!!!” (This one also to be read in a panic-stricken, terrified voice.)

Recently we took a little vacation to Southern California. We stopped at a hotel halfway down that first night. Joseph slept in a rollaway cot right next to Blue Eye’s and my bed. He woke up at 4am and never went back to sleep.

Why? He was afraid we were going to leave without him.

From that night on, he had to sleep with Blue Eyes, staying in contact with some part of his body through the night so that he could be sure he wasn’t going to be abandoned. We were house sitting. They slept in the master bedroom. I took the 14 y.o.’s room. How romantic!

On the bright side, he does sleep alone, in his own room, when we’re not on vacation.

Blue Eyes and I have been on the path of yoga for decades, so naturally we’ve coached Joseph on taking deep breaths and simply observing the mind when it says things that aren’t true. And it’s helped — but just a little.

We’ve worked some with herbs and homeopathy. I approached one of my best friends, a senior teacher at an ayurvedic college, about the anxiety situation. She confessed that she was going through a similar thing with her neurotypical son, and that she hadn’t been able to help him, either.

IMG_1109Anxiety in the extreme is crippling! I have a friend whose husband can’t work, who has trouble leaving the house, due to his. I see how it stops Joseph in so many ways, and I wonder: What kind of a person could he be without it? I would so love to see him strong and confident, stepping out in his full potential.

We know there are drugs that treat anxiety. They sit on the back shelf of our minds. Sometimes we take them down, turn them over wonderingly, and put them back. It feels like a big decision. I’ve struggled for years with the need for sleeping pills, and I would hate to create a dependency on drugs when there didn’t need to be one.

But when do you say, We’ve tried hard enough; now it’s time to try drugs. Or do you?

I think it comes down to this: Right now the anxiety is somewhat manageable, somewhat influence-able. If or when it gets too strong in the other direction, we will look seriously at medication.

I would be very interested to hear from any of you on this topic. Do you struggle with anxiety in your child/ren, and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Thanks.

When Joseph got his autism diagnosis at the age of two, they might as well have diagnosed me with anxiety at the same time. Anxiety has become such a habit for me that I now have what I call an anxiety slot. It seems that this anxiety slot needs to always have something in it, so if Joseph’s situation isn’t making me anxious, my mind easily puts something else in the slot.

But the spiritual path is a path of increasing awareness. The call is to look intently into the mirror of one’s consciousness and not shy away from the blemishes. So, yes, I have developed the habit of anxiety. And now it seems like the time to work on it. I can see my new yoga series: Yoga for Anxiety. It’d be a big hit, don’t you think?

That  being said, we are experiencing some wonderful breakthroughs with Joseph! Blue Eyes took him to New Zealand (Blue Eyes’ native land) for two weeks in October, and I stayed home. Joseph came back with a deeper bond with his father,  a new openness for adventure, and an appreciation for his extended family.

374567_10151146801606586_881625458_nThis was great, coming on the heels of Thanksgiving, where we recently gathered at my brother’s house with about thirty of his American relatives. Joseph was excited to go — amazing in itself, given that he’s dreaded past gatherings. And he had fun!

Joseph needed the constant scaffolding of being with Blue Eyes or me, but our RDI Consultant assures us that many of his kids would be happy wandering about in their own world, not needing anyone. So this was a good thing. Joseph’s need for us included emotional comfort and perspective-borrowing —  a wonderful thing for a child with autism to look for from people!

It was interesting to look at the impact Joseph makes on my larger family. He reaches into people’s hearts and,  simply by his very being, he helps them to open. He’s been doing that to me for years. There’s something so special about connecting with an autistic child.

Blue Eyes and JosephBack on the home front, Joseph’s figured out a way to tease Blue Eyes so that he gets chased all over the house. Once he is caught, he is tickled. This can go on for hours. Joseph can’t wait for Blue Eyes to get home in the evenings so that they can play this game. In the past, Blue Eyes has been pretty much ignored, and now Blue Eyes says it’s actually fun to come home from work.

The happiness in our house is palatable. Wow.

Connections have been happening, more than ever. I love shared things! Shared smiles. Shared emotions. Shared conversations. Shared snuggles. Precious, precious times.

I have been wondering what the flip side of anxiety is. Contentment? Faith? Trust? Surrender?

For me, in this journey with Joseph, it seems to be hope. I used to hope for recovery, and then I shut down around that and stopped hoping pretty much altogether.

Now I want to cultivate hope again. I hope for continued intimacy, continued growth, and continued breakthroughs.

It’s been said that many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired, discouraged — and, may I add, anxious — people who kept on working. That is a really good adage for us autism parents.

The thing about hope is that it’s a risk. To hope is to risk pain. But to live a life fully open and fully lived, we must risk. We must hope. We must continue on.

And every now and then we get some sweet, blessed, blessed encouragement. Yea.

Wishing you strength, courage, and hope on your journey.

I was an est-hole early in life. My dad, who was a seeker back when seeker-dom was not trendy, entered me in the est training when I was 11 years old. While studying self-growth at a young age had its good points and bad points, one of the things I learned there has recently become relevant in my relationship with Joseph.

It’s the but-and difference.

I might say, for instance, that I’d like to be with my husband but I want alone time. In this case, one point negates the other. I can’t be with Blue Eyes because I’m choosing to be alone instead.

In other words, it’s either-or. Either I’m with Blue Eyes or I’m alone.

On the other hand, I could say that I’d like to be with my husband and I want alone time. This doesn’t kill off one option in favor of another; rather it holds both options as happening in the realm of possibility.

This is not either-or; this is both-and. I get to be with Blue Eyes and I get alone time.

Enter Joseph. It has recently occurred to me what a great kid he is. He woke up around 6:30 the other morning and, when I came in to rouse him at 7, he was busy with blocks. “I’m building, Mom! See my school? This is room 3.” Yesterday I came to pick him up from school. We started walking toward the car when Joseph said, “Hey! Where’s my hug?” and gave me a big embrace. Warms the heart, that one. 😉

He’s a great kid, he really is. Funny and smart and goofy and loving. It used to be that all this was negated, in my mind, by the autism diagnosis. He converses pretty well, but he flaps his hands. He gets along in a mainstream classroom, but he chews.

And the overall perspective: He’s a great kid, but he has autism.

Truly, this is how I’ve viewed my son. Everything else he is got cancelled out because of autism. Ugh. If I was into guilt, I could think about how my limited outlook has shaped my child, but I’ll try not to go there.

Here’s my new point of view:

Joseph is a great kid. And he has autism.

Yes, both these things are in the realm of possibility. They can, and are, happening concurrently. I have a really great kid who also has autism.

I love this! It’s a subtle shift, but often those subtle shifts are the ones that shape our subconscious and the very way we see, and interact with, the world. If the Universe is always and only ready, then my seeing Joseph differently  allows the Universe to give me the evidence I am now looking for.

And I do see it. More and more I see this amazing child who I get to hang out with.

All my life I’ve been attracted to people who are different. Scheming to sit next to the tiny midget on the bus so that I could strike up a conversation with her. Bringing home a transient so that I could get a glimpse of his life. Reading anything I could find about people who are blind. Covertly watching deaf people converse. Traveling to foreign lands to soak in other cultures. Making friends with people from other countries. Marrying an alien (Blue Eye’s official legal title).

In my mind, different is good. Different is interesting. Different offers us interesting new perspectives on life.

Except for my own child. His difference has been a bad thing, a disastrous thing. Something that’s devastated our lives.

Byron Katie would ask, Who would you be without that thought?

Peaceful. Happy. Content.

I will strive always to help Joseph improve himself, just as I strive to improve myself. But in life, if we are wise, we learn to foster our strengths and manage our weaknesses. This is what I do, and this is what I will endeavor to help him do.

It’s not all over because my kid has autism.

I have a great kid, and he has autism.

Both. And.

Earlier this week, I picked Joseph up from school and we did the hour’s drive to the RDI consultant’s office. John had set up his neurotypical boys to interact with Joseph in a playgroup-like setting.

(Some kids get picked up from school and taken to soccer practice or music practice. In my mind, I refer to our after-school trips as “normal practice.” But I digress.)

We go into the office and the first thing John wants the kids to do is play a board game together. Now, Joseph is not a board game player. There is something about board games that he doesn’t get. So Joseph looks at the game and whines, “I don’t like board games. They’re too hard!”

It’s Chutes and Ladders, one of the easiest games in the world. I pull John aside and say,  “Joseph doesn’t do well with board games.” I’ve been cogitating on his answer ever since. He said:

“I don’t want this to be another thing that’s left out.”

When we have babies, a lot of things get left out: nights out, adult conversations, a full night’s sleep, sex — that sort of thing. But eventually things get more or less normalized and there isn’t such deprivation.

Not so with autism. Things get left out. Forever.

Recently some friends invited us to their ongoing couples’ group. They meet every other Thursday night. They bring the kids, set them up in another room with their homework and a video, and go do their thing separately. “Come along,” they said. “It’ll be great to have you.”

Sure. Take Joseph to an unfamiliar environment, set him up in a room with kids he doesn’t know, and leave him there to enjoy himself. Ha! Only in our dreams.

Another thing left out.

Blue Eyes is a builder. He works with a friend whose 3-year old boy recently threw a long tantrum because he couldn’t go to work with his dad to build with him. Blue Eyes thinks the time is near when they’ll have the kid come for a couple of hours to bang some nails and “help out.”

Blue Eyes has tried to interest Joseph in building, but Joseph feels incompetent and uncomfortable, and he shows no interest. It’s yet another place where Blue Eyes and Joseph don’t connect.

Another thing left out.

Recently we had extended family over. There were around fifteen people at our house. Joseph spent a large part of the time off by himself, telling me, “There are too many people here. It makes me nervous!”

It’s such a battle getting him comfortable in group settings that we’re considering not going to Thanksgiving gatherings any more. We’re not sure it’s worth the struggle.

Another thing left out.

The biggest thing that’s left out, in my view, is deep conversation. I want to talk with my kid about his place in our family history; I want to dialog with him about spirituality in all its nuances; I want to ask him questions about his inner life and get answers that mean something. I want him to ask me deep, interested questions. I want to teach Joseph some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned; I want him to teach me from his youthful understanding.

I want what conversations like these lead to: both parties coming up with a change in perspective, a deeper understanding of each other and the topic of discussion.  I want it, I want it, I want it.

Sigh. Another thing left out.

I know things can get better. We thought we might have to leave out living a normal life at all when Joseph was so terrified of dogs. Dogs are everywhere, and life was becoming one horrifying incident after another. But now dogs are a non-issue. So things can, and do, change. But they probably won’t change too much.

It is the way it is. I can’t fix it and I can’t change it. I am feeling sad about it. I am allowing that sorrow to fill my heart and I am sharing it with the Divine Mother, who knows all sorrows.

I recently heard a song that said God prefers the honest cry of a broken heart to a thousand hallelujahs.

Well, with the numbers of autistic children on the rise, God must be hearing some real honest cries from a lot of broken hearts.

God alone knows, but maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re given children with autism.

I was downstairs doing the dishes this morning when Joseph called to me from upstairs:

“Mom? Do you know where my gray sweatshirt is?”

“In my backpack by the front door,” I answered.

He went and looked.

As I picked up the next dish, I began to marvel at this little interchange. To an outsider it would seem so ordinary – and it is. That’s what makes it so extraordinary. Here’s why:

He called to me. For years, except for when he was screaming hysterically, Joseph spoke only in the softest of voices. You’d have to get really close to him to hear what he was saying. It was as if he didn’t have the energy – the life force – to speak with any more volume.

Mom? He only started using my name – Mom—a couple of years ago. Before that, I could be referred to in the third person (“Is Mommy going away?”), but I was never addressed directly. It was the same for everyone in his world. Can you imagine how odd it is to never hear your child call you by name?

Do you know where my gray sweatshirt is? One of the big deficits of autism is the lack of other-mindedness – not understanding that others can view things, and know things, differently than oneself. This statement shows an understanding that I can know something Joseph doesn’t.

He went and looked. He took my information, processed it, and did something with it. In the not-so-long-ago past, he wouldn’t have had such a complete thought process.

For all these reasons, I was feeling good about Joseph. He’s come so far. I was feeling happy happy happy.

Then Blue Eyes came downstairs, fear in his eyes. He asked me if Joseph had gluten yesterday and, when I admitted that he did, he told me that Joseph was really disconnected — agitated, even. Immediately I felt fearful and panicked, and I hurried to check on Joseph.

As it turns out, Joseph had a fever and a cough, which can make anyone disconnected and agitated. He spent most of the day in bed.

What got me about that little exchange with Blue Eyes was how quickly I went from my own head trip — Feelin’ Groovy — to his — Danger! Danger!

I’ve been watching head trips quite closely ever since I gave up Ambien, the oh-so-powerful sleeping pills I’d used for years. I haven’t, in the past, really believed in the devil as a personified being. A dark force, certainly, but a cunning, manipulative being that can walk and talk? Nahhhhhh.

My viewpoint, however, is changing. Sometimes, in this past non-Ambienated month, I wake up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep and really, truly feel I am having a conversation with Satan. Or, rather, he is having one with me.

I mean, if this Satan character is real, he would kick you in your most vulnerable spot, right? And mine, most assuredly, is Joseph. And the middle of the night is when my defenses are most down.

Just a few nights ago I awoke in the wee hours, absolutely certain that Joseph was going to be bullied, teased, ostracized, and otherwise treated cruelly by the kids in his school. I was filled with terror. A few nights before that the subject of my insomnia was incredible sorrow that Joseph doesn’t have friends, as evidenced by the fact that nobody comes over for playdates. And so on and so forth. You get my drift.

I spent the next few days after the bullying conversation absolutely freaked out. How could I protect my child from these terribly mean kids? Especially the older ones at his school, which goes from kindergarten to 8th grade.

It was a most unhappy head trip.

Then Joseph’s teacher wrote me that Joseph spent a recess blowing bubbles. The older kids chased and popped them, and Joseph laughed and laughed at their antics.

Suddenly the bullying head trip left and I got a glimmer of a new perspective. What if older kids treat Joseph with love and care because of his special needs? What if they look after him, make an effort to interact with him, because they’re good kids and because the school places so much emphasis on tolerance and mentoring. Is it possible? Could it be true?

The no-friends head trip deflated on Thursday when I went to pick Joseph up. The kid Joseph considers his best friend came over and asked, “Can I come over for a play date in two days?”

I was astonished.

Yoga teaches that levels of consciousness have thoughts associated with them. In other words, if I’m hanging out in fear, I’ll attract fearful, anxious thoughts and ideas. Therefore, to change your thoughts, Yoga teaches, change your consciousness.

I have worked on this, mostly just by increasing my awareness of it, since dropping Ambien. Whatever you call it — a head trip or a conversation with Big Red — it’s fear, which stands for False Expectations Appearing Real. Watching it closely seems to be helping. A lot. I am sleeping through the night more often, happily missing out on those fear-striking midnight conversations.

I think that, collectively, there is huge catastrophic consciousness around autism. Fear. Terror. Grief. It’s an interesting dance to process what comes up while not buying lock, stock and barrel into the things that are whispered in one’s ear when one is most vulnerable.

Peace.

The path to God takes many forms. St. Francis courted Lady Poverty, early monks went for suffering (self-flogging and other such pleasantries), many aspirants fast, and yogis retire to their caves for years of silence and seclusion.

Well, I’ve got one that, as far as I know, hasn’t yet made the list. But it should, it really should. It’s the Path to God through Embarrassment.

Wait — don’t touch that mouse until I explain.

You see the photo here? This is Joseph, as happy as can be, sitting at Starbucks and just starting into his caramel apple cider.

Earlier I’d picked him up from school and explained that I needed to stop at the grocery store. Sometimes this brings a storm of protest, as the sensitive boy has had enough of people and needs to lie low. But this time he readily agreed, and off we went.

I marveled at his ready agreement, and then I marveled still more when he started singing to a new CD I’d bought. He never sings along to music, so this indicated a surge in development. Yippee! I thought. Life is good. Then, instead of wanting to go home, he asked to go to Starbucks afterward! Life is great, I thought.

We interrupt this narrative to state that people with autism often have a very difficult time when they make a mistake. I have no idea why. Joseph has gotten better about his goof-ups through the years, but we still deal with it.

Back to Starbucks. This happy photo was taken mere seconds before the top fell off of Joseph’s cup, spilling a full glass of warm, gooey caramel apple cider all over my purse and all over the floor.

Joseph started to yell. Extremely upset, he continued to yell. As he took in the full extent of what had occurred, the volume increased to full-blast yelling.

And then it happened:

Everyone Looked.

Hanging around Joseph, it is not such a rare occurrence to have Everyone Look. It happens maybe once every two or three weeks. You’d think I’d get used to it.

But here’s the thing. A few decades ago, I longed to be good friends with a woman I knew. She, however, scorned my initial attempts at friendship. It was only much later, when we’d managed to actually become good friends, that she confessed her reasons for putting me off: she thought I was too together.  I always looked composed, I dressed nicely, I was fit, and — this was the example she used — I could bring a batch of homemade cookies to a party and not eat even a single one.

(What she didn’t know was that, harboring an eating disorder in secret, I’d already helped myself to the entire batch of cookies that didn’t make it to the party. Beware of people who seem all together.)

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is what Joseph brings to me: a general announcement that neither he, nor I, is all together. And, since we live in a small town, you can’t go anywhere without running into someone you know. At Starbucks today, we saw Andi and her father from swim class, as well as that nice man who takes his kid to the same school as Joseph and who always says hello to me.

They were part of the Everyone who Looked. Add three more people to the list of those I know who are now absolutely certain that I am not all together.

Isn’t this great? Can you see how God lies at the end of the Path to Embarrassment? Who needs to fast or pray or self-flagellate or go into silence when she has Everyone Looking at her?

This morning, in my meditation, I had just finished my preparatory techniques and was letting go into stillness when I noticed that an insect had bitten my thumb. I got that itchy, stinging sensation and I noticed the irony. What do I do now, I wondered, put my attention where it wants to go, on my painful thumb, or try to draw my energy back into the stillness?  Ultimately I had to settle for a little of each.

And so it is. God lies in the embarrassment, God lies in the developmental surges, and God most especially lies in the ego having no pride left to hide behind.

Life is good. Life is definitely good.

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 woke up with a rib out of place last week. It hurt so badly that I could only put off visiting my chiropractor for one day.

Dr. Don and I talked while he worked on me. When he was done, he sat next to me and finished our conversation with, “Yoga Mother, you must remember that this earth is a pretty low plane of consciousness!”

So who lives happily ever after on a low plane of consciousness? This plane is a place to learn, to grow, to shed illusions; to do the work and the practice and to come once again to inner peace and love, connection and contentment.

This is my last post. I have been writing this blog for over a year now — or, more accurately put, this blog has been writing itself through me. It’s woken me up in the middle of the night to write itself. It’s brewed an entry slowly, for days, until the finished product spills through my fingers onto the keyboard. It’s insisted that I sit down, NOW, to say what it wants me to say.

And now it is giving me the strong sense that it’s done.

I am someone who prefers to keep my grief and challenges to myself, but this blog has demanded otherwise. In exposing my dark places to the light of your hearts, a transformation and healing has resulted. I know that you, too, have been touched and sometimes inspired by this blog, and I am grateful beyond words for that.

Thank you. It’s been an honor.

We had our kindergarten IEP (Individualized Education Plan) today. Joseph continues to have his challenges, but he also has his strengths. More importantly, perhaps, his teacher loves him already. She gets how sweet and kind and caring he is. She sees constant improvements. She wants him again next year.

Though this is not a happily ever after, it is a closure of sorts. We’ve made it this far and have a sense now of where we’re going.

This blog has allowed me to work through the grief of having big dreams die. My experiences have taught me that grief has its own rhythm. After all my kicking and screaming, I finally had to surrender to the ebbs and tides of grief, to its teachings and its power to shatter illusions.

And shatter illusions it did.

Now I feel healing happening. It is rather scary to let go of something that has become a very familiar friend, but it is, indeed, time to release the grief and move on. I can feel the Universe waiting for me to step up to the plate, to meet whatever it’s got planned for me next.

And so I say thank you. Whether you were one of my more vocal readers or a silent partner, your presence has made a difference.

I will, no doubt, begin another blog before too long. I can feel it shifting around, shuffling its feet, waiting for its turn — much like a babe in the womb. If you’d like me to notify you of its birth, you can send your email address to mrswrite@gmail.com. I promise to use your address only one time: for the birth announcement.

There is only one word I can see fit to close with: Namaste. In Sanskrit, namaste means the God in me bows to the God in you. And so it does.

Namaste.

Well, okay, maybe I’m not closing with that. With a title like the one on this entry, there is only one way to really finish this blog.

The

End.

Aum, shanti, peace, peace, peace.

I had a wonderful dentist who would tell his staff that he was bound to mess up at times – that’s why it was called a dental practice, not a dental perfect. And so it goes for our spiritual practices, our soccer practice, our flute practice, our spelling practice, and every other area in our lives where we work at things.

When you think about it, the concept of practicing actually applies to everything in our lives. We’re practicing creating and maintaining a good marriage, good friendships, happy children. Practicing being good citizens, having positive thoughts, being authentic, acting with compassion, making money, being a functional adult, etc.

It’s all practice. We’re all in training.

So why, oh why, do I tend to look at everything Joseph does as a Grand Finale? If I see him pat another kid on the head or put his face too close to someone else’s, I do not necessarily have to cringe and go right into panic. Cringing and panicking are not the only options here — especially because Joseph is supersensitive to my feelings.

What Joseph is doing is practicing being social. He doesn’t know how to do it as naturally as other kids, but he wants to do it. That, in itself, is huge. And he is a great observer: he pays close attention to how it’s done and then he mirrors it. He rehearses other kids’ phrases under his breath. He is absolutely practicing.

Kindergarten is tough on us autism moms. I have known asd moms who, when their kid enters kindergarten, have cried for days. It is right in your face how your kid is different from the others, and it can hurt. You see how deep the social chasm really is. These kindergarten-aged neurotypical kids are socially very sophisticated! And Joseph just isn’t. Period.

Correction: not period. Joseph is not very socially-skilled yet. Joseph is practicing. This is why he is not going to be homeschooled: he needs all the practice he can get.

My older brother, Dan, tells me that, for most of his life, he had no idea how to make small talk. He tells a story about being at a party, sitting all alone as usual, and making the decision to learn small talk. He started paying close attention to how people were doing this small talk thing: how they would approach another person, what they would say, how they would respond. He started practicing small talk. Slowly, but surely, he figured it out.

Dan has many Aspergers traits. I’ve heard it said that Aspergers kids start doing much better around the age of 18: They’ve had that many years to figure out the social thing, and they’re out of high school and able to mix with people who hold similar interests.

I now declare to Life, the Universe and Everyone that I want to see Joseph as someone who is practicing. Not failing; not permanently delayed – just practicing.

I’m starting to talk to him in this vein. I keep pointing out how, the more you practice, the better you get. I keep spotlighting how climbing the monkey bars is easier than it used to be, how he’s riding his bike more smoothly than he used to – and all because of practice. He sees it — which is incredibly helpful, because his lot in life is going to be harder than it is for most.

One little step at a time, Joseph is learning how to be social. That’s what I need to look at: the small steps of improvement. I want to keep the conversation about practice going because eventually he will  ask us what’s different about him. At that point I want to remind him that, though things can be difficult, they are not impossible if you keep practicing.

In Toastmasters, we practice public speaking and leadership in a supportive environment. It is incredibly healing and growthful to risk, to do what is scary, in an environment that holds you in a loving way.

What I intend for Joseph is the same loving, supportive environment where he can do what’s scary and growthful for him: practice social skills. School is that right now. Rather than disregarding Joseph or bullying him, the other kids try to help him. If, or when, that changes, I will step in to advocate.

For now, it is perfect.

On another note, thanks to those of you who sent kind emails or phone calls or prayers after my last entry. They meant a lot to me. It was a long regression, but Joseph is coming out of it now in a really beautiful way. It’s like watching someone come out of a deep sleep feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready for action. Yea!

I think that the reason I’m getting this perspective on practice is due to a new practice I’ve been doing myself: Yogananda’s worry fast.

Yogananda maintains that worry is a habit and, as such, it creates grooves in the mind. If you compare the mind to an old-fashioned record, our needle falls habitually into whichever grooves are deepest. So he recommends worry fasting to lessen the depth of those worry grooves.

Twice a day, morning and evening, I’ve been consciously worry-fasting for an hour. Now I’m going to extend the time to an hour and a-half twice a day — and gradually increase it from there. It feels like I’m getting control over the anxiety rather than the other way around. About time! And all it’s taking is — guess what! — Practice!

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.

You know that river that runs through Egypt — the one that we all jump into and swim around in, now and then?

DeNile — that’s the one!

I have great respect for denial.  I also seem to have a fondness for swimming in it. Today we met with our new RDI consultant, and I discovered that I’d been floating in that river yet again.

But before I explain, let me take you back a couple of weeks.

Two weeks ago, our amazing occupational therapist gave us a dozen activities to do with Joseph — activities that focus on bilateral (using both hands in a way that they coordinate with each other) movement, and movement that crosses the midline. We’ve been conscientiously doing them almost every day.

Suddenly Joseph became more competent in swimming, drawing and numbers. He started spelling out words on his own. When we drove in the car, he insisted that I roll the windows down so that he could shout, “Hi!” “Hello there!” to passersby — and laugh merrily when they responded. So it’s been a fun two weeks.

On Monday Joseph started insisting that he was ready for kindergarten. I think he is noticing that, while he is almost 6, the other kids in preschool are 3, 4, and 41/2.

Well, it just so happened that, on Tuesday morning, I had an appointment scheduled with the principal/special needs coordinator of our local elementary school. Among other things, I mentioned Joseph’s academic progress and his desire to go to kindergarten.

She was all over it. “Let’s get him in!” she said enthusiastically. “No time like the present!”

On Friday, we are going to visit one kindergarten class for an hour. We’ll visit another one next week sometime.

So I’ve been feeling pretty good about this — feeling that Joseph is ready and willing, feeling that it would work.

Then John came. He is our RDI consultant.

He is new (to us). Kelli, our former beloved RDI consultant, has moved on to different work. So John went to Joseph’s preschool today and observed for 1.5 hours. He came over late this afternoon, and we talked.

He couldn’t say too much about the improvement-needed areas with Joseph in the vicinity, but he did manage to get in one concept: Joseph is not presently other-minded.

Other-mindedness. Ahhhhh.

Other-mindedness is one of the biggest deficits in autism. When someone doesn’t have it, it shows up as an inability to borrow someone else’s perspective, to understand that other people think differently from oneself. It is an inability to consider what someone else might be thinking.

Other-mindedness is the foundation of a good friendship or a good marriage. Or maybe even a good life.

In other words, it is a big one.

Kids start developing other-mindedness around the age of 1 or 2. John talked about working with a 12 year-old who most people couldn’t even tell was on the spectrum. John and this kid were running to a window to wash it together when John fell (on purpose) and began moaning terribly about his hurt knee.

The kid looked back and asked, “Are you all right?” Then he ran the rest of the way to the window and began cleaning it while John lay on the floor, moaning in pain. His mother, watching through a see-through mirror, couldn’t believe it.

It’s a foundational thing, a fundamental building block. Without it, we are painfully lost in most social situations.

Jesus showed very advanced other-mindedness in Matthew 12:25: And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand [emphasis mine].

I am not grieving about this deficit. Nor am I even beating myself up about not noticing it (consciously) before. Denial, after all, has its place.

I just feel extremely grateful that it has been pointed out to us and that we have the tools and support to get it going. We are in good hands with John.

John had Blue Eyes and me running around the living room with him as he tossed a ball to one or the other of us. We never knew who would get it and had to watch carefully to see what he was thinking.

I can see that cultivating other-mindedness is going to be a tremendous step forward for Joseph. I am excited to begin.

I can also see that, though Joseph is right on target academically, he still needs some help socially. Maybe it’s not time for kindergarten. Those kids are really sophisticated socially.

I don’t know. But I’m getting used to not knowing. It’s almost getting to be a comfortable place to hang out.

One of our earlier RDI objectives was about learning from past experiences and applying those lessons to future ones. If I was to do that  in this situation, I would realize that the right things (working on bilateral movements, a new RDI consultant) have come along at the right time. All I need to do is to stay open, to watch for the signs, to listen for the whispers.

It’s worked before, and it’ll work now. God is guiding me no matter where I am or what I’m doing. He’s there with me, always. He is in my corner.

Even when I’m just floating comfortably in DeNile.

The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the social worker-judge; it is on them that the universal reign of the normative is based; and each individual, wherever he may find himself, subjects to it his body, his gestures, his behavior, his aptitudes, his achievements. — Michel Foucault

My earliest memory is of standing a few feet from my mother. She is crouched down, arms held out toward me, urging, “Come on! Come on!” Around me are some other people — brothers, sisters — friends, perhaps, but they are mostly a blur.

My mother’s eyes are so very clear to me. There is LOVE — incredible, unconditional, indescribable love — pouring from her eyes into my being. And since I am so young I am very sensitive, and I can also feel that force of love coming from, and through, my mother. It enfolds me, it holds me, it lifts me up.

Paramhansa Yogananda says that God’s unconditional, incomprehensible love is most closely represented by a mother’s love for her baby. In this memory, I am completely filled with that divine love.

In it, I know I can do anything. I take my first few baby steps, finishing my first walk in the arms of my mother. I hear the applause around me, I feel my mother’s excitement, and I know that I am so very, very loved.

What happens to that sense of being unconditionally loved? I believe I was connected to it all through my elementary school years. It was only when I started (shudder) junior high that the all-enfolding sense of being loved evaporated.

I remember the exact instant it happened. First off, my childhood soul mate — my best friend of all best friends — moved away just before I started sixth grade, so I was already feeling bewildered, like I’d lost half of myself. Then, on the third day of sixth grade, I got onto the school bus. One of the popular girls looked at me and said, derision dripping from her voice, “Do you always wear stretch pants?”

The truth was, I did always wear stretch pants. I liked the little straps that fit under my feet and the freedom of movement that stretch pants allowed. But when I looked around, I noticed that nobody — not one single other person — was wearing stretch pants.

A light bulb lit up in my mind. People care about what you wear! It said. They don’t think you’re worthwhile or loveable unless you look right!

I remember feeling disbelief, but then realizing I’d better get on the stick or I would be the target of all sorts of bullies.

Trouble was, it took me three years to really get the look together. So for those three years in junior high, I was spit upon, slingshotted, called horrible names, and more.

But toward the end of those three torturous years, I started to crack the code. I intentionally studied what made people acceptable in this strange new world where you had to conform in order to be loved. And I decided to play the game.

Off went the blue cat-eye glasses and on went contact lenses. Off went the K Mart clothing and on came stuff from the mall. The hair got styled fashionably. And when I started high school, with almost all new people, I  made my way quite high up the popularity ladder.

Still, I never lost the sense that it was some ridiculous game and I’d simply learned to play it. I looked with pity upon those students who, for whatever reason, couldn’t or wouldn’t figure it out and play along. I could never be mean to them the way the others were.

Now, as the parent of a kid on the spectrum, I wonder: Do kids with autism ever crack the code? Do they, can they, learn to play the game — or are they always the target of bullies, of impatient teachers, of people in general who don’t understand? Dr. Temple Grandin talks about those torturous school years. My ASD nephew went through it. So did my cousin’s ASD boy. Twelve years of school — no friends, merciless bullying, and always the outcast.

You may have read the recent story about the boy with aspergers who, after being yelled at yet again by his teacher, got onto the New York subway and lived there — one train after another — for ten days. He took the battery out of his cell phone because he didn’t want any phone calls. When he was finally “caught” he was asked why he’d done it.

His answer: He just wanted to be somewhere where nobody yelled at him.

When I think about Joseph going to a mainstream school, I see myself falling into the “act normally” trap. I demand, over and over, that he  stay seated during meals (he loves to pop up every few minutes to sing and dance, or spell out a word on the frig, or whatever catches his fancy). I insist that he not make strange movements in public. I try to make him brave about going down slides and things like that.

But when I think about homeschooling him, or having him in some other personalized learning program where teachers appreciate the differences in children, then I find myself relaxing and loving what makes Joseph so special.

Take music, for instance. Even Joseph is astute enough to know not to compose in public — but when he is at home, symphonies swell up in his very being, making him move and sway and hum and sing.

When I express interest, he’ll share parts of what he hears with me: “Here come the violins ( he makes some violin music). Now I hear flutes (hums a beautiful, high-pitched melody) — oh, here’s the trumpet” — and on and on.

What did Mozart or Beethoven act like when they were five, I wonder. Did their peers (and maybe even their parents) think they were a little crazy? Would public school — or any school — have crushed the music of their souls?

I guess the question I have about the music that pours through Joseph is: is this autism or is this an amazing gift from God? Or does it have to be one or the other? Maybe the answer is, simply, yes to all of the above.

The other question is, is there a place — other than home — where someone could see, and draw out, the gifts that God has blessed him with? Where his spirit won’t be crushed because he isn’t “normal?” Where he could fit in, autism and all, and not be seen as lesser than the others?

And if there isn’t, does the problem lie with kids like Joseph, or with the rest of us?

That’s it. I’m ending this entry with questions, not answers. Because I have faith that when we’re asking the right questions, we’re getting very close to finding the right answers.