Sunday, January 25, 2015

Setting an Intention for the Next Day


A sankalpa, or intention, is a set of words one says to one’s self before bed to feel happier the next day.  Two months ago, I learned about sankalpas from Elephant Journal’s article Do These Five Things Before Bed and Wake UpHappier.  According to the article, “It is suggested that you decide on only one sankalpa, and that it be quite short and phrased in a positive and not negative way. It should also be phrased to indicate that success has already been achieved. So we should try to get at the root of our deepest desires and goals, rather than focus on more superficial ones.”
                As I did this practice, eleven times over the next three weeks, I mixed it with the practice of giving thanks that the article mentioned.  I also helped give myself support in finding a girlfriend, keeping up with my school work, making money, learning to be independent, and starting an autistic student group at my college, while with each night, working more to get in touch with my Buddhist values.  Over the next three weeks, I said these eleven sankalpas.

November 17, 2014

May I continue forward with my life,
doing what needs to be done,
while enjoying the company of those around me,
and doing the things I enjoy.

November 18, 2014

I have continued to get a lot of work done,
while enjoying those around me and the time I have free.
I have figured out much about how to go about my pursuits,
learned more about questions probing my mind,
given care to those around me,
and put stressful tasks to do from my mind.
May I continue to go forward with the same wisdom, compassion, patience, and equanimity in my life.

November 26, 2014

I have continued to get more of my work done,
while still enjoying those around me,
and the time I have to myself,
and pursuing goals to help others.
I plan to go forward
with the same wisdom and compassion
for my education, personal life, social life, career, and community work.

November 27, 2014

I continue to get more work done,
while still enjoying those around me,
and my time to myself.
I find enjoyment in my local resources,
continue to better understand people the way they are,
and move closer to my goals for the good of others.
I plan to go forward with the same wisdom, compassion, inspiration, dedication, and discipline
for the good of my education, social life, personal life, career, community work, and spirituality,
so I may continue to find beauty in the things around me,
enjoy the full potential of the relationships I have,
and guide people through a world full of uncertainty and violence.

November 28, 2014

I give thanks for today’s bounty of family, productivity, creativity, and the ability to help others.
I continue to get more of the work I have set for myself done,
continue to find ways to build my future,
continue to be more creative in helping others,
continue to enjoy the world around me,
continue to enjoy the people I love,
better see people for who they are,
and give guidance to those around me.
I plan to keep finishing the work I have set for myself,
keep building my future,
and keep enjoying the environment around me of art, literature, nature, friendship, and love
with wisdom, compassion, present awareness, dedication, discipline, and openness.

November 29, 2014

I give thanks for today’s bounty for opportunities for productivity, outspokenness, creativity, and community.
I continue to see opportunities to do the work I have set for myself,
build more resources for my future,
speak up for other people,
find ways to better connect with the people I love,
remember every part of my life,
to give myself pleasure throughout the day,
complete the little tasks that make my life easier,
and see how the practices I have set for myself are creating the life I have today.
I plan to continue to complete the work I have set for myself,
to seek the places that give me fulfillment,
to appreciate the people and the world around me,
to do the little tasks that make my life easier,
to perfect the skills I need to build in my life,
and to take care of each thing as it comes into my life
with wisdom, compassion, present awareness, discipline, dedication, and openness.

November 30, 2014

I give thanks for today’s bounty of learning, productivity, helping others, creativity, and love.
I continue to be able to learn the things that make my life easier,
I continue to be able to do the things that make my life less difficult,
I continue to be able to do the things that make my life more enjoyable,
I continue to be able to do those things.
I continue to be able to learn to make other’s lives less difficult and more enjoyable.
I plan to go forward, finishing the work I have set for myself,
while enjoying the comforts of leisure, friendship, and love,
and bringing comfort to those in need
with wisdom, compassion, clarity, dedication, discipline, present awareness, and openness.

December 1, 2014

I give thanks for today’s opportunities for forebearance, helping others, creativity, and love,
for though I sometimes cannot find what I wish I had,
and though the things I depend on can be attacked,
and though people I’ve depended on fail to comfort me,
I have friends,
I have creativity to change my world,
I am able to change people’s minds with my words,
and bring comfort into the lives of others.
I plan to go forward finishing the work I have set for myself,
looking where I may find what I am searching for,
dealing with disappointment as I may,
and appreciating the love, friendship, and inspiration around me
with wisdom, compassion, clarity, present awareness, dedication, discipline, and openness.

December 3, 2014

I give thanks for today’s bounty of love friendship, productivity, creativity, and love.
I am able to find opportunities to finish the work I have set for myself,
keep my mind open to the possibilities of love ahead.
I know even though love is confusing,
we can always find ways to connect to people if we keep our minds open.
I plan to go forward finishing the work I have set for myself,
and realizing all I have to give to other people,
while enjoying the environment and company around me
with wisdom, compassion, innocence, dedication, discipline, present awareness, openness, an love.

December 5, 2014

I give thanks for today’s bounty of love, friendship, self-realization, productivity, and creativity.
I continue to be able to tackle to problems that get in my way,
while continuing to see who people are to me and what they mean to me,
and I continue to be able to give guidance to those around me.
I plan to go forward
and be able to relax and enjoy myself
with wisdom, compassion, innocence, openness, discipline, dedication, present awareness, and love.

December 6, 2014

I give thanks for today’s bounty of creativity and friendship.
I continue to be able to surround myself with the things I enjoy,
while being able to be productive and enjoy the people around me.
I plan to go forward and enjoy myself
with wisdom, compassion, innocence, openness, discipline, dedication, present awareness, and love.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

7 Lies We Need to Stop Saying About Autistic "Special Interests"


I don’t know about any of you, but I feel, living in a mostly neurotypical family, society, and planet, that my “special interests,” whether they be a books series, place to travel, hobby, or anything, lead me to be patronized, labeled, belittled, and just plain misjudged.  Your parents ask your psychiatrist what kind of medicine he can prescribe to “stop me from thinking about it too much.”  Your mother seems to know who you should date, what you should watch, and even what career you ought to do.  Everything you say seems to provoke them to push you in some direction you don’t want because really they don’t understand what you really think about certain things, the ways in which you appreciate them, and how they really fit into your life, so I thought, after mulling things over in my head as I do every so often, that I ought to write this post dispelling many (though probably not all) the myths about special interests that autistic people like me have.

1.       Autistics have ONE special interest and it stays with them their whole life.  Really.  I’ve had dozens of these special interests during my childhood-gas/electric lamps, apes, trees-and most of them I’ve never even thought of for the past fifteen years.  Some lasted barely a week.  When I was a kid, I used to know all the different kinds of leaves in my neighborhood.  Not any more.

Furthermore, I have dozens of interests today-photography, drawing, knives, instruments.  I rarely spend more than two hours of my spare time involved in any of these one things.  Think of it like this: you may like pizza, but does that mean you have it for every meal?

2.       Autistic interests are, almost always, “weird.”  Here’s what I’ve liked over the course of my life: elementary school I liked Pokemon; middle school I liked Harry Potter; high school I liked The Lord of the Rings.  See a pattern?  I just needed Game of Thrones and I would have made my point.

Let me talk about college for a second.  Here are some of my primary interests: I like gender studies, literary criticism, media theory, art history, social science.  How many people interested in gender studies, literary criticism, media theory, or art history can there be at a four year university?

I’d like to make a point that I have sometimes become interested in things my peers never shared my passion for at the time.  When I was in elementary school, I had a fascination with apes.  However, I, as with all of my peers from school went to our local zoo and paid attention with them, and for me, they just happened to stick with me for a while.  I wasn’t interested in a different thing.  Just more so than my other peers.  Today it seems like every other interest of mine is either a block buster movie or ones of twenty other people surrounding me.

3.       Special interests encourage autistics to “withdraw” from social activities.  Autistics don’t need special interests to withdraw from social activities.  We have plenty of motivations that can make us want to do that already-bullying, discrimination, lack of social skills, needing time alone to process all that’s going on in our heads, trouble with executive functioning.  All special interests are is really just a way to pass time while we do this.

4.       Autistic people relate better to people with shared interests.  I once thought this myself.  When I was a junior, I got a lot of flirtatious glances from a girl in an anthropology class, and thought, What the Hell?  We have similar interests.  She’ll probably understand how I feel.  Little did I know she happened to be very needy, immature, and played all sorts of games with me to get me to like her before I stopped trying to get with her.  Today, my two best friends at school happen to be interested in these two particular areas: computer science and mathematics.  They are probably the best friends I have ever had and we hang out all the time, talking and laughing.  While it seemed that girl and I might have shared similar interests, these two guys and I had more similar personalities, approaches, and sense of humor.

5.       Special interests make it hard for autistics to interact with other people.  Again, if you’ve read any popular literature that’s out there on autism, you’d know that’s already hard for us.  We don’t read facial expressions of body language, we speak bluntly and hastily, we have a terrible need for exactness of schedules.  But somehow, special interests get the axe because parents and educators think that if we like something, that’s all we’ll ever talk about.  Did your special education major friend from college only talk to you about FERPA and IEP? 

 

I myself have plenty of other ways of relating to my peers.  We’re both concerned about similar issues-dating, teachers, sex (yes, sex).  We eat twenty piece McDonald’s chicken nuggets together.  We laugh, we drink, we go to parties.  Autistics have other ways of relating to people than on a purely intellectual level.  True, some of us, if you look at practically every news channel talk about autism, can go into a monologue like a street preacher.  But the truth is, sometimes our special interests are all we ever really know what we're talking about on anything and we don't want to seem stupid.

6.       Special interests are practically all autistics ever think about.  Actually it’s a little more like this.  Imagine you are walking through town, you have a life-long passion for photography, you see the perfect sunset, and you think, That reminds me of my perfect lover back at home.  Autistics don’t simply think about these interests in exclusion to other things.  They can simply relate them to what else is going on in their lives.  It’s like a friend you meet at a bar and think, This guy knows what I’m going through.

7.       These special interests will never be a possible career for autistics.  Except for porn stars and drug dealers, every profession is important.  We can’t live without it.  We wouldn’t have food on the table if there weren’t cashiers at the registers or managers to help run customer service.  Several autistics, such as Daniel Tammet, John Elder Robison, Temple Grandin, Dawn Prince-Hughes, and Lance Rice, have all made successful careers in areas of their choosing.  Yes, autistics like these have had to “overcome the lack of demand” for these professions, just as they have also had to overcome epilepsy, PTSD, depression, unemployment, lack of education, and government housing.  Furthermore, statistics indicate that nearly 70% of all Americans will work in at least five different fields over their lifetime.  What’s more, dismissing some of the autistic interests-animal physiology, botany, explosives-tends to originate from the whole STEM mentality (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), which I know from being in the state of Kansas.  But while these jobs are important, they’re not enough for us to live on our own.  We couldn’t know these things without teachers, and we could never sell our products without economists who predict the stock market in this ever-changing economy.  Obviously, Temple, Robison, Tammet, and such have a demand for their books because people just keep buying them.