Tears, Joy and Homecoming

While out of town last week I received this beautiful email from Andrea, one of Ian’s (my 12-year-old son) extraordinary companions. She’s been with our family for about a year and is moving to San Francisco to attend graduate school at USF and receive her masters in marriage and family therapy. What a gift it was to read Andrea’s words expressing how Ian has influenced her life.I asked how she would feel if I shared her story on my blog and her jaw fell open and eyes opened wide with surprise and joy. Her expression said it all.

At the end I also share a video from a talk I gave in March at the Martha Beck Coach’s Conference in San Diego about what Ian teaches me every day about love and presence.

He’s one powerful teacher.

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Andrea's Story

Ian and I were relaxing on the couch in the living room after dinner. He sat on the couch, smiled and looked at me so sweetly and continually asked me to give him squeezes, noses, hugs and kisses. We just laughed and laughed together.

Then all of a sudden out of nowhere, I started crying.

In this moment it dawned on me how next week is my last week. I became unbelievably sad and thought about how much I'm going to miss Ian.

I told him that I can't even imagine him not being in my life and how I really want to keep him and your family in it. I sat there holding his hand while I cried and laughed all at the same time. I reflected on the things that I've learned from Ian and everything I have loved and appreciated about meeting him. He gazed into my eyes and sweetly touched my face while tears streamed down my cheeks.

It was the most raw and beautiful moment I've experienced in a long time. He slowly and gently fell asleep while we sat there clinging our arms together and I continued expressing and releasing every emotion through my body. It felt really good to let this out and share with Ian.

I am excited and ready to move on and pursue my dream of living in San Francisco, but admittedly, I'm also incredibly scared. I occasionally experience self doubts and insecurities about whether or not I can really do it. Then I remind myself that I can! And it's especially moments like this when I'm sitting here with Ian, crying and laughing, overfilled with sadness and joy, that I remember how much I love and feel a sense of purpose in creating, developing and maintaining these extraordinary relationships, such as the connection that I have been so fortunate to build and share with Ian this past year.

It's really made me think about what makes us who we are - how it's not just the tool of verbal communication that makes us human beings. It's our ability to sense and understand each other's bodies, energies, and souls that allows us to experience the deepest trust, love, and intimacy, completely transcending the power of words, you know? That has been a powerful realization for not only my relationships with my family, friends, boyfriend, and even complete strangers... but very importantly, with myself.

The last two years have been a long ride for me including the loss of my grandmother, a really ugly breakup and the transition from college it became an important time of self-exploration and soul searching. Up until these last few months I felt like utterly lost and disconnected. But it's moments like these that remind me that at the end of every long, busy, stressful, sometimes pain-in-the-ass day, it's just about being present with yourself, and being genuine with yourself.

To just breathe, let all of that go, and keep trucking through because of all thetiny, little beautiful things in life that make all of that B.S. worth it. That's how I feel with small moments with Ian - every time we just sit and laugh and play and he's smiling and we're looking into each other's eyes, it genuinely feels like the world stops spinning, and for that small moment, all of the other "big," not fun, ugly, scary stuff in life doesn't matter.

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And it's so funny because those are the moments that you live for and that you make the conscious effort to notice and appreciate with every person that you love and encounter especially with yourself! It's small moments like this that I want to remember and embrace every day.

I believe I was meant to meet you, Ian, and your family because there are so many things I've learned here that I am taking and carrying with me wherever I go. :)

Ian taught me to be here.

Love, Andrea

What Patterns Keep You Awake At Night?

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My 11-year-old son Ian doesn’t speak and with my husband and younger son out for the evening, a quiet peaceful state spread through the house. I settled in to read a book I’ve wanted to read for oh, about a year! The fireplace radiated delicious warmth on a freezing cold December night.

Ian sat down on the couch next to me and his sweet little hand pushed my book away several times until I put it down and gave him my full attention.

“What do you want Love?” I asked.

He looked at me and said (not with actual words) "Thanks, that's all I want, for you to be here with me." 

We sat together for a few minutes. My hand rested on his chest over his heart and he gazed at me with his big green eyes, open and present saying, “There you are, I see you.”

He relaxed and sank lower into the couch with his head resting on one of end and I started to feel sleepy. I decided to lay down too with my head on the opposite side facing him. He’s now over five feet tall and it’s not a huge couch so it took a few minutes with our legs stretched out to find a comfortable position. Once comfortable we dropped into a deep, peaceful state.

I listened and became more aware of all my senses. His breathing slowed down. I observed his angelic face, with his almond shaped eyes closed, resting peacefully; his little turned up nose that he uses to express his affection by touching his nose to yours. I heard high-pitched hum in my ears (that wasn't the refrigerator) and noticed where my body ended and his began.

Then at some point I lost the sensation of my body, the couch, his legs and it felt as if everything melted and dissolved. It was a sensation of oneness and several times I felt an electrical buzzing sensation that’s hard to describe. It felt like a surge of energy and when the sensation would pass, Ian would take a big breath and let out a sigh then return to slow, rhythmic breathing. The stillness expanded out everywhere. Nowhere else existed in that moment of peace.

I had no idea how much time passed in this deep meditative state when Ian shifted into an awake state and sat up, then stood up and I felt he wanted something. He looked at me and in my head I heard, “I need to use the toilet.”

I walked with him and helped him sit down and for the first time, when he began to pee he looked down at the water as if to make the connection that his body was making that sound in the water. He stopped and looked at me. Then started again and looked down to check it out again. I’d never seen him look down to see what was happening.

For the past year, I have asked Ian to show me the way he experiences the world around him. For many years, I’ve also been inviting him to join me in this world of physical density, people and movement and have promised to support his journey to feel comfortable and safe in his body.

When I chose to put my book down and connect with the present moment, he was right there with me ready to show me his experience. It felt like connecting with Ian in his world (the unseen) created a connection for him in this world (the seen) and we were creating new energetic patterns of connection together. Wise teacher, he is. My little Yoda.

What is an energetic pattern?

Energetic patterns form the foundation of our relationships with the world. We live and express ourselves in patterns. You will find patterns in your thought, feelings, beliefs, behaviors and actions. A pattern is the energetic expression that informs the way you show up and communicate with the world around you on a non-verbal level.

From the moment you entered this world, you are conditioned through what you repeatedly observe and experience. As you experience different events and conditions in your life, you make choices and take action based on your perceptions and interpretations and what you make an event or circumstance mean.

Why might this be interesting?

When you’re suffering and hurting, of course make appropriate efforts to improve the situation and consider this may be a sign you’re cycling in a pattern. A common response when in pain is to point fingers at the external world to find someone or something else to blame, which creates issues in relationships and makes it hard to identify the pattern and take action.

You may spend many cycles in a pattern before you notice and it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. You likely haven’t discovered the pattern yet. Without labels of good or bad, right or wrong, fixed or broken, perfect or not, there is no judgment, only observation, exploration, connection, honesty, integration and peace.

What I’ve learned about patterns is they will hang out playing their role waiting for you to notice them. And once you identify a pattern that creates disharmony and discomfort, the nice thing is if you choose to, you have the ability to actively create new patterns.

Example of one of my old patterns

The condition: Ian does not use verbal language. Thought pattern, what I made it mean: We didn’t have a meaningful way to communicate because my patterning included a heavy emphasis on verbal language for communication. Emotional pattern, my feeling state: sad, frustrated, confused Behavior pattern:  Exhaustive, focused search for answers and solutions to fix him. Not being present with him and missing what was right in front of me; my beautiful son wanting to connect and communicate.

Then in 2009, I began working with horses and explored the world of non-verbal communication. I learned that only 10% of what we communicate is through verbal language with the other 90%, non-verbal.I focused so much attention on him talking that I missed the other channels he used all the time. Not anymore.

What I’ve discovered is he’s always communicating and when I tune in to listen with all of my senses, I “hear” what he’s expressing. Would it be great if one day he started talking? You bet! I would celebrate in a big way. And if he never speaks, I’m grateful for the expanded awareness of what’s available for all of us.

New thought pattern: There are so many ways to explore with communication and listening beyond words. New emotional pattern: Curious, playful, joyful New behavior pattern: Relaxed, slower pace, present, engaged, kinder and patient with myself.

A way to create a new pattern

  • Set the intention to be a pattern explorer.
  • Get curious. Life is a big, giant relationship and once you start exploring you will discover patterns everywhere.
  • Identify any pattern that creates discomfort or where you feel stuck.
  • Explore the origin of the pattern. See if you can identify a thought pattern.
  • Use The Work on the thought and if you don't find the thought, move to emotion.
  • Observe and be with whatever emotion comes up without trying to stop it, change it or fix it.
  • Allow the emotion to move through you. Imagine the sensation moving through your body and out valves at your fingertips and toes.
  • Explore what new pattern wants to be created and integrated. Ask yourself “What do I want.”
  • Define a practice to integrate the new pattern.

Some resources for you

Neuroscience shows that you can consciously use the mind to re-pattern the brain. Dr. Rick Hanson wrote the book “Hardwiring Happiness” that goes into great detail about this and he makes it very easy to understand. He shows how to use your mind to rewire your brain and create new neural pathways. You create new neural pathways, you feel differently, your energetic pattern shifts and you express yourself differently. Very cool material!

For the areas where you feel stuck in your thought patterns, The Work of Byron Katie is my favorite tool to get unstuck and her book, “Loving What Is” goes into great detail how to use her method.

For stuck emotional patterns, I recommend exploring "The Presence Process" by Michael Brown. It’s a 10-week process that supports emotional and energetic re-patterning. I also like Karla McLaren’s book, “Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You” as a reference guide to understanding the messages from your emotions.

If you have a child with autism, I highly recommend exploring the work of neuro-psychologist, Dr. Svetlana Masgutova. Fundamental to the MNRI (Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration) Method is the understanding that automatic primary motor reflex patterns do not disappear, they integrate. Her method focuses on re-patterning primary motor reflex patterns which serve as the foundation for motor and cognitive development.

What I share with you comes from my own personal journey exploring and integrating new patterns. At times when my journey gets challenging, I reach out and ask for support. If you're struggling and feel stuck, I encourage you reach out and ask for support. And if you're willing, please share your perspective and experience with patterns in the comments below.

With love, Your fellow pattern explorer

Feeling Fear, Dentist Drills and Autism

With a swift motion, the anesthesiologist pulled Ian onto his lap and faced him out towards me. He folded Ian’s arms across his chest and held his arms and hands in place to try to prevent Ian from getting down. Ian let him know that wasn’t his idea with a verbal “Eeeeyyyyy”

Please take the mask with the blue rim and place it over his mouth” he asked his assistant.

I knelt in front of Ian and let him know I would be with him through the entire procedure.

The assistant placed the blue-rimmed mask over his mouth and I watched as Ian processed what was happening. He didn’t seem so sure about breathing the strange smelling air coming in through the mask.

Then he surrendered.

The doctor spoke words in his ear of candy canes with red stripes and dogs running through grass and my hand rested on his leg letting him know I was there.

Within 30 seconds, Ian’s body started to relax and his eyelids began to droop. The gas was doing its job. Ian’s body was letting go.

I noticed I didn’t feel very comfortable. It was a strange sensation watching my son go to sleep so quickly.

I recognized it. Fear. I surrendered and the sensation moved through my body.

Another few breaths and we’ll move him to the table.” said the doctor.

As he and his assistant moved him, Ian’s head rolled sideways with absolutely no support and they gently and swiftly placed his sedated body on the table. There was no reason for me to linger. I didn’t need to see the next steps of preparing his body for the procedure.

I walked into the waiting area, sat down and breathed. Fear, swelled again in my body and moved through like a wave. I could hear the voices of the doctors as they began to do the job of cleaning Ian’s teeth and taking x-rays.

This is the process of a dental procedure for a child with autism.

At one point, the office assistant came in to have me sign some paperwork. I could feel my mind wanting the distraction but my body said no, stay with the feeling. I heard her words move through the air and I tried to process them then I just surrendered and let her know I would talk with her later.

As I sit and type this, I continue to check in with my body and ask “what am I feeling?” I stay with it even though my mind wants to run away. The sensation moves through. I then check in with the present moment to find there is nothing. This is big.

There is nothing to fear. It is my thoughts that create the fear.

In this moment, Ian peacefully sleeps in the chair while the dentist skillfully cleans his teeth and fills his cavities. I hear the anesthesiologist chatting with the dentist, the drill spinning, and sounds of suction. I hear all the normal sounds from a dentist office.

The emotions come. Fear, gratitude, love. I feel them move through my body. I sit in this chair. I breathe. Soon I will be asked to go back and hold Ian as he wakes. All is well.

Always.

Love.

Ian's Birthday, Whales and the Way Back Home

IMG_0678In the quiet stillness of the morning, you decided it was time to transition from the warmth of my womb to the world of wonder awaiting your arrival.  As dawn broke, the sun rose over the hills spreading orange hues that lit up the violet sky and turned down the stars.  Fifteen hours later, after the sun traversed the sky blazing the trail for the moon, your father and I held you in our arms.

You joined us on the eve of February 1st 2002.

We greeted you with great expectations.  We celebrated your arrival surrounded by your aunties and grandparents.  Feelings of joy mixed with exhaustion flooded my senses as I watched your father gaze down upon you.

That evening, in the quiet of the hospital, after everyone had gone home, your father slept in the bed while I rocked you in my arms.  I whispered stories of love in your tiny little ears of what I believed our life would be together.  In that moment, I had no idea how powerful a teacher you would be in my life.

Very early on, I knew you were a very special child.  The neurologist diagnosed you with autism at 2 ½ years.  I sat in his office feeling as though the air had been sucked out of the room.  And there you stood, watching the birds fly, banging your hands on the window just as you did moments before, completely unaffected by the label.

Nothing changed and everything changed.

I swam in the depths of sadness and grief for quite some time.  At times I felt like I was drowning, pinned down by the force of crashing waves, over and over again.  I fought the waves, struggled to breathe, so full of fear.

You waited for me, standing on the sand, gazing up at the stars, birds flying above, watching the whales and dolphins play; your faith in me never waivered.

You patiently guided me to find my way back home to love.

A beautiful, pure love swirls around you and engulfs anyone that comes within your realm of being.  You touch lives with the simplest of interactions.  At the grocery story, the park, Costco and walking down the street.  Anyone who takes the time to connect with you experiences the joy of wordlessness and is forever changed by your love and sensitivity.  You teach each person what it means to truly connect from a place of love and peace.

I believe you showed up in this world as a profound teacher. Oh how the lessons have come fast and furiously.  Feels like a space shuttle burning up through the atmosphere, thoughts surfacing and burning up with a greater awareness.

You’ve taught me love blows fear to pieces.

I’m deeply grateful you chose me as your mother and continue to teach me to listen and lead from the place of peace and clarity.  I support your journey every day with love and renewed hope for a day when autism will no longer be a painful struggle for so many.

Whenever I feel a bit stressed or out of sorts, all I need to do is take a few deep breaths, get present and share a moment with you.  You show me the way back to love.

Happy Birthday dear sweet Ian.

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