Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Autism and Love

Let's say your brain was such that life seemed overwhelming and
didn't want
interact with anyone outside of yourself.
They call it autistic, but, you just want to be alone.
Things are more interesting than people, much of the time
and "stimming" a repeated over and over movement
is the only way to shut out the overstimulating
get a sense of control in a world
where you seemed to have none.
And then, you have a parent, or other person, and then:
they leave you alone, that's okay
they try to fix you and change you or stop your stemming
and that doesn't make sense
they sit down with you, and join in, as if what you are doing makes
to them.
This feels good.
You feel like maybe they are alright. You feel like maybe they understand you and that you are alright. 
Maybe this being alive thing isn't so bad, after all.
Maybe they are worth noticing or smiling at or at least sneaking a look at.
And then, sometimes you have a "good day," where you are
interested in these other people
you like them
and smile
and look at them
and they get happy about that,
and ask for more,
in gentle and fun ways,
that make you feel like joining them even more.
Then life isn't so bad:
if you want to be alone, they "join" you, but don't punish, or try to fix or ignore you
and if you want to come out, they get excited and help it be even nicer for you
It seems you win, no matter what.
let's do an adult version, but from the point of view not of the person
who is either
"having a bad day"
"having a good day"
but from the point of view of a person who wants to be
a good mate
a good lover
a better friend
to their partner ( or normal child, or friend).
So, your partner is having a bad day,
they don't "stim," they don't sit on the floor and rock
for hours,
but they clearly aren't feeling good.
As a friend we have the same three choices:
ignore them ( sometimes adult mates just do need "space")
or try to fix them
as in
cheer up. or
tell me your problem and I'll give a solution
or scold them: you always get in this mood
demand: when are you going to shape up
(this is very common, really, in most grumbling marriages)
Or, as their lover or friend,
you can either leave them alone, as suggested first,
or do the adult equivalent of "joining"
you can ask them what's going on
or can be sympathetic to why they are feeling as they are feeling
you can encourage them to really talk it through
you can hug and hold and rock them, and demand no quick fix
you can stroke them
you can sit quietly in their company
letting them know you're ready to be with them, when they are ready
and then,
or other days,
their 'good mood' days,
you make sure to join that
to celebrate,
to play, to tease, to dance,
to ask for something you're both a little lazy to
get to,
like going out dancing
or to a party,
you help them get even happier in their happiness
(you don't neglect, again, fairly common. as in, "I'm so busy, they're in a good mood, no need to put any attention and energy their way.")
This is a big topic, and I hope this is a start to get us all thinking on
how to love our partners better
how to serve our autistic children better.
The keys is mindfulness,
being awake to what we are feeling,
being awake in the moment to what the child is feeling,
and then being a bit brave,
not fixing,
but connecting,
not ignoring and taking for granted,
but connecting.
That's what we all want, love and connection.
I'm in Austin. I work with families and children.
I can talk to you if you want to talk.
Chris Elms at 360-317-4773

Friday, April 25, 2014

Learning From Autism, One

This from my special needs kids blog, with a new title
Say you are in a crowded room.
There are five or ten people, all talking loudly, in different languages.
A train is roaring by outside.
Inside, in the next room, someone is playing loud rock and roll.

The lights are going on and off, sometimes very dim, sometimes very bright.

Someone is talking at you,
demanding that you explain to them what you want,
you have to say it in Chinese ( assume another language if you speak Chinese)
and you have to look them in the left hand side of their right eyelid while you talk,
and you have to lean to the left if you are talking to women and to the right if you are talking to men

What would you do?

Run out screaming , probably, except the big people, for there are a bunch of people clearly bigger than you, keep you in the room, and
keep giving you some ask to do which doesn't make sense.

You can't drink.

If given an electronic device, you'll dive in as a lifesaver to divert your attention,
but what if that's not available?

You just want all the racket to be shut out
You just want to calm down inside

Say you start to rock,
Back and forth
Back and forth

Now, here is something you are in charge of
You can back the going back
You can make the going forward

And you start to feel calmer in your body
because all sorts of reasons,
but your head and pelvis are connected ( riding a horse could help, but there are none in the room)
you can breathe easier as you do this
you can use up energy

you can shut others out
the noise seems to go away
the lights seem to go away
the whole world seems to go away

and you feel calmer

And if you are an autistic child
this feels like safety
and control
and calmness all at once

And then,
the big people decide:
"This is stimming.
This is a behavior that isn't leading anywhere."

So they try to, or do, make you stop, or try to divert you,
or talk louder about options,
none of which gives you safety and exclusivity and control

This seems cruel, doesn't it?

And then, what are we the parents, we the caretakers, we the clinicians going to do?

At least three things with the child,
but I have a challenge for you, today.
Think of the most troubling aspect of your life.
Tense up your breath.
Wherever you are tight in your body, make it tighter.
And now,
gently slowly but for awhile
longer than "makes sense"

rock back and forth,
just do it
feel it
breathe into it

I'll tell you later how to use inner words to make it better

on May 4, Sunday, in Austin, I'll be giving a talk on Autism and Meditation,
and teaching you how to make this a basis of a great and simple

think about what a child wants from this stim:
to be calm
to shut out the world
to bring themselves out of the chaos

why do people meditate?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

mindfulness when you have "too much to do"

See my new website, if you'd like, it's underway,
but worth looking at if you wish: 

there are a million excuses not to be present

and here's a good reason to be:

one day we'll be dead

and here's another,
and you can take the hint from this exercise,
the first I have couples do, when they are wishing
to upgrade their relationship

They take turns saying this:
"I am alive.
You are alive."

They do that three times, present to themselves and the other.

Then, three times with the kicker;

"Someday I'm going to die.
Someday you are going to die."

And that's the other half:
every person that you are judging, ignoring, punishing, dismissing, spacing out and not giving attention, cutting off on the freeway, deciding is stupid, wishing they weren't around

every one,


from there
how important is the "getting things done?"

how many of us want this on our

"Was always busy."

And so what?
You can be busy and present.
It's harder.
It's fun.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ways to treat ourselves, our Children, our Mate

Many people, asked what they feel in their bodies, only report what’s missing.
“I’m don’t feel comfortable.”
“I’m not as relaxed as I want to be.”
“My hip is bothering me.”
“My back hurts.”

The last two remarks were a judgment of what wrong.
The question was not how they feel, but what they feel.
An answer could be: “I feel a tightness in my shoulder.” “I feel my breathing is slow and shallow and mainly in my chest.” “My neck feels slightly pinched, more on the left side than the right.”

God forbid they actually report something that feels good. “I like the warm feeling in my fingers.” “My spine feels up and over my pelvis and is playfully balancing my head.” “My muscles of my leg feel warm and full.”

This is our mind in mediocre mode.
Not on the positive.
Not on the real.

This is a good distinction to remember One: when we are talking to our children.
And Two: when we are talking to our mates.
And Three: when we are talking to ourselves.

The child is making a lot of noise.
Command: “Stop making all that racket.” ( Command plus judgment).
Judgment: “That sounds awful.”
Statement of fact: “Your voice is loud and jumping around a lot.”
Request: “Could you be more gentle and sing with your voice.”

Your mate hasn’t given you enough affection, you feel.
Complaint: “You never give me affection.”
Demand: “Be nicer to me.”
Request: “Would you please say five things you like about me.”
Turn Around : “You look great. Can I give you a hug?” ( Giving what you want to get)

Complaint: “You didn’t get enough done today.”
Judgment: “You never get enough done.”
Statement: “You did this and this. You wish you’d also done this.” Or, “I did this and this. I’d like to have gotten this done, too.”
Kinder statement: “I liked that about doing that. I like that about doing this.”
Connecting: “I think I’ll call Joe and ask what he liked today and tell him what I liked.”

That enough.

Monday, April 21, 2014

From Special Needs Blog: Your Child's Brain on Learning

Would you do this for me, please?
Take out your socks, and take out your cell phone, and with your feet, pick up your phone and call a number that you'd like to call.

Does this sound impossible?

It probably is.

As I say to any adult client who says "I can't do so... and so..."
I say, "Not yet."

You could learn to use your phone with your toes, but it would take learning.
You'd have to learn to move one toe separately from the other.

In your brain, you can see the toes, but in your body, probably, you can't move them separately yet.

This was once true with your fingers.
They moved as one.

And then you learned.
Call it trial and error.
Call it random movements that the brain organizes into meaning.
Call it differentiation.

Anat calls it the brain's ability to distinguish between Thing One and Thing Two.

Any time your child's brain can distinguish between Thing One ( say, her back) and Thing Two ( her shoulder, say), she has a clearer image of herself in a human body, and many many more options in movement.

And in thinking.


These lessons, for adults and children, sharpen our ability to distinguish differences and that ability is what intelligence is about.

As Anat has said many times in lectures at her trainings: " THE ABILITY TO PERCEIVE DIFFERENCES IS THE FUNDAMENTAL UNIT OF INTELLIGENCE."

In this chapter is the wonderful story of the little girl who didn't know she had two legs, and Anat's playful and creative way to break this little girl free into realizing she had two legs.

This week, in working with an Autistic child, whose mother had been taught a system of stifling her repetitive movements, which are called "stemming," I showed the mother how to simple place her hands on the child's knees, which were moving in and out, and simply ride along with their movement. As she did this she named what was happening, "Now your knees are out. Now your knees are in."

This did three things:

By touch and connection, and having her nervous system aware of what the child was doing, the child can begin to be aware that SHE is moving, instead of having the movement being unconscious discharge.

By having the mother along for the ride and speaking the differences, the child could begin to hear that language had a different word for In and Out, and perhaps in her body she could feel this difference.

Three: By approving rather than trying to control this action, the child could feel loved and accepted, rather than a machine that did ( for reasons that make no sense at all) SOMETHING WRONG.

The last thing a child needs, special needs or not, is to feel they are WRONG.

Think through your life and how awful that has felt when others or parents ( or even yourself) put you in that position.


The child needs to be exploring life as much as possible.
Stemming plus accepting touch plus naming turns what can be essentially mindless release, into one more chance for learning.

What is learning?
Finding a  Thing One and a Thing Two and noticing the difference.

And how can you help you child at any moment?
Find a Thing One and a Thing Two that you can both enjoy noticing/ perceiving.

And how can you become more mindful at any moment?

Come into the present, present with gravity, with light, with sound, with breath, even with emotional feeling. Find something slightly different, and go back and forth.

The light on the tree or the house.
The sound of the birds or the sound of the cars.
The feeling of sitting learning to the right and sitting learning to the left.
The feeling of sad when you don't breath and sad when you do breath.

If you really want to help your child, you are going to have to wake up.

This is a gift.
Not a burden.

A life not awake is a wasted life in many ways.

Don't take my word for it.

Play today with as many perceptions of differences in your life and your child's as you can find and see what the difference is.

Good luck, good cheer, good learning.
Better brain.
Better brain all the time.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Resurrection: What Dies, What Lives

There's a dramatic story going down each year on a pagan day.

The day is set like this:
The first Sunday
After the first full moon ( we just had it)
After the equinox ( March 20-22, depending on the year)

So this coming Sunday is that Sunday.
It's called Easter

Does Easter have something to do with the East
with the sun rising in the East
and the day breaking in the East
and the stars and moon rising in the East

I don't know,
but I'd guess so

And it has a lot to do with a man we call Jesus,
but who
was a Jew
and was perhaps called Yeshua back in his day,


And he taught revolution:

turn within
find the Kingdom of Heaven

turn without
turn outside yourself:
Love your neighbor ( no small job by the complaints so many have about their real life neighbors)
Love your enemy

Love your enemy:
That isn't theory

That's the divorced mate you feel justified in hating because:
they had an affair
they go boring
they watched porn
they trash talked you
they drank
they hit
they neglected
they controlled

they always did something wrong, correct?

The enemy can be horrible.
I've been reading a book about Nigeria.
Half of a Yellow Sun

It's about the slaughter of the Ibbo people in Nigeria

one tribe committing genocide
ugly awful stuff
at least in part,
if not mostly set in motion by the British rulers brilliant use of divide and conquer

( Moshe Feldenkrais talks of how Jews and Arabs
co existed for centuries in Palestine until the British set them
against each other....

and the ease with which one tribe/ nationality/ religion
can be set against each other brings us back to the point



and Jesus preached this

and they killed him

This was just too rebellious
loving your enemy

how could divide and conquer work?
how could people stay miserable and easy to oppress?
how could people feel weak and powerless if they could forgive?

better kill this dude

so they did

and what's the resurrection:
letting go of whatever you haven't forgiven

seeing it's the other person's problem
letting it go

now is now

the kingdom of heaven

or never

dive in



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Love Game, The Wake Up Game, Are they the Same

The love game
The wake up game

You know, around here, if you've read enough of my blogs, that this is a rhetorical question.

And it's a rhetorical question worth examining for awhile.

Because love is big.
It has kisses.
It has affection.
It has caring for.
It has all sorts of old wounds and junk coming up.
It has chanced to grow up.
It has touch.
It has sex.
It has all sorts of chances to heal old wounds and old junk coming up.

(This isn't a poem.
This is an essay being written out more or less line by line to make the possibilities more obvious, to make the richness more clear.
Maybe it makes it easy to understand.
I hope so.)

Love is very much this strange feeling of connection and caring and being willing to DO for the other person. Let's leave aside all the hooey about co-dependence and simply hone in on the kind of love like a parent has for their child.

They want what's best for the child.
If the child is normal, sometimes they drive the parent a little or a lot crazy.
If the parent is good enough, they get riled by that, and then let it go.
They over all are putting their energy into wanting what's best for the child.

Unless this relationship gets stuck
as often happens with teenagers
in power struggles.

Power struggles.
Who gets to say who does what when?

And let's expand that out to a couple.

We love our mate.
They drive us a little or a lot crazy sometimes.
We get riled, or maybe not, and then we go back to wanting what's best for them.
We, really, when love is what it should be, a force for unity and expansion, want what's best for the WE, the US, that is being created.

This is cool.
This is exhausting.
This goes against the me me me grain of either,
the ego
our capitalist society
our insecurities.

And so what?

Love is being uncomfortable for the sake of another.
Not as a masochist.
Not as a doormat.
But as someone who is willing to hang in there with the mess of life.
We are not the same person.
We feel unity
We want to be closer and more loving

and that is going to require backing off from the
two traps of ruined or struggling relationships;

The "I am right, you are wrong" trap
the Do it My Way, and Do it when I say so.


Ah, what a fine mess we can get into with another person.

And here's were the rhetorical question's answer comes to our rescue.

If love is a wake up game,
we can wake up to our wish to be right,
we can wake up to our agitation in the present,
we can wake up to our wish to run the show to make the agitation for away,
we can wake up to our wish to run away to avoid the agitation
we can wake up to our wish to blaming the other person for our buttons having been pushed
we can wake up to our love, in the moment, when we feel and see and hear the other person without our story

back to Byron Katie land, in a way:

Who we really are
is who we are in the present without our story blocking the way

it is only our real self that can love

that is why it feels so good.
We are being what we are meant to be.

This is good.
We are good.
The other is good.

We push each other's buttons.
We stay present.

Life is good.
Love's problems are stepping stones to a quick route to enlightenment.

It could be.
It just might be.

Try it and see.

Only your experience of your present moment by moment can guide you to what is real.
With good fortune, you'll have love's messes as the motivating elixir to speed you back into this present moment.

And when we aren't there: we suffer.

Again, don't take my word for it.
Discover, feel, sense this on your own.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday, Special Needs Kids Blog...Connecting NOT fixing

This is from Monday's blog at SpecialNeedsChildren-ChrisElms.blogspot.com

Alas, in our wish to "help" children with special needs, we often delay their progress, and make them miserable, by insisting that they do what they cannot do.

As Anat well says: "If she could, she would; if he could, he would."

A child who can't sit, plunked into the sitting position, might look like she is sitting, but she hasn't the skills to do it on her own, and she'll know that. She'll feel frustrated.

A child who can't roll over, being forced into "tummy time" is being put where he can't move to under his own awareness and skill himself, so he can't return himself to his back, and he is nervous as heck about what he is doing trapped there,  and will develop all sorts of unnecessary tension in his middle area.

A child who can't crawl, being plunked into the crawling position and told to go for it, will collapse in frustration. She doesn't have the hundreds of prerequisite motions and learnings and body brain wirings that would give her the pieces to really "go for it."

Since a child learns it's experience, the experience of being made to do something they ( or we, for that matter) can't do, always teaches that we are incapable, or to them, it teaches that they are good at failing.

This is not what we want them to learn.

How to make a child feel better? And learn?

Let him learn in small steps, something just slightly beyond what he knows.

Teach her something fun, that allows her brain to discover the information that all rich movement requires. Anat describes the "random movement" so crucial to every child's learning. With special needs children, big chunks of normal random movement are usually unavailable.

Coming to "lessons" is an opportunity for the child to be giving a short cut sampler of the most valuable of the smaller steps and even this isn't cookie cutter. I am feeling precisely and in the moment exactly what each child is capable of learning and expanding into at that moment.

At home, you can bring every down with the essentials, slow, variation, enthusiasm, ... we'll go through them one by one.... and the point is... you, too, as parents, can create conditions for learning.

You don't teach and they learn.

In my lessons, to adults or children, I don't teach and they learn. Brains and meant to learn and to rewire themselves. The Nine Essentials maximize the chances of this happening.

And with the nine essentials, we can begin to give digestible, delightful, exciting even, food to the child's brain. Food for learning new ways to move, to think, to comprehend the world in more rich and complicated ways.

In fixing, we do the work for the child, and the child doesn't make new connections inside. And the bad feeling in the child cuts off our person to person connecting.

In connecting, we meet the child where she is at, and find fun and interesting "next step" movements, or sounds, or words, or even ideas, for her to build upon.

In this connecting mode, life is simpler for the child, because learning is what brains love to do. It's simpler for us, because we need only just one bit of new and interesting information at a time to offer our child, and almost always that information is about distinguishing a difference, or making more clear a difference, or having fun with a difference.

The Nine Essentials ( Anat likes to capitalize them, and yes, they are brilliant and important) are pathways to help your child better find these differences.

Just remember: small steps, baby steps, one little doable, interesting, fun step at time.

Make your life easier.

Make your child's life a pathway of fun, learning, delight and connection.


Watch your child.

Something small and fun and easy will come to you.

And then the play/ learning/ connecting is on it's way.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Let's ReRead Kids Beyond LImits: Brain Plasticity and Children

I'm going to get back to my weekly blog posts on my special needs children blog, 
it's at SpecialNeedsChildren-ChrisElms.blogspot.com

I'll be going through Anat's book, chapter or section by chapter or section at a time.

Here's the start

In the introduction to Kids Beyond Limits, Michael Merzenich, PhD, makes clear his profound admiration for Anat Baniel and his delight and astonishment that in her own separate way, she has come to discover BRAIN PLASTICITY (his field of expertise, he was one of the first to discover and prove this in monkeys, and then humans) as the key element to human change, especially change in special needs children.

Brain Plasticity.

Our brains can rewire.
They are meant to rewire.
They love to rewire.

Dr. Merzenich discovered this in the laboratory. Anat in her work with thousands of children over 30 years.

Dr. Merzenich makes two points of emphasis:
One: The principles that underlie the limitations of the “special needs child” are the same principles that underlie brain plasticity.
Two: Most so called “hopeless” cases, aren’t hopeless.

Then in Anat’s introduction, she gives her urgent framework. This work has transformed, again and again, the lives of many children. She wants to get the principles, what she calls the Nine Essentials, out to as many parents, caregivers and clinicians as possible.

She wants the “secret” to stop being a secret.

And it isn’t really a secret as much a waking up to the understanding that her mentor Moshe Feldenkrais, a PhD in physics and the first European teacher of Judo, brought to improving movement for adults and children.

Movement is about learning.
Movement is about awareness.
The brain is where both these happen.

“Miracles” begin to happen when we stop buying into anyone being fixed in their movement or their behavior. (This includes ourselves).

Anat then brings her story to open with the story of Elizabeth.
 ( There is a moving  7 minute PBS video of this, back when Anat was still within the Feldenkrais world, and hadn’t felt yet, because it the constraints in the Feldenkrais world), the need to create her own sperate (and more advanced, to my mind) method. The video is at Healing What the Doctors Couldn't )

She starts her story with her first meeting with Elizabeth. She didn’t plan it, but everything started with her own desire to calm the crying Elizabeth when she was first brought to Dr. Feldenkrais ( to say nothing, which she doesn’t mention in the book, of her considerable touch and awareness based skills having studied with Feldenkrais for 4 years), she discovered how profound an experience life could provide when she looked beneath Elizabeth’s real and profound limitations and saw, really saw, the person, the real and amazing person locked inside these limitations.

She then shares how much Elizabeth transformed in the first two lessons with Moshe Feldenkrais’ intentional and highly skilled touch. How Elizabeth began to wake up to herself and her body, and began to play for the first time in her life.

Fast forward to seven years old and Anat plays with a tissue, and Elizabeth learns not only how to catch, but to walk.

Brains learn.
People transform.
Beginning of the story.

And, how can we rewire our brains today?
How can we help our children?

(Read ahead in the book for answers to both.
Go to my blog (http://PoemsFromNow.com) , and search for a “Movement lesson” you like, and you can spend 5 or 10 minutes rewiring your own brain, right now.
Here’s the link straight to a series of at least 30 lessons that could delightfully help you feel easier in your body and smarter in your brain.

And if you want more on Brain Plasticity from Dr, Merzenich, here’s a TED talk Merzenich on Brain Plasticity

Friday, April 04, 2014

Back, Neck, Shoulder Pain... What the heck, Rewire the Brain

Many a person has an "issue" in their neck, shoulders, or back

They feel tight
They hurt
They feel crunchy
They can't move the way they used to move
They can't sleep
They can't participate in activities that used to bring them joy and delight

There are plenty of "modalities" out there that can
ease the pain
Reduce it
Relax it
Shift the energy and so on

And another way is this:
To create connections throughout our body,
Ankles, knees, hips, each vertebra
The eyes
The ribs
and the arms
and the fingers
and the toes
and the neck
and the jaw
and the spine,
each vertebra
the ribs, which I've said before, neglected, so often neglected
the lynch of all movement:
our pelvis

How can all these be woken up?
Teased into slightly more movement ?
Connected with each other?
Shown new variations and possibilities that weren't in the repertoire?
Allowed to begin to explore that way we did as a child?

Ah, that's what the Anat Baniel Method lessons
are about.

It's a long training on purpose.

It's deep and worth it
and confusing at first
and then
totally clear

tapping into the brain's love 
of learning
piggybacking on how deeply important clear
and organized movement is

letting coordination and ease
go hand in hand

and ease

soft and clear

move and relax

our bodies like a cat
our brain/ bodies like a child

Relearning to learn
how we learned
to roll over
to sit up
to crawl

is obvious once you "get it"
takes three or four years to get it

Come by
Try some lessons

You'll be amazed