Monday, April 14, 2014

We are ALL Autistic?!

Last night Mike and I watched a very interesting documentary on Horizon about Autism. It covered a variety of facets from recent studies to historical anecdotes, however the most striking thing mentioned on the program is that we are all essentially on the autism spectrum.

MOST people have some autistic traits (social awkwardness for example) and if we used autistic traits as markers on a ruler up to 50, then the majority of the population will have around 25 autistic traits. On average we are all about 50% autistic with an almost perfect bell curve showing that a few people have no autistic traits and a few people have all of them. 

To end up with a diagnosis of autism you need to have two things: a high score on the metric autism scale mentioned above AND the negative impacts of these traits on your functioning in society. So you may in fact have all autistic traits known, however if you have found coping mechanisms that allow you to function in society then you may not receive a diagnosis.

Of course this led us to naming our known autistic traits and it was remarkable to realise Mike will most likely score quite highly on the autistic metric scale, however his functioning in society is fine. This is partly because I work as a buffer for him and partly because Mike fills the minimum social contract required and no more (so he isn't too exhausted by his daily conversations).

Now we are starting to see autism as not only something that has historical context, but something we ALL have to a degree, it is interesting to see what is essentially evolution in progress. Different types of minds are born every day, some we can interpret (and fit into society) and some we cannot. But perhaps we are only one step away from those minds ourselves, and a shift in perspective is all that is required.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dust off an old Dream

Thanks again to Nicole Antoinette for shaking up my world yesterday. Her blog post was all about redefining failure. Instead of viewing failure as not achieving our goals, we should view failure as not stating or chasing after your goals in the first place. Hear here!

Nicole suggested you ask yourself these questions (among others), "Who do I want to be?", "What do I want to experience?" and "How can I fully show up for myself?" Each question was it's own summit to climb and I stared at that first question for what probably added up to hours in total.

Of course I wanted to distract myself, to check my emails or walk away, but I sat there and determined not to move until the question was answered. Who do I want to be? Who DO I want to be? Dammit I don't know!

I knew I didn't want to be employed. I think wage slavery is a mugs game I've been playing far too long, but I've never been one of those people who had a talent they could make money from. I have researched a MULTITUDE of home-businesses from sewing to market stalls but never found one that could make a comparable income.

A few years ago I quit my administration job to become a kennel-hand; this was by FAR the closest I had ever been fulfilled by my employment (I love animals), but in the end seeing all the good animals put down every week was too much to bear. At least I found my beloved Winstan there and I managed to save just one.
Winstan lying on Jess

So all I had to go on was: I want to be self employed and I want to help animals. Then the little light bulb went on over my head; although the better analogy would be, then the fog cleared away and I could see the light bulb over my head. You see I remembered rather than realised that I have always wanted to run an animal sanctuary. Big or small, it doesn't matter.

However everyone had always said, "You can't do that, they're money pits" which, of course is true. So I chalked it up to a pipe dream and forgot all about it. Until yesterday.

So here, now, I say to you all. I WILL have an animal sanctuary. And if I don't make it, at least I tried, and then I haven't failed at all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An experiment to improve running form

Yesterday I stumbled across the 100-Up Challenge, based on the 100-Up exercise created by W.G.George (pictured below). The exercise is very simple and the challenge requires you to do the exercise for 30 days in a row, in order to improve your running form.

This morning I went out for a short run: 2.6km at 6:39min/km. It has been a few weeks since I have been regularly running so I thought this would make a good benchmark run prior to starting the 100-up challenge.

Towards the end of the run I felt some twinges in both knees and at the inside of my left ankle; nothing too painful though. Then at home I practised the 100-up minor exercise as shown in this video; I stood in front of a full length mirror to ensure I was lifting my knees up to hip height (proper form is key). After 50 leg lifts I could really feel the muscles in the outside of my hips burning (the IT band, I believe), so I stopped, as I could not keep the form perfect.

I'll endeavour to do the 100-Up Minor leg lifts every day for 30 days and then will do another run to compare against these original results.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fasting one day a week: reflection

I must admit, I thought this challenge would be a lot easier! March's monthly challenge was to fast for one day each week (we chose Sunday) and there was only one day we truly succeeded.

On each other occasion we decided that we needed one warm meal a day, why was this?

Years ago I tried eating raw food only for a month, and was equally unsuccessful. At the time my colleague suggested that I was addicted to hot food, because the lack of a warm meal had a direct impact on my mental health. I became depressed; first mentally, then physically as well.

After a few days of eating only raw food for breakfast and lunch I would go home to a cold house (it was winter) and eat a cold salad. And then cry (literally). Perhaps my physical needs were being met by the meal but my emotional needs were not, and it looks like not a lot has changed.

I honestly wonder whether this is something that I need to be concerned about though - is this 'addiction' something I actually need to break? So I'm a happier person if I eat one warm meal a day. OK, I can live with that. I'm lucky enough to live in a place where hot meals are readily affordable and available so I'm chalking it up to having learnt more about myself.

There is a big part of me that feels I should push myself out of my comfort zones. Somehow knowing that the lack of a warm meal makes me uncomfortable, means that a part of me wants to push in that direction, to face the discomfort. Why is that?

In the past I learnt rock climbing, went bungee jumping (twice) and jumped out of a plane because I was uncomfortable with heights. Guess what? I'm still afraid of heights (probably worse than I was originally) but I've made some amazing memories along the way.

Maybe that drive to push myself out of my comfort zone is really just another way to take control (of the fear); perhaps it is just another form of samsara. Instead of avoiding discomfort I push myself into it as a way to control it. Neither avoiding nor hurtling towards discomfort allows you to experience it and let it go.

So with that in mind, I have learnt that fasting for a whole day isn't for me (at this point in time, but could be revisited again in the future). I currently have a smoothie for breakfast and a salad for lunch most days, so a warm meal at night is a comfort I'm willing to hang on to. 

To feel a place of warmth with my partner and my dogs; knowing THAT warmth is fleeting (as all is impermanent) brings a state of awareness to the simple beauty of a warm meal with loved ones. And I thank the fast for that new awareness of what I always had.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Shaken to the core by another's presence: what does it mean?

This morning a man came into my office and asked to use the phone. I work at front desk so was the first person to greet him and asked him a few questions in order to help him find where he was going (he was lost).

We chatted for less than 5 minutes in total and I helped him use the phone and find where he needed to be going. By the time he left I was physically shaking and had to leave front desk and take 5 minutes to calm down. What happened?

I honestly don't know. I have had previous occasions in my life when I have felt overwhelmed by other people's emotions (if someone is very sad I can feel depressed even after they have left my presence, for example) however I always assumed that was natural. This felt very unnatural.

After he left I looked up the address he was headed to and it was to a Psychiatrist's Office, which really just confirmed the strong 'vibe' I received from him. Does anyone know what happened?

I googled 'sensitivity to others energy' which just brought back thousands of pages relating to crystals, chakras and spiritual healing. Not my bag baby. How do I find out what I experienced without losing my practical scientific self? Maybe I can't and it's down to the mysteries of life (cue sitar music), but maybe the wanting to know is just grasping/clinging (from a buddhist perspective) and I should let it go.

Have you experienced anything similar?
This is how it felt

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Fasting Fiasco?

When Mike and I decided to fast for one-day a week in March we assumed it would be easiest monthly challenge yet, however the opposite has turned out to be true! So far we have attempted to fast for the last three Sundays in a row, and we still have next Sunday to go, in order to complete the challenge.

The first Sunday went well, however since then we have not been 100% well. The second Sunday was right after my dad had returned home from hospital and I was completely emotionally fatigued; from both daily hospital visits and the difficulties that arose around his return home (cue second family crisis in the same week).

So I must admit I was pretty half-hearted about the fasting by Sunday. I had been fine preparing more juices for breakfast and lunch hunger pangs, but by dinner time the emotional NEED for a hot meal was nearly overwhelming. I definitely would have broken down in tears if I hadn't been able to eat dinner. So Mike and I opted for a light healthy dinner of steamed rice and vegies, with a little home-made satay sauce for taste. Simple and absolutely delicious.

Yesterday was the third Sunday of the month and again we failed in our attempt to fast for the day, this time because Mike is sick with the flu. He had been coughing, sneezing and sweating profusely with fever since Saturday afternoon so we agreed it might not be the best time to tax his system with a fast.

We still did our best and had juice and water for most of the day (he didn't have much of an appetite anyway) but by late afternoon he was hungry so I made us the comfort-food my mum always made me when I was sick, "boiled eggs and soldiers". If I had better will power I would have just made some for Mike and not myself, but I'm not that strong.

So next Sunday is our last chance to do the full 24-hour fast and attempt to find any physical, mental or emotional benefit. I'll report back once the month is finished!
Home-made juices

Friday, March 14, 2014

The first fast and facing crises with awareness

Last Sunday Mike and I completed our first weekly fast (one day of the week without eating solids) which went well. There were two times during the day when I definitely felt ravenous - after lunch and after dinner time. At these times I drank some vegetable juice which I had prepared in the morning, that way when I was hungry (and grumpy) then I didn't have to think about the effort involved in juicing, the hard work (and cleaning) was already done.

Luckily I didn't feel too hungry when I went to bed either, certainly not to the point that it kept me awake. A dose of beetroot and celery juice filled me up enough to stave off any hunger pains; Mike preferred the apple and carrot juice combination instead.

I can't report that I noticed any great change (in health) that day or the next, however I was largely distracted by my father going to hospital late Sunday night with a fever, so I wasn't focused on the fast at that point.

On a separate subject, lately I have been overwhelmed by distressing stories: in books, movies and on the news. Having recently finished reading a very disturbing book called Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho, to give you some idea of the book's contents) and then watching movies such as Enter the Void and Oldboy as well as the always-depressing news, I was completely fed up with unpleasant stories.

There ARE good people in the world doing good things and I honestly believe there aren't enough stories being told about THEM. So with that in mind, on Sunday night Mike and I sat down to watch one of my favourite movies: Peaceful Warrior which is about facing adversity with awareness and being the best you can be. A truly inspiring movie based on an even more inspiring book (based on a true story).

Part way through the movie I had to hit 'pause' to take the call that my dad was in an ambulance on his way to hospital. After some discussion around what needed to be done immediately by the family (nothing by me that night, my duties started the next morning), I was able to finish watching the movie with a new level of awareness of the moment. My own crisis aided my attention to the moment and I was able to handle everything without being overwhelmed by the emotions I was feeling. I simply watched them rise and fall away in a wave-like pattern.

To paraphrase a line from the movie, "This is a scary time in your life, are you Paying Attention to it?" Well I was able to pay attention and the results of that experiment were far more enlightening than not eating food for a day.

Mike and I will fast again this Sunday (and each Sunday for the rest of March) to really give the fasting a proper try, so I will report back on any new findings. 

And if you are also fed up with all the torture-themed gore-fests labelled as entertainment out there. What stories (books/movies etc.) do you recommend for revulsion fatigue?