Friday 22 October 2010

Dear Readers,

It is difficult for me to believe that I have now been in this post for more than a month, but most remarkably though for me I feel, for now at least, quite firmly settled into my role here at Autism Works and I am at the point where I feel that I can stop worrying too much and enjoy it. This week, I have been continuing working on gathering support as well as preparing for Communication Shutdown, which has involved contacting the local media. I have felt very little anxiety about undertaking such tasks, whereas perhaps at one time, I would procrastinate a little over making and receiving phone calls in relation to anxiety. Now though, I am realising where I am able to apply the qualities I am experiencing during mindfulness practice within life outside practice.

Though there have been some new processes and ways of working for me to get used to and no doubt will be some more, I find that without worrying to much, I am able to focus on tasks much better without excessive procrastination that would normally lead to high-level anxiety.Worrying is something that many people with Asperger's Syndrome, including myself sometimes, are often very good at doing. This is perhaps because it can, like other negative mind states, become an obsession. Controlling and managing obsessions, both healthy and unhealthy ones, can often be difficult for people with Asperger's Syndrome. But from my meditation practice and the eight-week mindfulness stress reduction course that I am currently undertaking, I am finding it much easier to 'switch off' from responsibilities away from work.

As a person with Asperger's Syndrome, switching off in this way isn't the same as simply switching off a light or a television. I often find that I need to make a conscious effort to switch off effectively so that my mind doesn't become occupied with worry and anxiety, but something that I have learned from my mindfulness course, of which I am now into my third week, is during practice when thoughts arise, particularly negative thoughts, it helps not to put labels on them, but rather to acknowledge thoughts and let them pass. This allows one to be and feel more 'in the moment' rather than be stuck in the distant past or be over-anxious about the long-term future. For often, if we worry, we can forget about the immediate present we are living in.

Like many adults with Asperger's Syndrome seem to have, I have had a very 'chequered' working life in terms of how long I have lasted in previous employment as well as at times feeling stuck in particular employment. But what has so often been a major factor regarding high-level anxiety for me was uncertainty when starting a new job in terms of whether or not I would be able to get used to new responsibilities, learn new tasks and skills as well as how I would fit in with the social aspect of a new workplace. Having such thoughts playing on my mind in these and other similar situations so often made it difficult for me to settle in, and little was I often able to notice the effects that this had on colleagues.

It can initially take some time to master being able to live more in the moment than dwell on thoughts during mindfulness practice, but bringing this technique into everyday life situations takes a little more effort, which has helped in terms of being able to settle in at Autism Works. The only very distant anxiety that I had when I took up this post was what would happen to me if the venture was unsuccessful, but the support that the project has gathered thus far, which you will find out more about in the coming weeks, combined with the continued support of Peter and Lesley, I am confident that this anxiety is now largely minimal, which allows for stronger focus on the present moment in the development of Autism Works, allowing me to be with and learn from each stage of the process.

The mindfulness practice, both the eight week course and the meditation class at the University of Sunderland I have attended for the last five years I hope will continue to reinforce my personal development and progression, as well as enable me to give the best of me to others, particularly when providing training of Asperger's Syndrome or working with people on the autistic spectrum helping them reach their potential. Sadly, there are some many good  qualities the people on the autistic spectrum potentially have that can be lost due to anxiety, but by living in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future and just by being with ourselves at each stage of life, we will find more freedom within, allowing us to be happy, whatever the present situation.

In the meantime though be prepared for (without worrying!) a blitz across the social networks in relation to Communication Shutdown and continue to watch this space as well as the Autism Works news feed on our website to find out how Autism Works progresses within each moment.

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