Friday, 18 November 2011

Beginner's Mind and Pudsey Bear

Last week, I talked about coming out of comfort zones, something which many people with Asperger's Syndrome, including myself, feel that they spend much of their time doing. This theme has been talked about quite a lot in Asperger forums within the social networks this week, with one comment suggesting that because people with Asperger's Syndrome spend so much time operating outside their comfort zone that it creates low-level anxiety that can result in a weaker immune system. In this entry, I am going to go a little further looking at how coming out of your comfort zone can develop Beginners Mind, a useful strategy when learning new tasks.

In relation to Asperger tendencies, including with the positive aspects of the condition such as curiosity in searching for information and good memory to store knowledge, facts and figures, it is often so difficult to put it aside for a while, to the extent that one may loose touch with what it is like to be new to something. As readers of this blog will know, I have personally found mindfulness practice, including meditation and basic yoga helpful for this. But even within such techniques, I have found that it can be easy to stay with a practice formula which becomes one's comfort zone to the extent that there are different elements of practice that get lost. 

Over the last week though, I have found that it is helpful to explore the practice from a beginners' perspective by revisiting techniques that I don't practice as regularly as others. One of the advantages that mindfulness practice has to help develop the refreshing quality of beginners mind is that there is a huge range of techniques, including over 80,000 known movements in Yoga, so there is plenty of scope for revisiting enabling different and new experiences. Just by revisiting a technique or movement that one practices perhaps infrequently,  we can experience what it is like to start or attempt something that is unusual or new to us.

Since working on our first contract at Autism Works, uncharted territory for the company, it has brought some new tasks and duties to my role as Operational Manager, including processing costs of sales spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel. When approaching learning new or different tasks, applying beginners' mind not only helps one be present with learning the task, but also helps one to un-learn methods and put any knowledge and expertise aside where necessary, so that old habits don't interfere too much. 

Where I find beginner's mind particularly helpful though is when I am giving training as much as when I am receiving it, which helps me when understanding the perspectives of who I am providing training for much better. When one has done something for a number of years and accumulates a high volume of knowledge and experience, this can be become a handicap when it cuts one off from new experiences and understandings of a particular subject, including Asperger's Syndrome. Approaching the subject from a beginners perspective often allows me to learn as much from the audience I am training as they learn from me.

Today is Children in Need day, which reminds me of something that I used to get a lot of fun out of doing in my previous job - dressing up as Pudsey Bear! Disguised as Pudsey, I would scour Durham County Hall with two students from Durham Trinity School for donations, and we broke the record quite a few times! When people asked who was in the bear suit, the students would say that this this is Pudsey Bear himself, so that I could get away with making rude gestures at the Leader of the Council and Chief Executive! Unfortunately, at Autism Works we don't have a bear suit, though I have done my bit this year purchasing a BBC Look North Weather Calendar, the proceeds of which will go to a very worthy course. If you would like to purchase one of these calendars with some lovely images of the North East of England, click on Pudsey below:

Applying beginner's mind may also hopefully help me with writing future blog entries, to find some relevant new approaches. Be sure to stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works for more refreshed approaches and to tune into Pudsey on the BBC tonight.

Autism Works would also like to thank everybody who has donated or been involved in fundraising for  Children in Need 2011 

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