At conference I attended at Newcastle University on ASC Lifecourse and Ageing this week, I was introduced to some research on how adults on the autistic spectrum are likely to be affected in later life, as well as how it also affects those around them, especially their immediate family. The themes talked about at the conference went even further than old age to something that inevitably comes to us all, death. Death and old age were two aspects of life, along with sickness that Prince Siddhartha saw when he was eventually allowed go outside the palace in Lumbini, in present-day Nepal, where after having been brought up with every advantage and luxury he could have had for the standard of his time, he realised that despite being a prince, sickness, old age and death would come to him also. But Prince Siddharta also saw a fourth sight, that of an ascetic (a contemplative monk or holy man), who had devoted his life to finding the cause of suffering. After feeling that he could also be released from suffering of being repeatedly born, Prince Siddharta decided to follow the ascetic's example, giving up worldly existence in pursuit of enlightenment, which, as traditionally the story goes, he eventually attained in Bohd Gaya, India, around 2,500 years ago under the Bodhi tree after which he became know as The Buddha, passing on his teachings.
|Throssel Hall, a Zen monastery in Northumberland
|Inuit drum dancer Anda Kuitse
Earlier this year I found that even beyond the influence of Buddhism, becoming accustomed to living in the present can enable communities to make the most of now, including in Kulusuk, Greenland, from which readers may remember a description of in previous entries here. Life for inhabitants of the remotely-located Kulusuk on Greenland's east coast can be harsh, especially during winter. As a result, life expectancy is only around 50 years for many Native Greenlanders (Inuit). Similar to the Tibetans and Sherpas, who live in similarly harsh conditions, the Inuit have become accustomed to a 'living for now' mentality. During my visit to Kulusuk, Inuit drum dancer Anda Kuitse, who in his sixties had already outlived local life expectancy by a decade, performed a very powerful and inspiring piece called An Ode to Nature, in which he reminded us that we need not be afraid of nature as the present is the only time we have to live.
In the case of living with Asperger's Syndrome, I feel that whichever stage of our life we are at chronologically, the more we are present with each moment as it unfolds allows us to make the most of our lives in relation to the strengths and qualities that the condition may present, while opening up to some of the more difficult aspects, including depression. I look forward to continuing working with Newcastle University on this eye-opening and potentially important project as it unfolds.
I am due to fly out to Tanzania for my Kilimanjaro challenge in aid of the Daisy Chain project, supporting families affected by autism, on September 29th 2013. Donations can still be made at my sponsorship page at http://www.justgiving.com/Chris-MitchellGNR/
Elsewhere,at Autism Works we would like to pay our respects to those who tragically lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks as well as their families twelve years on.