Thursday 5 July 2012

Clocks, Thunderstorms, Floods and a Walk in the Woods

Welcome back to the second part of my Asperger talks journey through the north west. Last week, the theme was about train journeys and astronomy. In this week's entry, I am going to focus on aspects more closely related to a more familiar topic to readers of this blog - mindfulness and coming out of comfort zones, including applying mindfulness within giving a seminar on Asperger's Syndrome.

While giving a seminar on the theme of Mindful Living with Asperger's Syndrome in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, the circumstances of the day gave me the perfect opportunity to bring mindfulness into a working situation. I was due to speak later in the day, but due to a hold up on the motorway, the two speakers who were due to speak before me couldn't make it until later, so I needed to speak earlier than planned, thus come out of my comfort zone. Applying mindfulness to the situation, I was able to tune into the present by describing how it can feel to have Asperger's Syndrome, by coping with a disruption in routine. This is something that is difficult for many people with Asperger's Syndrome to do, but I felt that I was able to step outside my comfort zone effectively as it fitted in so well with the theme I was talking about, tuning Asperger's Syndrome into as it is in the present moment.

Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire
While in the north west, I visited the fascinating Rufford Old Hall, a National Trust property in Lancashire, home of the Hesketh family for over 500 years and also where a young William Shakespeare performed before he was famous. What intrigued me most when visiting the 16th-century property was the lantern clock in the living room. The visitors sheet asks what can you notice about this clock, and on closer inspection, one finds that it only has a hand for the hour, whereas today we are so used to seeing a minute and second had on a clock face that when stepping back in time, we forget how time used to be seen as much more fluent, a concept which it is sometimes helpful to apply when stepping back from the flow in the present.

Lantern clock at entrance of Rufford Old Hall
With the purpose of mindfulness practice being to tune one into the present, it seems odd to associate it with a place of historical interest about the past, but thinking back to when time was seen as more fluent made me realise how much of contemporary life is driven by factors that put us on 'automatic pilot', including precise times, timetables and schedules, including for work and transport requirements, to the extent that we plan our lives around them to the extent that we often experience difficulties coping when something goes wrong. Locally, a recent example of this was the floods that followed a thunderstorm in Newcastle, where just about all public transport, including the Tyne and Wear Metro, came to a halt and many of the road and rail networks had to close due to floods or landslides. So I found myself having to walk almost eight miles before being able to get a lift home!

Time is of the essence to many of us in that we become so over-dependent on it that we loose touch with the present. Sometimes it helps to step back from the flow enabling us to observe this. In Laos, where I visited in April, though it appears as a 'backwater' through western eyes being one of the world's poorest nations, when stepping back from what one may be used to in the west, we can also see what we have lost in how driven by time and demand we are that we loose touch with our natural pace of life. The official name of Laos is the Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic (PDR), but the Laotians like to say that it unofficially stands for 'Please Don't Rush', which is evident in that shops and places of business still, for the main part, open and close at their own convenience, without the rush around the clock to open up stores or to get to the stores as soon as they are open.

Foxglove, Mereton Wood, Lancashire
While in the Lancashire and Hertfordshire, I also went on some short walks through woodlands, observing plant life, including some beautiful foxglove in Mereton Wood, Lancashire. A walk through the woods is a good way to step back from the flow, being at ease with nature, being with natural time rather than be constrained by clock time, the latter of which is more conducive to experiencing the benefits of mindfulness practice unfolding. In the meantime, here and now, stay tuned to this blog to see how the adventure with Autsim Works unfolds moment by moment as well as my Double Challenge for Daisy Chain.

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