Wednesday 26 February 2014

Coming Out of Sameness, New Starts and the Great Farewell at Shildon

After other commitments I have had so far this year, and more so after a lengthy period of writers block after publishing my third book Mindful Living with Asperger's Syndrome, I have finally managed to get around to posting my first Adventures with Autism Works blog entry of 2014!

As I write this entry, I have a busy period ahead conference wise starting with the National Autistic Society's (NAS) Professionals Conference in Harrogate and then a speaker evening with the NAS Newcastle-Gateshead Branch. At these events I will be speaking on the theme of Asperger's Syndrome and Mindfulness Techniques, including covering simple mindfulness exercises described in the new book.

Having noticed the qualities of mindfulness gradually coming into everyday situations, during practice, I had also begun to notice too much sameness when going over similar practice exercises, assuming the same movements, stretches and postures. When getting a feeling of sameness from an activity, one may have a tendency to feel bored, which can then lead to frustration. Alternatively, frustration can also stem from sameness when one feels that they have found themselves trapped in a routine or comfort zone which then becomes difficult to step out of when needed. However, in continuing practice, I gradually began to notice that the feeling of sameness I was experiencing was a by-product of the type of attention that I had been giving the practice instructions, rather than to the actual sensations experienced during the exercises.

When relapsing into sameness within mindfulness practice or within normal life generally, including within routines and responsibilities present within daily life, applying beginners mind can help.Though the movements, techniques and stretches are similar if not repetitive, what it is that constantly changes are the different sensations of bodily feeling, including noticing how each breath coming in and out when in tune with the breath effects the body as a whole. With closer attention, one can gradually notice that each breath is different as are sensations and bodily feelings that come from it. Each breath and sensation being a unique experience can then almost be like a new start, further tuning one into the present and adding to quality of life with new and different experiences.

To apply beginners mind, sometimes it can help to see the world almost from the perspective of a child. If we remember what it was like when we were children, we may well remember that we looked at things around us, including televisions, telephones, clocks, cars and more, with wonder and fascination, often because they were almost new to us. Though things around us such as certain household items and forms of transport can loose their appeal when they become a standard part of adult life, there are occasions when, as adults, we can almost turn into children when we see things that gave us a sense of wonder as children.

The Great Farewell of A4 Pacifics, Shildon
A recent event where I almost turned into a child again was the Great Farewell of A4 Pacific steam locomotives at Locomotion: The National Railway Museum in Shildon, County Durham. Initially brought together last year at the National Railway Museum at York to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of 4468 Mallard stetting the world record speed for steam traction, 126mph on 3rd June 1938, the six survivors of the class, including Mallard and my personal favourite 60009 Union of South Africa, which hauled last year's Tynesider Special from Newcastle to London King's Cross. Shipped over from North America to mark the occasion were 60008 Dwight D Eisenhower and 4489 Dominion of Canada. Completing the set were 4464 Bittern and 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley. The event was a huge success with over 120,000 coming from far and wide to Shildon to see the six A4s together for what could possibly be the last time, including  man who jetted in from LA to see the six before flying back home immediately the next day!

A4 Pacific 4464 Bittern in action at Shildon
There is something about the appeal of steam trains. Unlike many industrial relics of the past, such as mine shafts and manual typewriters, which in their working days were taken for granted as part of what one would see in daily life but are now seen with a degree of fascination by present-day visitors to museums, steam trains during their service days still had the same wonder to many that they have in the present in museums, on heritage railways and charter specials. Part of the appeal, and one of the inspirations for the Reverend Awdry when writing The Railway Stories, later the TV series Thomas& Friends, is with the sound that they make. It is almost like they are breathing, almost as if they are alive!

Coming back to the breath, by seeing each breath as a new start, to help with future blog entries. Hopefully with continued practice, as well as seeing each breath as a new start, I can also see each blog entry as a new start, as well as each challenge as the start of a new journey.

RIP Harold Ramis 1944-2014. Best remembered in his role as Ghostbuster Egon Spengler, Ramis was also a talented writer and director. Ghostbusters is my personal favourite film of all-time!