Exercise

Moving to Center: Autism and Qigong

I sit next to him and ask him how he is feeling. His eyes quickly dart around the room as he continues to repeat a line from a Disney movie he has just seen. I tap his hand in hopes of getting his attention. Finally, he looks up. He now stands across from me and is jumping up and down flapping his arms as he continues to repeat the Disney line. I place my arms on my lower abdomen and instruct him to do the same. He begins to punch and kick the air.

Breathe in.

He takes a deep breath and lets out a yawn. His arms are momentarily calm and then he starts punching the air.

Breathe out.

He yawns and kicks the air. His movements are becoming slower now. I begin moving my arms up and down with my breath and instruct him to follow me. He is now whispering the Disney line and has his eyes closed. He anticipates my next movement and starts speeding up. I tell him to slow down and follow me. His movements begin to sync up with my own. He is becoming quiet and his body more relaxed. At the end we sit down, cross-legged, on the floor. I instruct him to place his hands on his knees, palms up. Boy in a suit in lotus position

Breathe in.

He shuts his eyes tightly and leans his head back. His nostrils flare and his chest rises as his lungs fill with air.

Breathe out.

His body slumps down. He is quiet, fully relaxed and calm. He opens his eyes sleepily and then looks at me.

 

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Swimming as Play, Meditation and Exercise

The dark purple scar, which divided my father’s chest in two, was still healing when he asked his cardiac surgeon, what he should do now. “Two words, start swimming,” was the response. I was at the pool when my mother called to relay this story as well as my father’s new found enthusiasm for the activity. It would mark the end of a decade long battle to get my father into the water. My mother, who I had pestered for years, had fallen in love with it. I was certain my father would as well. He had to, it was in our genes.

My grandmother was raised in Louisiana and loved to swim. She grew up in a beautiful southern home on the bayou, where her warm summer days were spent swimming with her neighborhood gang that consisted of: Woof, Weezy, Sniffy Five Rocks, and Fuzzy-who would later become her husband. Days were divided between swimming in the bayou and swimming at the country club, which could only be reached by swimming across the bayou. The country club pool was enormous with a shell filled bottom. Drained only once a year it was kept clean by ‘the sun’s powerful UV rays’. Even after 100 years of living, it was this memory that she so often returned to.

Swimming is exercise; it is play; and it is meditative. Before we can walk we can ‘swim,’ and as we get older and become burdened by our aging bodies, we can still become weightless within the water. The natural rhythm created by our body’s movements and breath become a moving meditation. Learning to swim takes understanding the water and how our bodies glide through it. It is a medium that people often try to fight against instead of learning to move with. When we become aware of this it becomes effortless, freeing and the closest thing to flying we can experience.

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Meditation: Finding Silence

If we could transpose all of our passing thoughts, feelings and images onto paper, how furious would the typing be? Would we have a discordant novel by the end of the day? Would it be joyous? Full of despair? I feel that if any of us had access to such writing, we would likely be horrified by what we read. And yet this constant noise within our minds is almost always overlooked due to the fact that we have never known anything else. Many of us living under the supposition that nothing but this is possible. We are like functional alcoholics, seemingly maintaining our lives, all the while thoroughly unaware of what is going on inside of ourselves. We interact with the world, but with muted senses and a lack of awareness. But to move beyond this world is to enter another, that of meditation.

The essence of meditation is learning how to create silence within the constant noise. It is the art of connecting, of learning to see, hear, taste, and communicate with real awareness, and without being blocked by our minds. The thought of this silence often fills people with reservations, as if somehow ‘not thinking’ would mark the end of who we are. Nothing is further from the truth. To meditate is to discover who we are and enter a world we never knew, but that has constantly surrounded us.