Being Grommit

Image result for wallace and gromit imagesI hesitate to write this, because there are so many people out there much better qualified to talk about it.  Still, it’s come into my head and it’s lodged there like an ear worm and won’t go away until I write it, So I suppose I’d better write…

There’s a huge amount of non-sense spoken about sensitivity and highly sensitive people, so perhaps I can add a modicum of sense, or maybe just more nonsense.

I wouldn’t generally count myself among these people (which is why I don’t feel particularly qualified to write about them) but I seem to have some kind of magnetic attraction to them.  They keep showing up in my life.  Once they are there, they tend to stick around.  Whenever that happens with people in our lives, it means we have something to teach or learn from each other – probably both.

So let me give you a very personal, no-holds-barred snapshot of how it feels to be a neuro-typical individual, living and working amongst highly-sensitive people.

They’d like to fit in with the rest of us.  They really would.  It would make their lives so much easier and they know this.  Some of them elect to go down the route of medication aimed at suppressing their sensitivity, dulling their responses and turning them into rather sad but apparently average people.  Many, many more prefer to self-medicate, using recreational drugs and/or a mixture of caffeine and alcohol to render their daily lives (or at least parts of them) more manageable.  Both of these seem to me a tragic waste – partly because of the unpleasant side-effects and partly because all these substances mask the true essence of who they really are.  Nevertheless, I understand the reasons behind the choices.  For those of us living and interacting with these people, we’re faced with a double problem of trying to understand their innate differences from our way of being and to deal with the challenges faced when dealing with anyone who is drugged up.

I frequently feel hurt, offended, rejected and dismissed by those I care about and love who live within this spectrum of being.  As a ‘typical’ person I crave affection – and some occasional expression of this, attention – such as responses to messages or to be looked at once in a while, reassurance that I’m getting things right, and trust.  I’ve discovered, slowly and painfully, that I will only get any of these by explaining my needs very carefully, providing detailed instructions on how I would like the person to react and then being satisfied with what they are able to provide, even if it does feel more like a rehearsed trick than a genuine, spontaneous action on their part.

Does that sound terribly harsh?

If we look at it from their perspective, they do NOT lack emotions and feelings.  They have them in such abundance that their fragile human bodies are just about incapable of containing them.  They probably dealt with this as newborns by screaming endlessly, as children by throwing tantrums or head-banging, as adolescents by almost total withdrawal from society and family and immersion in music, video games or self-harm.  During that long, painful process, they have learned to suppress almost all emotion, except fear and anxiety, which just won’t go away.  They care and want to please as much as anyone, but it’s deeply scary for them, and any tiny steps they can take should be welcomed with deep gratitude by those of us who can’t even imagine what it is costing them.

They know and feel and see things we don’t.  They’ve learned that in our society, people who know more than others are usually considered clever, so they can easily become so supercilious and self-opinionated that I want to punch them.  They’re frustrated when we don’t get what seems ludicrously obvious to them.  I find myself thinking, ‘Good grief, here you are, treating me like a five year old, when you can’t even walk into a shop and buy a pack of underwear.’

So why is it like this?

In my opinion, all of us are – first and foremost – pure consciousness.  You can call it soul or spirit if that works for you.  We have all chosen to bring a portion of this pure, rarefied consciousness into physical bodies – to be born as humans.  It involves a fair bit of give and take to do that.  If you think of the consciousness as Light, there is only so much we can squeeze into a human body.  Most of us have been happy with that trade-off as it means we can experience physical existence and use this unique way of (human) being to grow in a way that can’t be achieved otherwise.  Image result for wallace and gromit images

Now think of the way consciousness works.  There is an innate wish to push the boundaries – to go farther, faster, higher than anyone else has done.  Consequently, ever-growing numbers of conscious beings are trying to squeeze more and more Light into the frail, delicate human bodies they are being born into.

It means the fit is not great.  They can’t bed down into their bodies so easily and some of the Light isn’t properly held in.  I keep getting this mental image of Wallace frantically screaming, “Grommit – these are the Wrong Trousers!” in the wonderful Aardman animated film!

Image result for wallace and gromit imagesAnd I often feel like poor old Grommit, frantically trying to avert disasters and melt-downs, and help my enLightened friends, students, relatives and acquaintances to fit into the crazy trousers-of-life they’ve entered, while assisting them to understand that yes, the world DOES need the Light they’ve brought with them and that their brilliance is an absolute gift to all of us.

So stay with us, all you wonderful Wallaces.  Try your best to function in those trousers.  We Grommits will keep trying to help you in every way we can – because that’s why WE incarnated.

 

 

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Danny Reading

 

Visual-dyslexia

Not Danny – but somewhat similar… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember Danny – he of the decimals and so forth.  He’s an after-school tutoring student of mine.  Coming up for twelve, still with speech difficulties and, shall we say, selective about what he gives his attention to…

I no longer teach him maths.  Reading has become the priority for our one hour a week together, since – he tells me – he is a ‘7.2’.  I’ve no idea what a 7.2 is, although I have a nasty suspicion that it could be his reading age, as tested by the special needs department.

To begin with, the reading books supplied by school looked promising – clean, attractively covered and illustrated and with easy words but age-appropriate content.  Week by week he unwillingly stumbled his way through them (“Have we DOT to do dis?”).  There was no discernible improvement.

Then the books changed.  Suddenly I was being presented with slim volumes of scantily worded and colourfully illustrated tales of ‘Ned the Greedy Dragon’, ‘Timmy the Flying Goat’ and their ilk.

“Seriously, Danny?” I remonstrated as yet another infant picture reader was dumped on the table.  “The school gave you this as your reading book?”

“I doze it myself,” he smirked conspiratorially, “I doze it ‘tos its easy!”

There followed a short but pointed lecture from me on the short-sightedness of this strategy and the difficulties that would accrue should he – as seemed more than possible – leave school without basic reading skills.

I didn’t feel I was getting through.
Danny, after all, has had seven long years to perfect his reading-avoidance strategies.  He wears them with pride.

Fortunately I know Danny well.  As I’ve discovered through our years together, motivation is everything with him.  A memory was stirring somewhere in my mind.  I recalled beginning to write a simplified version of Life: A Player’s Guide aimed at 9-12 year olds.  A short rummage around my PC’s hard drive revealed it: Coran and the Cosmic Computer Game.

English: Monitor "My Computer" icon ...
Would this story of avatar creation and computer coding in a sci-fi location be of interest to Danny?  I strongly suspected that it would.  I was also confident that he would be able to grasp – and relish – the analogy being drawn to Life.  Would the words be beyond his reading skills?  Well they were quite a way ahead of Timmy the Goat et al.  On the other had, if he were sufficiently motivated…

It was certainly worth a try.
IMG_20150529_085051 (1)First I drew up a grid, so that polysyllabic words could be written out, broken down into their constituent phonemes and blends.  (See right.)  Then I printed page 1 of the story:

 

Coran and the Cosmic Computer Game

 A brand new game! Coran was grinning to himself so much that he kept almost bursting into giggles. This was exciting. In fact it was more than exciting.

 He collected his pass and headed for the programming suite. That was where he would meet the programmer who would help him build his avatar and enter The Game.

He looked at the pass. It said he needed to go to Station 4. He headed across to the terminal and was greeted by a tall figure who sat the keyboard.

 “So, it’s nearly your birth-day, Coran,” said the Tall One, with a nod of his head.   “About time for you to do some choosing.”

“Hmm,” said Coran, thinking hard.

 Up where Coran lives, birth-days are not the same as birthdays here. A birth-day there means exactly what it says – the day you will be born!  Now that may seem odd to you, because Coran is already alive, or he couldn’t be saying, “Hmm,” – could he?

 What it means is that Coran is about to be born as a new character in a cosmic computer game. First he needs to select his avatar, which involves making loads of choices, then he will be ready to start playing The Game.

 Coran was trying to decide what sort of character he wanted to be in this game. He’d played it many times before, but this game was so mind-blowingly huge that each attempt could be completely different from all the ones before.

 “Nothing too easy,” he told the Tall One. “I want a real challenge this time. The last game was utterly boring.”

The Tall One smiled to himself and began to type the code on his machine.

“So you want a big challenge, huh?”

 “Definitely,” announced Coran. “My character will  have…”

The title was slow going.  By the end of the second sentence, though, he was reading most words without asking me to lay them out for him on the phoneme grid.  By the end he was barely stumbling on anything.  There were about three words in the whole passage I had to read for him.
He regarded me with wide eyes as he finished.  “I dort it was doin’ to tate me about a hour to read dat,” he said.
“Me too,” I admitted, and we both smiled broadly.
“Dan I read the next bit next time?” he asked.

As I mentioned, with Danny, motivation is everything.  I strongly suspect this is also true of so many of the so-called disaffected or learning-disabled students languishing in our schools.

 

Bring on the AFGOs

 

English: 5D virtual 2x2x2x2x2 sequential move ...

If I’m right in believing that I – and all of us – at some point outside of space and time and the other trappings of 3D existence, planned this lifetime in which certain situations and experiences would appear, then I have to take some responsibility for what is happening to me.  I can’t blame fate, ill luck or even other people, no matter how tempting that may be.

 

It’s taken a while, but I’m fine with that now.  When an AFGO (Another Bleeping Growth Opportunity) comes along, I’m fairly good at accepting that this is stuff I embarked on this life to work through.

Something I’ve noticed, though, after many years of working with children and young people, is how many of those who are special, sensitive, Version 2.0/ Old Souls or however you choose to describe them, seem to have selected particularly difficult, challenging and – frankly – horrifying ‘Growth Opportunities’.

It’s made all the harder, of course, because they didn’t consciously choose these situations – not in their current lifetimes.  The higher self / god-self / soul may be brilliant at selecting challenges that will allow them to make huge and wonderful amounts of spiritual growth, to bring more love to Earth and to heal themselves, the planet and those around them, but it is so very hard to watch them suffer as family problems or other circumstances tear their young lives apart.

(Explore-D) View On Black thanks a lot Nis! Th...

Yes, I could give specific examples – ones that are showing up amongst young people I know very well at this point in time.  Maybe I will in a future post,  if I think it will help.

For now, I just want to flag up how much harder it is, sometimes, to watch a child suffering than to work through one’s own difficulties.

On the other hand, we can be reasonably sure that, if they have shown up in our lives, there’s a reason for that too.

We have something to give them.

Or they have something to teach us.

Or, more likely, both of the above and more besides.

My pain, as I feel for them, is of no value, but showing them kindness and understanding, being ready to offer support and humble enough to learn from them about how to deal with the most challenging parts of this terrifyingly realistic game called Life – that’s where the value is, for all of us.

 

 

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

More ponderings on this and related subjects can be found in LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE, available on Amazon or to order through booksellers.  

ISBN 9781 78176 7764

 

 

 

The Curse of the Question Mark

Ideology Icon

Danny, despite his speech difficulties, has an interesting turn of phrase.  He’s just 10, and yesterday we had our first tutoring session of the new school year together.

“So what’s been going on in your life over the summer?” I asked.
“Dood stuff!” he announced, proudly. “I had my birthday, and I dot a digital damera and I’m detting a laptop soon!”

He must have noticed my raised eyebrows. I know his family’s financial situation isn’t great.
“The laptop’s from a jarity,” he explained. “I don’t know what ‘slexia is, but my mum wrote to them and they’re divving me a laptop so I can do my homewort.”
“Well that’s brilliant, Danny,” I enthused.  “Aren’t you a lucky boy!”

Lucky isn’t really the word that springs to mind when you first come across Danny.  The youngest in his year group, he does daily battle with all aspects of academic study at school.  Words appear to fly around the page and refuse to lodge in his memory; numbers resist all attempts to become bonded or otherwise related to one another.  Several speech sounds remain stubbornly inaccessible to him, despite years of therapy, and his tendency to writhe, fiddle, daydream or mumble his way through the interminable school day must have driven many a teacher to distraction.

Despite all this, Danny remains a cheerful child with a gift for optimism and humour.  He’s one of the many special young people who have so much to share with those of us who are willing to embrace different ways of learning and being.

“Do you really not know what dyslexia is, Danny?” I asked, despite my personal aversion to the term.  “Would you like me to explain it to you?”

‘Explain’ is one of his trigger words.  I should have remembered.

“No,” he replied hastily, “I thint I remember now.  It means I darn’t learn properly.”

Well that set off one of my own triggers!  I drew a quick cartoon brain.  I drew two dots and a straight line representing stimulus and response between two points in a neurotypical brain.  Then I drew the response to a stimulus in his brain – all manner of weird and wonderful connections firing off simultaneously and the resulting wavy synaptic line that connected them all in new and exciting ways.

“You learn DIFFERENTLY Dan,” I told him, as I traced the routes on my drawing with my finger, “and if the teacher wants a quick answer, that’s difficult for you.  On the other hand, if she wants an original answer – one that no one else would think of – then yours is the perfect brain for that.”

He looked slightly hopeful but sceptical.

Mario Kart DS Bundle

“What are you like at computer games?” I asked.
“Brilliant!” he grinned. “I’m the best in the family. I tan beat everyone.”

Several minutes of sound-effect laden role play followed as he demonstrated his prowess at Mario with an imaginary DS.

“I’m not surprised,” I told him.  “Your brain is perfect for that.  It can keep track of all the different things going on at once – the number of lives and energy levels, the route you need to take, dangerous enemies and obstacles…  All those bits of your brain that work at once can handle that far better than most ordinary people.”

Danny seemed happy with that, so we turned to some of the work I’d prepared – the gentlest of introductions to algebra, such as

9 + ? = 13   or  15 – ? = 10

Danny stared balefully at the page for a moment, then rose in his seat, peering down at it with great disdain.

“Dwestion Marts!” he announced with gravitas.  “My arch enemy!  I hate you, Dwestion Marts!  You never reveal what you are hiding!  Durse you to hell forever!”

And that’s the way it goes – a typical weekly session with Danny, the boy who can’t perhaps answer the question, but has penetrated to the heart of its intrinsic essence with a clarity the rest of us can only gasp at.

How utterly dull our world would be without the likes of Danny.

Who is playing Version 2.0 of the Game of Life?

Imagine a huge 3D video screen – bigger and brighter than anything yet invented.

On this screen, imagine a massively exciting, unpredictable and totally addictive role player computer game playing out.   Untold numbers of fully functional little avatars are scurrying around, busily engaged in their tasks, quests and challenges.  They interact with one another and drift apart, making new connections and gaining extra experience as every moment passes.

You are participating in this game.

Yes, right now.

You call it life.

And before you tell me that it isn’t remotely exciting, let me point out that you have completely free choice about where you go and what you do.  There’s plenty of interesting and challenging stuff out there… just be careful what you wish for.

 

The real question is this: How exactly are you participating in the game?  Are you one of the on-screen characters, or avatars, as they’re called?  Or maybe you’re the person controlling them, the one with the game controller in your hands.  You could even be the designer and creator of the game – the one who came up with the whole idea.

I would argue (in fact I do, in my book Life: A Player’s Guide) that at some level, you are all three.

Insofar as you are linked to the rest of the creative energy of the Cosmos, you have designed and built this amazing, astoundingly complex Game of Life within a 3 dimensional matrix of time and space.

Game Controller

Game Controller (Photo credit: RambergMediaImages)

 

Given that you have a consciousness that extends beyond your physical body, that is the part of you which selected the avatar, chose its start location and the challenges it wanted to explore.  That  greater consciousness continues to provide guidance and set up opportunities for the on-screen character throughout the whole game.  That part of you is holding the controller.  As in any game, though, there are unexpected twists and turns, hazards and surprises.

 

If you’re playing Version 1 of this game of life, though, you won’t be aware of much of that, because there’s an in-built ‘amnesia chip’ that leaves you believing this 3D action on the screen of life is all there is.  You’re so caught up in the on-screen action that you have more or less forgotten the rest.

In Life: A Player’s Guide I put it this way:

You are more than your avatar. You are a perfect holographic part of the creator. You are conscious energy; so is everything and everyone around you.

 

Some people, most of whom started ‘playing’ within the last 30 or so years, are experimenting with what we might term the upgraded version.  These people are playing Version 2.0 of the game.  They have an enhanced awareness of the multiple dimensions involved.  In short, they’re less caught up in what is happening on the 3D screen and more aware of all that’s going on around and beyond it.  We can call that the Cosmos, the Multiverse, the Mind or whatever you like.

These people are regarded with deep suspicion by the vast majority of the Version 1 players, who find their differently orientated brains and altered focus strange, worrying or just plain weird.

Having worked in education for many years, I have become an interested spectator.  I have listened in awe and delight to the growing number of young people who have knowledge, innate skills and comprehension far beyond my own.  I have watched parents, the media, the ‘experts’ and those in authority attempt to classify, suppress and ‘normalise’ them.  I’ve watched as they are drugged with Ritalin, branded as disordered, forced to abandon their inner knowledge or derided as geeks, nerds or weirdos.

Yet if we Version 1 players can move beyond our fevered attention to the game and look beyond the screen for a moment, we will start to recognise the gifts our psychic and wonderful young teachers are bringing us.

Though we seem to be sleeping there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the Truth of who we are. —Rumi

 

Autistic by any other name?

I know I’m not alone in being neurotypical but utterly fascinated by the autistic mind. (How many other people loved Spock the best on Star Trek?) I want to explain why this way of being seems to me so interesting and exciting.

Let me begin by saying I have a big problem with many of the names/labels applied to people whose minds work this way.

I’m not wild about the word Autism. The first bit’s fine – it’s from the Greek ‘autos’ meaning ‘self’, and I’m quite happy to think of my autistic friends and contacts as being very unique individuals. It’s the ‘ism’ tag I don’t like. -Isms imply a lack or limitation, whether they are medical or social in origin: thus dwarfism and autism can be lumped with sexism or racism. They’re ugly words implying an inability to reach a desired potential. I’m with the wonderful and inspiring Satish Kumar here, when he says, “Let all ‘isms’ be ‘wassums’!”

I also object strongly to ANY label that includes ‘disorder’ or ‘dysfunction’. They both imply ‘dissing’ or disrespecting. They’re often seen with the words ‘suffers from…’
Now I’ve come across many people in my life who felt they were suffering in some way. Many of them had a condition which felt very limiting to them. I recall overhearing a group of six-year-olds planning a ‘let’s pretend’ game together. “Let’s pretend,” said the one with Cerebral Palsy, “that I can walk properly and…”
She was suffering.

Yet I’ve never heard anyone on the autistic spectrum complain or object to the way they are. On the contrary. Those who use words to express their feelings will tell you they wouldn’t swap lives with a neurotypical person for anything, and their reasons are always the same. They know they have abilities and skills the rest of us lack. Yeah, yeah – and vice versa, of course. The fact remains – they are differently ordered, not disordered.

So, given that I’m so picky about labels, which will I be happy with?
My favourite to date comes courtesy of a very special man called David Rowan: Autistic Spectrum Perception. That works for me on all levels and it gets to the heart of it. There’s a tremendously broad spectrum of individual ways of being which co-exist under the autistic umbrella. That diversity is to be appreciated and celebrated. And just look how different it sounds when Disorder is replaced by Perception. It removes the idea of ‘They’re not normal-like-us, so there’s something wrong with them’ and replaces it with a recognition that an autistic individual has levels of perception that differ markedly from that of the neurotypical population.

Now we have the label sorted, I’d like to explore that perception.

What follows are my own observations, based on ASP people I know and books, articles and other information that has come to me once I identified within myself a desire to understand. I’m not a neuroscientist; not a scientist, even. I’d welcome comments and corrections from others – particularly members of the ASP population.

A very dear ASPie friend once wrote me the following email. He was explaining his conviction that the increasing number of individuals diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum could provide our world with an advantage, should climate change or some other cataclysmic condition change our way of life dramatically.

What I suspect is the different ways of thinking, viewing information and processing that information – whether consciously or not – provides a better understanding (or different one which could be more relevant in a different or changing world) of what’s going on around them and also potentially have the ability to provide more accurate predictions of the future which could easily prove to be a valuable survival skill and very beneficial to non ASD people around them.
I think there could be very beneficial relationships between the 2 groups of people, though I’m not convinced that non ASD people would be able to develop the ability to think in the same way; particularly when not everything is necessarily done consciously.

It reminds me of Temple Grandin’s famous quote:

Who do you think made the first stone spears? The Asperger guy. If you were to get rid of all the autism genetics, there would be no more Silicon Valley.

Neither of them sound like they’re ‘suffering’ with anything, do they? Far less ‘disordered’…

So why and how are the ASP population different? I unexpectedly picked up some pointers when I watched the following Ted Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html?source=facebook#.UOlP0c_KPz0.facebook

An amazing story in its own right, but Jill Bolte Taylor also eloquently explains the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain. She mentions that in the neurotypical brain, the corpus callosum has 300,000,000 connections that link the two. What is the effect of that?

It means that in every new life experience, my right hemisphere is thinking in pictures, in the ‘now’ and absorbing vast amounts of sensory information as energy. This is connecting me to every other source of energy in the cosmos. It’s huge, transcendent and – if I could only focus clearly on what it is showing me – it can provide unending streams of information and allow me to connect telepathically with everyone and everything else.

At the same time, though, my left brain is analysing the new data in a very different way. It is methodically sifting through its vast bank of memory files in order to categorise my experience – identifying how it relates to past events and computing logical steps to follow in order to minimise discomfort or produce a favourable result in the future. This part of my brain thinks in language. I could live very successfully by listening to the chatter of my left hemisphere, except that I tend to get distracted by all that sensory and emotional stuff coming from the right.

Thus my NT (neurotypical) brain is playing some ultra-fast game of ping pong with every new piece of information that comes to it. That allows me to understand idiom, sarcasm and all those complex interplays and nuances of meaning that can only be interpreted if we are able to use both hemispheres together at an optimum level.
The downside is that I find it difficult to quiet my brain chatter and meditate, for example, or to apply clear logic to a complex problem without noticing my desire for a coffee or a walk in the park. I sacrifice depth of perception for mental agility.

In the ASP population, the linking mechanism between the two sides of the brain, the corpus callosum, is differently formed. It’s not as thick. It’s often not symmetrical. It sometimes follows winding paths, deep into one hemisphere or the other.

Depending on each ASP person’s unique brain profile, the way they experience a new situation will vary. What they can all do, though, is to partially or even totally block off the stimuli from one side or the other. As my friend pointed out, this isn’t always intentional or conscious. However it allows them to delve deep, deep into the information provided by just one of the hemispheres.

Spock was super-logical, with a brilliant left-brained mind. Yet he also possessed tremendous telepathic powers and could link at will to the mind of another. Remember that Tesla, Newton and Einstein are commonly now regarded as having been autistic and you can see where the advantages lie.

Fascinating.

I strongly suspect that as we begin to work together, with both populations using their specific skills as equal and opposite partners, we will find massive mutual advantages. The first step is for the neurotypicals to drop their chauvinistic idea that anyone different to them is ‘disordered’. The second is to find alternative ways to link with those ASP people who don’t tend to think or communicate in language. (Suzy Miller in the US, among others, is doing pioneering work on this.)

What comes next is anyone’s guess, but I’m betting it could be extremely exciting.