I found C.C. White while I was on the Vineyard. Just get up and dance!
I spent all of last week on Martha’s Vineyard working with Jacob and his parents, Jo-Ann and Derrill. Actually, the word is playing. I am blessed that playing is integral to my work, and the more improvisational and surprising the play, the better the work.
Jacob is autistic. Rather than buckling down into a behavioral modification or efforting, re-shaping way of working with Jacob, his parents have cultivated a spirit of playful engagement, physical attunement, deep listening, and ever expanding spiritual inquiry in their relationship with their son.
In my interactions with him and with them, my intention is to step into the current of whatever is unfolding in the moment so that I can observe from within that perspective. i am looking at what is present, what is absent, what is Jacob offering and if and how can we expand upon those themes. I am also asking him every day what it is that he would like us to know. Jacob is non-verbal, so we all must become adept in listening to cues that come through movement, through stillness, sound, behavior, and a myriad of subtle micro-signals. The bass note is always love, curiosity and acceptance.
Is it humbling? Yes. It is also joyful, inspiring, breathtaking. There are times when I feel that I have swum out of my depth, that I am swallowed in the wild ocean of this mystery that is autism. In those moments, I always come back to sensing and feeling my own body. I know how to swim, how to orient, how to get quiet and feel first my heart, then my feet, my breath, and all the space that holds us both.
If there was any one thing that I wanted to share with Jo-Ann and Derrill and anyone else who spends time with Jacob it is that: let your body be the bell that rings in tune with Jacob’s. Feel him in you, let his movement, his sound, his stillness light you up, enter you, transform you. That is truly his gift. One of so very many yet to be unwrapped.
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This is my granddaughter Laila with her new best friend, the little Sato dog, Sadie. Note the heart on her back. Sadie is settling in, learning not to cringe at sudden sounds, not to duck her head when we stoop to stroke her. Sadie is rescued from Dead Dog Beach in Puerto Rico by The Sato Project. Watching her blossom is a lesson in resilience, in the strength of spirit, and in willingness. Laila is a dog whisperer herself and seems to know what kind of love medicine Sadie needs. She is already versed in the beautiful circle of giving and receiving. That is what I am learning from her, from Sadie and from my family.
I witnessed a lot of that same resilience from my autistic godson Jacob and his family last week when I was on the Vineyard with them. Each one in their own way has mastered the practice of beginning again, of being in the moment, of moving with grace and lightness from moment to moment. More about that tomorrow.
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I have had a profound bodily and emotional revelation. It came about as I was watching Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s videos about the organ system. In the last DVD, she is explaining something called the “organ roll.” It begins by side lying, feeling the lateral line of the body, and clearly sensing the front body and the back body. When I first lay on my side, I quivered into uneasy balance, I could feel muscles bracing, and how my sacrum pushed forward, and then my chest drew back, looking for how to lie poised on that razor’s edge of the side body.
I stayed there for a long time, then changed sides, then came back to the first side again. Gradually, I began to feel how I could unwind from the inside out, releasing my sacrum (and the pain there) and how as I stayed, it became more restful, more expansive. In Bonnie’s words, the confusion between the back body and front body began to ease – nothing pushing or falling backwards or forwards. When I stood up, I felt as if – perhaps for the first time – I was resting in my center, nothing braced or pushing or falling. My mind also felt quiet, reflecting this new balance. I became curious about how this new way of sensing balance would change my riding.
The answer is, profoundly. I felt a huge shift with my big Friesian, Sanne, who because of his power, can easily disrupt my balance, engaging me in a forward-falling, backward-bracing dialogue, It was as if all of that simply unraveled. I could feel my own quiet center – no muscling required – and he reflected that easy longitudinal balance in a completely new and effortless way. Our riding dialogue was soft, engaged, supple and playful.
This physical revelation has an emotional parallel in the Somatic Experiencing work that I have been studying for the past couple years. In that work, when we become activated – emotionally triggered – we find regularion by using sensing awareness and slowing to pendulate between activation and settling. It is a way of finding balance, of not tipping into full on panic or disassociation.
To learn more about this work, connect with me here.