“The world that we live in is fabulous. It is utterly workable.”
– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, The Sanity We are Born With
The current discussion on Buddhism and Psychology going on at the ID Project has been centered around Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s book The Sanity We Are Born With. Monday night’s discussion left me thinking a lot about emotions, psychological wellness, and what I’ve learned over the past year working with children with autism.
So, in the great Buddhist tradition of making lists, and in honor of my last day of work, I have compiled a list of my own:
The Five Fabulous Behaviors
(AKA What I Learned About My Emotions From Working With Children With Autism
And Practicing Meditation, Too)
1. You Need To Be Calm
There can be space between feeling/thinking and reacting, space enough to be calm. For my students it was learning that staying calm is a positive thing, being reinforced for not having a tantrum or becoming aggressive – finding better ways to manage anger and express disappointment. For me…oh wait, it’s the same thing.
2. Be The Change You Want To Tolerate In the World
For my students, any change in a daily schedule or expectations not met could oftentimes be very upsetting. I had to help them learn to tolerate this because change is a part of every day life. For me, I need to look at my own attachments to desired outcomes in all kinds of situations.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice…oh, and Practice
For my students, many skills that were taught had to be practiced every day, often several times a day, in order for a skill to be learned. And then after the skill was “learned,” it still had to be practiced every day to make sure that it wasn’t lost. This sometimes involved helping a student brush his teeth 4 times throughout the day. For me, I need to keep my meditation practice going every day and be as regular about it as possible. Being sporadic and uncommitted about it isn’t going to get me results.
4. How Are You? Now Let’s Get Back To Work.
No matter how bad a tantrum was, my student Alex would soon after be laughing and smiling and jumping around happy as a clam. But at the drop of a hat he could be back in the time-out room crying his eyes out. Neither happiness nor sadness nor anger are lasting. I need to remind myself of this when I am feeling attached to a particular emotion.