Meditation and Aspergers Syndrome:
Modify Meditation to Suit Your Needs
Meditation and mindfulness. They’re important in today’s hectic world where we never seem to get a minute to enjoy peace and quiet and give our minds a rest. More and more studies are exploring and outlining the benefits of a mindfulness practice and of learning to be present in the moment. If you have Asperger’s syndrome, however, the thought of learning to meditate may be great in theory, but the actual logistics are enough to send your anxiety levels sky high. If you’ve ever attended a class or listened to a recorded meditation and found that you just didn’t ‘get’ it, it could very well be because the class or recording weren’t a good fit for you.
Use the following tips and you may discover you can learn to meditate successfully.
If you have trouble focusing on what other people are saying because of the intrusion of background noise or if you get distracted by little sounds that a lot of people easily disregard, then make sure you create a quiet, soothing, welcoming place for your meditation or mindfulness practice. If you can, lock the door, turn your phone off and meditate when others aren’t likely to disturb you. Be sure to let them know that you’d like some quiet time so that a housemate won’t turn their stereo up full blast in the middle of your practice!
If you’re attending a meditation class, it might be worthwhile to see if you can have a look at the venue first and note any difficulties that noise or tactile surfaces may present.
- Talk to the teacher and ask how meditation is conducted (sitting or lying down) then physically sit in the chairs provided, if possible, or lay on the floor to get a feel for whether these surfaces are likely to help or hinder your focus on your meditation or mindfulness class.
- Check to see what the maximum number of people allowed in the class is and see if there’s a quiet spot where you may be able to position yourself so that the movement of other students doesn’t impact your focus.
- Don’t forget to check what kind of lighting the teacher uses and whether they use any kind of incense or other scent that may be a source of stress.
- It’s okay to ask them straight up if they have any knowledge of Aspergers and if so, how they’ve adapted their classes to suit.
Sometimes it’s what’s said that causes problems with paying attention in meditation classes or when listening to recorded sessions. If you prefer ‘concrete’ language, as opposed to metaphorical language, ensure that the teacher also uses this kind of style when teaching or guiding meditation.
A mindfulness exercise such as looking at your thumb, noting the length of your thumbnail, how wide your thumb is, its creases, pores, colour of the skin, etc., can be more effective at creating mindfulness than an exercise where the teacher asks you to imagine being a tree sending your roots down into the earth, for example.
If you’re considering attending classes and the teacher also offers recorded meditations, it may be worthwhile purchasing or borrowing one of these ahead of time to ensure that the language they use is easy to follow and relate to.
If you’re purchasing recorded exercises for use in your own home, check out the return and refund policy in case you find that these don’t suit your preferred learning style in terms of the language used.
Sensitivity to Noise
Even though this can be included under things that can be distracting, the importance of your meditation teacher’s vocal tone and the volume at which they speak is important enough to warrant a mention all on its own. You want to ensure that the way that they speak is in keeping with the meditation topic and loud enough to be easily heard above any background noise such as traffic outside, yet not too loud to be intrusive and prevent you from focusing on the important stuff.
One of the benefits of a recorded meditation is that you can control the volume to suit, however you still need to take into consideration whether there is background music and whether this will enhance or detract from your ability to focus on the exercises presented. Again, the teacher’s vocal tone will also play a role here.
While it can be a little more challenging for someone with Aspergers to learn meditation in the beginning, with the right adjustments to both environment and content, it becomes easier and easier to achieve success. The key is to arrange things in such a way that it facilitates your learning AND your meditation practice. For example, if you like a particular recording, but find the background music disturbing, you can write the meditation down and re-record it yourself without the music, or get someone else to do it for you.
If you know other people who meditate or practice mindfulness ask them where they learned to meditate and then check out both the location and the teacher to see if they suit you.
Try approaching meditation resources from an analytical point of view before diving in. Check out whether things that can create anxiety and distraction are present and if they are, see if there are ways you can reduce or eliminate them. A good meditation teacher will be happy to discuss any foreseeable difficulties with you and consider ways to work around them, if possible.
The benefits of meditation are widely known and publicized. Learning how to:
- Release anxiety and stress
- Be fully present in the moment without worrying about the past or the future
- Relaxing and learning to be more in command of your emotions
These things can benefit every single one of us.
Whether you’re considering attending meditation classes or learning from recordings at home, you may wish to combine the tips above with my meditation checklist to help you create the right environment and find the right teacher.
With your meditation space set up the way you like it and by attending classes where you feel comfortable and know that your needs are being met, you may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to start enjoying the benefits that a regular meditation practice can bring!
I would like to thank the folks at Asperger Experts for the following quote they provided me when I contacted them:
Meditation and many forms of somatic experiencing are terrific ways to help the AS individual process out their sensations. Generally speaking, one has a tendency to resist internal/external stimulations without letting them process through as the body naturally wants to do. Sitting with one’s sensations and consciously processing them out in a comfortable, safe environment is a fantastic way to work through these challenges.
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