An important meditation in Buddhism is about the kindness of others. I particularly like this meditation because it helps to manage negative emotions such as frustration or anger and promotes mindfulness which is a sort of vigilant awareness of what you are doing and the context you are in on a moment to moment basis.
Both mindfulness and meditation have been shown to be beneficial for people in general, specifically to help minimise anxiety and improve mental health. For people on the spectrum, these techniques, with or without the associated religious beliefs can have a calming and grounding effect, in effect acting as self-regulating strategies.
An literal (and non religious) example of this is from my recent travels around Japan. For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you already know I am not overly enamoured with public transport… for those of you who are newer – I have only recently conquered my fear of buses and been able to use buses without an open map clutched in my hands. So – we have just been travelling around Japan on public transport, mainly trains, and I cannot read a single kanji or hiragana……
The kindness of others in Japan is wondrous! Just standing still and looking confused was enough for people to approach and ask “help?” or “do you need help?” Thrusting a pre-purchased train ticket at them would result in a hand gesture (of the helpful kind) indicating the platform number with gestures following if the platform was not easily identifiable!!!! One kind lady even walked down a road to show us where the place we wanted to go was located. This kindness ensured that my anxiety stayed low and both myself and my partner had a great time travelling around.
In the deeper (and I suppose more specifically Buddhist) sense, the kindness of others is in everything we do. When waiting for the train, it is through the kindness of others that we are able to wait for a train – the kindness of the engineers who designed the train, the workers who made the train, the person who employs me so that I can afford the train and so on. Many people struggle with this concept as it is not necessarily an instinctive thought that someone doing their job (ie the workers who made the train) are being kind, after all it is just their job. BUT… how much more pleasant and positive it is to think of these people as kind. If the train is late (never happened in Japan) focusing on these myriad kindnesses detracts from and prevents mounting anxiety/frustration.
I find it harder to focus on the kindness of others when my employer does not pay me on time or a car brakes suddenly in front of me for no discernible reason…. (and so on, the list could get very long!) At these times, I do a short breathing meditation where the idea is to focus on the feeling of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. (Other more religious type bits can be added at this stage). In doing that I am forcing my mind to focus not on whatever is irritating me, but on my breath. As a handy side point – this is sensorially pleasing 🙂
I have taught a lot of autistic spectrum kids to do a slightly different breathing mediation to specifically help them dissipate anger and/or frustration. I explain that to prevent their anger/frustration exploding like a volcano – i.e. everywhere with force, that instead they can breathe it out so that it runs off them gently, so that it doesn’t hurt them or others. (I do some interesting modelling here with my body and arms and photos of volcanoes exploding and others with the lava running down the sides only).
It is only anecdotal but all the AS kids I have done this with have found it useful and have had less issues at school following on from learning how to do this particular meditation, which simply consists of breathing in and out slowly and deeply and visualising their anger coming out of the top of their head and running down their sides to their feet, where it dissipates into the ground. Have a go and let me know if it works for you or someone you care for/work with. (on the spectrum or not)