Buddhists talk about the impermanence of everything, how all things, all states of being are transient (except of course nirvana). As an autistic this idea of permanent impermanence has been incredibly helpful. Mindfulness, whether based in theology or simply the practical application of being present in the moment and accepting the moment non-judgementally, have been proven to help autistic adults (and non-autistics) decrease anxiety. This mindfulness is an expression of the concept of impermanence, with the idea being that the moment is what it is, but it will change and things will change.
For autistics, even though imposed change can be very difficult, it can be very comforting to understand and accept that the intense feelings of sadness, alienation, frustration or other negative emotions are impermanent, that they too will change, that things will change. In terms of mindfulness, this thought would be arrived at in the following way:
I am feeling really anxious because my bus is late. – BE in the moment – At the moment I am feeling really anxious because the bus is really late – ACCEPT the moment non-judgementally – I am currently feeling really anxious, but that’s ok.
If you then name the impermanence you can also help to shape the shift from current to next state of being. So in this example:
Although I am feeling anxious at the moment because the bus is late, at some stage the bus will arrive, and at some point in the coming time I will no longer be anxious about this.
I realised that I had automatically gone into mindfulness mode when stuck in a crowded plane on the Tarmac in a lightning storm for an hour and a half and had moved from stressed to appreciation of the beauty of the storm. I experienced moments of autistic contentment as I watched the intensity of the rainbow increase and the setting sun radiate through the clouds. Even though I knew the contentment would not last forever, that it too was impermanent, I chose to savour it intently for the duration. In this savouring, the contentment lasted for three days.
Even though the contentment has shifted, I am now aware of the possibility of even intense negative emotions being followed by contentment. This takes the edge off even the most difficult emotions as long as I follow through with the steps in mindfulness. And if I don’t do so straight away, once I do, I accept non-judgementally and the power of the negative emotions is removed. I know a number of autistic adults who have found mindfulness life changing and heard an excellent presentation on this early this year. However, I believe that all autistics (and non-autistics) could benefit from and indeed experience some moments of complete contentment if they can be in the moment and truly accept the moment non-judgemntally. Where the moment is painful, accepting that the pain will not last forever because NOTHING lasts forever can be easier for the logical mind to accept than trying to accept that it won’t last forever because that is what the theories behind mindfulness say.
I am sure than even young children can learn mindfulness and that this will help autistics to live as positively as possible and to grow in self confidence and confidence in their place in the wider world.