The term Neurodiversity was originally coined by the autism community and acknowledges that individuals have different ways of thinking, learning, and processing information**
A number of years ago I was preparing to teach a meditation class when I met a neurodiverse student who shared with me the difficulties they had experienced when trying to sit still during meditation at a sitting group. Their anxiety had skyrocketed sitting still “like everyone else” while needing to move around during the class. It had become an impossible situation for them. They knew that meditation was useful for managing stress and anxiety but in this situation they were feeling worse than ever!
We are so happy to be offering the first Basics of Mindfulness Meditation class for the Neurodiverse Community. For all of us, being with like-minded people can support us in feeling a sense of belonging. To be recognized, welcomed, accepted, and valued for who we are as individuals contributes to our good mental and physical health.
The student I encountered was longing to sit with others who had the earnest desire to practice. After class, the teacher guiding the sitting group asked them not to return to the class since the student had been “disruptive.” The student interpreted this as feeling “expelled” from class. We talked about what they would need to feel comfortable in a silent sitting group. We worked out a way that they could calm themselves and practice during the silence without disturbing others.
Each week, the student and I checked in before class and reflected on how they were feeling and what they needed to do that day to be comfortable in the group. We brainstormed new strategies and reinforced those that worked. The student became much less anxious, happier, and relaxed, as they discovered what was practical and workable for them. They were learning how to help themselves have a successful practice on their own terms within the parameters of the group. Isn’t that what a compassionate, harmonious, mindfulness meditation practice is all about?
I tell you this story because it, along with many others, has provided the inspiration to offer the class, Cultivating Harmony: Mindfulness for the Neurodiverse Community.
**A Note about Neurodiversity: The term was originally coined by the autism community to describe the idea that autism is not a disease or a disorder, but rather a natural variation in human neurology. It is an acknowledgement that individuals have different ways of thinking, learning, and processing information, and that these differences can be an asset in many areas, including creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. It also acknowledges that neurodivergent individuals may face challenges in certain areas, such as social interaction or sensory processing, and that accommodations should be made to support their inclusion in society.
Lisette Palley, LMFT, OTR/L has been involved with meditation, yoga and tai chi since the 1980s and is a graduate of the Insight LA Facilitator Training Program. She has worked with people with disabilities ranging from Autism and developmental disabilities to severe mental illness and traumatic brain injury for 20 years as a community college counselor and instructor at West Los Angeles College. She is committed to bringing mindful awareness practices to overlooked, underserved, and at-risk populations.
Lisette will be teaching Cultivating Harmony: Mindfulness for the Neurodiverse Community, a 6-Week series beginning Wednesday, March 15, 2023 from 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM PT.