For the past few months I have been engaged in an experiment - me, the middle-aged autistic woman with a whole bundle of chronic pain syndromes, dancing twice a day almost every day. The result is, I can't possibly summarise the incredible benefits I have reaped, specifically within the context of autism but also relating to reduction of chronic pain...there are just too many to abbreviate and some of them may very well surprise you, so you will just have to read this post...
Fitness and movement
Cultivating joie de vivre
As an autistic person, I find there is a definite link here between my particular wiring for high sensory processing, which can make me feel more overwhelmed than some other people might be in the same situation, along with a tendency to live in my thoughts way too much, plus also the need to actively process those senses though my body in such a way that the body fully registers them, but without overwhelm, on the way through…because, otherwise, I can tend to bypass the body altogether. Not least because of issues with chronic pain, learning to bypass the body can become a really big issue. Also gentle grounding activities, such as letting energy passively drain through me into Mother Earth, doesn’t feel quite enough.
Rather, I tend to need to actively participate in the processing part in order to remember what my body is there for…and that it is important and useful for me to have one (something I tend to forget…), which is where the power of dance comes in for me. Dancing, quite literally, puts me back in touch with my body and helps me to remain more grounded for a long time afterwards. Yet whilst this especially applies to someone like me, as in highly sensitive person with autistic wiring, I suspect it applies to anyone that lives in their head and has become detached from their body to a very high degree…which is more common that you might think; a typical modern phenomenon.
I plan to share much more about the proven benefit of dancing, for autistic people, soon in another post that I’m working on for Living Whole.
To start off this topic, here is a post I shared yesterday, in my other blog Spinning the Light, on the importance of GROUNDING joy into the physical body (an absolute essential for health and for navigating these times), whatever that happens to take in your particular case.
Cultivating joie de vivre
…has never been more important, or elusive-seeming, so how do we conjure up, specifically, grounded joy, rooted in the body, during such challenging times?
(As doing the research that led to my retrospective post the other day reminded me) a relentless sense of my own joy of life has always been one of my defining traits, as it were, rescuing me from some very hard times, even way back when as a child feeling quite helpless in situations that traumatised me. As an adult now dealing with chronic health challenges, I have come to regard it as an utterly essential ingredient of life, so much so that I cringe when I watch so many people loose their grip on it (not that I blame them in the circumstances) because of perceiving themselves as victims of those circumstance, knowing as I do that unless we take our own personal steps to…
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Moving more, not less
My physical foibles (labelled such things as EDS and chronic pain) don't render me unentitled to a gloriously reimagined health future but even more prone to be open minded and eager enough to embark on the journey because there are no rules where I dwell, it is all a giant leap in the dark so why not make it a leap towards what I prefer to envision and thus create. The first step is to make friends with movement...
Creating new body memories
As an adjunct to clearing the body of old emotional memories in order to heal, it's important to start a blank canvas of creating positive NEW body memories that invite the body to take part in choosing what makes it feel good. Here's how I'm using that understanding to move into the later stages of recovery from chronic illness, shifting me into a new place when it comes to how resilient and good my body feels (yes, we all still have our off days)...
Shake it off!
Shaking the body is how wild animals get rid of stress from their bodies...straight after the trigger event...which is why they don't suffer PTSD but what about humans? Here's a simple daily practice that not only shakes off what you don't want but re-energises every cell in the body (something we could all use right now), it takes just a few moments, can be done anywhere and is free!
What’s your alchemy? (Mine is dancing.)
Our personal version of alchemy is so often performed without even thinking about it, when lost in those tasks that take us deep into ourselves, into our innate knowing and our joy. So often, we learn to treat such activities as self-indulgent, pointless or plain weird and yet, the paradox is, they often hold he key to our deepest transformation...in other words, they are exactly what we need to be doing right now.
Sometimes we all need a little faith in ourselves, and the gentle push of momentum, to realise we can be our own rescue party. Exploring the extraordinary power of momentum in the journey of self-healing and becoming more whole.
There will be times when you just can’t (as well as times when you certainly can)
How do we know the difference between when our intuition is speaking to us or when our self-sabotaging fears are stopping us in our tracks? This is an essential lifeskill for self-care and guidance when we venture back into life's busy fray...
Under pressure: the EDS anxiety link
Hard science has uncovered a mechanism whereby the same collagen abnormalities in EDS that make joints especially flexible seem to affect blood vessels, making those with it prone to accumulation of blood in the veins of the legs, an effect that may lead to exaggerated cardiovascular responses to maintain the output of blood from the heart. This and other foibles, which I feel are versions of the same response, put those of us with this issue under immense pressure and strain, all the time, as our version of "normal" so just imagine how much we then react to any additional triggers, to which we tend to be hypersensitive (I share my about theory about that too...), setting off our nervous system at regular intervals in a way that has nothing inherently to do with mental health...although, no surprise, it can start to manifest as anxiety over time. Joining some dots and celebrating just how much people with hypermobility type EDS deal with as their daily benchmark...plus some practical ways of making it better.
Four-legged walking and defaulting to a new “centre”
I am picking up on ways that spectrum types seem to connected to an earlier permeation of human being that lived much more closely amongst animals and in Nature, and even with animal themselves (since those early people did not feel the same disconnect with other species that modern humans do) rather than to the currently dominant neurotypical strain of human that has largely disconnected from Nature. In our extrasensory abilities, as in an ability to sense many things that we can’t "just" pick up with our conventional five senses (to the exactingly detailed standards we prefer...), our ability to preview how something will feel in advance by tuning into the experiences of others, plus our trends of mixing up and crossing over those senses, as in the way of synesthesia, and of using visual images as memory and information rather than “ideas”, I sense this link. In the way our bodies seem to connect with and respond to circadian and other natural cycles more than most people, I sense that link. In my case, the way I work, quite compulsively and intuitively, with symbology and complex metaphor feels as though it harks back to an earlier format of human that lived deeply immersed in Nature and took all sources of data, logical or otherwise, as clues leading towards a fuller sense of meaning. In our joined-up way of processing, and our deep frustration with systems built to serve social ideas of human behaviour, prescribed largely to serve ideas of lack, profit and control (but which make no sense in the broadest sense or supporting life for all and which fail to take care of the “bigger picture”of our world) I feel like some sort of honorary member of the animal kingdom shaking their head in dismay at the way the world has been turned over for personal gain. Yet, to seem more neuroptypical, in order to blend in and survive, as we saw it, we may have traded off our profound connection with the body and its senses to focus on our heads...