Lost between the gap

“This world is in desperate need of creative and intellectual minds to solve complex problems. But before we can do that, we need to build a culture that accepts mental diversity.”
Alix Generous

Alix really captures so much in this quote about Asperger’s and also about diversity as a whole. So often people ask me “Am I normal?” This question makes it seem like there is a desire to be like everyone else, to fit in or in some cases fade into the background. I say seems like because I don’t think this is the desire at all. I think the desire is for acceptance, to be different and it be ok.

When I was planning this blog post with a colleague we thought that Autism awareness week was a great time to promote around the roadblocks that students with ASD might encounter while here at the university. It is still a great idea and we have resources to do this but it’s not the right one for now. Watching Alix’s Ted Talk I am reminded again of the inadequacies of society as a whole to meet individuals with ASD in their world. The roadblocks we put up in being able to access the minds of the visual thinkers, the pattern thinkers, the verbal thinkers and all other types of apparently “non normal” people. I watch daily people with ASD seek support to access the “normal” world. I watch them try and find ways to teach us what they see so clearly in their dreams and minds. I watch the ideas of the inner mind get lost in translation or between the gap between the brilliant mind and the lagging society norms.

So what do we do? Alix suggests that the judgement needs to stop! I agree but I take it to the next step and say it has to go further, we have to stop assuming that this “normal” way is the right way, or the only way. We need to accept alternatives and embrace diversity more. We all need to take the step of closing the gap, it doesn’t have to sit like a burden atop the shoulders of every person identified as ASD. It is a shared responsibility. So next time you are in a conversation where the other person lacks tone, or gets stuck on a topic, doesn’t grasp what you are saying, misses your humor, appears to lack an inhibition button or lack what you consider an appropriate response to a situation step up and try and enter their world instead of blowing them off. This person may just be able to unlock the cure for cancer, have the key to solving world hunger, or maybe just maybe might be the helping hand that you need to growing your inner world beyond what you could have done by yourself.

Check out Alix’s Ted Talk, she really is quite humorous!


Dealing with Bullies

Many of you may have celebrated all things Irish last Friday the 17th March, but did you also know that it marked the seventh National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence in Australia?

Bullying has three main features:

I think sometimes it seems easier to understand the first two parts of bullying rather than the different types of behaviours that can cause harm. These can be social, verbal or physical and you might consider some of these as more serious? But all forms of bullying can have a lasting effect on those involved and because we are all different it is impossible to tell what the effect may be on someone.

Politics both here and overseas have been increasingly causing me to question what acceptable behaviour is and whether we need to be more mindful of social and verbal behaviours. Seeing some of the statements from world leaders about acceptable behaviour definitely ticks the boxes of those features of bullying! But what about here at University? As a student I remember a few times when a member of academic staff had a reputation for behaving inappropriately towards students and at times it can seem like we can’t do anything about such behaviour, especially when it is sitting just below the surface.

Scilla Elworthy explores how to deal with a bully without becoming a thug in return. She outlines that in order to deal with bullying we need to understand our values and be able to reflect on how we can manage our fear and anger in relation to these values. She asks you to treat the fear like a child, what does the fear need to feel better, stronger? Scilla also reminds us that the anger we feel can be powerful, rather than getting angry with people and wasting that power using it to make positive changes.

Now might be the time to stop and give pause to what you can manage in relation the world around you, what you can do when you see behaviours that cause harm and what you can do in response to bullying. Practicing skills of self-reflection and being in touch with your values can be the first step in developing your confidence to be assertive. Our tip sheet on this also has some great ideas and suggestions to help you feeling more confident in standing up to bullies

Multilingual Meditation

This app and website are like Meditation Gold! Yes there are so many different options to chose from not just in terms of the different guided meditations but also in language, and groups you can connect with. And it’s all FREE!

Insight Timer  is a free website and app that provide guided meditations across different topics like compassion, spirituality, depression and anxiety to name a few. You can use the timer, customise your playlist, chose scripts in different languages (25 languages are covered) and connect with a wider community of people also engaging in the same practice.  It has over 4,300 guided meditations and music tracks from over a 1,000 teachers. You have the opportunity to join different groups and intereact with the members of that group through posts or just view the world map and see others meditating at the same time as you across the world.

With a wide variety of influences and the meditations including, Buddhism, Judaism, Psychology, Shamanism, Sikhism, Vedic, Yoga, Hinduism, Christianity, Kabbalah, Scientific and Taoism there is sure to be something for everyone.

What’s good about it: It is a one stop shop that has no barrier of language, culture or belief!

What’s not so good about it: With all that choice it can seem a little daunting….I mean where do you start and how do you know what’s good. My tip is just explore but do it slowly. Start with one group or one practice and trial it for a week before adding or expanding your playlist.

The Cultural Diversity of the Calming Breath

by Marie Rockford **

Before it starts to get busy this semester balancing assessment and exam commitments with work, friends and family get started on your skills to ride the storm by introducing the calming breath.

The calming breath is achieved and valued in many cultural societies and spiritual traditions. From Buddhism and Hinduism to Chinese Confucianism to European Christianity; to indigenous animist and ancestor worship, the practice of meditation often includes the calming nature of breath awareness, reflection and prayer. A central theme strives for the art of being silent, receptive, empty, and attentive through meditation.

Within the Western Psychology, meditation is often based in ‘Mindfulness’ a very popular practice derived from Buddhist traditions of being aware of the moment. Mindfulness is a form of ‘Open Monitoring’ meditation, such as found in Vipassna meditation or some forms Taoist meditation.

Buddhist meditation, also includes some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, and many others. These are ‘focused attention’ meditation.

So too, within the Islamic traditions there is Salat (the ritual of cleansing and salutation) five times a day. There is also Dhirk, the silent and / or the vocal repetition of the names of God. And, Sufi orders use differing meditations related to love and the heart, a personal favourite of mine. Yes I am a lover of Rumi. Other Sufi paths also practice zikr; the use of music or twirling as a focused attention on Allah.

Wondering what is available on campus around meditation then you could make inquiries with NUSA’s clubs and societies, check out the UON students event schedule, drop by counselling in the Student Services building or if you’re a postgrad student check out NUPSA‘s offerings on the Callaghan Campus.


** Marie is a Student Support Advisor located on the Sydney Campus.  If you’re interested in an App around cultural diverse meditation scripts then Marie has also done a review that will be published tomorrow on a multilingual app.

I am woman hear me roar….

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that this week we celebrated International Women’s Day. As a result my social media streams were filled with a range of posts both celebrating the power and strength of women but also highlighting the inequalities when compared to men in society. There were also posts highlighting the vulnerability of women with statistics of domestic violence rates and sexual assault incidences.

What I loved about all these diverse posts is that they all came together and did one thing…. they spoke aloud of women. They made sure that no issue was left alone for fear of the stigma and shame associated with it. They all encouraged conversation about the great and not so great parts about being a woman in today’s world. They highlight the growth of our society. Compared to being a woman in the 50’s we have come a long way. We are no longer aiming to be the perfect housewife, instead we are aiming to be doctors, engineers, professional athletes and so many more professions.

We have a long way still to come but this week we have been open about the good and the bad. We have not hidden the bad but shone a light on the path we have yet to travel.

Random Acts of Kindness

Happy 1st week of uni everyone! It is amazing that it is March already.  Febfast is over, another great event/awareness month in February is Feel Good Feb.  This description is from their Website:

“Feel Good Feb was created to encourage and inspire people to initiate random acts of kindness for their fellow community members. There has been extensive research to prove that ‘giving out good’ not only benefits the receiver but also increases the happiness of the giver. There’s mental happiness and physical benefits for all involved. It is a win-win situation!”

I know February is over, but it really got me thinking about Random Acts of Kindness and how we could put some “good feelings” into Semester 1 here at UON.  A Random Act of Kindness does not have to be a big deal, it can be as simple as asking a lost looking new student if they need some directions. Or smiling at someone who looks like they need it, give up your seat on the bus, the list is endless.  Random Acts of Kindness take very little effort and energy but can make a huge difference to someone’s day.  Imagine the domino effect if everyone here at UON did one small act of kindness this week, or even this month.  The flow-on effects would be beautiful.  Happier students, less stress, brains more able to learn. Exciting stuff!  Have a think about something little you can do.  What will be your Random Act of Kindness today?

p.s. You might be happy to know that I survived Febfast and did not have a single spoonful of chocolate icing! It was great to raise some money for a good cause; it was also really good to achieve a personal goal!

The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to RPS@newcastle.edu.au.
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