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!


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.

Accepting the change….

Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. Firstly welcome back to students returning from holidays. I hope that you have had a chance to recharge your batteries and get stuck into another year of study here at UON. Welcome also to those students who are starting study here at UON for the first time. You have so many new experiences to look forward to! Welcome also to those students who are returning to UON after a large break in study. There will be many changes for you to experiences, some which will be met with excitement and relief (increased coffee stations across the campus) and others with hesitation (the technology has exploded and the options are far greater).

Regardless of what brings you to UON this year take some time in the first week or so to really take in your environment. Find a place on campus you can relax in now so that when things start to speed up you will have somewhere to go and find your inner calm. Stock up on mosquito repellant and look for the best places to nab a park in the early weeks and remind yourself that the fight for a park becomes easier after week 5 or so. Make time to visit all the services you might need on campus early, like the student HUBS, library, printer, pharmacy, health service and counselling so that later in the year if you need some additional help you will know where to find them all.

Finally take the time right now to breath and enjoy the smell of fresh text books, new pencil cases and stationary supplies and open your mind and heart to the new opportunities and people you will meet in 2017 here at UON.

What’s in the past doesn’t always stay in the past

We focus on new beginnings every January, making resolutions, saying things will be different this year and leaving behind the past year. Truth is that most resolutions made are broken and some of the previous year/s will travel forward with us. This doesn’t always have to be a bad thing after all its the challenges that we face that help mold us for the future ones. And let’s face it some of our resolutions can be a little unrealistic – like the preservative, additive and refined sugar free diet I put my whole family on starting school return! There are some things though that we try and move on from, forget and block from our minds. We might be successful in doing so for a while but when we get over loaded, are in a new experience or we experience an unexpected trigger in the environment the memories return despite our efforts to bury them.

Sometimes these past experiences might be the loss of someone we loved, abuse we have suffered at someone else’s hand or trauma from an accident. Regardless of what the situation when the memories creep back our distress levels increase, it’s harder to concentrate and keep going, panic can set in and for some they walk away from something they love to escape the pain. Or they stay but don’t quite achieve what they were hoping for, making another compromise for something they had no fault in.

When you have tried hard to bury the memories it seems natural to keep trying to bury them rather than share the burden with someone and ask for help. Or maybe you tried getting help in the past and felt no one was listening or that it didn’t work for you. Maybe the type of help you sought and received wasn’t the type of help you needed at that time. Timing can be everything. So can finding the right person to ask for the help. Maybe your situation has changed now, or maybe you feel like you have tried to be strong and push on for long enough. Or maybe now is the first time you have been offered help?

Individual counselling is only one option to consider, and let me tell you, here at UON there are a few options to consider. For example you can see one of the GP’s on campus and get a referral to a private Psychologist on campus who Bulk Bills via Medicare. Or you can come and speak to one of the counsellors on campus without referral. If doing it all face-to-face seems a little daunting then you can speak to one of the online counsellors either at the drop-in skype sessions or by making an appointment. If individual counselling isn’t for you then maybe there is a support group in the area that offers support, like the Survivors and Mates Support Network who offer an 8 week support program for adult male survivors of childhoods sexual assault, or maybe SIDS and KIDS 24 hour telephone support line. 

I might not have mentioned a support specifically for each person reading this who identifies with it. Have a look around this blog and see if you can find the resources you are after or contact us and we can try and locate something for you. If now isn’t quite the time then but a bookmark here in case the time comes later or sign up to our blog so that you get a weekly e-mail with our posts. At the very least check out the tip sheets we have on Balance and Healthy Wellbeing, grounding techniques, or some of the others to help you keep things going this year!

You did it!

Congratulations on finishing another semester at UON! Regardless of your final results you have given it a go and that deserves acknowledgement. If you passed them all then kick back relax and if it’s your last subject and you are moving onto paid employment then enjoy whatever break you have before entering the workforce. If you are coming back next year for another semester then take advantage of the time to celebrate this year, recharge and enjoy the holidays.

If things didn’t go to plan this year and you didn’t quite achieve your goals then it’s still time to take some time off, reflect, recharge and after the Christmas holidays come back to UON early and take advantage of the support services available to help you plan for better outcomes in 2017. You can start by checking back in on this blog as we get a head start in January and February in preparing students for 2017.

Take care over the holiday period and Merry Christmas  🙂

Fear + anxiety = Panic!

Fear and anxiety are natural reactions to scary events, when the fear and anxiety become overwhelming, you experience panic.  You might notice your heart pounding, sweating, trembling, difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, numbness, feeling detached from yourself, or fear you are losing control. The difference between anxiety and panic is that when it’s panic it erupts suddenly and peaks within 10 minutes. So what’s happening to you? Well from a physical sense panic is caused by a surge of adrenaline being released into your bloodstream. Adrenalin is designed to prepare your body for fight or flight. So you stay and work your way through the panic or you run.

If you are going to stay and work your way through you might need to develop some tools in identifying and challenging the negative thoughts like the one “I’m losing control” or “I’m going crazy” and replacing them with “The adrenalin will pass” or “When this passes I will be able to focus”. You will also find it useful to try and control and slow your breathing to combat the adrenalin burst or some grounding techniques. This Way Up have a good resource with a few things you can try and some more information about panic attacks and panic disorder if you are looking for some additional information or assistance.

If you can feel your anxiety rising as you are preparing for exams then take a look at some of these resources and prepare to stay and fight through the panic. Panic doesn’t have to get in the way of you reaching your goals, it is usually short in duration, so hang in there and you will be on top again.

Mindfulness…merging your rational and emotive mind.

Well it’s the calm before the storm that is known as final exams! It’s that time when you are trying to tap into your rational, task focused mind but your emotion mind is trying to hijack you so that you can’t concentrate. You’re trapped by the thoughts of failure, or thinking about past mistakes and wondering how on earth you are going to make it through the next 4 weeks.

While there are no quick fixes to this and despite numerous research attempts we have not found the off switch for our emotions, we can use mindfulness to help you merge the two different spheres of your brain into one and try and maximise your wise mind experience.


I know it’s great to be able to multi-task and pack as much into one day as possible but in terms of retention of information, synthesis and ability to recall it having individual focus is more important. So take time out this week to “smell the roses”.

  • Practice you’re observation skills by taking 5 minutes to lie on the ground and watch the clouds go by. What do you see, hear, smell, and touch?
  • Practice your description and unwrap yourself from the interpretations or the judgements you are making on situations by describing the facts. What? who? when? and where?
  • Practice your participation by engaging in just one task at a time. Take the time to just listen to the music rather than listening whilst driving, or washing up.

For more tips on being mindful and staying calm this end half of semester keep checking back on the blog as I’ll be giving regular small exercises you can try. You can also check out our additional resources in the tip sheets and topics of interest pages.

Referencing….the final step before you Turnitin

So all that stands between you and freedom from assessments is completing the references at the end of your work, Argh! If you are anything like me I used to leave the job till the end. Partly because I didn’t want to spend time entering references I didn’t end up using and partly because, lets face it, it’s a crappy job.  Fortunately a lot has changed now from my undergrad days and there are a lot of new online and applications available to help with referencing.

One of these is the RefMe tool, available both online and as an app. This is a free tool that enables you to chose from over 30 referencing styles and you can either manually enter details, chose from the already listed resources or if using the phone or ipad you can scan the bar code of a book to assist with referencing. I always struggled with referencing electronic resources before and I decided to give this a go by entering in my own blog, sure enough it took the details from the URL and then converted them into a citation for me. It was easy to flick between referencing styles and also allows you to create different projects so you can keep different subjects in different lists.

Like any referencing guide it isn’t perfect and there are some manual overrides needed but on the whole it isn’t too bad.  It definitely beats the old days of looking up each referencing rule in my hard copy of the APA guidelines.

What’s good about it: It is easy to create an account, it’s free and it doesn’t have any lengthy manuals to read before you start using it.

What’s not so good: You will need to pay for the premium features and you may still need to do some manual overrides when you export the final page.

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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