By Eh’den Biber
Part one – Drop the Grenade, or Inner Spirit of Time
When I was young and innocence I loved playing games; I loved pretending. I can still remember how I loved to pretend I’m an astronaut, a scientist, a hero. I remember how I saved the world again and again in a movie constructed by my own imagination. It felt good, felt wonderful.
That was then.
Let’s fast forward to my last weekend: I’m in a restaurant in what will be called by Americans as “the middle of nowhere”, or as Europeans like to call it – Brussels. I’m the hero of a WTF story: one which I, as a dad, is trying to prevent his youngest son from stabbing himself with a knife. Seriously, where is my freaking spaceship!?!
In the midst of the struggle with my son I suddenly remembered a game I used to play when I was a kid. It was called “catch the grenade”. It is a simple game someone holds with two fingers a thin object – such as a pen. You put one of your hand around the object, and you watch VERY closely to the moment the fingertips of the person holding pen will be dropping it, in a hope to catch it before it passes via your hand. The name of the game, as far as I know, came from the Israel airline security personnel training, one in which people who wanted to become on-board security personnel were required to prove they have the right level of instincts. If you have the right instincts, you will be able prevent a mid-air explosion by catching a grenade before it hits the group and dismantling it.
Now at my 40s my instincts are not focused on a falling object, but on noticing any movement of my son that might hint the beginning of a transformation from an amazingly beautiful, kind and full of love child into an angry, full of rage teenager. Instead of stopping a crazy Jihadist terrorist from hurting others I am stopping own son from hurting himself. How can you stop a person from doing an act of self-harm when he is incapable of understanding you?
We all end up harming ourselves because they are biased, because we have no visibility to our own blindness, our “inner Zeitgeist”, inner spirit of time. We are trapped in our own cage of our mind, and end up developing addictive behaviour, end up infecting our devices, end up try to stab ourselves. Why? Because we are trapped.
Without developing skills to be able to disassociate our sense of self from our mind we are all trapped. Without development of skills to practice calming down our mental perception (via meditation), any attempt of trying to help others or to even try to understand others to help them prevent causing a self-harm or harm to others will put the people in a survival mode, and will end up in counter intuitive reaction. And since we are blind to our subconscious the fact we don’t go nuts in reaction to an attempt to help we resist is mainly a cultural programming that is resisted in the subconscious level and is not integrated fully.
In the case of my son – acting more aggressive. It’s as if he is sensing my attempt to sense him, and he reacts in Anger, ignoring the fact the he is holding a freaking knife and that he removed his shirt and he is about to push it into his stomach. I remember times when I was trying to convince information security experts they are about to perform an act that will have introduce a C/I/A (confidentiality/Integrity/Availability) driven risk – but the more I tried to explain to them the more they got angry. Only after a conformation with my own son that I realised that we all do it, including (especially) me. I realised that I will suffer as long as I will not accept the fact that the real truth is unexperienced via my current state. I realised that I will suffer until I will embrace the fact that what constructs the universe is deep fabric of love. Man, so much to let go!
So anyway, back to the knife. Do you still think you had a crap weekend? Perspective is a motherfucker (Pardon my French), and nothing gives you more perspective in life more than your own son who seems to be trapped in his own world, and that you cannot communicate to him, and that he can harm himself and you cannot help him to be free from that thought.
Part two – Sleepless in Spain, or, The Vacation
Let’s go back 2 weeks.
A few years ago I was pouring into a poetry blog the frustration, pain and suffering that came out of my struggle to raise my youngest son who had sever autism. One day a very kind person contacted me asking me for advice. His son had severe autism like Rephael, and he was being torn apart by the fact that his adolescence had brought with it a rage that their family was unable to control. I suggested to use cannabis, an advice which seems at that point to be extreme but now being adopted by the Israeli health ministry, in the form of CBD oil. He didn’t manage to find a solution, and it ended up in his son going to boarding school.
Between the ages of 12 and 24, the brain changes in important, and oftentimes maddening, ways. Dan Siegel illuminated in his book “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain” how brain development impacts teenagers’ behaviour and relationships by drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology. Dan wrote the book because he believed that if parents and teens can work together to form a deeper understanding of the brain science behind all the tumult, they will be able to turn conflict into connection and form a deeper understanding of one another.
But how can you build that trust when your son cannot communicate with you?
It’s way past midnight, I was staring at an empty bed, and I was unable sleep. “Sleep well, my beloved. Sleep well, my angel, wherever you are. I love you”. I spoke gently as tears run through me. Three weeks of vacation with Rephael has ended, and the enigma of severe autism was simply exhausting. Rephael was struggling to communicate with us about even basic things, his obsessive compulsive behaviour was becoming harder and harder to embrace, especially when his teenage brain is bringing into the “conversation” outbursts of anger and rage. His refusal to listen to simple requests drains every bit of patience I had, and after a few hours with him at the sea with him I return home so tired that it makes my morning meditation practice seems like a faraway memory – IF I ever have any. These three weeks took my ego, my self-perception, and my humanity and shattered them to pieces. The magical combination of Raphael’s autism and the insomnia I developed thanks to Spain’s Benidorm all-night-noise smashed my attempts to keep balance. In the afternoon I felt so tired that my body wants to collapse into bed for a few hours, but someone needs to wash him, and feed him, and help him brush his teeth, and clean his face, and put him into bed, and be next to him for a while, and return to his room again and again to close the light he turns on. And then, when he is finally sleeps, the adrenaline that I poured into my body (so it will not fall apart) does not let me sleep.
My humanity is aching.
And yet, these pits of hell are being followed with magical moments which question everything we perceive of these people who are having such a different life experience than we do. Rephael can suddenly respond to a request which he seems to have ignored or didn’t understood. He can look into your eyes and you know he understand completely what’s going on around him, what I say. There are the moments or when he hugs me and rub his nose on my nose, or looks into our eyes with deep looks as if he tries to tell us something.
Having a child with autism means you have a never-ending “so-you-think-you-understand-awareness” seminar which lasts all your life, including your vacations. Especially during your vacations. And you… your role is to welcome everything and be thankful for the growth it allows you to experience, for the sense of awareness it grants you when you surrender and embrace it all with love, compassion, kindness, happiness and stillness.
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
It’s time to sleep soon. Sleep well, brothers and sisters. Sleep well, may you surrender to your heart and wake up into a true sense of awareness.
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