by Nancy, Class of 2012
Some time ago I was teaching at a school for developmentally handicapped students. At least half were severely autistic, and many had unpredictable outbursts during which they could injure themselves, other students and/or staff. As staff became more aware of some ‘triggers’ for each student, we could sometimes head off the more difficult behaviours.
After becoming familiar with the concept of Walking Meditation, in our Mindfulness classes I was startled by the comparisons with one of our students. Sean (not his real name) was 6’2″ by the time he was 14 years old. Most of the time, he was kind and sweet natured to everyone in the class, but he could also suddenly fly into a rage and hurt himself and be a hazard for others. At some point, he became aware of his emotions and started to ask staff “may I please go and pace?” After getting permission he would go out to the corridor, where we could always see him, and walk back and forth. While walking, he would hold his ears closed then open, over and over, while he made quiet sounds. After doing this for about 20 minutes or so he would come back into the classroom where we would ask, “are you okay now?” Almost invariably he would say yes and calmly rejoin the rest of his classmates.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that he had developed his own self-directed Walking Meditation. I am absolutely amazed by what he’d taught himself without any direction whatsoever!