Thursday, February 02, 2012

Getting it Together

Falling Apart:

If there is one outstanding negative thing we humans experience at various stages during our lives it has to be the feeling of fragmentation, the feeling that our world is falling apart.  This is indeed a terrible place to be, and indeed many of us have been in that place and have got the T-shirt as the cliché has it.  At school I run two self-help groups, one under the auspices of that wonderful self-help registered charity called Rainbows and the other a social/encounter group that discusses issues around anger and self-esteem with a group of six sixteen year olds.  Rainbows is a registered charity and it offers a peer-support programme to assist children, young men and women and adults who are grieving a death, a separatation or any other painful transition in life.  Rainbows Ireland can be accessed here.  As regards falling apart, I'm reminded always of W.B. Yeats' (1865-1939) wonderful lines from his poem The Second Coming, which can be read in full here.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...

All in a Day's Work

I work in an ASD unit or class in a Secondary School here in Ireland.  I spend about half my time there and the other half teaching Mathematics and Irish to weaker students in the mainstream school.  All these students vary in their degrees of functioning.  Some function very well despite their disabilities, while others function less well.  Today was one of those days when three of the ASD boys had what we term "melt downs," that is when they literally cannot function at all in any type of acceptable way behaviour-wise.  At these times they have to be taken out of the mainstream class, where they have been included with the assistance of an SNA or what we term here in Ireland a Special Needs Assistant.  They are then brought back to our ASD unit where they can chill out or calm down assisted by either myself or one of the other three SEN teachers and/or SNAs.  Sometimes - on the very rare occasion - they have to be taken home because they have become so disruptive that they are impeding the learning of the other boys, or even making them uneasy, anxious or upset.  As I've said, such action is a very rare occurrence indeed.  However, we are functioning at the moment in cramped facilities and are awaiting the building of a new purpose-built unit which comprises three classrooms, kitchen facilities, shower and sensory room next year.  With this in place, "melt-downs" can be both prevented, or at least diminished in a more pupil-friendly and sensory-kind environment.  Hopefully cut-backs will not prevent our fully approved extension.

I also do a certain small amount of counselling/therapy with the boys as I have done some two years of training in that field, successfully passed all exams therein but have chosen not to complete that professional course option as I have moved into Special Education instead.  Currently I am pursuing an M.A. in Human Development which is exceedingly enjoyable, rewarding and personally fulfilling as well as being helpful in my job.  Anyway, some examples of the issues young adolescent men - outside the ASD unit and in mainstream classes - have come to me with just in the past three or so weeks are: depression as the result of the suicide of a stepbrother; anger over being abandoned by a father early in life; having a baby at the age of seventeen; sexuality issues and problems related to be fostered.  There is also the general issue of anxiety especially among the ASD pupils in my care.  The second group that I have alluded to above is a truly interesting one as I have a group of 6 - the optimal number for working with groups - three ASD pupils, two with ADHD and one with very low self-esteem.  They are a sort of self-help group guided and facilitated by me.  They share how they are feeling about school, reflect on their week, listen to one another - at a deep level, I might add - affirm each other, get issues "off their chest" and, in general try to learn coping skills and more appropriate social skills.

Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

There is no easy solution to complex problems and issues.  None of us can do anymore than listen.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the only one with a possible solution to our problems is ourselves, with the help of others of course.  Humpty Dumpty cannot be restored to his original shape.  However, all the wisdom of the great religions and of the literatures and sciences of all cultures teaches us that somehow all is never lost - if Humpty Dumpty cannot be restored to his pristine condition at least he can be reshaped and refashioned to a greater or even lesser extent.  In the hard-nosed, harsh world of fact miracles don't happen and cures are rare, but healing is not alone possible, but entirely assured if we face into our problems with an openness to the care shown us by others, an acceptance of both medical science, the healing power of the imagination and a true cherishing of our own vulnerability.

Approaching the Still Point

I have spoken in my opening paragraph of things falling apart, of the centre which somehow cannot hold in the words of our great Irish national Nobel Laureate poet, W.B. Yeats.  In this final paragraph I wish to talk about the Still Point of our being where I believe the centre does hold - indeed where it holds very well - where we approach an integrated self.  However, please note I did say where we approach integration.  Probably we never get to the fullness of integration, as that is surely a life-long journey or task, possible accomplished solely on or at the time of our death.  All of my favourite authors in the area of psychology/psychiatry and self-help speak about integration (Dr. Anthony Storr) or in terms of individuation (Dr. Carl Gustave Jung), self-actualization (Goldstein, Maslow and Rogers) or self-realisation (Buddhism and Hinduism).  Basically all these terms, and others, mean pretty much the same thing, namely getting one's self together, pulling as it were the fragments of the self into some shape, into a shape of our very own making.  Indeed it is a self-shaping as it were.  Indeed, most therapies are all about that, allowing the client to put a shape or pattern on his or her Self.  Narrative Therapy, initially developed during the 1970s and 1980s, largely by Australian Michael White and his friend and colleague, David Epston, of New Zealand is a therapy based on encouraging the client to fashion their real Self through story, through filling in any painful or ugly gaps with creative but authentic new interpretations.

Using Meditation to Approach the Still Point

It was not by chance that I chose Still Point for the title of my blog.  It is a term with which I have long been enchanted and transfixed.  This is a term that means in a sense the point or hub about which the very wheel of the universe rolls if I may stretch a metaphor to its painful limit here.  I have also said that meditation will at most help us approach that Still Point, nearer and ever nearer, but perhaps without ever fully getting there rather like the asymptotes on an inverse algebraic function.  A wise old Jesuit always used say in his lectures in Milltown many years ago - "we approach this mystery asymptotically, gentleman, asymptotically."  When we sit and meditate we invite the mind to concentrate on or pay attention to the breath of life, to enter into its most inward sanctuary, to sit there in silence and ever so slowly and asymptotically, with regular and sustained practice, enter a space within the self which invites the Still Point in, even momentarily and fleetingly.

The centre will hold and hold well.  The Still Point is an horizon inviting us ever onward in its direction.  When we meditate the universe is alive within us.


Tess said...

Impressive work you do, Timothy.

The sense of fragmentation is what drew me to your blog today.

At home with a chronic cold that plugs up my ear for weeks now, I find I ponder my own (sense of fragmentation), wondering what I need to heal and my ear to unplug.

A son of a family that survived wartime internment describes the family as a broken dish that can never heal.

I think about my parents' separation decades ago, and how parts of me have not touched the ground since - what was broken?

Focussing and meditation have helped me regain contact with these bits and pieces but not necessarily in the way you describe.

I find the space in meditation especially healing when I remember that I am falling always, and all of my Self stretches far beyond my bodily borders.

In other words: the Still Point reveals itself once I surrender to all of the anarchy. When I allow the gyre to widen as far as it can and will - I may even try stretching it.

Yes, falling backwards into an abyss of dark coldness, uncontrolling, unseeing, unprotected, but trusting - embracing this sensation during meditation is what gives me piece.

Perhaps it is a matter of giving up on wanting to be whole? Accepting the cracks?

Thank you for sparking these thoughts in me (although they have not popped my ear ;) )

TQ said...

Thank you for this interesting and authentic comment. It is much appreciated. You are a good practitioner of meditation indeed. Believe it or not I've had a similar cold which plugged up my right ear, but fortunately it has now receded, and I can now here in stereo. I like your comments - they truly add to my understanding. Here's wishing you good health, a lightness of being and many long years of fruitful meditation!