Feeling Your Present Presence

Feeling  Your Present Presence


Autism is an interesting condition.  Research suggests that the condition is the result of an overabundance of dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine stimulates your brain into action and helps you to focus on certain stimuli.  The problem is, when you have too much of it, you become overwhelmed with confusing inputs and you don’t know what to do.  Individuals with autism, depending on the severity of the condition, retract into themselves to block out all the confusion.  Speech becomes very difficult, perhaps because one’s own voice creates even more stimulation.  Your sense of smell and other senses become heightened and overloaded.  However, there is a silver lining to all of this.  A lesson that we can all learn and adapt to our own lives.  After living with my own autistic children for 20 plus years, I can make this observation and would like to share this theory with you.


The Future and the Past


Neurologically typical individuals have a sense of the past and the future.  Both situations cause us to produce cortisol, the stress hormone.  The interesting thing about this is that the future and past don’t matter because they are pure fantasy.  In reality, both don’t exist.  They are abstract concepts made up in our minds.  For example, last week perhaps you opened presents with your family.  Did you anticipate what the scene would look like before it happened?  Were you stressed in any way when you thought about guests coming over?  This is normal in the course of your day and helps you to action.  The problem is, when individuals dwell too long in the future or the past, they sacrifice their present presence.  Future events rarely turn out just the way we anticipate them; they are abstract concepts that, at times, plague us with stress and indecision.  Past events are OK if we don’t regret them but perhaps great event in the past, when compared to your present situation, can bring your grief and stress as well.  Living in the moment is the key to a happy and stress free life  


“…when individuals dwell too long in the future or the past, they sacrifice their present presence…”


Autism and the Present Moment


In my experience, my daughter does not understand about the past and the future.  The realization manifested itself to me when were at the Toy Store one day.  Playing with toys happens in the store.  When you ask her if you want her to take the toy home to play with it later, the concept is not understood at all.  Her brain seems to be only wired for present tense thinking.  The past does not exist, neither does the future.  A situation of no stress, which is both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing is that you are fully present in the moment, taking everything in and enjoying and being amazed by everything.  No stress.  The curse is that, if you stay in that state for too long, you get nothing done and you become self absorbed and tend to not interact with others, the main symptoms of Autism. 

Assignment for the Week:  Feeling Your Present Presence

Your present presence is very important.  It’s the way your mind, body and spirit interacts with the outside world.  Go to a quiet place and feel your body reaching out to everything around you.  The chair that you are sitting in.  The air around you.  The wind on your face.  The sound of the traffic in the distance.  Become in tune with all of those sounds and finally focus on your own breathing and see how your breathing interacts with all of the sensory input that you are feeling around you.  This is a deliberate exercise to get into the present moment.  As you can see, no stress is present in that moment.  It’s physiologically impossible for cortisol to be secreted when you are in your present presence.  However, staying in that moment will help you accomplish nothing for the day.  Know when to activate your present presence and when to turn it off.  You don’t need to be constantly doing something.  That should be your battle cry for the new year.  Take it from my daughter, it works.

Dr. N