*Published in the Sedona Journal of Emergence– January 2014 issue –pgs. 60-63.
Going Into Your Heart Can Change Anything
He describes himself as a ‘spiritual scientist,’ others claim he is a fraud, and many heed his messages and teachings through his five books, workshops, videos, and interviews. I’ve read all five of his books, listened to numerous videos and interviews, and just recently returned from his ‘Awakening the Illuminated Heart’ workshop at the Creative Life Center in Sedona, Arizona.
Although I found his books life-altering, joining him first-hand gave me a much deeper understanding and perspective. To me, he was fascinating because it was like watching an avid scientist, a joyful kid who laughed a lot, a peaceful yogi, a master teacher, and a regular human guy all wrapped up in one single package. It was as if somehow he was able to be all things. I felt compelled to share my experience, not just because I’m a writer, but because it was truly life-changing.
Mind you, there is prep work required before going that can vary in length depending on where you are at. For me, since I can be a bit dense, it was a progression of healing and learning for almost two years prior to my attendance. My guess is that although you may still find an immense amount of information if you go without preparing, it would definitely be beneficial to really arrive ready. Although I felt that I had to go specifically at this time, I still couldn’t help feeling that there was surely some more growth I could have benefited from prior to attending. Well, c’est la vie, as they say. I just thought it was important to mention.
Five Days with Drunvalo Melchizedek
As Drunvalo put it, “It is very difficult to do this if you don’t love yourself or if you have unresolved trauma.” I guess I should begin with why I wanted to attend this workshop, which for me was quite a hefty price tag for the money that I had available at the time. I read all five of his books, and although I couldn’t seem to logically grasp all that he talked about in terms of sacred geometry and such, there was something about his message, his work with the native and indigenous tribes, and how he remained down-to-earth despite his awe-inspiring connection with his angel guides that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. There was nothing more important and I felt like it was the next step for me. I didn’t just want to go, I needed to. After really thinking about it, $777.00 divided by 5 days breaks down to only $155.40 per day, which isn’t too bad. If you have been to other holistic healers you know that is usually what one charges for an hour or two at the most. So when I looked at it that way, it seemed like a great deal considering the workshop days ran from 9:00AM to 6:30PM daily.
Enough about how much it cost, how I got there, and what Drunvalo has accomplished. What I feel most passionate about sharing is the magic that happened for me during those five days–not magic tricks like you would find in a Vegas show (although I did see a few seemingly unbelievable things), but the subtle shifts in understanding that became so pronounced by the end of each day, most evenings I felt as if an invisible force had blown my head and heart wide open. And I mean “blown open” in the best way possible. I had so much of a broader understanding that it was hard for me to comprehend.
It wasn’t hearing him speak about sacred geometry, or his countless stories of almost unbelievable experiences, or even the hard scientific data that backs up his claims that did it for me. It was the discoveries I made inside myself, the raw truths that seemed to morph into a new reality for me, and the realization about the power that each one of us possesses that comes alive when we open our minds and– most importantly — our hearts to the information, the experience, and each other.
Understand that I had never been to a spiritual workshop before, so don’t think of me as another workshop or spiritual-guru junkie bragging. Nor would I classify myself as an enlightened being and free spirit–quite the opposite, actually. I thought of myself as a loner, and a seeker of transformation, mostly to find my way out of my own pain. I just want to clarify that I did not think of myself as one who fit into that world. Really, I wasn’t sure where I fit in, and to some extent still don’t, but I do know that I was pretty surprised by the connection I felt to myself and to many of the 120 attendees.
The amazing part was that somehow either I was approached by or naturally gravitated towards the people that I was supposed to meet without much effort on my part, except merely to be present and open to it. Though I felt a deep and lasting connection to only about six people, I had brief but pleasant and surprisingly intense interactions with many.
Amy Morris with Drunvalo Melchizedek
Don’t get me wrong, it was still a microcosm of the real world, as people appeared to be from all walks, races, classes, and age brackets, and there were looks of judgment from some. But thankfully I’d done enough work on myself to let it go knowing that any of that was about that person’s issues not me. To be fair there were only a couple of people who I noticed exhibiting that behavior, so this was barely worth mentioning. I just didn’t want you to think I don’t live in what most consider as reality. Although after that week, I’m sure that there is not a set reality as I previously believed.
I did really feel a great amount of support from others that I connected with that I have never felt before from people that I had just met. It was as if my long-lost family and friends had appeared to share in this experience with me. From speaking with others, it seemed that they felt the same.
The Journey of a Lifetime
So, what did I experience? There was so much that I’m finding it difficult to sum it up so that you don’t give up reading before I get to it all! Let’s see, one of the first astounding magical moments that I remember first happened during a healing session on the second day. We were instructed to get into groups of six or seven. One person lay in the middle while the rest of us surrounded them holding their head, feet, and sides. My understanding is that it was a type of rebirthing exercise where we would let go of the past, and be reborn into the now and our hearts with the support of the group.
Initially, I wasn’t sure about it, but was quickly swept away by the methodic music of Jonathon Goldman and Tibetan chanting of “Aum” followed by “Hallelujah,” which we all joined in on. We were supposed to have our eyes closed, and I did until I heard Drunvalo as he knelt down in our group and began softly speaking to the young woman who was lying in the center. (He had said before we began that if there were any entities that needed to be helped out of the host and back home, he would assist them to do so with the help of Archangel Michael.)
His hand was gently on her upper stomach area with all of his fingers formed into an O tunnel. He looked to be pulling an imaginary string out of the handmade tunnel with his other hand. What caused me to stare with my mouth agape was the bright golden light that radiated out of this tunnel that he created with his hand, despite the rest of the room being very dark. I was so stunned that I squeezed my eyes together and blinked to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. At that moment, I felt as if I was witnessing something that I’d never thought possible, that was without logical reasoning, and was purely magical. He appeared to me as a master magician minus the cape and wand.
The moment that I witnessed was just the beginning of the things I saw, felt, and experienced of which I didn’t know where possible. I would like to stress that I went into this five-day workshop open and yearning to learn but pretty guarded and closed off. Not that I didn’t have a big heart that felt deeply–because I did. But it really took a lot to get me to be open to others, especially strangers. It was definitely a vulnerable and, at times, initially uncomfortable experience for me. It wasn’t painful, but just pushing me to stretch my boundaries.
For example, one day we started out modeling a Sufi dance by beginning the day facing a partner, staring into this person’s eyes and into their heart while holding the person’s right hand over our hearts. From what I understood it was a way to connect with or look into the sacredness of everyone. After a few minutes and having really connected, we sang in unison, “You are my beloved, I open my heart to you.”
This was one of the most difficult exercises of the week for me because we moved down the line and repeated this over and over with different people. Once I got past my initial discomfort of connecting with someone I had never met, it was an astoundingly beautiful experience that brought tears to my eyes each time. When you really take the time to connect with people, you realize that you can see the divine in them because it resides in all of us. I am so grateful for those who offered me their space and hearts in this exercise and throughout the whole workshop.
This would be twenty pages long and ruin the joy of experiencing a workshop with Drunvalo if I told you each and every piece of information or exercise that we did, so I won’t spoil it for you. Instead, here is a summary of what I learned:
- In my heart, I have control over my happiness, how I see the world, and what my life is like.
- It may be uncomfortable at first to be open to people and to open my heart, but it is more painful now not do it because I know that we are all connected and here to help one another.
- We are all special, part of God, and have a purpose. No one person, skill, or teaching is more or less important than another.
- Behind each human façade lies a golden heart that beats as one with everything and everyone on this Earth.
- Seeing through the heart and not the mind is the key to truly seeing the world, others, and myself in the truest sense. Instead of looking up for answers, I just need to close my eyes and go within.
- Magic isn’t an illusion. The only illusion is that we think we aren’t the beautiful, powerful creators that we are.
- And the biggest discovery that I made this week was that I love me.
Mind you I have never said that and meant it before now, truly. Even with years of therapy and utilizing many types of holistic healing tools, I could never say that and feel it. There was a moment in the workshop that I found myself drawing in my breathe with surprise. I actually felt complete content, and utter love for myself. It wasn’t because I lost any weight that week; I didn’t. It wasn’t because my wrinkles or physical imperfections disappeared. They did not. And I didn’t become more financially well off during those five days, I actually had less money than I started with. But I found what I have searched for over forty-one years. I discovered never-ending love inside.
I can’t say it was one of the exercises I mentioned, the tons of information Drunvalo shared, or even feeling like I’d found a place where I could say or be whatever I wanted and feel accepted. It was a journey of a lifetime somehow shrunk down into a five-day workshop that showed me how to get there.
It’s All Beautiful: It Is Just Weird
Whether you believe some, none, or all of what Drunvalo shares with the world, this I know for sure. He is as human as you and I, yet he is a teacher far beyond most. After watching him this week, I think I will call him a “master conductor of the symphony of life” who helps lead the orchestra of our hearts to create the song of remembering together as one.
I do not believe this because I think that he is a deity to be worshipped. I just believe that he lives, loves, and teaches from his heart, which is a powerful demonstration for us to tap into all that we are that is just waiting to be discovered.
There were two statements from Drunvalo that I wrote down because they were simple yet powerful to me. The first is, “It’s all beautiful; it is just weird.” It is as if he knows that some of the stuff he says seems pretty far out there when looking at it from a human perspective, yet he knows once you stop focusing on the strange barrier, you will see the beauty within it. And to me, the simplest yet most profound thing Drunvalo said was, “Going into your heart can change anything.”
I did experience that firsthand. So for that, Drunvalo Melchizedek, I thank you from the tiny space of my heart.
A.P. Morris is an author who specializes in sharing her experiences in hopes of helping others. You can learn more about her previous writing projects at APMorris.com. She is currently working on her second non-fiction title in which she details her journey to discovering self-love. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Author A.P.Morris.
Loving someone is one of the greatest motivators we as human beings experience. Many times it is the only thing strong enough to propel us to become, create, and forge new paths in the name of those we love. It is truly a beautiful gift when someone allows their love to be utilized to better the world. Meet a woman who is doing just that.
Her name is Carolyn Smith and she was sick with grief when her husband, Fred, passed away. Unsure of how to continue on without him, she became lost in her devastation during the weeks that turned into months after his passing. Unable to find any joy in living without the love of her life by her side, Carolyn decided that nothing was more important to her than reconnecting with Fred. This compelled her to begin researching the phenomenon of psychic mediums, of which she knew very little. After reading about dozens of them online, Carolyn found herself most drawn to one located in Phoenix, Arizona. Needing to experience it in person instead of over the phone, she booked an appointment and drove the five hours from Las Vegas to see if reconnecting with a deceased loved one through mediumship was truly a possibility.
After sitting down in his office and handing Psychic Medium, Ricky Wood some recent pictures of her husband, she waited a few moments while internally questioning whether the continuation of our spirits after death was simply a fairytale. Suddenly, Ricky looked up and said, “I smell cigarette smoke.”
Carolyn was a bit taken aback as Fred had smoked when he was younger, but it hadn’t been a part of their lives together for the last couple of decades. The pictures she shared were much more recent and didn’t offer anything that suggested as much. Ricky continued speaking as if he was seeing something she couldn’t, “I’m seeing him as he was when he was younger. I’m also smelling baby powder. Does that mean anything to you?”
Carolyn smiled and a knowing encircled her like a warm hug. Fred was a daily user of baby powder. Ricky continued to offer her validation that not only was her beloved husband still around, but he was worried about her, sharing that she wouldn’t stop crying long enough to notice his signs. From that day forward, Carolyn knew unequivocally that Fred hadn’t just vanished from her life one day after 46 years together. Although she no longer saw him physically, her session with Ricky reassured her that her husband’s spirit remained involved in her present day life.
Feeling more confident that Fred was indeed still with her, Carolyn began to revisit some of the places they had frequented together. One of the couple’s favorite treats was enjoying a sandwich at Capriotti’s. As she ate, Carolyn reminisced about her husband’s huge heart and propensity to help those who were less fortunate. Almost every week, he would pick up someone in need, take them with him to turn in his recyclable cans, and give them the money he received. To her surprise since she hadn’t been directly involved with his good deeds, Carolyn felt moved to continue his acts of kindness. Before leaving the shop, she bought a few extra sandwiches and drove downtown, stopping outside of Catholic Charities. She felt as if her soul was smiling and her husband was right next to her as she handed out the sandwiches to a few people who looked like they could use a meal.
Although Carolyn relished those few moments, in the days that followed she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had to do more for the countless others she passed by that looked hungry as well. During her next trip to the grocery store, the thought occurred to her that she could afford to feed many more people by buying the ingredients and making the sandwiches herself. The following Monday morning, Carolyn made forty sandwiches and returned to hand them out. Offering more felt even better than her first visit. Each time she went to the grocery store, Carolyn searched for deals so she could offer additional treats to accompany the sandwiches. Eventually, her Monday visits with her new found friends included not only the sandwiches but cupcakes, bottled water, and anything else she saw on sale. Carolyn never sat down and created a plan but instead allowed herself to go with the spirit that moved her.
As the amount of sandwiches and snacks she offered grew, there were new challenges as it became more difficult to pass out each individual piece of the meal to so many people. To her delight, some of the recipients offered to help, telling her to relax since she spent all morning preparing the food. One day, George, her self-appointed protector, offered to purchase brown paper bags to use the next time. Not long after Carolyn began delivering every Monday, George told her he felt like he was supposed to look out for her as he too had felt a spiritual nudge to keep her safe. She gladly accepted his help and friendship, thoroughly enjoying the small group that took her under their wing. The sandwich group banded together to welcome her into their community and stood up for her if anyone tried to give her a hard time or ‘make trouble’ as they said.
On numerous occasions while sitting with them as they ate, they articulated how much they appreciated her efforts. A few even shared more about themselves, their lives, and how they’d ended up homeless. Carolyn learned that 98% of those she met did not abuse drugs or alcohol, nor were they suffering from overt mental illness. Instead, most had fallen on hard times physically or financially and eventually succumbed to living on the streets. Although a few receive disability, it isn’t enough to afford housing and basic living requirements.
Even those who didn’t offer much about themselves freely told her why they preferred her lunches to the food offered in the nearby shelters. Not only because her meals were homemade, delicious, and the shelter food reminded them of poor tasting cafeteria food, but most importantly because they weren’t allowed to bring their possessions into the shelters with them. They feared leaving what they did have outside because when they had previously, it was gone along with their spot when they returned. This is also the reason that many of them choose to sleep outside at night, besides other restrictions such as having to be in the shelter by early evening and so forth.
As the weeks and months passed, news quickly spread about Carolyn’s Monday visits and there is never a shortage of grateful souls thanking her for her brown bagged lunches. As of now, she is up to 85 sandwiches every week. In this community, she is not known as Carolyn Smith, instead most refer to her by her nickname the ‘Marine Lady.’ The name makes her smile because they are referring to Fred’s Marine Corp stickers on her car. Always proud of his ten years of service, he continued to show his patriotism throughout his life, and Carolyn was proud to be the wife of this particular Marine.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the constantly increasing number of sandwiches and bags she packs, Carolyn looks forward to Mondays. Not only because she feels that she is fulfilling a purpose much greater than herself and giving back for how blessed she is, but it is her time with Fred. Along with this confidence and what Ricky continued to teach her in subsequent sessions, Carolyn learned to tune into the much more subtle whisperings of her husband’s spirit communications. At first, it felt random and fleeting when she heard the lyrics of a song on the TV or radio sound amplified as if they were meant from Fred just for her. Eventually, she developed the sensitivity to feel many of the moments he tries to communicate with her. So much so that when Carolyn hears a song that she knows Fred wants her to hear, she saves it and burns all of them onto a CD. Every Monday while making her sandwiches and packing lunches, she smiles and sings along. There is no question in her mind that Fred is there with her.
Not long after beginning her sandwich making journey, Carolyn shared with Ricky what she was doing. He was so moved that he felt compelled by Fred to assist her. Since then, Ricky offers $30 off any session if a client brings him in ‘snacks for the homeless’ or mails individual serving snacks to Carolyn to add to the lunches. She is so grateful because unfortunately, the amount of Good Samaritans that hand out food in the same area has begun to dwindle. Carolyn’s sandwich group shared with her that more and more tickets have been given out by the police to those stopping to feed them. Rumor has it that the fines have gone from $250 to as high as $1,000.
This hasn’t deterred Carolyn, quite the opposite in fact. Not only do her offerings continue to increase in size, she doesn’t miss a Monday. She says she is waiting for her ticket so she has the opportunity to stand before a judge and ask why it is a finable offense to feed people in need. Although she is aware that shelters have restrictions to try to keep order, some of those in need are unable to comply, causing them to have to forgo help they could desperately use.
What started as a nudge from her late husband to help the community that he could no longer serve physically has turned into an extended family for her. So much so that they have all agreed to have a Thanksgiving feast and celebration of their own. The sandwich crew scouted and found the best spot, while she is joyfully shopping and preparing the meal. At 70 years young, Carolyn continues to find some days more difficult than others, but in some ways she feels she has found a new lease on life with an extended community and a new appreciation for spending time with her husband. Although he may not be seen physically standing next to her, his spirit surely is there and the foundation of her journey. At times, it seems to Carolyn like Fred is speaking to her through George.
When a day feels particularly tough, she remembers something Ricky said to her, ‘You have to get out of yourself,’ which reminds her to choose to do something to honor her husband and embrace their continued love. She also recalls something she read right after his death that stuck with her. It suggested learning to ‘trust that there are no coincidences’ and to look at these events as possibly containing a message from our loved one, as they usually do. Although she knows it is hard while going through grief, her advice to anyone suffering is to just continue to strive for it every day. Getting closer to God by praying has also offered her some peace. Carolyn feels that her communion with God doesn’t happen on Sunday in a church, but on Monday—feeding those in need.
Carolyn hopes you will give thanks this season, for your loved ones near and far by reaching out and making someone’s day better than you found it. Before getting to know this community, she was unaware of all of the challenges one faces when homeless. If you feel moved to do so, she welcomes your additions to her bagged lunches that can fit in backpacks, such as: individual serving size snacks of pretzels, chips, nuts, or the like. Small personal care items such as: deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes are also welcomed. (Please do NOT send drinks, large bags of snacks, or anything immediately perishable.)
Carolyn is calling this labor of love, Project – Fred’s Heart after the wonderful man that inspired it.
If you have any questions or would like to offer your assistance to Carolyn, you can contact her at Nvsmith2@cox.net.
Donations can be mailed to:
Carolyn Smith at P.O. Box 752290
Las Vegas, NV 89136
*Carolyn cannot offer you any type of 1099 or donation receipt for tax purposes.
Whether you are new to grief or have been struggling with it for a long time, may you feel inspired by Carolyn to take a step towards honoring your loved one by helping others. Or by Ricky, to join someone else and assist them on their journey. Our loved ones don’t cease to exist after physical death, They’re Not Gone. Imagine if you could hear your deceased loved one’s voice again right now, would they prefer your prolonged sadness due to their physical absence or to watch you discover a sense of purpose by helping others, fueled by your love for them?
Please do not think I’m disregarding your need to grieve or the depths of pain one feels when a loved one passes. Quite the opposite, I’m quite intimately familiar with suffering for decades before finding peace with the help of Ricky’s skills. However, I’ve found that the small acts of kindness that people like Carolyn and Ricky demonstrate remind me that we each have a choice. Either we can become paralyzed and blinded by our grief or we can use it as fuel to help others, thus honoring the love we continue to share with our loved one. May you feel as inspired to offer an act of kindness to a stranger or a cause that moves you. At the very least, that you’ll help spread the word so others will know how they can join us or feel motivated to start their own tradition.
Thank you Carolyn and Ricky, you both make me want to be a more giving person.
Quite often, I’m asked, “What’s it like being married to a Medium?” Though, typically many people simply assume and comment, “Wow, you are so lucky!” Maybe they think he gives me ‘readings’ or messages from my deceased loved ones on a daily basis. Or maybe they think it is easier because he intuitively knows what, when, and how I want my meals cooked. I felt bad bursting their bubble and now maybe yours as well, but being in a relationship with a Medium is not what you probably think it is.
If you don’t know me, my name is Amy and I’m married to Ricky aka Psychic Medium, Ricky Wood. Yes, he is a Psychic Medium by day (sometimes by night) and after 15 years together, I still find what he does fascinating. Even after my own reconnection experience shortly after we began dating, and no matter how many times I hear stories from his clients (since he doesn’t remember most of what he says), I’m still mesmerized by how he helps people reconnect with their loved ones after physical death. A decade ago, this moved me so much that I spent a few years writing about it in my very first book, They’re Not Gone. Although I cringe a little when revisiting my first attempt at writing, the messages and stories continue to touch my heart. I am so thankful to those who were brave enough to share their experiences with the world back when it was much more taboo than it is today. After receiving so many requests for a second book, we’ve begun working on that as well.
So, as you can see, what Ricky does for a living matters immensely to me. It has become a huge part of my life and I am so grateful for that. But, as far as our relationship goes, it isn’t that much different from being married to any other man, in any other profession. Except maybe that he doesn’t flinch when I begin talking his ear off about the other-worldly experience I had meditating that day, or when I wonder out loud about how many types of extraterrestrials have visited Earth. Believe it or not, even with his abilities, I am much more of the “unknown seeker” than him. I want to know all about the alternative theories of our being here on Earth and how to heal oneself with energy alone. Ricky on the other hand is content to do what he does, fully trusting without needing much of a back story. He’d much rather spend his free time reading comics or watching movies or TV shows about them.
Ricky may be an uber-talented Medium, but that does not make him neat and tidy, health conscious (at least my definition, which I know may be a bit extreme to most), the best communicator (he is much more emotionally introverted than me), or provide him the ability to know how I feel or what I want before I do. Why? Because he is first and foremost, a human being. Just because he has the ability to communicate with the spirit world does not make him the quintessential husband that all women logically know doesn’t exist, but they haven’t given up hope that maybe somehow a few secretly do. Ricky and I have worked on our relationship a lot, talked, forgave, and put in the same effort that every other long-term committed couple understands.
Now, I will give him the credit he deserves…he does try to use his intuition when he wants to figure out what to buy for me at the grocery store. It still makes me giggle when I have been craving a grapefruit and he comes home and pulls one out of the bag. He is very thoughtful when it comes to acts of kindness like that. The biggest thing I want to stress to those who think he does this with everything, the answers is a resounding NO! Why would you want that? I mean, he wouldn’t try to “read” me anyway because not only is it an intrusion of privacy, but as he has explained to me, it takes a good deal of energy so it would be thoroughly exhausting to do that 24 hours a day.
He may be more sensitive to understanding my moods because of what he does for a living, but one of the things I’ve always admired about him is that he never “tunes” into someone unless asked and given permission. Even before learning about energy, spirit communication, or reading people, I always thought this was the respectful way to operate. I guess that’s why I never worried about it feeling invasive in our relationship when people have inquired whether “he can read my mind or not.” (Don’t tell him, but there have been fleeting moments when I’ve repeated myself for the thousandth time, when I’ve wished his abilities helped him to remember to pick up his mess without me having to say anything.)
I must admit though, most people have assumed correctly—I am lucky to be married to Ricky. Not because he is a psychic medium, but because he is the kindest, most loving, and generous man I’ve ever met. He has taught me how to treat someone you love. No, he is far from perfect, but he has been willing to “do the work” with me, even if at times he had to be dragged kicking and screaming. Most of all, he has loved me despite my many shortcomings, issues, and mistakes.
Finding the person who makes you want to be a better person, but loves you just as you are, is a gift. For me, whether someone lays carpet, cuts down trees, operates on people, or speaks to the dead for a living, doesn’t determine their appeal, nor their worth. So although I am grateful for my front row seat at times of watching peoples’ hearts heal because of Ricky’s gifts, I would love him the same regardless of what he did for a living.
My best advice…find the person who fills up your heart, supports your dreams, and loves you for you, and forget about their day job. If you love them and they you, with all of your heart, that’s what truly matters.
My article, “Speaking Through Numbers,” appeared in Autism Digest Magazine in Jan/Feb 2012. Although it is no longer available digitally, I wanted to share via my blog for anyone who may have an interest. – A.P. Morris
“Information processing” is often a challenge for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The communication-related deficit can stem from a variety of sources: inadequate or faulty brain ‘wiring’, auditory challenges (ie the child can’t distinguish the teacher’s voice over all the other noise in the classroom), sensory regulation issues, cognitive impairments, or motor challenges. The information many kids ‘take in’ is garbled in the first place; with other kids, the information is processed, but it’s formulating a response that is difficult or even impossible. No matter what the reason, the impact is apparent in all aspects of their lives: academic, social, language, play and daily living skills.
While working as a therapeutic support staff person (TSS) with an elementary-aged child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I stumbled upon an effective communication tool that may be of benefit to other children with ASD. At the time of our breakthrough, “John” as I’ll call him, was a nine-year-old boy full of life. He was amazingly intelligent and especially talented at remembering anything involving numbers. John could easily recall the number of pieces in large Lego creations he’d built (and he had constructed many!), the number of pages in the corresponding directions, the hours and minutes it took to complete each project. John delighted in using numbers; they were highly motivating and extremely interesting for him.
A major difficulty he faced, as do many children with this diagnosis, was maintaining self-control when involved in gross motor activities. Despite our best efforts to help him calm himself in these situations, through verbal or gestural prompting, foreshadowing, social stories, and a reward system, nothing brought any significant improvements in his behaviors. John described himself as being “revved up” during activities such as hockey, rock climbing, kick-ball, and volleyball, and unable to process our directives or control his responses. He’d either become so disruptive that the other children were unable to continue the activity or he would unknowingly cause physical harm to them because he couldn’t gauge personal space.
The self-disappointment John felt after such an incident was evident and heart wrenching to watch. Following one such episode at a summer camp we were attending, I sat with him on the curb, waiting for his mom to pick us up. I thought about his extreme intelligence, his natural ability with numbers and longed for a way to bridge the information gap.
Then a light bulb went off! I took out a notebook, wrote down the letters of the alphabet and numbered them 1 to 26. This was as much a ‘cheat sheet’ for me as it was a visual tool for him! I explained the chart to John and then began quizzing him randomly by asking him which letter corresponded to a number, for instance “10.” Within seconds he answered “J.” I tried it in the reverse, starting with the letter and just as quickly he gave me the correct number. I was ecstatic! We had discovered the building blocks to our bridge!
On the ride home I thought of simple commands we could convert to a numeric code. The first one was 19 = STOP (19 = “S”). I showed him the code in written form one time, and had him verbally repeat it twice. Next was 6,4 = FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. (6 = “F”, 4 = “D”). He seemed indifferent to it; however, it looked at it and repeated it to me.
The following morning on the way to camp I said “19” and John quickly responded with “STOP.” He then himself offered “6,4 is follow directions.” I explained to him that we would have our own ‘secret code’ to see if it was easier for him to hear and process numbers when he was revved up or getting out of control. We used them and it worked! I was so excited! When given a word directive in the same circumstances, John sometimes appeared to have heard it, but for the most part he did not respond, nor was he able to modify his behavior. When we used the number code his eyes looked up to the left, he repeated the number and then stated the verbal command. The best part was that he then followed through with the appropriate action corresponding to the directive! It was as though the numbers ‘registered’ in his brain long enough that he could follow through with processing the associated word command.
We added approximately 15 more ‘command codes’ over the next few weeks. I was amazed at John’s receptiveness. He even joined in by creating his own numerical responses. The results were extraordinary! He responded at least 85% of the time to the numeric directives versus about 45% to verbal word commands.
As his behavior ‘mishaps’ decreased, his confidence in handling himself in social situations soared, as did his excitement and interest in using the coded communication. An added benefit was a huge increase in social interaction with his peers and they with him.
It began one day at camp when I needed to prompt him to slow down while climbing the rock wall. I used our code, 19,4 (Slow Down) but because I was not close enough to John to say it inconspicuously, the other children heard me and noticed that he responded appropriately. Of course, this aroused their curiosity.
One child asked us why we were talking numbers. I explained to them that John was awesome with numbers and we sometimes used them to communicate. They wanted to know more. I shared with them the basis of our secret code and to showcase John’s exceptional abilities I quizzed some of the kids and watched as they struggled with it. John jumped in and would answer for them if they were unable. He became a hit! The kids were making comments such as “Wow! You’re so smart! I wish I were you! You’re so cool!” This brought a huge smile to John’s face. It also spawned unprompted social interaction from the other children wanting to get to know him better. They began to make an effort to include John. He no longer received the ‘what’s his problem?’ looks.
One of my initial concerns was how to differentiate between words that began with the same letter of the alphabet. For example, we used “S” or “19” in numerous directives including: 19 = STOP; 19,4 = SLOW DOWN; 2,1,7,19 = BE A GOOD SPORT, etc. I thought it might be confusing to John, but again, to my amazement this was not a difficulty at all. John easily remembered the words based on the sequence of numbers in the directive. Not once was he confused!
Unfortunately, our time together ended shortly thereafter and I’m unable to provide more long-term results that would have included a full fading of the numeric code to solely verbal word commands. But in light of expertise and high degree of interest in numbers that many children with ASD possess, and the ease in teaching and using this method, hopefully other teachers or parents and children will benefit from trying it out.
We are just beginning to understand how differently John and other children like him on the autism spectrum process information. When we can teach in ways that are meaningful to these children, we build bridges to academic and social success, self-esteem and self-empowerment. Speaking in numbers is just one example of using the very capable abilities of children with ASD and turning them into the key to success for all involved.
Special acknowledgement: I’d like to thank Nina Wall, my supervising psychologist at the time, for her belief in me. Without her, I wouldn’t have been introduced to all the exceptional children diagnosed with PDD that I was blessed to meet and learn from. You are truly talented and I’m so grateful for having the opportunity to have worked with you.
You can learn more about A.P. Morris at www.apmorris.com
I’m sure if you are on Facebook you’ve seen people telling Hillary supporters who are expressing their sadness, frustration, and anger to stop being poor losers.
This prompted my post. I’m not a poor loser, I’m heartbroken.
For myself, a little, for believing that the USA was a more inclusive, loving, and kind country than it apparently is. There is a small inkling of hope deep down that the racism, sexism, and hate that obviously still exists in this country is less prevalent than was demonstrated last night because so many didn’t vote.
But mostly, I weep when reading the stories about the children who are scared that they will be unloved, unaccepted, or even thrown out of their own country for their skin color, challenges, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or any other number of reasons. What a horrible way to feel at such tender ages.
I’m heartbroken for people diagnosed with disabilities. They must wonder why we have spent so many years educating our children in our schools and homes that we are all equally as beautiful because of our differences when we elect a man who mocks mannerisms displayed by some with challenges. We teach anti-bullying because of the life-altering and detrimental effects it has on our youth, yet our President-Elect is an open and championed bully. It must seem so confusing and defeating to so many lovely souls.
I’m just as heartbroken for women who feel disillusioned that not much has changed after so many years of fighting, yet they continue to be paid less for the same or more work, being marginalized for the awesome responsibility of birthing and raising families, and being treated like sex objects by misogynists who believe woman were created merely for their pleasure.
No thanks to those who voted for a man who believes he has the right to tell woman when and where he can grab them, impregnate them and dictate that they have no option but to bear his children, (while making sure his dinner is on the table so he isn’t irate when arriving home) and if he doesn’t want you anymore, he can throw you out. Never mind he believes you have no choice but to bring a child into the world because he doesn’t want to cover contraception, and then doesn’t want to pay to help you raise the child, when you can’t afford to because he pays you less than himself merely because you are a woman and he says so.
Originally, I was a Bernie supporter. After that, many of my beliefs on GMO’s, vaccinations, climate change etc. aligned with Jill Stein. But what was most important to me was that our highest office was held by someone who represented what I thought was the foundation of America…inclusion, not merely acceptance and tolerance, but a welcoming of our differences. Knowing that a vote for anyone else was a vote for Trump, I voted for Hillary, because even if I didn’t agree with her corporate alliances, she held herself to a level of dignity while speaking from her years of experience and dedication. I wanted things to change, but not at the expense of the fabric of this country and its negative reverberations throughout the world.
I am heartbroken because it feels like in one fell swoop, we have or will soon regress to the 1950’s once again. I don’t think oppressing people based on their gender, sexual identity or orientation, dictating who can marry whom, and having men tell women what they can and can’t do with their body is “making America great again.” So, no I don’t have to ‘get in line’ or ‘be a good sport’ or ‘support the President’ because I won’t and I don’t. Calling him our President feels shameful and embarrassing. Let alone his blatant racism, bigotry, his lack of poise, vocabulary, common decency, empathy, and inability to speak the truth is beyond appalling to me.
To my fellow Americans, especially woman, children, minorities, LGBTQ, less popular religious affiliations, and those with disabilities–I hope that if I see you, you will not judge me for the fact that I am a blond-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned woman. I see you. I hear you. I support you. I do not want to be mistaken as a Trump supporter. I am not filled with anger or bitterness towards you. I am filled with sadness that you have ever been made to feel less than. I’m scared too. The love of my life has a pre-existing condition and was unable to afford healthcare for many years. He had to spend every penny he had and didn’t have just to purchase medication to stay alive. Now he is covered, but I have no idea for how long.
Today the only thing I can think to do is to work harder to dedicate more time and energy to being kind to the less fortunate, those struggling, and those who can’t defend themselves. And I hope that I don’t have to think “I told you so,” when not only are there no more jobs created and no wall is erected, but our relations throughout the world and with one another have not improved. Again, the tiny shred of hope still alive inside me today is praying that if this travesty does anything, it allows us to truly see one another, judge less, and offer a hand more often.
To all of you who weep today along with me-sad, disillusioned and heartbroken-sending you a hug and wishes of peace, knowing that you are perfect, just the way you are. No one can take that away.
In my sadness this morning while walking my dog, this was whispered to me from beyond…“As the old brittle stalks of hate blow away, the young tender buds of love will grow, filling the world with such beauty that the ugliness you see now will be nothing more than a distant memory, never to be revisited again.”
I just returned from saying goodbye to my Nana.
I have to say, writing the eulogy for her funeral was kind of easy. Not because I wasn’t emotional, but because there were so many things to love about her. But getting up, opening my heart, and pouring it out while standing next to her coffin was extremely difficult.
I am not a fan of public speaking at all and usually will do just about anything to avoid it, but I really wanted to do this because it was an opportunity to say some of the things that I admired about her most. Although I am 100% certain that she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt just how much she means to me, I wanted to say it out loud for everyone to hear.
I really thought it was about me expressing my love for her, but quickly found out afterwards that it was a chance for me to sum up the collective love so many had for her. I was so grateful to hear that my words resonated with so many in attendance that felt exactly the same way. I was honored to have put it into words.
I am guessing it may have been difficult to hear through my shaking voice that was often overcome by sobbing. Snot running down my face could have been a distraction too (:
So I am posting this for those who may not have been able to hear it all or just would like to revisit it. And for those of you who didn’t know her, I am sharing not only because I would gladly tell anyone who would listen just what a wonderful woman and grandmother she has been to me, but to encourage you to tell those you love how you feel about them as often as you can. Grandmothers are the best, so it may even stir up memories you have about your beloved.
Time really goes by more quickly than you think and one day soon you may not have another opportunity to look in their eyes and share your feelings. And if your loved one has already passed, don’t fret, they are still with you, they can still hear, see, and feel your love.
Here it is…
My Ode to You Nana
People who’ve never met you have probably heard about your baking and cooking skills that were second to none. Even after sharing your tips with me on how you made the best cheesecake known to man, I still can’t seem to create one that comes close to yours. You were always beautiful and stylish and even though I’m partial, I still think the cutest grandmother I’ve ever seen. Although I appreciate these things about you, they are not the most important things that you taught me.
I have to say even in your physical death, I’m still learning from you. Although I’m sure you already know this, I will share this with everyone else. I woke up during the night that you passed just before 3 A.M. Typically, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night and you would be hard pressed to wake me if you tried. But for some reason I was wide awake and I had this fluttering in my heart which made me feel strange. I thought I was experiencing anxiety, but I couldn’t figure out why. A few minutes later, my dog Butters barked and growled at the end of the bed. [which also never happens]. Unable to fall back asleep, I just laid there. When my phone rang a few hours later and I saw that it was Cheryl, I knew why I hadn’t been able to sleep and what Butters was barking at. As the tears rolled down my face, I also experienced another new state of being—deep sadness and loss, but simultaneous excitement and happiness that you were finally free.[of the dementia she suffered with for years]
I feel so sad that I wasn’t there to make you smile or just sit and hold your hand but a handful of times over the last two years. But [with a special thank you to Rick for this] I am able to count myself one of the lucky ones that was able to spend so much time with you for most of my adult life. What a joy it was to have lengthy talks with you and hear about how much you loved to sing and dance as a teenage girl–like the time your group sang at an armory in Wilmington to raise money for war bonds– but how you never regretted giving it up for your husband to start a family. Or watching you laugh as you shared stories of how your brothers and sisters interacted and how you were so scared to go to the bathroom at night that you made your sisters come with you. Thank you for sharing what it was like to grow up like you did, having to quit school in your early teens to cook and clean for your family, which you did without complaining.
No matter what you had been through–from the humble beginnings, to living a well-off life with Pop-pop and back to humble endings, [but graciously supported by Cheryl & Joe]–you were always grateful. Over the years of sharing breakfast and lunches with you, I watched how you never tired of saying, “Oh my, what a big beautiful omelet,” every time it came, like it was the first time you’d been able to have one. I’m still not quite sure where you put all that food and how you stayed that tiny considering you out ate me every time. You always noticed the little things. I still see your eyes smiling when you said, “That is delicious!“ the first time I made you try a vanilla latte instead of plain coffee. Even when you didn’t have money to buy things you were just grateful to admire big beautiful furniture, run your fingers over the deep colored threads of winter sweaters, appreciate the vibrancy of spring flowers, or just be completely focused on the pleasure of a smiling baby. Thank you for always being a joy to be around and for teaching me what simple yet complete gratitude looks like.
Some may think that being a homemaker and taking care of others is a simple job, only for those who don’t “really” work. Well, everybody that is except those who actually do it, because they know that it is the most exhausting, underpaid, under appreciated and non-stop work there is. From watching you, I learned the exquisite joy of serving others. I love that even when you were in your seventies, you didn’t consider yourself old, declaring that it was your job to help the “old people” out at Sacred Heart Village. I never tired of watching you take cookies, cakes, cheesecakes and candy to share with your home mates. Whatever you had to give, you gave freely and with the touch that only a loving mother possesses. Thank you for teaching me that no matter how much or how little you have, giving is the real gift.
Finally, one of the biggest lessons you taught me was what unconditional love looks like. It didn’t matter what was going on in my life or how long it had been since I’d seen you, you always welcomed me with hugs, kisses, and the feeling that there was nothing more important to you than being overjoyed to see me. Although I thought it was so sweet that you were so proud of what I’d written last, or what I’d been learning about, the biggest gift you gave me was loving me no matter what. Your example of forgiving and forgetting, because it was more important to just be together again, will be something that I will strive to emulate.
I believe that you were given the perfect name. The Swedish meaning of Johanna is Gracious. Gracious is described as being courteous, kind, and pleasant–“smiling and gracious in defeat.” I think you embodied that perfectly. The Latin meaning of Johanna is “God is gracious.” And he was… for blessing me, and so many others with you for 90 years. I will miss your hugs and pats, your gorgeous green eyes that didn’t fade with age, and your infectious laugh. But most of all, I will carry you in my heart with gratitude that I was blessed to be loved by you.
Merry Christmas Nana… Enjoy your welcome home party!
Mostly, I have seen nothing but a massive outpouring of love for the tragic loss of Robin Williams. Which makes me happy to see people so full of gratitude for the humor and laughs he invoked in just about everyone who has seen any of his countless comedic endeavors.
What made me want to give my two cents is the unfortunate post I ran across on Facebook last night. The post was a tribute to all that Robin had offered to the world and how sad it was to lose him. What struck me were some of the comments people responded to the post with.
Now I know, this is a free country and they can say whatever they want.
That being said, maybe we should think a bit more before opening our mouths. Some of the derogatory comments mentioned that Robin was a coward and selfish and it was cruel what he did to his family. And I suppose that people are entitled to that opinion. But, I’m also entitled to respond.
As someone who has both suffered from severe depression and lost an immediate family member to suicide, I feel that I have a pretty good view to share. And although these random commenters have every right to feel the way they do, oh how I wish they could truly feel what people who take their own lives feel before they go rendering their judgments.
Yes, suicide is heartbreaking. For those who feel so low and full of pain that they see no other way out. For those left to mourn their loss and wonder if there was something else they could have done or said that could have changed the outcome.
But in defense of all of those who are already gone, who did it, who killed themselves. Having been so low and having debated taking my own life, I can say that suicide is by no means an act of cowardice. In my opinion, it is the exact opposite. I never had the balls to actually go through with it because I was a coward, and I was afraid.
I am not glamorizing it by any stretch of the imagination. It is not glamorous. It is the polar opposite. It is tragic and messy and so devastating that it takes your breath away over and over again. They are not heroes because they allowed their finger to push the trigger, or jump off the stool. And I can say that the survivors of loved ones who have done the unspeakable, we are not heroes either. We are sad and scarred souls who ache to depths that many will hopefully never have to experience.
I can say that those kind, sensitive, sad and beautiful human beings who have chosen to end their physical life on earth, that they are not cowards, they are not selfish. They were human. They were in pain. They were hopelessly sad. They were so tortured that they could not see any light at the end of the tunnel.
And instead of calling them names, thinking bad about them or their acts, or putting ourselves above them, it is my hope that we can all take a moment to send them and their families love.
It also makes me realize that we as society, me included, should take more time out of our day to smile at one another. To reach out to people. To lend a hand. To put aside our annoyance at those who are sad or acting out and try to see from their perspective. To offer our ear even if we are tired. To let go of judging others for their so-called sins of struggling with alcohol & drugs or whatever and look below the surface. They are calling out for help. Give them a hand. That is when they need it the most.
They may or may not take it. That is not up to us, but them. And whatever they decide, I hope that we can always celebrate the beauty they brought into our lives for however long.
Finally, for those of you that say that people who have taken their own lives are selfish and cowardice, to you I wish for you that you never have to suffer from the excruciating pain that one who suffers from such intense depression. It is horrible. I also wish for you that you never have to live through losing a family member to suicide. Again, it is worse than horrible. But what I do wish is that you may just for a few moments, drop your uneducated judgment of those who have and do suffer. May your life be a thousand times easier and that you only have to learn your lessons of empathy and compassion through another’s experiences in a blog.
With love & respect for all of those who have suffered on either side of suicide. And to Robin Williams and all those who chose suicide, may you see clearly just how beautiful & loved you are. And for those who are contemplating suicide, I wish you the ability to see how each and every one of us is a candle to illuminate one another’s paths.
If you want or need a hand, just reach out.
Do not hold them back for they celebrate and cleanse you, releasing them from you. Share those sacred spots of beauty that lie within that most try to hide from the world.
How many more hugs would be shared? More kindness shown? More understanding felt? If we all let our tears be shown.
Do not shun them, or hold them back in hopes to save face. You will save your race by allowing them to tumble down as others look on.
There is nothing as beautiful as the pure, clear simplicity of allowing that tear to fall, for as it touches the ground you will infuse the earth with just another drop of love.
All great emotion from pain to pleasure is born from the love we have found in another. The tear is the physical expression of this love you let grow and blossom. Hold onto that because it never fails, it never dies, we just lose sight of it.
Be thankful for the tears you shed, let them fall freely and be grateful.”