Sunday, July 6, 2014

Black and White Thinking the Middle Path and Relationships

Black and white thinking has been a burden in my life. Like a light switch that is either on or off, I judge most things through the lens of either ‘all’ or ‘nothing’. The Buddha spoke of the middle path – something quite different.

“People with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome tend towards black and white thinking.  They see themselves and the world around them in polar opposites…” - Temple Grandin

Siddhartha (the Buddha) dedicated himself to finding a way to end human suffering. He abandoned his former way of life, and dedicated himself to a life of extreme asceticism. So harsh was this way of life that he grew thin enough that he could feel his hands if he placed one on the small of his back and the other on his stomach. In this state of wretched concentration, in heroic but futile self-denial, he overheard a teacher speaking of music. If the strings on the instrument are set too tight, then the instrument will not play harmoniously. If the strings are set too loose, the instrument will not produce music. Only the middle way, not too tight and not too loose, will produce harmonious music. This chance conversation changed his life overnight. The goal was not to live a completely worldly life, nor was it to live a life in complete denial of the physical body, but to live in a Middle Way. The way out of suffering was through concentration, and since the mind was connected to the body, denying the body would hamper concentration, just as overindulgence would distract one from concentration. “ -  The Historical Siddhartha

What does this mean in regards to relationships with other people? When I experience a Movie or TV show or band, and I like it, I want to know everything about it. If I’m not into it, I want nothing to do with it. I notice that most people have more of a casual relationship with things that they like. When they are exposed to them, they enjoy it for the moment, and then casually move on to the next thing. This is fine when we are talking about entertainment or objects and the like, but what does this mean when we are talking about people?

I notice, that when I like someone, I want to know everything about them, and that what they say, think or feel really matters to me. If it is somebody who I don’t feel that way about, I really don’t care what they think, do or say. Their impact on me is pretty minimal, but if I am into you, you can impact me like a giant ocean wave.

Again, I notice most people have a more casual relationship with each other, where attention from strangers and acquaintances can make a difference and any one person cannot be so dominating.

So how do we deal with this? The fact is we need to have relationships with people, and most people do not have the black and white perspective that we do. This leads us to misinterpret other people’s intentions when we judge them from a black and white standard. It also makes us feel unfulfilled from personal relationships when they do not meet out standards.

For the most part – they will never meet our standard. Most people just don’t think  like we do.

The Buddha’s message of the ‘middle way’ applies to all aspects of our life, especially when it comes to personal relationships. No one will meet our extreme desire for complete attention and we misinterpret that lack of as total rejection. The truth is somewhere in the middle ground that is so hard for us to live in.

So how do we live in that middle path? The Dharma teaches us that our worth as a person isn't dependent on what others think of us. If we start thinking that way, it is our practice – mindful awareness, that we need to turn to in order to go back to the present moment and focus on the here an now and not some incorrect evaluation of what we think what others feel about us.

The Buddha spoke how our thoughts are like a pebble landing in a pond. Each pebble that hits the pond creates waves in the water like how thoughts create waves within out psyche. By our meditation practice, we are able to observe our thoughts from an unattached perspective. This moment of observation is the first moment of enlightenment. When we are able to observe our thoughts, and not immediately react and identify with them, we are turning that pond into an ocean. Like how pebbles dropped into a great ocean will only have a small impact, our thoughts when observed will not overwhelm us like pebbles in a pond. This gives us the ability to recognize our unskillful the black and white thinking, and put things in the proper perspective which is some where in the middle – the middle path.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I am having a meltdown.

I am having a meltdown.

   I use to tell myself after reading the experiences of other people on the spectrum ‘Well, at least I don’t have meltdowns”. Then I remembered, there were times when I would be doing my computer programming and I would make a typo in my code, ruining hours of work. On these occasions, I would deliberately tense myself up as much as I can, with the intent to give myself an aneurysm or heart attack, just to escape from it all. Sometimes afterwards I would have to go lie down. Well, I guess I do have meltdowns.
   I don’t do this anymore – how did I change this behavior? There are different angles in approaching this.
First – where does the distress come from – attachment. You see – I am not married and have no children, so I do not need a lot of money, just enough to get by. Working extra just to accumulate more money has no interest to me. If I had a family or dependents to support I would feel differently, but I don’t. What I want is free time. I would rather cultivate more free time than have more money. So when I screw up my computer program and have to do that work over again, I am loosing free time. I am attached to that desire, so I go bonkers. So the first step is to release your attachment. When you feel a meltdown coming on, examine what it is you feel that you are loosing that brings upon the distress. Remember one of the three marks of existence – all things are impermanent. Whatever is causing the distress will not last, it will eventually go away. So – do not become attached to whatever you feel you are loosing (in my case free time) and know the situation will not last (after I re-do my work I will have my free time).
   But how do you deal with the meltdown when it is happening? This is where the mindfulness technique of going to the breath is helpful. When you feel that rush of voltage through your system, start counting your breaths, in – out, in – out, count, one, two, three, four. The more times you do this, new neural pathways are created in the brain, so with practice, when that voltage starts flooding your nervous system, it becomes easier to go to the breath, rather than, in my case – trying to give myself a heart attack or aneurysm.
   Another mindful technique in these situations is to remember the duality of the mind. When we are engulfed in these experiences, go to the part of the mind that is the ‘observer’ of what is happening, rather than the part of the mind that is experiencing what is happening. Again, this becomes easier the more times you do it. I found Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now’ to be a very good guide in learning this technique.
   Well – I hope some of you find this helpful, and I know every now and then it feels good to really let the fur fly – sometimes that’s when I feel alive.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013



   When I wrote my second post ‘The Train Ride to Oblivion’, I thought the story had a happy ending. Well, that turns out not to be the case. Even though I was able to use mindfulness to calm myself down to the point where I could deal with it, I wasn’t able to calm myself down to the point where the people around me could deal with it. I did not know that there would be collateral damage.
   What could I have done do get to the next level. I used mindfulness to turn inward and deal with myself. What I was missing was loving-kindness mindfulness, where you look outside of yourself to extend peace to all.
   May all beings be happy, may all beings be at peace, may all beings be free from suffering. What does that mean? My all beings be free from suffering, including ourselves. The Buddha said that all comparisons that we make of ourselves to others (whether better, worse or equal) is conceit, and should be avoided. This is hard for me, because the first step in accepting myself, is identifying myself. I am someone who has the brain wiring of aspergers. For the longest time I hated this thing that set me apart from others and warped my life in ways I could not understand. I hated it with every fiber of my being for a very long time. But I now know, it wasn’t the aspergers that was causing my suffering, but the hate.

A paraphrase of Buddhist teachings:
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”

 But how can I not compare my self to others to deal with it? I must remember what I said in my third post – A MATTER OF LOOKING INTO THE EYES, I must remember that the light that shines within all of us is the same. Where did I get this? Eckhart Tolle talks about the duality of mind, there is the part of the mind that experiences life, and the part of the mind that observes the experience. The observer is the same in all of us, it makes no difference how rich we are, how poor we are, whether we have autism, ADD, mania or are gregarious, it makes no difference to the observer, it is the same in all of us.
   So next time when my mind is racing out of control, I will remember that it is not just me that needs to be healed, but that those around me are just as important. I will have less attachment to whatever it is I am expecting. May all beings be happy, may all beings be at peace, may all beings be free from suffering.

Sunday, July 21, 2013



"When we realize the extent of the myriad interconnections which link us to all other life, we realize that our existence only becomes meaningful through interaction with, and in relation to, others."

  When I started this path, I felt like I was in a dark room, and to make this room light up, I needed to ‘connect’. Now my scientific mind looked at this word ‘connect’ and thought of an electrical circuit, like a light switch, it is either on or off. So if I work hard to connect to the rest of humanity, I will make the connection, the switch will be turned on, and my room will be brightly lit.
   I now know that this is wrong, When I would judge my standing with humanity, I would either be connected and fine, or not connected and completely rejected and alone and useless. I thought about my relationship with the word ‘connected’ and realized that it was wrong.
  I now see that my room was never dark, it always had some light. Each person in my life is like a light shining in my room, but my room is still not as bright as I would like it to be. I now understand that to make other peoples light shine brighter in my room, I must expose them to my light. I must remove as much of the blinders I use to keep people from seeing my true self and let them see my true light as brightly as possible. Now, I know when I do this, some people will be taken aback by the shades of my light and move away, but others will be drawn in. And as more people move closer to my light, their light shines brighter and brighter in my room, taking away the darkness.
   Now my room is more brightly then it has ever been.
   Hopefully some day, One other person’s light will get so close to me that our lights will merge, and we will shine as one.

Sunday, July 14, 2013



   I see words as primarily a tool to communicate facts. That is how I use them. When I would arrive at a social gathering, people will engage in chit chat, small talk, inane conversation that appears to serve no purpose to me. I didn’t understand how people humored themselves in this manner, I mean , fuck ‘em if they need a joke. I usually would remain quiet until I notice someone is talking about something that I know something about and I interject some ‘fact’s that I know with the belief I will enlighten them and further their understanding and they will be grateful for my contribution.

a Daoist quote:
“A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.”
The Buddha says:
“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”

   I now know that this is wrong, that for most people, words are tool to foment and define group associations, and that ‘facts’ are secondary to that goal.
   Now to me this all sounds very strange, but it explains a lot.
   I have learned on one and one communication that bonding is made by common emotional themes, not by facts.
   I’ve gone out of my way to avoid be defined by any ‘group’. I do not eat meat, but I am not a vegetarian.
I have eschewed drugs, alcohol and promiscuity, but I am not straight edge. I meditate and study the four noble truths, but I am not a Buddhist, I do not believe in a personal God, but I am not an Atheist. Maybe because when I was young and did not like my standing in the group so I rejected them. When I left high school I had a great passion for a particular style of music and was able to find a group identity based on that, and the fact that I could babble on and on about the bands I liked wasn’t based upon any attempt to conform to a group, it had that effect and I found myself part of ‘group’. Now scenes come and go and other people find a new ‘group’ to associate with. But, as typical in aspergers, my tastes and opinions not being based on a group think remain static, unchanging. If I like a band, I will always like it.

A paraphrase of the Kalama Sutta, says:
“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.”

   This explains a lot in my life that was confusing to me. Only once in my life, about two years ago, did anyone set me up with someone. I always wondered why this was case, now I know. Other people introduce other people to the other people in their ‘group’. Since I avoided a ‘group’,. I was out of the loop.
Who people decide to hook up with is significantly influenced by these group cohesions.
   When I would get into fact based scientific conversations with people, I would be frustrated that  a coherent fact-based argument would be rejected, because for other people, the facts matter not independently what they convey, but whether they affirm the point of view of  group they belong to, or reject the point of view of the outside group (No, I am not talking about you!).
   It is difficult for aspies to be part of a ‘group’
   In the past I would always put my best self forward when confronted with a group, pretending to be more confident and together than I really am.  Now I find myself, maybe for the first time in my life, becoming part of a group, a bunch of tattooed meditating Buddhist atheists.   The irony is that this time I am being more vulnerable than I ever have, presenting an image maybe weaker than I really am.
   I’ve always avoided using the inside terms and language that people within a group tend to use to foment social cohesion.  But I’ll give it a try – Metta to all

“The Buddha says wise speech has five characteristics:

Well-intended – Comes from goodwill, not ill will; constructive; aimed to build up, not tear down

True – Not overstated, taken out of context, or blown-up out of proportion

Beneficial – Helps things get better, not worse (even if it takes a while)

Timely – Not driven by impulsivity; rests on a foundation that creates a good chance of it being truly heard

Not harsh – It could be firm, pointed, or intense; it could confront mistreatment or injustice; anger could be acknowledged; but it is not prosecutorial, nasty, inflammatory, dismissive, disdainful, or snarky.”

Much of the information from this post comes from the book:
A Field Guide to Earthlings: An autistic/Asperger view of neurotypical behavior by Ian Ford

Sunday, July 7, 2013



Early on in my life, I ad a difficult time looking into people’s eyes. When I would look into people’s eyes when we were talking, I would be overcome with fear and turn away. This made it difficult for me to see facial expressions and learn what they meant. I thought I could get away with it, but over time I learned that wasn't working and that if I wanted to improve things I would have to force myself to look people in the eyes when we had conversations.  Over time I have become at ease with it and it is no longer a problem, although I still sometimes get confused as too how long to hold a gaze and have to use some energy to do it, and when I am speaking in a very emotional personal manner it still sometimes impossible.

I've thought about other people in the same situation and what I can come up with to help them, and me.

Eckhart Tolle talks about the ‘duality of the mind’, that there is part of the mind that experiences reality, and another part that observes what the observing part of the mind is experiencing.

The first universal truth of Buddhism states: Nothing is lost in the universe:
“The first truth is that nothing is lost in the universe. Matter turns into energy, energy turns into matter. A dead leaf turns into soil. A seed sprouts and becomes a new plant. Old solar systems disintegrate and turn into cosmic rays. We are born of our parents, our children are born of us.

We are the same as plants, as trees, as other people, as the rain that falls. We consist of that which is around us, we are the same as everything. If we destroy something around us, we destroy ourselves. If we cheat another, we cheat ourselves. Understanding this truth, the Buddha and his disciples never killed any animal.”

The part of the mind that observes is like a light that shines within us. The source of that light is the same for everyone, and burns just a brightly in all of us. Stoic philosophy states: “All people are manifestations of the one universal spirit”. That light may make it’s way through us in different paths and ours may appear differently to the outside world, but it is the same. The path the light takes is not fixed and whatever is within us that keeps it from shining bright can be removed. Our light may take a different path, but it can shine as bright as any other. The observer is the same in all of us, it makes no difference how rich we are, how poor we are, whether we have autism, ADD, mania or are gregarious, it makes no difference to the observer, it is the same in all of us.

The Bhagavad Gita says:
“He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.”

When you look into someone’s eyes, you see the same light that is within us, you see the same source, you see yourself. Do not be afraid to look someone in the eyes.

The first entry of the Noble Eight-fold Path is the Right View: “The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha--with wisdom and compassion”

If you gaze at another with that wisdom and compassion, the fear will go away.

For further info on how the light within us reaches it’s way out in different paths for each of us I suggest this article:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Train Ride to Oblivion

The Train Ride to Oblivion.

On some of these posts I am going to talk about how my asbergers syndrome negatively effects my life and how the ‘practice’ (meditation and other mindful techniques) helps me get through it.

I was invited to go to an event in downtown LA.  The event was to start at 7pm on a Friday.  The plan was to meet at a Sushi place before the show on the 21st floor of a downtown office building. I was told that the people I would be meeting would arrive there around 6, and I was told that they would call me before they leave, around 5:30, and if I was done for work for the day I could leave then. My plan was to get there between 6-6:30, enjoy the view, have a cocktail and eat some sushi and go to the show. I was looking forward to seeing the view. Now, I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so I have to plan when I eat around the times I travel, I do not want to eat before I do any traveling, but when I get there it is OK. Now on top of that, I am also hypoglycemic, so when I don’t eat, I start to shake and sweat and get nervous.

OK, it is 5:30, no phone call. I assume they are running late and will call me when they eventually leave. I do not want to leave without knowing they have left because I don’t want to be there alone and feel stupid and awkward standing by myself in place full of strangers not knowing what to do with myself (I am not going to introduce myself to a stranger, that would be unthinkable – I’ll explain why in a later post).

OK, 5:45, still no call. I am getting nervous. Concentrate on the breath to stop your thoughts from running and be the observer of your nervousness and do not let it take over you.

OK, 6pm, still no call. I’ll text them and ask when they are leaving. They respond – “You mean to the band – 6:50”

Holy shit, they are at the Sushi place! Now I got to rush and get my shit together. I hate rushing, I’m nervous enough as it is.
On the train I decide to text them. I think carefully how to phrase it – you see the anger is welling up inside me. My emotions are either at 0% to 100% and I can feel the anger meter moving quickly into the red zone.
Why? Because my plan is now fucked up. One of the asberger characteristics is adherence to a plan and any deviation from that plan can cause great stress. I know I would not arrive there until 6:50, and that was when they were planning to leave the Sushi place for the show, so not only is my plan fucked up, but theirs is also. That’s two fucked up plans, that’s twice the angst. I try to be diplomatic in my text, not to be angry or  put any one down or insult. I just state that I was expecting a call before you left and was looking forward to seeing the view and plan to stay at the Sushi place for 10-15 minutes after I arrive. I had two passes to the show and I was giving the second one to someone I was meeting there, so they had to wait for me. I send the text and get no response.

I am sitting on the train and the worst case possible scenarios are running through my head. What is the worst case? That when I get there they will insist on leaving for the show right away because it is 6:50 and that was their plan (everyone adheres the plan, right, RIGHT!)  What would that mean? That I am shit, I am insignificant, that my feelings and desires are meaningless. If that is what they insist my plan is to tell them to go fuck themselves and I am out of here and I have to except the fact that I have no friends and am not fit to mingle with polite society.

Ok, the anger meter is now at 100% and people are starting to look at me funny. Back to the practice – focus on the breath, observe the anger, do not become absorbed by it. I remind myself that I am getting upset over something in the future that may or may not happen and that is a waste of time. This calms me down greatly, and I am able to enjoy the rest of the ride until the final destination.

Ok, I arrive at the place, I get in the elevator to the 21st floor. I am shaking. In a few moments I am going to find out whether I am piece of shit who’s feelings are insignificant and if that is the case why should I even remain sticking around in this stinking world. That is what’s at stake when I get off this elevator. Sounds rational, doesn't it?

Well I get off. I find my party. I do not yell or throw things, I greet them and explain that I have to eat something and I want to look at the view, AND THAT I WAS EXPECTING A PHONE CALL!!!!
I though I was doing pretty good but apparently not because they could tell I was pretty upset. Well, they help me order the Sushi and give me a swig of tequila and the person who was suppose to call me apologizes. When they were waiting for me to finish my Sushi, I felt great pleasure that I was making them wait when they wanted to go, and I told them. They said ‘Whatever makes you feel better’. It did.
Well, I guess I am not shit. We went to the show and enjoyed ourselves.

I bet you can’t wait to invite me out again.

For another perspective on how aspie's ashere to the plan check out this wonderful blog: "Musings of an Aspie"

For more information on how to use mindful techniques in stressful situations I suggest the book 'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle: