October 30, 2021

I can’t meditate. I mean, I can – but it’s the opposite of relaxing.

If I follow commands about when and how to breathe, it makes me feel lightheaded, like I’m drowning.

If I follow commands about what to think, it feels physically strenuous. It interrupts my brain’s natural flow of repeating thoughts until they’re fully processed.

But there’s value in slowing down, breathing steadily, and becoming mindful about my body – if I can remove the element of control.

Drawing is one way to do that. I’ve recently been learning to design Celtic knots – which, according to the beautiful book Designa, “have a particular effect on respiration. A measured breath is essential to drawing smooth curving paths, slowing the heartbeat. Practice shapes both the artist and the art.”

Daydreaming is another alternative I enjoy. Unlike meditation, it’s uncontrolled by definition – an intentional break from following steps, including the steps generated by my own mind to complete a task. And unlike the dissociation of a game or a social media feed, daydreaming automatically shifts my attention back to my body, breath, and environment.

What kinds of meditation, or alternatives to meditation, have you found helpful?

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.