Friday, December 14, 2018

My Half-Century.

<reading time 10-20 minutes>


One day this summer I turned 50. 

This blogpost is about my half-century. 
For a few months now, I had been feeling a need to explain my ground. So this post, with (pictures!) is, -all-about-me.



I grew up in south India in a corner of a city. In a middle-class home, with my siblings, school, community, my mother's songs, books from libraries and books from my father's collection. 

At 22 I came to New York City. I had a fellowship for a Masters in Chemical Engineering. My parents who are from a conservative background let me fly from our family nest on my own. I came to a new place, to a new culture. I lived and learned. Goodness in others helped me in more ways than I can fathom.

Changed schools for a PhD program. A small, memorable wedding in India with S in summer of '92. And I was back to university in Pennsylvania, to grad school research. 

In the same time, we traveled on some weekends, S and I, to see new places and meet new experiences (we lived long distance).

After a year in the mid-west we made a home in the sunny Bay Area in 1997.

Where I worked for some years in the areas of research, development and production of semiconductor processing.

Then, baby. I took time off from my career.


      Baby became toddler. 



Autism entered our house without knocking and didn't leave even though I chased after it. And over the years, became family. 

At 40, I was very involved in our son M's coping with autism. He was 5-1/2 years old. I was so involved, I remember saying to myself on my 40th birthday, that my life as I had known was over. I assigned myself to a life of quiet service, of helping and learning. 

A year later I started homeschooling for many reasons1. My instinct was- he sees the world differently, so his learning is different? 

Another year later something unusual happened. I've not spoken to anyone about this because it is difficult to describe. It is coming directly to the blog because I believe I can find the ~right way here. 


It was late summer or early fall 2010. On one afternoon I found myself at a loss, more than usual.

Here I was, all that I was, how I shaped myself, was around knowledge and experiences. While M, sweet and vibrant, whom I loved more than myself, -then- could speak some words, didn't like to write and stopped reading. He heard differently. His senses processed experiences differently and so he responded differently. 
Medicine at best had mediocre answers. Therapies weren't working for him. This reality ate my insides. It's hunger was high that day.

How did the boy who LOVED to be read to, book after book, disappear? I was holding the void, waiting for him. 

How am I to live? What am I supposed to do? The life that he can't seem to have, how can I have it?
Instinctively, I left aside without prejudice all that I had built up. And subconsciously separated myself from how I had shaped myself.

There was nothing to hold on to. I didn't even know- how to breathe. Not literally, it was as if, -all I was- was as if, -my entire sense of self- had evaporated into the hot day like the thinned air rising from the scorching backyard ground.

And then, when in my afternoon routine of checking the side gate and returning, when___ there was shift in my perspective. The shift was instantaneous. It was as if -a haze cleared up. After standing for a while under the shade of the Persimmon tree in this clarity, I walked away from it to check on M on the other side who was on his disc swing on a Yucca tree branch.

In this new perspective, it didn't matter. It DIDN'T MATTER at all that M was different!

That it didn't matter was insignificant, it was only a small inference from the main of the perspective. I went back to my life with my small family & house, feeling light like a drop on a leaf.
Of course I drift away and get caught up in the flow of heavy or light happenings but always go back as close to and align myself to this perspective as much as I can manage. It is my- one true thing. 

It's like this- imagine you are looking at one of those 3D pictures that were popular a decade or two ago- where you can see one image but if you shift your focus this way and that, you'll see another image. At a point if you can manage, you'll see both. Then you can't unsee one unless you screw up. Even if you lose one, you won't forget and will keep looking for it to make the picture complete again. The new perspective was something like that. 
Until then, I had been with one view. Then unexpectedly, from where my life had taken me and because of M, I was seeing another view, that was underlying this view. This new, second view, or a field as I can best describe it, actually feels the main, the more you feel it. 
It is a totally different feel. 

Then after a year or so later, I recognized that what I've called field, is what has been known since the ages, as --- ~Oneness! 

Oneness is unmistakable.
If someone asks- So what do you have from that?
I'll have this to say- What I have, is, Nothingness.

That is the paradox of Oneness. 


Over years, I've examined this field from many angles. A part of which is this blog itself. 

It is quite difficult to try and mesh together the 2 distinct views- the one in which we live, and one where there are no differences in we. In one, mountains are mountains and in the boundary between the views, mountains can be pebbles. In one, puddles are puddles, and in the boundary, puddles can be oceans. In one, flowers are flowers. In the same one, there is autism. 

(I hope you noticed that I haven't attempted to describe the actual field- Oneness- itself here. Because it is not for words, intellect or art. Because then the definition will be within wordsese, intellectese and artese.
Also because enough has been said and is being said by many good people about Oneness and such experiences, I have nothing to add. 

Oh, except for my new blog2, where I try to describe how the ancient way of India- of Advaita (not-two)- defines this field. (And how many religions of the world may see the same field differently).
The effort is to explain from my angle which came about as I began to understand. 

While of course, ...whatever is, will always be).


We continue to ride with the thin and thick of autism. M is growing up through it. He turned 16 in October. We found a way to make schooling work and he is in 10th grade.

In the last few years, something new came about. 

Tentatively, I came up with a model for teaching/learning with a person with autism!

What is the model? Simply, it is to rely on an autism person's strength- generally viewed by mainstream only as a deficit, for learning & living. The strength is what I view as a long-range-intelligence. Relying on it actually makes it possible for a person to manage aspects of the disability with some of their abilities. 

It all started inadvertently, and in retrospect, with a mathematical puzzle when M was 11 or 12. 
It's called the Tower of Hanoi. Solving the puzzle requires some skills - all these are generally considered out-of-scope for M's sub-type of autism. I presented it to him in a certain way and with continued opportunity, he figured it out. 
How? How did it work?

The move from 4 to 5 blocks puzzle was difficult. We tried it on and off over a couple of years in a laid-back way. He would get it sometimes and sometimes not. Then I began noticing a pattern in the instances when the moves were smoother. We stuck to the pattern and viola!

Fast forward to later (and after 6, 7 block Tower of Hanoi puzzles using the same fast(er)-track way, along with observations from other dissimilar puzzles, games, tasks, academics, life and other children and adults over the years, there's this model. There's a method to draw on it. 

The method relies on a person's long-range-intelligence, and offers just-right support while operating in a field of unforced neutrality within our own general field of living&learning, so the person can choose to safely engage on his/her own terms3.

Last year, using this method we tried learning classical music on a keyboard. I picked a little complex song to start with (based on my model). It worked!

It worked! In music, M has joy. Every tune we begin starts off with some effort and as we keep practicing, there comes an inflection point when his ability overrides his disability and he becomes engrossed in the playing, neither looking at the notes nor the keyboard while his fingers are flying. It fills me with wonder and happiness every time. 


This field-in-a-field method, I think, hope, and that am working with, is about paving a way for M to be all of himself, with his worldview, alongside others as much as he can and wants. 
I believe the new perspective helped set a tone for our homeschooling, and later, helped with going along the path taken. The beauty of the model is that it is easy, and is respectful of student and teacher to the point we may wonder who is who4.

All this is giving me a way to flow more lightly with all life happenings- which is why I was able to write up this blogpost. 

That's my half-century at the crease. I'm happy to be 50. Thank you for reading. 


1. I wrote about this part of the journey in a previous blogpost. 
2. This new blog is of the two views- I and not-I, and a storyline culminating in one view, hence, the elegant A-dvaita (not-Two).
3. The model is applicable to a wide context. I hope to explain this in detail, elsewhere in future.
4. While easy, applying the model to specific or general skills needs consistent and patient effort. However, we are not on a mission. We'll take it gently, and we're actually quite content with what we have with music.