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Autism, Slaughterhouses and the Spiritual Life (Temple Grandin)

Posted on October 7th, 2010

We (Geri and Pete) recently watched a movie that we have talked about for days – Temple Grandin. The movie describes her life as an autistic young girl who courageously overcomes the limitations and severe challenges of life with autism in the 1960’s when so little was understood about it. She goes on to high school and college, and today is a professor at Colorado State University. Through the telling of her life with autism, Temple gives to the world numerous gifts. Two of those gifts, in particular, resonated deeply with two of our foundational spiritual practices. 1.We Each Need a “Squeeze Machine.” Temple created this “hug box” or “squeeze machine” to help calm her down as a hypersensitive, autistic person when overwhelmed. We too know what it is like to have our nervous system overloaded by the crisis of life. Every one of us needs a means to calm us down and to renew our soul so we can function out of a healthy, not a reactive place. Our “squeeze machine” is blanketing ourselves in silence and getting away to a quiet place, preferably in nature. Silence, for us, is like slipping into a hot, luxurious bathtub. It becomes a place to breathe, a place to think. 2. We Each Need a Pathway that Keeps us Centered, Calm and Joyful. Temple also designed a sweeping curved corral intended to reduce stress in animals being led to slaughter. She revolutionized slaughterhouses and the treatment of animals by creating a pathway that avoided needless stress and agitation for them. In the same way, we too work daily to structure a way of life that enables us to remain connected to Jesus Christ and avoid unnecessary stress and pressure. This is similar to our creation of a Rule (Way) of Life This “sweeping, curved corral,” our pathway, includes Sabbath-keeping, the rhythm of Daily Offices, not hurrying, and trying to listen more than we speak. Leaving time for transitions and not trying to do too much in too little time are also indispensable (i.e. respecting our limits). And, of course, getting enough silence and nature remains central. What might be other “squeeze machines” and “pathways” that might help us remain centered?

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