How Mindfulness and Meditation have changed my life

Travis Breeding

“Mindfulness has freed me from years of sadness and frustrations that I originally thought were because I was autistic but now I feel that those past experiences with sadness and frustration were because I did not know how to be mindful and create my own happiness,” Travis Breeding

By Travis Breeding

Lately I have added a new tool to my toolbox that I use to help remind myself of how positive autism is.  Having autism has changed my life in many ways.  It has made me the person I am today and that is someone I am proud of.

When I first learned about mindfulness I admit I was skeptical that changing my thoughts would make my life any better.  But once I begun to really learn about mindfulness and how to try to be in the present moment and time I begun to lose interest in what had happened to me in the past and I stopped caring about what might happen to me in the future.

Being mindful is all about keeping your mind in the present moment and embracing life at the current time.  I have learned to do this in two key ways that have made a remarkable impact on how I view life.

First, I have learned to always question or challenge my thoughts.  Negative thoughts are very natural for me.  I have been learning how to identify those negative thoughts and challenge them.

When I challenge the negative thoughts, I am simply looking for one piece of evidence that will prove my negative thought to be false.  When I find that one piece of evidence that shows my mind that the original negative thought is not true,  this allows me to replace the negative thought with a more positive thought that I create in my mind to overtake the negative thought.  This has been very empowering.

The second way that I keep my mind in the present moment without worrying about my past or future is that I have been taking some online courses in meditation.

While I am still learning how to meditate, I find that meditation has allowed me to block out the outside world and allowed me to connect with myself internally.  I am learning to connect with my own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  Even more exciting is I am learning to connect with my autism in more positive ways which has allowed me to view myself as a more positive person.

Through mindfulness and meditation, I have found that I have a lot of power to create my own happiness.  The nice thing about mindfulness is that if you are always keeping your mind focused on the present moment then you only must be happy in that present moment.  You do not have to worry about how you felt in the past or how you might feel in the future because when your mind is always focused on the present moment neither the past or the future have an affect on your mood or emotions.

This is a very difficult still and I’m still practicing.  I am becoming more mindful and aware of my internal thoughts and feelings.  This will be a lifelong journey.

Everyone will experience mindfulness differently and come up with their own style for how they apply mindfulness to their life.  For me, I have identified three unique and positive ways that I apply mindfulness to make my life amazing.

  • First, I use mindfulness and being in the present moment and time to think about what I can do because I am autistic.  I do not ever think about what I cannot do because I am autistic. Being in the present moment and time has allowed me to stop worrying about things in the past that I might not have been able to accomplish and has allowed me not to be anxious or worried about accomplishing things in the future.

    With each passing moment as I am current in every moment I see a new positive thing that I can do because I am autistic.  This mindset has helped me view autism in an entirely more positive way.  I have stopped worrying about what I might have felt autism prevented me from doing in the past and I no longer worry about if I might be able to do something in the future.  This has improved my happiness and allowed me to appreciate and connect with my autism in a way more positive way which translates to allowing me to view myself in a much more positive view.

  • Second, I use mindfulness to let go of some major fixations from my past.  In the past I was fixated on social skills coaching because I wanted to learn as many social skills as possible because I saw that as the only way to get a girlfriend. I experienced mind-blindness to the idea there may be a better way to learn how to get a girlfriend than to obsess over learning as many social skills as I could. In the past year I have begun applying mindfulness to this area of my life. 

    By being present in the current moment I do not have time to worry about what help I did or did not receive in my past.  I also don’t have time to worry about what help I may or may not receive in the future.  I am only focused on the current moment.  This has freed me from the obsession of worrying not just about my social skills but also about what autism services I have received in the past or may receive in the future. 

    In addition, I no longer view myself as someone who needs autism services.  I am a person who now enjoys and appreciates who I am.  I value each moment of who I am and do not worry about the past or future.  I have also learned that I do not have power to control how other people feel about me and this means that the way other people feel towards me has no affect over how I feel about myself.  This has freed me from a lot of internal pain that was caused by overanalyzing other people’s thoughts toward me.  Freeing myself of this pain has provided a lot of positive light into my life that has made me a happy person.

  • Lastly, I find that mindfulness has helped with the over-all practice of letting go of fixations.  Fixations are common among autistic people as we tend to wrap our mind around things in powerful ways.  This can be both positive and negative and for myself a lot of those fixations were negative.

    Once I learned to apply mindfulness to my life I learned that I was always living in the present moment.  I was not living in the past or the future. I have found that in living in the present moment and time I now only have a short moment to fixate on something if I am fixating on something.  I cannot spend more than a minute fixating on it because by the time the first minute is up I am moving onto new and better things in the next moment.

    Freeing myself of fixations has allowed me to start accomplishing goals again in my life.  I am now enjoying doing some volunteer work and hope to accomplish my dream of purchasing a car and a home one day through following my dream of becoming an accomplished author.

The most empowering takeaway for mindfulness for me has been learning and embracing that I have the power to make choices.  I can make healthy choices or unhealthy choices.  The choice is all mine.

Also having schizophrenia I have learned to use mindfulness to help ground me so that I can better tell what is a real sensory experience and what is a fake sensory experience. I have learned to use mindfulness to question bizarre thought patterns so that I can be mindful of counteracting hallucinations or delusions with more accurate and true statements.

Mindfulness has freed me from years of sadness and frustrations that I originally thought were because I was autistic but now I feel that those past experiences with sadness and frustration were because I did not know how to be mindful and create my own happiness.  Being mindful is empowering and it has changed my life.

***

Travis Breeding lives in Huntington, Indiana.  He graduated from Huntington North High School in 2004.  Travis has a sister and resides with his family and a new niece that is part of his family.  Travis was diagnosed with autism in October of 2007.  He has a dual diagnosis of autism and schizophrenia. He shares his journey of how he learned to celebrate autism to help others live more meaningful lives.  You can find Travis on Facebook.

Readers may also like Autsit: Nature, Meditation, and Soul-searching for those on the autism spectrum.

11 Comments

  • Hi Travis,

    I am so happy to hear than mindfulness meditation helped you so much !
    So it did to me. You may wish to learn more about Zen Buddhism, and perhaps even open up to Tibetan Buddhism… There is a great world there, where people appreciate the internal life not less than they appreciate social skills… We on the spectrum have our own culture, and therefore are more open to move between cultures… NT persons are so fit to their society that they cling to it and are stuck with it… We have the freedom to have a true journey between cultures… If you can afford it, and have a safe way of doing it, I would highly recommend also physical traveling to see these cultures…

    May All Beings on the Spectrum be Happy

    Love,
    David Goren.

    • Thank you sir. Yes we do have a unique perspective on the world. It is one I did not always appreciate as for years I thought I needed to be more like NT’s. Now that I am comfortable in my own skin I so appreciate my way of thinking and I would love to learn more about many other things. I do not yet have the money to travel but that may one day be something I enjoy.

      Thank you for your comments on my article. I appreciate your positive interaction.

  • Hi Travis, and Mike, and David Goren etc.. I would suggest taking a critical view of mindfulness/meditation, it isn’t all rosy, here are a couple of articles for further reading:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353526/
    https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/23/is-mindfulness-making-us-ill
    And here’s a question, since mindfulness and meditation were (probably) started by neurotypicals, how do we know the long term effects of mindfulness and meditation on people with Autism or Aspergers Syndrome?

    • Cheryl, thanks for the links. I will check them out. All I can share is my positive experience with mindfulness. It is like any other treatment for autism. Some treatments help and some do more harm than good. It is also different and unique to each person. It is all person centered ideas and not diagnosis centered ideas.

      It is always interesting to get other people’s perspectives.

    • Dear Cheryl,

      Awareness and mindfulness by themselves are always welcome –
      They contain their remedy within.

      It may happen that sticking to a specific technique and being rigid and obsessive about it,
      which may indeed happen more with some people on the spectrum, may create problems.

      So – take it easy. Be gentle with yourself. Enjoy the road. Enjoy the practice.
      You alone can judge to which extent it helps you.
      No external authority is to be followed strictly.

      People with special needs will seek and find special ways –
      But being mindful and aware is always welcome.

      Mindfulness and compassion also motivated you to raise your comment, Cheryl –
      So you are part of the same beautiful path.

      Love,

      David Goren

    • Thank you for the comments Sondra. I appreciate your positive feedback. Life is so much more enjoyable when we choose to be positive isn’t it?

  • Thank you for sharing your story Travis. I too have benefited immensely from mindfulness meditation. Meditation gradually cultivates eudemonic happiness (spiritual happiness) which is based on peace and contentment – this is a very different type of happiness from what people get by chasing after hedonic pleasures.

    I also thought that you responded very well to that person (Cheryl) who made a negative comment. Some groups of people want to promote pharmaceutical solutions for everything so that they can make loads of money! Mindfulness research has progressed a lot since the 2016 academic article the person has cited.

    Regarding negative effects – according to published research, negative outcomes of mindfulness meditation is very rare and sometimes happen only due to a poor understanding of what actually constitutes mindfulness/meditation practices.

    Perhaps you can teach meditation to others one day!
    (Not sure if my comment got posted earlier – so I am posting again).

    • The thing is and this is something I always stress to others is do what methods and treatments we feel are best for ourselves and let others do what method and treatment they feel is best for them. For some reason we live in a society that feels we have to force our ways and our methods on other people. All we should do is share our experience with it and let it be. It is up to others as individuals to decide what treatment is best for them.

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your feedback and yes mindfulness has come a long ways since 2016.

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