Anat Baniel said something quite brilliant during our interview. She pointed out that the condition we call autism is not behavioral, it is perceptual. That is, although the children on the autism spectrum behave strangely, often dysfunctionally, these behaviors are a result of their perception of the world. Or, as Anat put it, you can’t do what you don’t know. Therefore, if you are working with a child on the spectrum, one’s goal should be to expand that child’s perception, not train their behavior.
But really this truth extends far beyond children on the spectrum. Everyone behaves according to what they perceive to be the truth. If you perceive a dragon coming down the street, you’re probably going to run from it, whether that dragon actually exists or not. Indeed, you would be foolish not to.
Unless, of course, you question its existence. This is simpler with a dragon on Main Street, where our Logical Brain could, with sound paternal reasoning, remind us of the difference between storybooks and Reality. But dragons take many shapes, and sometimes that Logical Brain itself builds such monsters out of what it calls Evidence – the piles of rejection letters, the closing of bookstores, the rise of e-books. Now reality becomes the monster, and since reality is everywhere, so are our monsters.
I have learned that my Logical Brain is incapable of expanding my perception in any meaningful way. All expanded perception is a reaching for love, and all contracted perception is a retreat into fear. The Logical Brain does not perceive love; it merely serves its desires. Moreover, fear is actually a kind of yearning for love, and to answer that yearning, I must silence my thinking mind for a moment so that I might perceive what I have forgotten.
This is not always so simple. I lean on my thinking mind often, rooted as it is in the physical world, in all that has happened and all that I can touch and see. What I yearn to perceive exists beyond the veil I have cast over my world. My mind believes that veil marks safety’s edge, and to step through it is to step into the abyss. But step through it I must. How restless I become in this narrow, frightened world I’ve made. How small and ugly it seems without the light I crave to illuminate it.
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