Autsit: Meditation for people on the autism / neurodiverse spectrum
The Autsit meditation group is for people on the autism / neurodiverse spectrum. It meets at Dominican University in San Rafael. The facilitator, Anlor Davin, is Lay Ordained in the Soto Zen tradition but the group does not follow any formal practices apart from basic upright sitting. Beginners and the curious (and of course Dominican students) are very welcome. There will be one period of meditation and a shorter period of walking meditation, followed by informal discussion. Practitioners of all faiths or none are invited. The meeting is free and will be followed, for those who wish it, by an outdoor "Bring Your Own" bag lunch.Online Meditation Hall (on hiatus)
The group meets from 10:30 to noon on the second Saturday of each month. The next meeting is on Saturday July 14.
The precise location is the Saint Catherine Benincasa Chapel in the Edgehill Mansion, 75 Magnolia Ave, San Rafael, CA.
The Autsit Retreat
My name is Anlor. My friend Greg and I are both on the autism spectrum and both long-time sitters. I am lay-ordained in the Soto Zen lineage, but neither of us is qualified to teach in any formal tradition. Conventional meditation retreats are often too crowded, socially demanding, environmentally overwhelming and inflexible for autistic people, so we decided to put together a small meditation retreat friendlier to people on the autism spectrum. Realizing that others might wish to attempt something similar we made these reports of our experience.
The Autsit retreat gives us a chance to practice with our autistic traits and foibles in an autism-friendly environment. We learn not to bang doors and cupboards, to turn glaring lights down for each other, and to work with each others' autistic sensitivities and idiosyncrasies in general. We see that autistic traits like mild obsessive-compulsion have two faces: They make meticulous workers but also lead for example to use of napkins, paper towels and toilet tissue in quantities pitting private compulsion against care for Earth's dwindling resources. Similarly, it makes a lover of tidiness an efficient work leader but also a testy and disagreeable one. An autistic love of structure occasionally clashes with an autistic distaste for imposed structure. One person's peaceful quiet behind earplugs is another person's unpleasant need to speak loudly to be understood. And so on. These sorts of problems are likely to come up in any group of autistics, and the Autsit retreat provides a space for autistics to face these problems using ancient meditative tools in a dogma- and sensory-overload-free environment, surrounded (not too closely) by others with compassion born of shared autistic experience.
If you want everything to be perfectly safe the Autsit retreat is not for you. There are rocks to trip on and cliffs to fall off at the very least, and the nearest hospital is miles away. The back door shows bear-claw marks, and we're not talking about a pastry. (A bear did in fact get into the cabin years ago.) For autistics with frontier-adaptive natures, though, the mountains with their silences, winds and waterfalls, pine scents, wild creatures and dangers demanding little social ability, but serious ability with objects -- this is a real home. In the wilderness we do not practice to become well-behaved crowd-dwellers: We practice to become ourselves -- outliers who happen also to care for a troubled planet.
In our closing meetings everyone usually expresses great satisfaction with how the retreat turned out. It seems, then, that they are a success! Go and make one yourself.
P.S. It is likely that we shall organize future Autsit retreats. If you are interested or have questions and comments you may contact us at .