Monday, May 31, 2010

Local Inspiration

Things are a bit unique in Madison, WI. You're as likely to see your doctor riding a bike to yoga class, as observing that your lawyer just got another tattoo. It has been said that Madison is 78 square miles surrounded by reality.

This past weekend was different, however, even by Madison standards. At the Overture Center for the Arts (the home for the Madison Symphony Orchestra and other yardsticks of Western culture) monks and adepts from around the world were present in unprecedented numbers. Less than one mile away, the leaders of mind/body science presented their recent research findings to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Later in the afternoon, the Dalai Lama dialogued with renowned scientist Richie Davidson about his latest a packed concert hall! The dedication of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds was a weekend to be remembered - even by Madison standards. Check out the slideshow here:

The best and brightest Western minds have masterfully studied the diseased mind. With admirable precision, mental illness has been described, and a dizzying array of medications made available for their treatment. While this has been a boon for those with severe, crippling mental illness, this approach has done little to spread happiness in the world. While we may have less disease, it doesn't appear as though we've made much headway toward happiness.

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds is among the first facilities dedicated to studying those qualities of mind that create health, happiness and contentment. Long the province of spiritual seekers and monastics, a handful of forward-thinking scientists have turned their attention to the fundamental quest for a happy life. What could be more simple, yet dauntingly profound?

As a long-term yoga practitioner and teacher, and "recovering Physicist", the melding of the contemplative with the scientific is a dream come true for me. I was initially drawn to study Physics as a means to gain an understanding of how this world works. Sometimes this was a joy (understanding laws of motion and mechanics), while other times this quest shook the very ground I stood on (coming to view the natural world as an interconnected series of probabilities). Though I ultimately found Yoga my preferred path for studying the universe, I've long remained interested in the breakthroughs and progress of science.

The opening of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds inspires our continued research into yoga for those on the autism spectrum. YogAutism (formerly Spectrum Yoga Therapy) has been bringing the wisdom of yoga to the ever-growing autism spectrum community for several years. We've had some inspiring successes, and also had our why-didn't-that-work moments too! Regardless the outcome, we continue to ask "how can we do this better" in the hopes of doing more with less.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) used to be a rare condition, with an estimated incidence of 1 out of 10,000 children on the autism spectrum. Autism is now identified in 1 out of every 110 children. While better diagnosis is certainly a factor in these statistics, the actual incidence has most assuredly skyrocketed, too. Autism is now part of the fabric of schools, communities and workplaces across the country.

Madison, WI is recognized worldwide as one of the best places for someone with ASD to live. The University of Wisconsin's Waisman Center has long been a go-to resource, and the Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP) are among the many local organizations dedicated to offering support to those on the Spectrum. The Madison public schools continue this trajectory by offering some of the most comprehensive and innovative programs for ASD found anywhere in the world.

Yet for all our local resources, every day we see people with ASD whose opportunities are cut short by a lack of resources. It was this observation that motivated the development of Spectrum Yoga Therapy. Our founding mission was to develop the simplest possible routines that delivered the absolute maximum benefit.

People with autism are often very bright and creative. They can be very interesting, and funny! And most importantly, they're people. As people, they carry the spark of something truly magical, mysterious and inspiring. Through Spectrum Yoga Therapy we hope to give those on the autism spectrum the tools to help them be all that they can be. It's a daunting task, though with organizations like CIHM blazing the way, our work seems more do-able than ever.

Thanks for following your passion and purpose,

1 comment:

Steve said...

Hello Scott,

I just found your blog and wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your article. I too have a scientific background and continue to follow a few threads of research. I was curious about your thoughts on quantum physics and its ramifications on spirituality. Have you read the Quantum and the Lotus? Fascinating!

Keep Up the good work!

Yoga Learning Center