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Archive for September, 2009

Autism, Shamans, and Love

Monday, September 28th, 2009

The Horse BoyI had the amazing opportunity to attend a pre-screening of the movie, The Horse Boy. It is the true story of a Texas couple and their son’s journey on horseback through Outer Mongolia in an attempt to heal their son’s autism. Rupert Isaacson, a writer and former horse trainer, and his wife, Kristin Neff, a psychology professor, sought help for their son, Rowan, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. They went to numerous doctors and tried many medications, but all traditional therapies and medications had little effect on Rowan. They discovered that throughout Rowan’s tantrums, many of which could last as long as four hours, that the one thing that helped Rowan remain calm was when he was with horses. Rowan had a natural affinity to animals and he could poke and prod the animals and their response would be a gentle, quiet stillness.

Rupert and his wife discussed bringing Rowan to shamans in Mongolia for healing. Rupert had worked with shamans before through his work as a journalist in Africa. He thought if he could bring Rowan to healers who would work with him and experience their horses, this could possibly bring about a cure. The movie revealed a profound insight into the world of the autistic mind. It showed the courage of parents who traveled half way around the world for their child – only to wonder at various points if the trip was really for Rowan or for them. The movie showed the vulnerability of parents and the everyday uphill battles of living with an autistic child. Rowan gave all autistic children a voice of hope and love.

I do not wish to reveal everything about the movie (it’s playing at the IFC theatre in Manhattan September 30 – October 1 www.ifccenter.com) I do want to say that this powerful movie shows how children can relate to their parents, to the land, to animals, to shamans, and to the world in new ways. As Isaacson said after the movie ended, “Many cultures have shamans – Africa, Mongolia, Australia, the Rainforest, and the America’s. When you ask shamans from around the world to share their various healing techniques, they all share the same response – love. It’s all about directing love.”

I sat through the first 30 minutes of this movie crying. I was crying for a little boy who had no way of expressing himself except long screaming tantrums. I was crying for the parents who were doing everything they could to help alleviate the suffering of their son. I was crying for family and friends who have been through their own journey with autism. At the very end of the night, Isaacson spoke to the audience and told us what he was able to learn from this experience. He told us he didn’t want a cure for autism. He wants healing. Isaacson said that he doesn’t want his son to suffer, but that he wants him to keep his personality – that is what makes him special. This really is a remarkable film about a family’s extraordinary journey, adventure, shamanic and human experiences. Most of all, it is a story of love.

If you are unable to see the movie, I encourage everyone to go and purchase the book, The Horse Boy.

Abundant love and healing, Mary Anne

This is dedicated to Rupert Isaacson, Kristin Neff, and Rowan for sharing their remarkable story as a testimony of courage and love as well as to the shamans throughout the world – seeking to direct­­ love and consequently healing. This is also, dedicated to the many families who seek healing for their autistic family members.

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Maximilian Kolbe

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

St_Kolbe_Prayer_CardIt is the changing of the seasons from summer to fall that reminds me of Maximilian Kolbe. Every September as a new fourth grade class entered catechism, my mother would tell the story of Maximilian Kolbe. As a teenager, I was often “dragged” to “volunteer” to be my mom’s aide in her Sunday class. At the time, I didn’t see this as any gift – just something my mom was making me do. This was considered volunteer service and often I did not look forward to awakening early on a day off to help her. However, the one thing I always liked was when my mom told the story of Maximilian Kolbe to her students. She was a wonderful story-teller and often would relate Bible stories to real life examples.

Maximilian Kolbe was a priest who served in Poland. He was arrested and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp on February 17, 1941. Ten men were singled out at a time to go to what was known as Block 13 – the Death Block. One of the men broke down in tears, crying out that he would never be able to see his wife and children again. Prisoner number 16670 stepped forward and walked up to the prison guard and whispered something. Fr. Maximilian Kolbe told the prison guard that he wanted to take the place of the man with the family. The guards allowed him to switch and prisoner 16670 was taken, along with nine others to the cell block where the men died slowly without any food or water. Fr. Maximilian Kolbe died on August 14, 1941.

Maximilian Kolbe gave his life so that another man might live. He not only saved a life, but the morale in the camp changed as word got out that a prisoner stepped forward for another. My mother would tell this story and ask how many times were they willing to do something for someone else? She would tell the students how Maximilian Kolbe was willing to do anything to help someone in need. What are the small things we can do, even at age 10, to help one another? What are you willing to give up?

I never grew tired of hearing my mom tell that story and still wish she was here to share it. Each time she told it I was reminded how much I had and how getting out of bed early was nothing compared to what Maximilian Kolbe had to endure. It is a reminder that even on my worst days, I have so much to be grateful for. What are the sacrifices I am willing to make in order to make another life safe?

I probably will not have to take the place of another in prison, but I can help someone else feel safe in the world. I can offer the gift of friendship with more compassion, generosity, patience, and love. How can we reveal ourselves with courage and vulnerability even when it is not easy to do so? How are we prisoners to our own minds and project it out to the world? Freedom starts with each one of us. Step forward for yourself and for another.

In case you are wondering, Maximilian Kolbe was canonized in 1982. St Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day is August 14.

Dedicated to my mom for teaching me about service.

Mary Anne

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