A Mother's Meditation Journey: Nurturing Autism
Parenting is undoubtedly one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences in life, and for those of us with children who have additional needs, the journey can be even more daunting. In a recent interview, Carolina, a Christian parent, a Coach and a Community leader from Ashford, Kent who attends Kadampa Meditation Centre Kent, shared her profound insights and reflections on navigating the complexities of raising children with autism and ADHD, shedding light on her personal struggles and transformative growth.
'I sought forgiveness from my older children’
Growing up in a Latin American culture, Carolina found herself mirroring the parenting styles of her own upbringing, characterised by strict discipline and a focus on academic excellence. However, as she embarked on her own journey of motherhood, she realised that this approach was not conducive to fostering her children’s individuality and emotional well-being.
“I was exhausted, I didn’t know what to do. I was anxious, and the tone of my voice would become harsh, and my children would notice,” Carolina shared candidly. “Coming from a culture where obedience was paramount, I realised that I needed to break free from this cycle of ignorance and pave a new path for my children.”
With four children, including two with autism and ADHD, she acknowledged the initial challenges of parenting without a roadmap. “The first two were raised the way my parents raised me because I didn’t know better” she admitted. However, Carolina embarked on a journey of self-discovery and education, part of which included attending meditation classes in Kadampa Meditation Centre in Kent, including the ‘Mindfulness for Parenting and Children’s’ classes and immersing herself in resources on parenting and child development.
As she progressed in her journey of spiritual insight, she said ‘I sought forgiveness from my older children’ for all the mistakes she felt she had made. She had to learn to forgive herself and move forward. Her journey led her to embrace mindfulness and a meditative approach to parenting, recognise the importance of planting seeds of understanding and empowerment in her children’s lives. Through mindfulness classes and meditation sessions at KMC Kent, she found solace and practical tools to navigate the ups and downs of parenthood.
Support not just for kids, but also for the parents at KMC Kent
“What led me to start my journey into working on the internal part of myself was having children with autism and ADHD,” she revealed. “I was looking for alternative ways to embrace and help them build up their mindset.”
She first saw an Instagram post about the Mindfulness for Parents and classes based in Canterbury and decided to give it a go. She said, she had a moment of realisation, thinking, “Wow, this is powerful.” The teachings and the instructors are incredibly practical, benefiting not only her children but also the parents. Understanding how our minds function, our emotions, and the dynamics of the people around us empowers us to take control of our behaviour and interactions.
As she delved deeper into mindfulness practices, she witnessed profound transformations in her children, from her nonverbal son actively participating in the Mindfulness for Parents and Children classes, to her daughter confidently asserting herself in the face of criticism.
“I’ve been coming to the sessions for over a year, and I can see the transformation in my kids,” she remarked proudly. “It’s amazing to see them talking about their feelings and actively engaging with the world around them.“
Beyond the practical techniques, she emphasised the importance of holistic parenting, recognising the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit. “It’s not just about medication or behavioural interventions; it’s about understanding who your child is and empowering them to thrive,” she emphasised.
Building inner resilience and coping with Bullying
Carolina shares, ‘’I want my kids to understand that we live in a world with so much pain and uncertainty that the only thing that we can do for our kids is give them the skills of inner resilience, empowering them to take control of their own feelings, build a confidence’’.
She explains how she coached her children through experiences of getting bullied. When her children said, ‘They telling me you’re ugly or you speak slow. Yes, I do speak slow. It’s okay. Oh, probably he’s having a bad time. Probably his parents are not nice at home ..that’s why he’s mean to me. He is coming from a place of pain because happy children don’t say mean thing. She proudly shared, that when ‘someone said to my daughter ‘I don’t like what you are wearing’ and my daughter said ‘You don’t have to like it but I like what I am wearing. I say, thank you, God, I’m doing the right thing. Because that’s real confidence. That is real confidence. And for me to hear that, I think that means more to me than her having an As in her exams and the national curriculum’’.
I am a Christian and I love the practical benefit I have received from Kadampa Buddhism
As a believer in God and a Christian, faith has always been a cornerstone in Carolina’s life. She explains ‘’I’ve witnessed miracles and felt the guiding hand of God in my journey.”
However, alongside her faith, she explains ‘’I discovered the power of practical tools and strategies offered by Kadampa Buddhism that have empowered not only myself but also my children to take control of our lives. Growing up in a Latin American background where emotions were often suppressed, discussing feelings or struggles was not common. It was about being strong and pushing through difficulties silently. Yet, as I delved into teachings that addressed practical issues like managing anger and understanding human suffering, I began to see things differently. These teachings opened my eyes to the complexities of human behaviour and taught me to approach others with compassion, not taking their actions personally.’’
Kadampa meditations and teachings helped Carolina realise that everyone is on their own journey of pain and trauma, and sometimes, simply acknowledging that journey can foster acceptance and healing.
One particularly challenging moment stands out to Carolina. ‘’I was struggling to find the words to pray amidst my turmoil. A Kadampa friend offered a simple yet profound suggestion: to breathe, meditate, and calm my mind before praying. It was a moment of acceptance and understanding that transformed my approach to prayer, allowing me to find peace in the midst of chaos.’’
Carolina feels what she appreciates most about the Kadampa teachings is their inclusivity. There’s no agenda to transform anyone’s beliefs or convictions. Instead, they offer tools and insights for personal growth and healing, allowing individuals to take what resonates with them at their own pace and in their own time.
Carolina feels detaching from rigid religious dogma has allowed her to embrace a broader sense of community and support. She feels we can all contribute to each other’s well-being, regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs. It’s about coming together, sharing our struggles, and growing collectively.
Parenting, especially, has become a journey of learning and growth. These practical techniques and strategies have equipped Carolina to navigate challenging moments with grace and understanding. By attending the weekly meditation classes near her in Ashford, she learned to challenge negative thought patterns and embrace the power of living in the present moment.
Transformation is an ongoing process, Carolina feels by letting go of past hurts and embracing the reality of the present, she has found a newfound sense of freedom and empowerment.
Compassion for oneself and others
Central to her parenting philosophy is the belief in acceptance and compassion, both for oneself and others. “These teachings have opened my eyes to understanding people’s behaviour and having compassion for others,” she explained. “It’s about acceptance and love for each other, recognising that we’re all on this journey together.”
In her journey, she found strength in community, urging other parents not to hesitate in seeking support and trying new approaches. “Don’t be afraid to come and try something new. We’re all parents on the same journey, and we’re here to support each other,” she encouraged.
As our conversation drew to a close, her message resonated with a profound sense of hope and resilience. “Parenting is a journey of constant learning and growth. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and above all, love fiercely,” she concluded.
In her words, we find inspiration to embrace parenthood with courage, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to nurturing the next generation.