Situated at almost 1000 meters high in the Swiss Jurassic mountains, the seminar-hotel Orchidea Lodge offers a beautiful view far across the land. The expectations of the 50 participants in Marshall B. Rosenberg´s nine-day International Intensive Training were just as high, when we met for the first time in the big seminar-room.
To my surprise there was a, to put it mildly, unusual participant who had a way of expressing himself that seemed very strange to me and reminded me of an orangutan rather than a human being. Uwe, as this "being`s" name was, moved constantly, holding a little red ball in his hand, occasionally hitting himself on the head and waving an old cloth in front of his face. Every other minute he made undiscernable sounds that made everybody cringe. There was no way for anybody to listen attentively with this bundle of energy in the middle of the room. An additional diversion was created by Lena, a white-haired, elderly woman who was taking care of him. While trying to soothe him she seemed to be fighting with him constantly. Oh great, I thought, this is going to be fun, or rather a handful
and I remembered having heard from an acquaintance recently that Uwe and Lena had provided a lot of distress and conflict in another seminar.
Marshall, surprisingly, introduced Uwe after half an hour or so into the seminar, adding more confusion in so doing. He said: "may I introduce my colleague Uwe? Uwe knows me better than I do myself, even if it does not seem so at first glance. He also attended my previous seminar and it is good for him to be able to be here." Uwe seemed to understand and agreed with a loud "Uuuh-aaah!!!" This was to be the beginning of a journey into a strange world that touched everybody deeply.
But we did not know that yet, and we remained irritated. Next to his agitation we were also confused by Uwe´s clumsy attempts at contact, consisting of taking off a person's sock at lightning speed, or dragging someone down onto his mattress. Luckily there were also phases when he just slept and his presence was known only through his snoring.
The next day began very early for most of us, at five o´clock in the morning, with Uwe standing at his open window, screaming and crying out at the world in inarticulate sounds. He was staying with Lena in the center of the house and he seemed to be suffering agonies. Everybody close, which was probably everybody in the house, suffered with him involuntarily. Even Oropax failed. We got an explanation during the first sharing of the morning which was entirely different from what we had expected. It came from Uwe personally, a written note that was read to us. It had been written in "assisted typing" on a PC (alternatively on a wooden board with a key pad). Writing like this means Uwe´s hand is held with a light counterpressure and he types his sentences letter by letter without looking.
This is his message:
" I am Uwe . I am sorry that I´m not able to speak here yet. I am very agitated without verbal language and the same happens to my body. I think within myself I want to speak out loud and then there is this block inside. Sometimes it screams out of me - that is, like a volcano that has to erupt because it is seething inside. It hurts me when I frighten people with this - it is a volcanic eruption bringing something out. It is fierce and ok again afterwards. Please do not get too scared when it happens again. I hope it does not happen to me in this seminar. I am very sad because I can hardly stand the pain inside. I want to dive away from myself into an ocean - it would have to be an ocean so I could be literally away from the pain, be free of beings fighting for survival because they are food for others. I want to talk about the pain coming, not write about it with Lena´s help. Talk, talk, talk - it wants out and I experience it over again there is this block inside of me then. First it is good to be here now it is a big pain and what else will happen that is painful I ask inside and I have ANGST : now it starts again in me and it hurts so much it hurts very much first I thought it could not get any worse it is enough and then it came back again. Now I am glad to write and grateful that you,Lena, let us get into the car if only the pain would stop inside of me I need peace I want to go to the seminar-room to find peace -that´s it. "
It was not the last message. We also experienced Uwe expressing himself live in this way when something was moving him deeply. On one occasion he screamed all of a sudden, covering his ears with his hands. This happened when Marshall talked about the daily fight of good versus bad on U.S. TV. The good always defeat the bad violently, and most of the time even kill them righteously. This is a model of conflict resolution that children learn about in almost every movie and TV program in the US, and on an average children watch TV 6 hours a day. This topic seemed to bear painful memories for Uwe. He looked deranged, screaming tormentedly, he paced to and fro. Marshall just watched him silently, empathically. After about 5 minutes Uwe crouched on the floor, teetering, waving a small Swiss flag in front of his face .He then dragged one participant down towards him, then another. They all got comfortable, Uwe leaning on one and being pampered by the other.
On another occasion Uwe dragged Marshall down onto the floor, and Marshall stayed with him until Uwe was mollified. This was a scenes that touched many. Uwe could be a different person, too! He liked to laugh and rejoice, vibrating all over his body. He generally loved company and most of all he enjoyed being in the center of the group. During mealtime in a room with a beautiful view he enjoyed sitting among the participants, being fed by Lena. Afterwards he liked to make fun, grimacing and picking at the women, laughing happily when they reacted.
The next day he surprised us all with a personal gift: Lena had put more than 50 pictures face down on the table, painted by Uwe in monochrome colors: mainly red, yellow and ochre. The pictures were all furnished with a short saying of his. Everybody was allowed to choose a picture and the following text was read aloud:
"I am sad again because the pain is here in me. Sad about the way I am, sad that I cannot communicate this verbally. Nonetheless I am happy to be me and today I am glad to give you these pictures that are not so much artistic work but an expression of my inner world. I have many pictures inside of me and I regret not being able to transfer them to paper in their full glory, the way I see them inside. I would celebrate if you were happy about the pictures. I painted the big picture for you, Marshall. It shows how you transport NVC all over the world in the deep desire for more peace. Is it possible to make a photograph of it so all the trainers can take it home? That´s it"
After that there was a concerned silence. Somehow it was just so unbelievable that Uwe could have such a complicated inner life, as it also showed up in his sayings, that some participants read out loud now with tears in their eyes.
"Hearts warm up when we do not (live a) fight with each other."
"Great things often happen in hidden places"
"Engage in this world by being at peace with yourself"
"I respect the tiniest being. It upsets me when we devaluate it, because it lives its mission."
"It is cold in this world without warmth of heart."
"Being right can never bring peace."
"Without darkness there is no light, is that clear?"
"First let us talk about the peace within us, then in the world."
"Dare to show more of what is inside of you. It can lead to fundamental honesty."
"Each of us is a bringer of peace or violence. It is up to us what we live."
"Better to feel what is in us, than to think what others think about it."
In the afternoon I had a chance to talk to Fulvia Liebendörfer, who works with autistic people.
She told me that in the medical world the reasons for autism are genetic interference as well as complications during birth, or neglect. Therapy is difficult. Therapists very rarely succeed in helping autistic people to speak. On the other hand autists very often have very specialized skills, for instance a photographic memory. Uwe probably learned how to read because of that, without anybody realizing it for a long time. One look at a blackboard or a page in a book is enough for him to be able to read the contents later on with his inner eye. Also telepathy or clairaudience belong in this category, as Lena and Fulvia described according to their experiences. Uwe often knows what´s on Lena´s mind or what her plans are without her having said a word about it. Later on Uwe himself gave us an example of this:
"I, as someone who is upset inside, want to tell you just how difficult it is to live in your world. With each seminar I learn more and more how bad it is to not understand other people inside. On the other hand it is a very big strain for me to see your thoughts, and I must take care of myself in order to cope with that. Believe me, I am also fully present even when I am asleep. First I can give myself some empathy, then I can sort out your words better, and your thoughts and find out better who thinks what. As a matter of fact I can sort myself properly, better that way. That´s it."
Another example: an autistic boy sees a car coming at him on a small street. He has learned to dodge cars .His caretaker wants to lead him off the street and to her amazement he remains obstinate, and she sees how the car turns off into a small sidestreet just in front of them. Coincidence or prevision? Fulvia is convinced of the latter.
Uwe seems to be empathic to the other participant´s inner processes, even if one cannot realize it on the outside. One hot afternoon Marshall announced a healing-session and he accompanied a participant through a one hour process of rage, helplessness, pain and grief. Uwe sat still all through the session, just waving his little Swiss flag. The next morning Lena read the following message to us:
"I am very impressed by your process, Frank. I am so glad that my own affliction that I have because of not being able to speak, that I expressed in the text helped you do it. It gave me courage that I will also make it some day. I thank you for achieveing it. Very good to know how the need is within you, too. Thank you Marshall, thank you all, thanks to the spirits who came to help. Thanks to the universe and its abundance. It feels good to write this now. It hurts to not be able to say it."
Like so many times before the participants expressed their concern and their gratefulness for what they were able to experience with Uwe, and to learn by being with him. Meanwhile he was an integral part of the seminar. Often now he was with us on his own, either on the terrace or in the seminar-room. Lena looked more and more relaxed every day, because the responsibility was no longer hers alone all day long. No one was envious of her job, that she has been doing for 26 years with Uwe.
After nine days everybody is happy and grateful that Uwe was part of the group. One participant promised to create a calender of Uwe´s pictures, and to send it to everybody. I also got to know a new world and I learned how to marvel.
This is Uwe´s final commentary:
"I greet all the participants and thank you for accepting me. First I destroy all the stupid habits in me now, I do it non-violently. If wolf-thoughts visit me I accept them lovingly because they are a part of me. That way the giraffe, that is also a part of me, can grow inside. It is very good that now I really can accept myself more and more each day and be affectionate with myself. That´s it."
A Short Interview With Uwe:
What is your biggest wish?
"My biggest wish is to be able to speak."
What is your biggest pain?
"My biggest pain is all the pain I have received from people who think I am mentally handicapped and who wanted and still want to ostracize me."
What would help you most?
"If I could be a part of it all, just like I was in the seminar."
What was your most beautiful experience in the seminar?
"That I was a participant like everybody else, with essential personal problems."
How do you perceive other people´s thoughts? Do you hear them?
"I hear the thoughts inside, not with my ears. It is a means of inner telepathy. Talking is not a means of inner telepathy but speaking out loud of thinking. It is a method that speaking people forget if they cannot listen with their inner ear."
What was the biggest difficulty for you in the seminar?
"To not be able to vocalise what I think and feel."
What would you like to tell the readers of this article?
"Be attentive if you see so-called mentally handicapped persons, they have their own inner characteristics of inner value."
Autism - What is That ?
Autism is a grave developmental disorder, showing up at 3 years of age. Typically there is a profound disturbance in relating and communicating, rendering the autist incapable of having a normal emotional relationship with others. Autism is a "Syndrome," meaning a host of symptoms leading to the diagnosis.
The main symptoms are:
- drawbacks in the quality of interpersonal relationships
- characteristic disturbances of language, ranging from total lack of active language and understanding of it to well-developed speaking
- compulsive insistence on the sameness of personal environment, utterances of panic and fear in the face of changes, and diverse stereotypes.
The cause of autism is manifold, meaning there is not just one factor causing it. However there is always a disturbance in the processing of perception. This means the autist absorbs environmental stimuli with his intact sense organs but then cannot integrate and coordinate them, so that he has no chance of organizing his behavior and experiences. This disturbance in perception means that the autist has the greatest difficulties in communicating with others. One result of the disturbances in processing of perceptions is withdrawal to stereotypes of behaviour, which means a handicap in the autist´s advancement. There is no specific "autism-therapy". The main goal is to build a relationship with the autist, because in no way can he engage in therapy without that!