Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

A testimonial from a Son-Rise Volunteer

Christy, our Son-Rise program volunteer Christy Christensen (a certified yoga instructor among many other things) plays every week with Joaquin in his Romper Room.

She is a (our only volunteer at the moment), and a friend to all of us. She recently submitted this essay with her application for a scholarship for an advanced yoga program she wanted to attend. She was awarded the scholarship, and made both Joey and I tear up when she shared this with us at our last team meeting.

From the very first day Christy interacted with Joaquin, her loving attitude was palpable. Joaquin loves her, and I am so incredibly thankful for having her in our lives.

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Yoga and it’s potential to reveal the “Illuminated Heart”

by Christy Christensen

Understanding what it even means to have an illuminated heart revealed would not be possible for me, were it not for my study and practice of yoga. Yoga has been my path to revealing the Illuminated heart. This essay has evolved into the story of my personal journey to discovering, remembering, attempting to maintain, and sharing the gifts of an Illuminated heart.

I have come to learn that we all arrive on the yogic path and even travel through the path through our own very personal miracles, challenges, triumphs, and sometimes even darkness. I remember sharing briefly our stories about how we came to yoga (specifically Anusara) recently at the Immersion I with BJ Galvan. As we shared, before the discussion became too much about all of the stories, BJ reminded me (with one simple comment) that it is not how we got here that is as important as that we are here now. Kula.

So even as I write and my ego wants to tell the story of my difficult life. I am tempted to share the miracles and the misery both. Then, I realize that being where I am right now is more important than sharing how I got here. I am not alone in the reality of having a difficult life and I am not alone (although sometimes I forget) on the journey. So instead let me share one experience of the realization that I was finally getting “it”… IT being the point. The point of yoga, the purpose of life. Yes that IT.

My life was full of relationships, responsibilities, and unfinished projects. How could I add one more thing to my plate? I did not have a choice it seemed. Without thought or understanding I tore the serrated strip off the volunteer flier hanging in the yoga studio where I teach. A little face with big brown eyes staring down at me from a flier that said “Loving Joaquin”. This three year old face seemed to be calling out to me, tugging on my heartstrings. But where would I find time to volunteer? They were asking four hours a week, sometimes six. I am a single mom with two boys of my own, I have a full time job, teach and study yoga, no time for me to reach out more than I already do… My mind justified.

It was too late, those eyes calling on my gifts to exchange with his were burned into my mind. An e-mail or two later I was driving to this little boy’s house. After speaking to his mother Maria about doing Yoga Play Therapy with little autistic Joaquin, it was clear I would have to follow the guidelines of the Son-Rise program. Son-Rise was the program they had chosen to run in order to offer their little boy an opportunity to learn to connect with others. I of course knew that yoga also would teach him how to connect , and the principles of Son-Rise resonated with me. She was excited to add a yogi as her 2nd team member for “Team Joaquin“.

I understood the importance of going into this with non-attachment. But I dreamt of some day doing yoga with this little guy. The guidelines of the program came easy to me. Acceptance, Love, Patience, Joining, Being present, User friendliness, and Excitement. Some of the goals later on were challenging to me as I delved into the program principles. But I wanted to uncover what purpose I had in Joaquin’s life. Little did I know at the time that it was just as much about the purpose he had in mine.

I have now been on a six month journey with this Son-Rise family. I have learned more about myself over the course of this volunteer time than any sage could ever teach me. This little boy’s energy has mirrored mine at times and I have mirrored his. He has revealed to me times when my energy or attitude was different than what my conscious mind was willing to admit. He has shown me through autistic isms the things my mind ruminates about. He has taught me how silly the things are that we worry and ruminate about as we turn them into games in his world.

The journey…

Day 1: Difficulty maintaining eye contact. Exclusive play.

Today: Joaquin cupped my chin in his little hand sweetly exclaiming “This is Christy!” with tilted head and big brown eyes that see my Illuminated heart.


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Joaquin’s Son-Rise Program
Over the last 17 months, our Son-Rise home program has been instrumental at helping Joaquin develop socially. One of Joaquin’s oldest and biggest challenges is interacting with people different from his parents, and it is only recently that he has started to show progress in this area. That’s why a diverse group of volunteers is so important to our program. We are currently looking for new members for our team. Come join us!

Welcome to my parent mentoring service

Hello, you Super mom of an Awesome autistic child.

If my experience and words speak to you, I invite you to learn about my mentoring service for autism parents.

Intentional parenting, development, and education for our children is my passion. My purpose is to empower you with the emotional and practical support you need to thrive as you reach for every outcome you dream of for you and your child’s life.

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