There is no question that learning experiences, spiritual or otherwise, can come from anywhere. I have been often asked if a person needs an education, or high intelligence to find Awareness, freedom.
When I am asked this, I think about Jimmy.
Jimmy was a forty-something Developmentally Disabled Man who lived in a Home where I worked with the Mentally challenged in a home setting. Jimmy was perhaps special, as he stood out to me in a particular way. He was dual diagnoses, being both Down's and Autistic. His communication was narrow. He had lived with an over protective mother until she died. She had never let him attend school, or learn handicapped skills. He was nearly blind from her neurotically washing his eyes with peroxide since his birth. He would spend his days, when left on his own, slowly rocking in a chair (it need not be a rocker!), and tearing up small bits of paper.
This may paint a sad picture, but it was not like that. Jimmy would rock and smile. Not just a contented smile, but a smile of Joy. He would hum to himself in a chant-like manner, and it was not hard to see what was happening; Jimmy was almost constantly in samadhi.
This is something I have often found among Autistic People in particular. They live in a different place. Their attention is drawn inside themselves. Of course, much is done to "help" Autistic people, as it was for Jimmy. But does it help? And more important, is there understanding?
Jimmy went to "school" every day. This was a place where he was "looked after", and an attempt was made to teach him a "trade". Jimmy, being "low functioning", was being taught to sort beads, by color and size. This was something Jimmy found boring, and if the opportunity arose, he would soon be tearing up any small scraps of paper he could find. This troubled his psychologist to no end. Jimmy was to be "kept away from paper of any kind". If Jimmy would not leave a particular chair he was "rocking" in, he was to be "pulled out forcibly". My partner and I did not agree with this philosophy, and continued to observe Jimmy, and become friends with him.
Jimmy was very affectionate, and when given the opportunity, he would hug as many people as he could. He would also kiss, on the cheek, a few select people who he particularly cherished. Jimmy was full of love. It was interesting, because when you gave Jimmy a picture of something he liked, like flowers or small animals, he would hold onto them for a short while, tearing only the outer edges. Slowly he would work his way inward until the picture was gone.
It was like watching the Guru, sitting, rocking and chanting in silent meditation, slowly letting thoughts pass by, enjoying them momentarily, and then dismissing them in the tear of a sheet of paper. His smile would let you know he knew what he was doing, and it was obviously for you.
This, doing things for others benefit, is such an important work, but is often missed by people trying to "help", or simply not willing to "see" what is before them. People often ask, "why did those parent's innocent baby die in it's sleep?". Or "Why has my child, or my husband been afflicted or passed away? or any number of similar "why" questions. The answer, while not relieving the pain of loss, offers an explanation. They are lessons. It is said, "Touch the wing of a Butterfly, and move a Star." All things are connected. All happens as part of the unfolding of the one. Jimmy was there to teach. Not in a conventional way, but by being a demonstration.
Maybe someday they will teach Jimmy to sort beads. Maybe they will be proud of themselves, that they "tore" him away from his world long enough to do something "useful". But they are unlikely to learn from what they see, as their minds are clouded by what they think they want, to see what already exists.
The whole scenario is a lesson; Awareness, Peace, sit quietly, and dismiss the "paper" ideas and images, while the "world" tries to get our attention, and "pull" us away by distraction after distraction.
Sit quietly. Rock if it feels right. Let the ideas pass through, "tearing" them as useless, as they pass by.
This is the Teaching of Guru Jimmy.
NOTE: Since my days working with the Developmentally Disabled, a number of studies have been done looking into the Spirituality of the Autistic in particular. There seems to be a fascinating link. It is so very wonderful to know that all of us, no matter how constructed, have a divine purpose.