Fighting Parkinson’s, and let’s sit

Okay. Let’s sit. Just sit…and see what happens. That is doing. It is seemingly doing nothing that is powerfully doing something in your recovery. How can doing “no thing” actually be doing “some thing” useful? I will explain.

I have said many times that in my recovery, I had to learn to stop thinking so much, and just “do.” Just doing without thinking was something completely contrary to how I had been in my life and how I was at the time when I had Parkinson’s. Of course, one of the things I realized in my recovery was that since I was doing what I always had been doing when I got Parkinson’s, part of my recovery would require me to do things differently. Doing without thinking was one of those important changes.

When I had Parkinson’s and was considering doing meditation, and I read about sitting zazen, I looked up articles and videos so I could get a sense of how to sit (correct posture, correct mudra (way of holding hands), correct amount of time to sit, correct time of day to sit, correct…etc.). Clearly, I was still thinking and over-thinking in my then-Parkinson’s Adrenaline mind mode.

My physical limitations narrowed down the ability to “correctly” do almost all that I had read. Sitting on the floor for any great length of time was impossible. Sitting with my back straight was impossible. Sitting in a lotus or half lotus position was impossible (something I never had been able to do in life anyhow). Holding my hands in a special mudra for any great length of time was impossible. Counting my breaths from 1-10 starting the counting on the exhale, and starting over at 1 and doing it again…finally, something I could do.

So I improvised. I sat at the front of a hard, straight-backed chair, feet on the floor pointing straight, hunched forward with hands on knees. I set my timer for 10 minutes, closed my eyes about 75% (eyelids cracked to assist me in not falling asleep), and I started counting my breaths on the exhale. When I reached 25 or 26, it occurred to me that I must not have been paying attention because I was supposed to go back to 1 when I reached 10. So I started at 1 again. After a few 1-10 sequences, I looked over at my timer to find that I had about 7-1/2 minutes remaining. I thought I was going to lose my mind (I had yet to realize that losing my over-thinking mind was the whole point of the sitting; I was a slow learner). I looked at the time a few more times over the next few minutes. My initial thought was “what a waste of 10 minutes; why in the world would anybody sit zazen for 30 or 40 minutes.”

However, as was my way in my recovery, when I started something new, I stuck with it for a month so I could properly assess its usefulness. It took me quite a few days to make it through 10 minutes without looking at the timer. I had really good reasons for looking at the timer: “I am certain I have been sitting here for a long time, but I am so focused on my counting, I did not notice the timer when it buzzed.” “I feel like I have sat here twice as long as yesterday, so the timer must be broken, I better check the time.” It is embarrassing to say, but this is just the beginning of a long list of reasons for looking at the time during the 10 minutes. Instead of just doing, that is, breathing and counting, for most of my 10 minutes I was involved in self-judging, self-criticizing over-thinking.

Then, one morning, it occurred to me that I needed to shoot down every excuse to look at the timer because part of what I was trying to accomplish was not over-thinking things and not worrying so much about the future. It hit me that worrying about the time prevented me from being in the moment. My mind was in a “what’s coming next” mode instead of living in the moment, and I was preoccupied with the future (and sometimes the past).

More or less, I think everybody suffers from this with Parkinson’s — a preoccupation with how one got Parkinson’s and what will the future be like with Parkinson’s. Doing, instead of thinking too much, is how to be in the moment. So doing what looked like “no thing” (just sitting) turned out to be “some thing” special; it brought me into feeling the reality of the moment.

This was an important realization for me. I became better equipped for embracing the disease. Think about it: In the present moment, you have Parkinson’s. At some time in the past, you did not have Parkinson’s. At some time in the future, you may not have Parkinson’s. However, if all you do is think about it, you stop living. You end up caught in the “life was so good before, and the future looks bleak” mentality of Parkinson’s.

WHAT ABOUT NOW…WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

If you are sitting zazen, then this is what you are doing now:

In Suzuki’s Not Always So, he makes this point: “In our zazen practice we stop our thinking, and we are free from emotional activity. We don’t say there is no emotional activity, but we are free from it. We don’t say we have no thinking, but our life activity is not limited by our thinking mind. In short, we can say that we trust ourselves completely, without thinking, without feeling, without discriminating between good and bad, right and wrong. Because we respect ourselves, because we put faith in our life, we sit. That is our practice.”

How powerful is that in you life and recovery:

“Because we respect ourselves, because we put faith in our life, we sit.”

I need to take a brief aside. Some people with a strong Western religious practice and faith feel an aversion to meditation. It is new and different and they have raised concerns with me that they feel they might be doing something contrary to their religious ideals. I look at it this way. In the Western religions’ Bible, in Genesis, God said let there be light. This means that all creation that followed was first in the darkness and born into the light no differently than each of us being in the darkness of our mother’s bodies before we were born into the light. Meditation takes you back into the darkness to help you see the light of your essence deep inside you. It helps you sit in the darkness and allows your luminous essence to grow and shine…it delivers you from the darkness back into the light.

So, my friends, in your soul, mind, and body Parkinson’s Recipe for Recovery® journey, taking the words of Suzuki, respect yourself, put faith in your life, and let’s sit.

You are worth it!!!

All my best,
Howard

 

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27 Responses to Fighting Parkinson’s, and let’s sit

  1. Barry Heermann says:

    Beautiful.

    All is well.

  2. Kjell says:

    Thank you Howard
    Yes always right to the point
    I love to meditate And counting makes it so obvious when I slip into the future or the past
    So far so good love and blessings

  3. Helen says:

    Great explanation Howard. I so often get caught in thinking about how good was the past and what about the future. Bringing me back to present time is where the peace lies. Big love Helen Australia

  4. corazon salvador says:

    GOD bless you Howard and thank you for your encouraging words.

  5. Tony says:

    Hey Howard this is very deep I like the part about going back to our factory setting when we were in our mother’s womb.

    Parkinson’s feeds off our fear I truly believe that there is nothing wrong with any of us it is well in our soul and if we believe that with Our hearts it will be well in our body.
    Thank you and much love to you and all the Warriors

  6. Heather Parker says:

    Thank- You Howard
    I find your material and hence the person you are very genuine and encouraging.
    I find myself continually wanting to review your material.
    Thank-you so very much
    Heather

  7. hans says:

    This is great stuff. Thank you Howard!

  8. Tim says:

    I use TM for my meditation. TM is simple, no counting, posturing, or breathing weird. Just allow the mind to think about what it wants to think about; guided by a mantra. It takes a little practice. TM is perfect for mental relaxation.

  9. jimmy says:

    Parkinson’s is an electrical problem of the body, meditation helps our brains reach a state of relaxation called alpha brainwave state which contributes to the release of dopamine and serotonin

  10. Smita says:

    Thank you Howard. Yes i too often think about future. I am learning to living life in the present moment with love and faith. I have faith in you, so on my recovery. 🙂

    God bless you.
    Smita

  11. Shawna Carol says:

    I’m working with Shamata, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice taught to me by a Tibetan master (Rinpoche). It is very simple and easy, but I am struggling to maintain my focus. I’m continuing to do it for 10 minutes a day because I believe in the Recipe and that, with practice, I’ll get better at it.

    Thanks for the constant encouragement Howard.

  12. Karen in Ireland says:

    Hi Howard and warriors, I think if I had not made peace with this one a long time ago, I would be in big trouble. I spend so much time in my chair that I had to make it a special place to be. Most of time there is spent doing spiritual stuff. 🙂 Hope all warriors in top form. Big love to all. 🙂
    Karen xx

  13. judy says:

    Right on the money, Howard. Racing thoughts, trying to anticipate the future with its outcomes, worry, worry, worry, fixing, fixing, fixing. I had forgotten Zazen, somehow. Time to get back in the saddle, so to speak!
    Love you, Howard, and all you warriors!

  14. Lisa says:

    Howard, you are amazing….and right on target, as usual. You make me laugh 🙂 (which is good medicine), because I see myself in your words:

    “My physical limitations narrowed down the ability to “correctly” do almost all that I had read. Sitting on the floor for any great length of time was impossible. Sitting with my back straight was impossible. Sitting in a lotus or half lotus position was impossible (something I never had been able to do in life anyhow). Holding my hands in a special mudra for any great length of time was impossible. Counting my breaths from 1-10 starting the counting on the exhale, and starting over at 1 and doing it again…finally, something I could do.”

    I am grateful for you, for the hope, and the encouragement of all the Warriors, and the success of those who have prevailed. Parkinson’s is defeated, we just need to visualize, continue the fight, and make it so in each of our lives.

    Onward to victory!
    Lisa

  15. Veronica Urquhart says:

    Thank you Howard for your insightful blog. One thing I have found helpful is to realise that our body has to be quiet before our mind can be quiet. Physical quietness must come first. So for a few minutes I take my awareness very slowly around my body one part at a time and feel it quieten, etc starting with my feet, arms and so on. Lastly comes my breath and eventually stillness comes. But we must “feel” the quietness not just think about it. While the body is restless stillness will elude us.
    Veronica 🌺🌺

  16. Cynthia (from England) says:

    This is very true Veronica, thank you mentioning it as I have often thought that myself x

  17. Debbie says:

    Dear Howard,
    Thank you so much for this post. I too, am learning to stop thinking so much, and just “do.” It goes right along with making daily decisions, and acting upon them, without the worry of wondering if I made the PERFECT decision. I have come to realize that I can be safe without guarding and defending my actions all the time.
    I am grateful for your help and constant guidance.
    I hope that you and Sally are loving your new home in the Portland area. It feels good to have you so close.
    Thanks for all the great comments from each of you.
    Sending Blessings and love to all
    Debbie

  18. Ellie says:

    Howard,
    do you realize that this applies to any disease, not just Parkinson. I have been following you on and off since 2012 (I have POTS aka dysautonomia). Your experience is very helpful to me. Thank you. I had mentioned your name many times on many blogs and sites. But people….are people and most not ready to look differently and mostly rely on doctors and pills. And that is OK since things only work when we believe in it.
    I just mentioned you in POTS recovery facebook group when someone started the usual…but there are no cure for POTS… It started pissing me off when I hear this kind of whining.

  19. Veronica Urquhart says:

    I was thinking of all the people I know who have PD and see that they all exhibit great love and care for others. I feel the same sense of love and care from my PD Warriors. To love is to live . Not to love is to have nothing to live for. I feel privileged to be part of such a group of people who are willing to share their ups and downs; their pleasures and pains, their friendship and rejections and treat each other with respect. I believe if we are filled with love we will not demand love or ask another to love us. We can only give what we have. We express the Spirit through our love . We may experience sorrow and setbacks but the Spirit within can never be “sick or unwell”. In Mother Terese words, ” We don’t have to do great things only small things with the greatest love”. Thank you all for your sharing and love. Veronica 🌺🌺

    • Karen in Ireland says:

      Beautifully said Veronica, you write so eloquently my friend. Thank you for your contribution to the blog, your posts are deep and thought provoking. I love reading all the Warriors share as well as Howard’s weekly words of Inspiration . We are all ” God in motion” 🙂 xx

  20. Susana L says:

    Howard,
    This is a profound post. It speaks to our reticence to just let go. Thank you for highlighting this and especially your caring! Love, Susana

  21. jimmy says:

    Scientists now know that the brain has an amazing ability to change and heal itself in response to mental experience. This phenomenon, known as neuroplasticity, is considered to be one of the most important developments in modern science for our understanding of the brain.

    The brain is not fixed and unchangeable, as was once thought, but can create new neural pathways to adapt to its needs. This has led to an explosion of interest in the power of brain training to improve our focus, memory attention and performance.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks, Jimmy,
      Great book on this very topic : The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge,MD

      and thanks, Howard, for the affirmative reminders…

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