In my previous post, Fighting Parkinson’s, and let’s sit, I stressed the importance of sitting quietly in meditation. As Suzuki says, “Because we respect ourselves, because we put faith in our life, we sit.” There are more concepts to cover on sitting, so today, I say, “Let’s sit some more!”
In looking at Parkinson’s and your emotions, there is a recurring theme about how stress causes symptoms, particularly tremors, to get worse. In the book Not Always So, there is a passage about life being like a movie. Here is my take on it.
1. When we experience a movie, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, sometimes we are uncomfortable with what is going on, sometimes we are afraid, sometimes we are angry…. The point is that when we are watching a movie, we experience all kinds of emotions, but because we are watching a movie and we know it is not real, we experience the emotions and then we let them go…no lingering build up of held-in emotions.
2. The one thing that always is there at the beginning of the movie to make it a better experience is the plain white screen.
Looking at number 1 above: If you can view your life in this manner like a movie, then you can experience the events and the emotions that occur, and then you can let the emotions go and have no lingering build up. Essentially, you have a clear mind, which makes it easier to deal with life’s events.
Looking at number 2 above: You are sitting with a plain white screen up until the movie begins. When the movie ends, all of the projection, color, action, and emotions are gone and you are left with a plain white screen. The next day, in order for the next movie to show properly, you need to start again with a plain white screen. That is what is accomplished with sitting zazen; you are allowing your mind to clear. You are getting rid of residual, held-in, held-over emotions so you can start your day with a clear mind and a new ability to deal with life. Then, when a stressful situation appears, it is not piled on top of layers of emotions built up from the past. This makes it easier to deal with life in the moment by making clear solutions easier to conceive.
Now, let’s change it up a bit. Suppose each time you went to the movies, the movie from the day before and the day before that, etc. was playing on the screen and then they projected your movie onto the same screen, what would you experience? Amongst other things, I would imagine that you would experience anger and frustration at the situation, and confusion about trying to understand your movie, and you might suffer a stressful panic attack from the sensory overload of multiple movies being projected simultaneously on one screen while multiple soundtracks were blasting through the speakers, and your tremors might rage out of control.
How can you avoid this? Start your day with a plain white screen. At some point at the beginning of each day, take at least five minutes to just sit still and focus on your breathing. Over time, you may wish to sit longer. Sitting zazen (on a cushion on the floor, legs in lotus or crossed position, back straight) is the way I do it now. I know that some of you cannot sit on the floor. No problem…sit in a chair; as explained in the previous post, that is the way I did it when I had Parkinson’s.
I do not recommend closing your eyes all the way as you may go to sleep. I close my eyes about three-quarters of the way, or you can stare straight ahead. The right way to do this is what you are most comfortable doing; trust yourself. Once you find your quiet spot and sit there, count your breath from 1-10 like this: Start with an exhale and follow with your inhale. That is 1. When you get to 10, start at 1 again. As you are sitting and breathing and counting, you are focused on sitting and breathing and counting, and your residual, held-in, held-over emotions from the previous day melt away, leaving you with a plain white screen.
Now, you are ready for the day. You are better equipped to deal with new emotions and stresses as they arise because you can project them on your plain white screen, deal with them, and let them go. That’s right, experience the emotions as you would experience them while watching a movie, and then let them go as you let them go after the movie ends.
The events of your life in the moment are what is real. The attachment to the lingering emotions of those events well after the events have ended is an illusion. Let go of the illusion. Live in the moment, experience life fully in the moment, experience the emotions that come up with those events in the moment, and step into the next moment while leaving the old emotions behind. Whatever might still be lingering the following day will simply wash away when you sit.
“Because we respect ourselves, because we put faith in our life, we sit.”
Okay everybody, let’s sit some more.
You are worth it!!!
All my best,