In looking at Parkinson’s and your emotions, there is a recurring theme about how stress causes symptoms to get worse, particularly tremors. Recently, in Not Always So, I re-read a passage about life being like a movie. Each time I re-read a passage in the book, the meaning is a little different because time has passed since the last time I read the passage and a lot occurs with the passage of time.
What I took away this last time are the following two main points:
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 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 in the movie 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 their emotions and you then can let the emotions go and have no lingering build up. Essentially, you have allowed a clear mind, which makes it easier to deal with life’s events.
Looking at number 2 above: When the movie ends, all of the projection, color, action, and emotions are gone and you are left with the plain white screen. The next day, in order for the next movie to show properly, you need to start 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 upon layers of emotions making a clear solution difficult to conceive.
If 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 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 the 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. I know that some of you cannot sit on the floor. No problem…sit in a chair; that is the way I did it when I had Parkinson’s.
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 day before melt away, leaving you with a plain white screen.
As Suzuki also says in Not Always So, “Because we respect ourselves, because we put faith in our life, we sit.” Respect yourself, have faith in your life, and set aside the time to sit zazen.
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.
You can do this!
You are worth it!!!
All my best,