Fighting Parkinson’s, and doing instead of overthinking

I have said many times that in my recovery, I had to learn to stop thinking so much, and just “do.”

There is a passage in Suzuki’s Not Always So that reminds me how well he makes the point of doing instead of overthinking: “In our zazen (sitting meditation) 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.”

When I had Parkinson’s and was considering sitting zazen, I looked up articles and videos so I could get a sense of how to sit (correct posture, mudra (way of holding hands), etc.). 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). Holding my hands in a special mudra for any great length of time was impossible. Counting my breaths from 1-10 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% (to prevent falling asleep) and 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 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 doing this, too. “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.

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 overthinking 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, I was preoccupied with the future (and sometimes the past). More or less, I think we all suffer from this with Parkinson’s — a preoccupation with how we 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.

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?

As Dan Millman put it, “We can control efforts, not outcomes.” I have found in life that although I believe this statement to be true, the harder I put forth my efforts and the more consistent I am with my efforts, the more likely the outcome will be a desirable one. WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? What are your efforts for Parkinson’s recovery?

I encourage you to put forth your best efforts with the Parkinson’s Recipe for Recovery®. It is your soul, mind, and body recovery protocol, and it invites you to do. Why not do it now!

Over-thinking generally creates fear, and Parkinson’s loves fear…it thrives on your fear and joins in the drama of creating terrible things for your future. One of the ways to stop this fear of the future is to stop thinking and start doing.

Many times, Suzuki writes about taking the purpose of zazen practice into everyday life. In the passage I quoted above, Suzuki writes that we sit zazen because we have faith in our lives and we respect ourselves. Take this into your everyday life.

When you are doing the Recipe, do it instead of overthinking it.
Don’t do it wondering if it is working. Know it is working for you.
Don’t do it wondering how soon you will recover. Know that one day you will recover.
Don’t do it just because somebody tells you to do it and you are wondering if they are wrong. Know that you are doing it because you respect yourself and have faith in yourself to recover.

You are worth it!!!

All my best,


Note: Don’t forget, I am providing a special offer of a discounted cost for Parkinson’s Coaching if you sign up by the end of June. This discount also is available to all who I am coaching when you sign up for your next cycle of coaching.  Click here to learn more about Parkinson’s Coaching, including how to sign up for the Parkinson’s Coaching Package with the special offer.

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14 Responses to Fighting Parkinson’s, and doing instead of overthinking

  1. Tery and Werni says:

    Thank you again, dear Howard to this important statement. Not only are you thinking for us but also writing tirelessly every week for us to learn, how we have to live and to learn about things we do not like. THANK YOU!!

  2. Uwe says:

    I am doing my best. Sometimes I need to sit e.g. for the medical Qigong for the liver, because my legs are weak and I only have power in rotating my hands when I am sitting. But I know I am giving my best. Anyone has the same experience? I just want to let you know you are NOT ALONE!!!

    • Pat R. from AZ says:

      I have to sit sometimes too, not because of my legs but because I have a callus on the bottom of my foot and it hurts to stand sometimes. I can’t do the rotation anymore so I just pat instead of rotating.

    • Val H says:

      Absolutely, Uwe. The Medical Qigong for the Liver has always been my bête noire (that, and constipation). According to the Recipe, we are supposed to be doing 10 repetitions twice a day. After two years, I can do a maximum of seven and I have to do them as soon as I wake up, otherwise I can’t do them at all. I’m nearly as bad at the near hand-far hand exercise for kidney and brain: it’s agony to hold my hands behind my back for five minutes. Ditto one hand on kidney and the other on head. I feel so desperate for it to be over that I end up screaming like a banshee instead of chanting.
      This gets me into a spiral of overthinking (which, of course, breeds anxiety) because I tell myself I can’t do the Recipe properly, so I won’t heal; I haven’t got the right temperament to heal; I’m not like Howard and able to believe in my recovery come what may (congratulations on your 11 years free of PD, Howard. You’re worth it!) … I can become almost hysterical.
      Dr Pang Ming, the daddy of Zhineng Qigong, suggests that the way to heal is to forget about your illness, forget about your story – not suppress it; actually FORGET it. Let it go. This is a very difficult concept because it implies a level of consciousness to which I can only aspire.

      I would like to share a poem I read, which is attributed to Ernest Holmes/Jennifer Eckert Bernau/ Safire Rose . It is called, She Let Go.

      She let go.

      She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

      She let go of the fear.

      She let go of the judgments.

      She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

      She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

      She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

      Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

      She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

      She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

      She didn’t search the scriptures.

      She just let go.

      She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

      She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

      She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

      She didn’t promise to let go.

      She didn’t journal about it.

      She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

      She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

      She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

      She just let go.

      She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

      She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

      She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

      She didn’t call the prayer line.

      She didn’t utter one word.

      She just let go.

      No one was around when it happened.

      There was no applause or congratulations.

      No one thanked her or praised her.

      No one noticed a thing.

      Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

      There was no effort.

      There was no struggle.

      It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

      It was what it was, and it is just that.

      In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

      A small smile came over her face.

      A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

      • Karen In Ireland says:

        Fabulous poem Val, thanks for sharing 😊Howard would have no one to blog for if we all could live our lives by this sentiment.
        I have to add, to you, Pat and Uwe, I am so impressed that despite your challenges in doing some of the moves in the Recipe, you all persevere. I have never been able to do the hand on head the other on kidney. I was wrecked trying to hold my hand on my head. I just thought Howard has said so often that our best is good enough. So like you Val I used to get myself in a state trying, so I thought “ you know what Karen this condition is challenging enough and you will end up hating the recipe so let’s drop this one and let yourself win with the rest of what you can do “
        You guys are inspiring! I salute you!
        Big love
        Karen xx 💕

        • Val H says:

          Thanks for empathising, Karen: it means a lot. I think I needed that reminder that my best is good enough. I salute you, too. Your philosophy concerning the Recipe makes sense and is probably healthier than my approach. I always feel a bit sheepish after one of my moanfests. I really am grateful for all that I CAN do. I am wishing you the Irish blessing: May your troubles be less, etc. And the very best of luck with your recovery. Val x

      • Marie says:

        Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this.

      • Margaret says:

        Beautiful poem Val and so true I felt my body completely relax as I read it ! I do believe that this is the crux of our recovery, thank you for sharing!

  3. Dora says:

    Yes Uwe, I have the most difficulty with the one for the liver, I do not like it. Wondering why?. Well , . Again, thank you Howard for your dedication to help us

  4. Rick says:

    I feel lucky because others that have recovered have done the hard work for us to show us it does work, so I also just do it with a positive attitude knowing I will also recover with no doubts what so ever . I don’t over think why me at all , I just find it interesting how I got it in the first place. I’ve exercised all my life and still got it so I just had to reorganise things a little different. Thanks Howard love to everyone and another great week a head of us for all . Exciting 😀😀😀😀

    • Ray says:

      I also exercised all my life Rick, and, like Howard, have done tai chi and qi gong for 15 yrs. It just shows how important the mind is to our health. We are the cure, and together brothers and sisters we will heal ourselves.

      • Rick says:

        Hi Ray, the mind seems to be the key, interesting! Off the boat now to do some vanishing 😀😀😀

      • Rick says:

        When I did hot yoga they always did a 5 to 10 of mediation at the end and they would they say this was the most important part ! Funny I use to skip out early because I didn’t think I needed it , how wrong I was ! One of life’s lessons lol 😀

  5. Rabindar says:

    “Worrying about the time prevented me from being in the moment” is the problem I face whenever I do Recovery recipe. I must learn to “live in the moment”. I need to master this technique of “living in the moment”!
    Thank you for yet another interesting blog, Howard.

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