Fighting Parkinson’s, and let’s do, not think, just do

I have written in the past that in my recovery, I had to learn to stop thinking so much, and just “do.” So today, let’s do, not think, 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.

As you can see, I was not doing, but instead, I was thinking and 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 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 your 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, not think, just do. Why not do the Recipe 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,


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16 Responses to Fighting Parkinson’s, and let’s do, not think, just do

  1. Sakina says:

    Hello Mr Howard and fellow warriors!! It’s already Friday. Very interesting, positive and powerful message!! Something to think about and digest it very well into our mind, body and soul. Lately I myself have been feeling the fear of the unknown and have been overwhelmed and overthinking about the sickness and terrible thinks about the future. It looks like Mr Howard your wonderful message came at the right time. I needed this positivity for myself and also for my fellow warriors to fight back and pray to Allah to get us away from these disturbing negative thoughts and do the recipe for recovery with faith and know that there is a light at end of the tunnel and the almighty Allah gives us strength, compassion and courage to recovery. Hang in there warriors we all are on our way to recovery.. Happy Friday and God Bless us all ..🙏🏼💕

  2. Lois G says:

    You are just the most brilliant man and I so appreciate your thoughtful insight. Thank you Howard.

  3. Roland says:

    Dear Howard,

    This morning in the shower I remembered 2 moments before my diagnosis.

    The first was a moment when I just didn’t want anything anymore.
    No more thinking, no more feeling, no more creating or wanting to have, no more hearing or seeing, just having my peace of everything.

    I had visualized a picture.

    I imagined a large room full of fuses and I turned out one by one.

    The second moment was when I was lying on my couch years ago.

    I had no energy for a long time, slept 10 hours every day and during the day I just lay on the couch. I had run out of energy.

    I said to myself:

    “Damn, I feel like I’m in an experiment where I test in a self-experiment how long I can live or survive without love.”

    Then it all started slowly. First a stroke, then Parkinson’s and cancer.

    I met Howard last year.
    At first I thought it was only the Qigong exercises that healed Him. I did this for a few months while his book lay around unread before my eyes.
    At some point, the book found its way to me and in it I recognized myself.

    Now a year later I can say a lot has happened.
    I am no longer afraid, I feel so much more, my and positive wishes go as I know them, one by one in fulfillment.

    I wished for another task in my life. Since I am CEO, I hardly had to work the last few years and spent most of my time in my golden cage waiting for my miracle while life went on outside my door.

    2 days ago I had to dismiss a valued employee and go into responsibility, self-love and compassion.

    At first I thought “no, I have to look for a new employee. Read applications. Conduct application conversations.”

    But yesterday I thought “what if the universe only fulfills my desire for a task and also gives me the opportunity to reconnect with people?”

    Yesterday I had the first 8 hour working day in many years and then I went for a round through the forest and enjoyed nature.

    Tonight I slept through for the first time in years and woke up refreshed after 6 hours.

    I can say I heal.
    I heal emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

    At the beginning of my journey, I realized very quickly that I did not want a cure from the symptoms. What good is a cure for me from the symptoms if I have no love, self-lying, fear, anger, frustration and no desire for life.

    I said to myself.
    I heal my soul, mind and the body will follow.

    On days like today, I thank you with tears in my eyes for this loving experience that I am allowed to have through Parkinson’s.
    Parkinson’s is the teacher I needed to find my way back to life.
    And I am grateful and looking forward to the day when I get my successful graduation and I can say goodbye to this teacher.

    A few weeks and months ago I was still so full of doubts and fears and would like to give you dear peaceful warriors the courage and the hope to continue, dig through your ego and you will find everything you need in yourself.

    • Val H says:

      As one of the said warriors, I should like to thank you for your contribution, Roland, and endorse what you say about courage and hope – both clearly needed for the fight. It’s interesting what you say about not wanting a cure for your symptoms without being healed soul, mind and body. I agree that the definition of complete recovery is not just to be free of Parkinson’s but to be whole and complete in oneself.
      Many times in the past I have thought I was ready for my recovery; it is only as time has gone by that I’ve realised I still had things to learn and change. It’s hard to be on this journey if you have a fixed idea of when it should end – I know because I’ve fallen into the trap myself.
      I am choosing to interpret Howard’s message today, with its central theme of just doing not overthinking, as encouragement to let go of expectations which, if they are not met, serve only to interrupt and prolong the process of healing.
      You sound like you have mastered the art of forgetting yourself to better yourself. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts; it’s always great to be inspired by another warrior as well as the master himself (Howard) as there are times when I feel like I’m doing the Recipe in a vacuum.

    • W'Ren says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Roland.

      I relate to your struggle and appreciate your candid post.

      Lots of Love

      • Roland says:

        Dear W‘Ren

        Thank you for your sympathy. I now understand all my struggles as experiences that I was allowed to have and they got me to where I am now. I’ve found my zest for life again and that’s why I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve had and will have – I’m sending you lots of love back

  4. Patricia says:

    Thank you Howard. What a wonderful post, and so timely. Excellent advice.

  5. Maree says:

    Dear Howard,
    Thank you for another great encouragement.
    It is so easy to fall into the pit of fear and even harder to climb out.
    I shall try to remember to live my life instead of thinking of the past and the future.
    I don’t know what I would do without your devotion and your love to all of us, thanks once again.

    Love to all
    Maree from Melbourne

  6. Tery and Werni says:

    Excellent advice, dear Howard, you encourage us every time and we appreciate your great support enormously, THANK YOU!!!

  7. Chris M says:

    The little engine that could, revised:
    I know I can, I know I can, I know I can!

  8. W'Ren says:

    It is incredible how you can somehow channel the perfect message at the perfect time my friend.

    You are a superb human being Howard.


  9. Roger W says:

    Our chorus of Warriors is singing out strong today. Thank you all so much for that!

    I know that everybody’s situation is different, so I bubble over with joy at how the The Recipe connects us all. It’s a soft summer day in Chicago. Moments ago I had one of those chest gripping, this must be what a stroke feels like pains. But I remembered what FEAR stood for. Read all your comments. And just as I did, this gentle summer breeze came dancing through my window, smiled and said, “Hello Roger. Pleased to meet you. I’m your cure.”

    So may all of you feel your breeze.

  10. Melanie S says:

    Beautiful comment Roland. Here’s sending you love ❤
    I can hardly do any of the physical recipe at present, but I can breathe and count and have faith. Thanks Howard for the reminder x

  11. Heather says:

    Thank you,
    dear Howard, for those inspiring words, and thank you, fellow warriors, for sharing your doubts and fears, and for telling me what you are doing about them, I find these comments so very helpful in dealing with all my doubts and fears!

  12. Rabindar says:

    Another great write up Howard. The line that stand out for me is “worrying about the time prevented me from being in the moment.” I keep looking at the clock when I am doing my recovery exercises. I must learn to live “the moment” and embrace the disease.

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