(Re)learning Mindful Resting Involves Working at Letting Go
To live better with Parkinson’s disease, I had to relearn how to walk – “performing” while using mindful movements instead of absent-minded walking. I had to relearn how to talk, being mindful of volume, projection, and using lots of “pause between” to clarify my thoughts before blurting. I have made progress on relearning mindful resting, but it is a counterintuitive process that I am still discovering.
What has surprised me is how much rest I need to maintain homeostasis. Achieving and maintaining homeostasis helps me be ready to show up every day. I have found that rest is needed after every disruption in my homeostasis. It’s almost a one-to-one correlation; the amount of rest required is equal to the level of the disruption and the resources to return to equilibrium. So a recent bout with another unexpected medical issue that lasted seven days required an additional seven days of extra recuperation.
It’s not on the level of E=mC2 — Einstein’s theory of special relativity that matter as mass and energy can be converted into each other — but it’s similar. My energy must be converted into mindful movement and not wasted movements. My mindful movement practice, combined with mindful resting, gives me energy to tackle daily life. It’s a change in life habits.
Other than not being able to avoid unexpected events in our lives, Mrs. Dr. C. and I try to keep the daily “to do” list short. One or two major things a day is about our limit. We put on the calendar “not doing” days every third day. Rest is important. With Parkinson’s, four hours of using the same muscle movements is my limit on any given day. Whether it is something single-minded, such as raking the leaves, or something that requires more concentration — running errands to the post office, library, shopping, and the car travel necessary to get from one thing to the next. Oftentimes, at the end of a couple of hours I elect to sit in the car to conserve energy while Mrs. Dr. C. finishes the list. Having to pay this much attention to rest is a new thing for us.
These mindful accommodations are daily and improve my overall functioning. If I get exhausted, I must limit my resources and draw on mindful resting practice. Even sitting in a quiet car, sunshine warming the interior, gives me a moment to rest. But I must have my head on straight to reap the benefits.
When I get to rest, the first thing I experience is all the noise that Parkinson’s makes in my brain and body. When I begin to relax, I must move past that noise to find mindful resting. It helps if this can be done in a sanctuary, where I don’t have to deal with external stressors.
My goal with mindful resting is to shift into one of three states: preparing for sleep, healing my mind and body, or accessing the creative mind. At the same time, I want to avoid those spinning automatic mental habits (reviewing the day’s events, anticipating the next day’s events, concerns, or worries), or else the unrestrained flicker effect responses will prevent me from getting restorative rest.
Relearning how to talk and walk was far easier than learning how to rest. Our philosophy in the past was, “You rest, you rust” as the actor Helen Hayes once said. The key seems to be to use the conductor in my brain to guide my relaxation techniques, and not, as Mrs. Dr. C. would say, “Let my brain wander off unsupervised.”
The Parkinson’s brain and body noise is difficult to manage on some days. The healing qualities of mindful rest help to rewire my brain to quiet down and redirect my energy. Even with the help of these techniques, there are days when that brain and body noise is too loud. No matter how hard I try, I can’t change it once it gets close to threshold levels. To let go of “doing” is so much harder than I imagined.
That is the counterintuitive part. The more I let go, the easier it is to use the conductor to find rest. I still felt worthless without my “doing” to cling to. Throw on top of that the struggle with Parkinson’s fatigue that makes many things, including letting go, tough to accomplish. Some days it all seems impossible.
I don’t seek a cure, or to “feel good”, but to act in ways that improve my ability to function. My Parkinson’s self-management program is composed of many pieces, including mindful resting. As Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.