Life in the Presence of Parkinson’s: A Daily Mantra

“Gratitude is the greatest prayer. Thank you is the greatest mantra.” Swami Nithyananda

“My mantra: Brainless exercise is a lost opportunity for improvement.” Michael Merzenich

Definition: Mantra, man·tra (/ˈmantrə/) noun: mantra; plural noun: mantras.
1. (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) A word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. “A mantra is given to a trainee meditator when his teacher initiates him”
A Vedic hymn. “Her high, sweet voice began chanting the mantra of life”
2. A statement or slogan repeated frequently. “The environmental mantra that energy has for too long been too cheap”
3. Sogyal Rinpoche said that the definition of mantra is “that which protects the mind.”

“Mantras are passwords that transform the mundane into the sacred.” Deva Premal

Using a Mantra to Balance Yourself: The word ‘mantra’ is a Sanskrit term, with the word broken up to be “man” meaning “mind” and “tra” meaning “release.” Repeating your mantra, and reading your mantra is meant to be a release of your mind. Saying your mantra, or reading your mantra is meant to focus your mind on the active moment, reduce the current stress, give one an increased awareness of self, and a more positive outlook of life in the present tense. Thus, if something is dragging you down; if something is needed for you to maintain or even gain leverage in a scenario/situation. Maybe your Parkinson’s is acting up and you might need to boost your mind some; or if you are feeling down, tired, run-down, then turn to a mantra for strength and to re-balance yourself.

“Our mantra was simplicity.” Donna Dubinsky

Passages of Time: It is only May, but this has been a long year. No, Parkinson’s is still present and accounted for, and I am doing my best at holding it at bay with equal resolve. By contrast, as time passes on, the collective of almost everything else that was important to me demanded time and considerable attention.

Teaching– During the spring semester, several students in my undergraduate course were infected with SARS-CoV-2 (aka, COVID-19). And the University had adopted a whole in-person teaching strategy, although the final decision of how much in-person/masked and online time was given to the faculty member teaching. Thus, my course balanced the semester with Zoom/online|live in-person/masks required|live in-person/masks were optional. Our teaching conditions were a daily reminder of how the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the world around us and the simple fact that it has not gone away after over two years.

Scholarship– Much of the semester was spent writing and publishing two papers in peer-reviewed journals. The first was a review about COVID-19 and Parkinson’s disease written by Morowitz, J.M., K.B. Pogson, D.A. Roque, and F.C. Church.  “Role of SARS-CoV-2 in Modifying Neurodegenerative Processes in Parkinson’s Disease: A Narrative Review.” Brain Sciences.12, no. 5: 536 (click here to be taken to the journal’s page for free-open access is available to read and print the paper). This is one of the most important papers that I have had the pleasure of writing. And simply put, I learned that SARS-CoV-2 is even more wicked than I ever imagined. graphical abstract I made for the review. While very different from the first article, the second article was a bit of advice and personal reflection about forming, recruiting, and managing an academic research laboratory: Church, F.C. “Suggestions on Leading an Academic Research Laboratory Group.” Open Life Sciences. (I will update this link on finding this open access paper when published).

Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation- In the past few months, I have spent time working on healing my back (strained quadratus lumborum muscle, which may have led to hip flexor tightness and disturbing some relatively okay lower lumbar spinal discs). However, Dr. Rebecca Bliss, a most amazing Physical Therapist, designed an exercise/stretching plan for me that has worked well. By doing these exercises, I am getting better day by day, and a side benefit is that I’m strengthening my core, lower back, and hip region, which ultimately will be a win-win scenario for me, my back, and my golf game.

House Buying– The single most significant stressor has been our search for a house. I could go on for hours, but the most significant free-time drain in my life from January until last week has been the search/struggle/competition/offer scenarios for buying a home in the USA. There is very little inventory, people seem to have a load of cash hanging around (we don’t) to invest in home purchasing for investment reasons, and there are just a lot of people searching (dreaming) to retire in the same area we have chosen. Once we get moved in and settled a bit, I will let everyone know where I will be living; suffice it to say, it will be ~14 miles from an ocean.

“We all need mantras, I guess – stories we tell ourselves to keep us going.”Lauren Oliver

Phasing-out Retirement Plan:  Three years ago, I began what in academics is termed phased-retirement. You give up some of what you have been doing each year, relinquishing all administrative duties. In the second year, one gives up more tasks. In the third year, one sheds even more responsibilities. The goal is to provide you time to release the mental stress typically found in academics, adjusting the constant always at work 50-60 hrs/week to a more manageable work time. Instead of jumping off a draw bridge when employment ends, phase out your duties, big and small, essential and minuscule, to better prepare you to retire. To set the alarm on the master clock keeper three years from the day you started, it is time. My alarm will sound off on June 30. I will be retired; there, I said it out loud. A new chapter and a new life volume begin July 1. The fresh start combined with the following path is exciting, suggesting that the strategy used in phased retirement was correct and meaningful.

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Steve Jobs

A Daily Mantra for Living with Parkinson’s: I write a lot, and then I re-discover these comments in various places on my computer or in a folder of papers on my desk. The blog is written for everyone, including me. Sometimes my words guide and correct my feelings, and sometimes my words help resolve my own inner conflicts. This world faces many significant problems and issues, which definitely outweigh my whiny comments above. It reminded me of Humphrey Bogart in the movie ‘Casablanca’ when he said, “the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

The backbone of this mantra is at least from 2-3 years ago. I say the present version is a mantra in five parts, I have read a paragraph each day for the past five days, and it made me smile. Each passage told me to keep breathing, get up and keep going. One would think that dealing with stressful life situations should be more manageable as an older adult. But maybe not. Reading these short paragraphs helped me regain some perspective and refocus on what’s most important. And I am not saying my mantra should prove to be a healing salve for you, but maybe it can serve as a backdrop to focus you on it.

Thus, write a mantra that resonates with your life and feelings (and if you do, please send me a copy, I would enjoy reading it). Start it straightforward, maybe something that follows Jason Mraz’s example: “Whenever I’m in need of inspiration and mantras, I go straight to simple affirmations. ‘I am strong’, ‘I am brave’, ‘I can do this’ and ‘I’m awesome’. Whatever you put after ‘I am’, you will become. ‘I am’ are the two most powerful words, so make sure what you say after ‘I am’ is what you want to experience. It’s like a magic trick.”

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs

Cover photo image by Pexels from Pixabay

2 Replies to “Life in the Presence of Parkinson’s: A Daily Mantra”

  1. Thank you as always Frank. Love your mantra in five parts. I resonate with the statement “I am a healthy person that happens to have Parkinson’s.” So true – for me anyway. Congratulations on your retirement. Best,


    1. Thank you, Bill, glad you enjoyed the mantra in 5 parts. And thanks for the retirement congrats, it is something that many folks dream about every day they are at work; for me, I have enjoyed work so much, it is just not something I’ve thought much about- but now, it dominates my thought process. I will enjoy it. Stay healthy! Frank


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