News ArchivesRead News
Calmness wisest way to confront adversity
Tuesday April 09, 2013
The Columbus Dispatch - I’ve been practicing aikido for 42 years and Parkinson’s disease for 10.
Aikido is a nonviolent Japanese martial art and a study in peacemaking. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease of the brain.
The two have much in common.
Many years ago, while visiting Los Angeles, I met a friend of a friend.As we sat eating lunch, he casually said: “You know, I could kill you as you sit there.”
I smiled and said, “Yes, of course you could,” and I kept eating.
I knew he wasn’t being hostile, just expressing a fact.
Astonished that I understood, he explained that he was a Vietnam War veteran — and that his comment was his way of testing me. He had killed people, so he knew that the line between life and death is thin.Combat soldiers learn to live on the edge of life and death, he said; when they return home, however, they struggle to re-acclimate into everyday society, which pretends that death won’t happen.
He was stunned that a non-veteran knew that edge.
I told him about my martial-arts training and how knowing the edge was possible even though I hadn’t killed anyone.
Two concepts underlie aikido as I practice and teach it.
First, emotions and attitudes are physiological events in the body, and, to receive an attacker in a peaceful way, the body must be trained to do so.
Second, the body moves with better strength and balance in a state of inner kindness and gratitude.
Practicing calmness when attacked carries over to stresses that aren’t attacks.
Such as Parkinson’s.
When my disease was diagnosed, my initial reaction was shock.So my practice for the next six months was to say “Parkinson’s” to myself many times a day and train my body to feel calm instead of fear.
Gradually, my stillness and compassion took the unease out of the disease.
The real function of martial arts, I think, is to help us accept our fundamental weakness.
I can block a punch, parry a kick, escape an armlock. But I can’t control the weather, a presidential election or whether I have Parkinson’s.
Once we build up enough personal power, we can accept the unacceptable somewhat calmly.
Having Parkinson’s is inconvenient, but, if I get frustrated or irritated at it, the tremors increase and the disease seems to worsen.
The more I meet Parkinson’s with an attitude of compassionate engagement and relaxed strength, the better my body functions.
The questions are: What do I choose to become as Parkinson’s eats away at my brain? Do I cultivate habits of fear or anger about my condition or habits of power and compassion?
In the end, then, Parkinson’s and aikido aren’t too different.
Parkinson’s, of course, will never be a popular path toward self-improvement.
The same approach, though, can be applied to everyday difficulties — whether personal, interpersonal or international.
The world would be far different if people didn’t respond to difficulties with a rush of fear and anger.
Think of all the killing and aggression that we would ward off if each of us took responsibility for his or her body and hurtful reflexes.Peace would be possible. Paul Linden, 67, is a resident of the Clintonville neighborhood.
Recent NewsMay 24 - Survival Rates Differ Widely in Parkinson's, MSA, Lewy Bodies
May 22 - Discovery may offer hope to Parkinson's disease patients
May 15 - Study offers answers on life expectancy for people with Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia
May 5 - Parkinson's in a dish: Researchers reproduce brain oscillations
May 5 - ‘Hunger Hormone’ Could Help Treat Parkinson’s Disease
May 3 - Antibiotic doxycycline may offer hope for treatment of Parkinson's disease
May 1 - Impulse Control Disorders in Parkinson's Disease: Building Physician, Patient Awareness
Apr 28 - Does Parkinson’s disease begin in the gut?
Apr 28 - New empathy-creating digital device could be revolutionary for caregivers
Apr 24 - Treating Depression With Deep Brain Stimulation Works—Most of the Time
Apr 24 - Parkinson’s disease shows links to depression
Apr 21 - TOLEDO Trial: Apomorphine Infusions Reduce 'Off' Time in Parkinson's Disease
Apr 21 - New drug provides long-awaited breakthrough for Parkinson's psychosis
Apr 12 - Obstructive Sleep Apnea Affects Cognition in Parkinson's Disease
Apr 11 - Seattle boxing gym giving hope to Parkinson's patients
Apr 10 - A new rhythm
Apr 10 - Brain cells reprogrammed to make dopamine, with goal of Parkinson's therapy
Apr 6 - FDA allows marketing of first direct-to-consumer tests that provide genetic risk information for certain conditions
Apr 5 - Combatting the isolation of young onset Parkinson's disease
Apr 1 - The Kid is Alright