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Do You Really Need a Support Group?

by Lauren Simmons

Like many others, I avoided going to a support group for quite a while after my diagnosis. When I look back, I was in a support group early on. I attended a Parkinson’s exercise program and we often showed up early to class or stayed after to chat. While we stretched, we discussed upcoming events and the latest research. We met for coffee, went to lunch, and shared information about PD along the way.Those who had lots of experience with PD, shared tips and tricks with those of us who were newly diagnosed. The information was invaluable. Before I knew it, I was one of those who was sharing my knowledge with the newbies. This is what a support group does.

Seven years later, I help lead several groups and I rarely attend a group where I don’t come away with some nugget of information that may help me live better with PD.

We are fortunate in Orange County to have many support groups, both in person and virtual, including groups for care partners, women with Parkinson’s, faith based groups and even a group for care partners of those with dementia. Every group is a little different and I always recommend trying different groups to see where you feel most comfortable. Parkinson’s shouldn’t be faced alone. If you are not in a group, consider joining one. You may find out that the group has just what you need. And you may find out that you have just what the group needs. You can find a list of OC support groups here.

Workout Safety Tips for PD Partners

by Nel Andraos and Timorei Spaulding

In the Parkinson’s community, it’s common knowledge that frequent intense workouts targeting and challenging symptoms curb their progression. Given this, participating in multiple fitness programs should be routine. Fortunately, not all people with Parkinson’s require caregiver assistance. Those who do, rely on a spouse, friend, or professional. Whether assisting a loved one or client, a partnership forms based on trust with an emphasis on safety. That’s why Rock Steady Boxing coaches at I AM Movement  in Irvine prefer the term “care partner” because sometimes a person’s well-being is a team effort.

We also recognize that a care partner’s job is demanding and exhausting. It’s hard to witness a loved one struggle with PD challenges while adapting to your new gatekeeper role. Patience and dignity are a must. Inevitably, relationship dynamics change which is emotionally draining. That’s why it’s essential for care partners to carve out time for themselves so they can rejuvenate to avoid burnout. But this shouldn’t be done during class time. As coaches, our mission is to instruct and motivate our PD fight team, in a safe and caring environment, which includes the assistance of care partners. We created a safety training program that outlines care partner (and volunteer) class roles that can apply to any PD exercise program. Highlights include:

– Care partners’ main responsibility in class is their boxers’ safety.

– Care partners may participate in activities alongside their boxers to help guide them.

– Care partners should understand classes are not their personal workout, they are there to assist.

– Care partners must keep a watchful eye on their boxers, intervening when necessary to help with unsteadiness, lightheadedness, hydration, incontinence, confusion, etc.

– Care partners are required to actively help their boxers throughout class. If they need to miss a class, they must find a trusted substitute or alert the gym in advance so a volunteer can be scheduled.

– Care partners must check their personal problems and politics at the door. Classes are about fighting back against Parkinson’s, fun, and community.

– Care partners must encourage and motivate their boxers, no bullying. Class is not a competition. Everyone’s case of Parkinson’s is unique, so boxer comparisons are not permitted.

I AM Movement knows care partners need support too. In early 2023, we will offer a support group exclusively for these pillars of strength led by Kelli French, a dedicated spouse who cared for her husband with Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia for over twelve years. Members will have the opportunity to interact with others who understand the physical and emotional demands of being a care partner. If interested in joining or have questions, please call 949-783-9803 or email [email protected].


Nel Andraos and Timorei Spaulding are the mother-daughter dynamo team that owns I Am Movement in Irvine, CA.  You can find them coaching Rock Steady Boxing classes most days of the week.

Staying Present with Parkinson’s

By Renee Lorch, LMFT, Reiki Practitioner

Statistically, those with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease are at a 50% risk of developing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. I have noticed that my clients with PD unknowingly become stuck in cycles of living in the past, trying to stay present, and worrying about the future. I want to break down these cycles to help increase more positive and productive thought patterns.

We all know Parkinson’s disease comes with it’s long list of potential motor and non-motor symptoms. While I am a huge advocate of staying proactive and educated about the disease, there is a fine line between being prepared and becoming anxious. With a diagnosis so full of uncertainty, how do we stay present? I will teach you some tips you can implement to help keep you focused, but it will take motivation, dedication, and practice, practice, practice.

Comparing the Past

“Comparison is the thief of Joy”- Theodore Roosevelt

I see this most often as comparing oneself to a former, younger, healthier version of themselves. My clients often complain about not being able to multitask, get dressed, or move as quicky as they once did and become very critical of themselves. Although these changes are no doubt frustrating, the added pressure and comparison are not productive.

It is important to notice your thoughts when they start to go into the past. Awareness is the first step to improving our thought patterns. Awareness is simply recognizing that the thought is there. When we become aware of our thoughts it allows us to take control over them, instead of allowing them to take control over us!

Instead of beating yourself up about what you can’t do, remember to meet yourself where you are every day! Give yourself Grace. Don’t compare yourself to what you did yesterday, last year, or last decade. MEET YOURSELF WHERE YOU ARE TODAY and learn to MODIFY! If you are having trouble buttoning your shirt consider switching to a shirt that doesn’t require buttoning, or one that has snaps or magnets. Modifying allows you to set yourself up for success. Your ego will tell you to keep fighting with the buttons, your pride will want you to prove to yourself that you can do it! The more tasks you simplify for yourself, the more time and energy you’ll have getting to do the things you want to do!

Worrying about the Future

I am reminded of a quote I once heard, “Once you have met one person with Parkinson’s, you have met ONE person with Parkinson’s”.

The list of potential symptoms that come with PD can be overwhelming. This is where anxiety can get in the way. Thinking ahead and wanting to be prepared is never a bad thing. You want to make sure you are not comparing stories or experiences of others with PD. Although you may share a diagnosis with someone, your journey will be your own! It is important to have a safe place to discuss these fears/worries/concerns. Keeping them inside won’t make the problem go away! If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your family or friends, seeking out support from a professional could help you manage these feelings and improve your confidence as you face new changes and transitions.

When we feel out of control about the outcome (of anything) we jump to conclusions based on things we have read, heard, or seen and apply it to our own experience. Our thoughts can be very powerful and often create stories that we can easily justify as truth. If we don’t watch our thoughts, they can spiral out of control leaving us worried about something that hasn’t even happened yet, or may not ever happen! As mentioned before, becoming mindful of these thoughts is a great first step to changing irrational thought patterns.


Learning to keep yourself grounded is an excellent way to help with thoughts that get carried away. Staying present allows us to face the here and now. Comparing the past and worrying about the future can create increased stress. We cannot control the past or the future, so lets focus on the NOW! I am going to show you a few simple exercises you can practice to help keep yourself grounded/present, especially when you notice unproductive thoughts sneaking in.

1. 5 senses exercise: Start with taking a deep breath, and sit comfortably. Use each of your 5 senses to allow yourself to feel present wherever you are.

· Name 5 things you see

· Name 4 things you feel (touch)

· Name 3 things you hear

· Name 2 things you smell

· Name 1 thing you taste (if possible) Click here for a print out: Grounding Exercises (

2. Deep breathing: This is excellent for helping you connect to your body. There are many different breathing methods. Here is one you can try:

· Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds

· Hold for 4 seconds

· Exhale though the mouth for 6 seconds

· Repeat steps for 2-10 minutes Click here for a print out: Deep Breathing (

Other beneficial activities:

Count your heartbeat




Puzzles/cards/other games that require focus

Listen to music

Listen to a guided meditation.


Renee Lorch is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Reiki Practitioner.  Renee specializes in working with older adults, particularly those with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and dementia. Renee also helps facilitate the South Orange County Care Partners Support Group.  You can find out more about Renee at

Meet Dr. Aziz

As a young student entering my freshman year with the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor, I never imagined that my first experience with medicine would involve my father. Afghanistan was invaded by Russia in 1979, forcing my family to flee the country. We first escaped to Germany and eventually made our way to the United States. The resettlement had one caveat, the family was forbidden to leave unless one member of the family remained behind as an assurance that the remainder of the family would return. My father remained in Afghanistan while the remainder of his family, my mother, older brother, younger sister and of course myself, fled and settled in Germany. After two painfully long years without our father, he finally was able to escape and join our family in Germany. When looking back, this is when my mother recalls the beginning of declining health changes in my father. The more we reflect, it does seem a majority of these initial subtle signs were ignored and ascribed to stressful life circumstances. Our family found ourselves repeating history. My father remained in Germany while the remainder of his family relocated to Indianapolis, Indiana. After two painfully long years awaiting legal entrance into the United States, my father finally rejoined his family. Upon first encounter with my beloved father, we all knew something had changed. The bright spirit within him had dimmed. He no longer was the life of the party! That sums up my father’s personality in one sentence. His pace became noticeably sluggish. Previously simple tasks became an obvious challenge. He became quiet, reserving his speech for the necessary moments. I recall his apparent change in gait came paired with a newly developed expressionless face. We continued making excuses and attributing these symptoms to his time spent apart from his entire family for almost four years.
As time passed, we were optimistic things would improve as we were together again. Unfortunately, rather than improving, new symptoms kept presenting themselves. Once a very easy-going man, he became impatient and at times temperamental without justification, a full juxtaposition to his well known character. At first there were a few falls. My father attributed them to stumbling over an item on the ground that did not seem to correlate with the environment. Two minor car accidents occured. Not until the symptoms manifested themselves into these dangerous situations did we recognize the true seriousness of his decline.

I believe it is worth mentioning that during my father's time in Afghanistan, bombs landed in close vicinity to where he was residing with my uncle. He mentioned the possibility of their exposure to these toxic gases. Of note, there was no genetic history of neurological diseases tied to my fathers family tree. However, not long after my father's symptoms developed, my uncle was diagnosed with a rare demyelinating disease. He quickly found himself wheelchair bound. Even after searching for answers from the best health care professionals across Europe as well as at Johns Hopkins, my uncle passed away without a diagnosis.

The subtle symptoms that slowly built up were now telling a much bigger story. It was time to seek medical advice for my fathers now rapidly progressing health decline. He was diagnosed with Parkinsons in Indiana. The top neurologists educated our family that the disease would progressively worsen with limited treatment options. Conventional medications were attempted. However, as feared, my father's symptoms rapidly progressed.

We sought 2nd and 3rd opinions without any new diagnosis or treatment but the cogwheel rigidity, shuffled gait and constant tearing continued. I was not convinced this was Parkinson’s. I reached out to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota searching for more answers and hopefully a better diagnosis. Call it stubbornness or just a hunch, but after months of waiting and a week of evaluations, my father was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy. This is a much more aggressive form of a degenerative brain disease that is very rare. It is difficult to diagnose as it mimics other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. Unfortunately, very little treatment was available. We continued to watch my fathers deterioration. Ultimately, we lost him to a heart attack peacefully while sleeping. This experience taught me that no symptom is too subtle. Many neurodegenerative diseases begin with little changes and it is up to each and every one of us to pay attention to our loved ones. If we can try and manage these symptoms early, we can do our part in improving the quality of life.

As my father was going through these changes, I wish the subtle symptoms that could have been addressed were managed quicker. Maybe his quality of life could have been improved during the time he had. There are many medical specialists out there to assist with the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Now as a foot and ankle physician, I feel so blessed to be able to contribute in my own way for these patients.
As we know, Parkinson's  motor symptoms include slowness of movement, tremors and freezing of gait which can increase the chance of falling and decrease a patient's quality of life. Custom foot inserts can facilitate sensory feedback from the planar foot surface to improve postural imbalances. Research has shown that using custom corrective insoles with Parkinson’s can increase gait velocity, can significantly increase range of motion for the ankle, knee and hip during gait. This can also help improve lower limb alignment and correct for abnormal motion during gait preventing falls. In addition, there may be tendon imbalances that can be addressed to improve function. Contact your local foot and ankle doctor to see how to improve your gait, safety and quality of life today.

Dr. Salma Aziz DPM, MS is a podiatrist and  the owner of the Foot and Ankle Specialty Group in Orange County.

Her certifications include:

Diplomate, American Board of Podiatric Surgery 09’ Fellow, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons 09´. American Board of Podiatric Surgery Degree

Sage Sojourns October, 2021

As the body changes what is left is soul.

Ribbons of Light in the Darkness

by Sage Bennet

I gave a talk recently inspired by a vision I received in meditation. I saw ribbons of light in the darkness. This stunning image of shimmering curls of energy against a black velvet expanse drew me in. If you close your eyes, can you see or feel it? Applied to the times we live in, and the Parkinson’s journey: What is the darkness? What is the light?

Perhaps like me your recent circles of conversation may name the darkness as the pandemic, the global challenge to women’s rights, climate change that looms over the future, or the skyrocketing anxiety and depression felt by our adolescents and young adults.  For people with Parkinson’s the darkness may be amplified by things unknown: What will my future be like? Will I lose functionality?  Will I lose my voice? Do I really have a disease and how will it uniquely express in my life?

The darkness is not new. Throughout history there have been plagues, the ravages of war, despair, inequalities. But this is not the whole picture. There is light in the darkness. The lotus emerges from the mud.  Illuminating philosophies from many wisdom traditions show us that the darkness can also be the womb of creation where seeds germinate, and new life is born.

Plotinus, a 3rd century philosopher and mystic, reminds us of our amphibious nature. We have the capacity to live in both the physical and spiritual realms, like a frog that can live on land and in water. The experience of the spiritual realm, as the energetic wholeness of the One, transformed Plotinus’ life leaving him tranquil and resilient in the face of adversity. As he put it: “…there is always the radiance in the inner soul, untroubled, like the light in a lantern when fierce gusts beat about it in a wild turmoil of wind and tempest.”

The radiance of the soul is just as real today as it was in ancient times. This is one ribbon, of many, wrapped around the gift of wisdom that is available to us.  We have access to modalities—yoga, meditation, mindfulness, tai chi, qigong-- that help us experience this inner light.  We have to practice these sacred arts, also referred to as alternative therapies in the treatment of Parkinson’s, in order to receive the benefits. Placed alongside our other tools—exercise, social connection, and plant-based nutrition—who knows how wonderful the surprise may be as we unwrap our gifts.


Sage Bennet, Ph.D lives in Laguna Woods with her wife, Sandy, and their two dogs, Chloe and Freddy. She teaches philosophy and world religions online and is the author of Wisdom Walk: Nine Practices for Creating Peace and Balance from the World’s Spiritual Traditions. Please send comments to [email protected].


Sage Sojourns September, 2021

As the body changes what is left is soul.

The Bloom of an Artichoke

I walk out into the cool, misty morning, unusual for late August in California. I turn the corner to walk down the short path to the golf cart with my wife, Sandy.  BAM! Out of the corner of my eye I glance over to see a flower, so unique and beautiful, that I fall under its spell. I practically leap over to this small patch of garden space. Behold, a purple bloom, 6 inches across with almost iridescent, lavender-blue, thistle like centers is emerging out of the head of an artichoke.

“Do you see this? I ask Sandy who is standing beside me.

“Yes, it’s beautiful,” she says, looking into the deep purple, unaware I am having an epiphany.

“I’ve never seen anything like this!” I say, examining the sharp, pointed edges of artichoke petals, that once hugged the plant like armor, but now has opened, in complete abandon, to its flowering destiny.

Artichokes remind me of Parkinson’s. The symptoms of stiffness, rigidity, and a closing into itself with smaller and smaller movements seem similar to the tightly wrapped artichoke. But artichokes are an exception in the garden.  When left unpicked the edible buds open into a spectacular flower.

There are people who blossom with Parkinson’s. They are called positive deviants. They can be observed in every community as certain individuals or groups that find better solutions to problems than their peers.      Dr. Laurie Mischley, naturopath, and researcher seeks an answer to this question: “Among those with Parkinson’s who are doing unusually well, what are they doing differently?”

I wonder, what accounts for Jimmy Choi’s remarkable prowess? He turned his early-onset Parkinson’s diagnosis at 27 into being a four-season veteran of American Nija Warrior and marathon runner.

Just like a powerful life force runs wild in the garden, God’s gallery of fruition, that invisible power shows up as the outliers of Parkinson’s. People are defying old expectations of PD. Transformation is possible. Flowering happens.


For more information on the   Pro PD study by Dr. Laurie Mischley, and learning more about how exercise, lifestyle, nutrition, and social support contributes to living well with Parkinson’s contact Dr. Laurie Mischley, naturopath doctor and researcher at Education is Medicine.


Sage Bennet, Ph.D lives in Laguna Woods with her wife, Sandy, and their two dogs, Chloe and Freddy. She teaches philosophy and world religions online and is the author of Wisdom Walk: Nine Practices for Creating Peace and Balance from the World’s Spiritual Traditions. Please send comments to [email protected].


Sage Sojourns August, 2021

As the body changes, what is left is soul.

Something Takes Over

by Sage Bennet

I love boxing. The smell of leather gloves, the pitter patter rhythm of the speed bag, learning the names of punches—Jab. Cross. Hook. Uppercut—all connect me with something familiar, yet elusive. Where does this joy come from, I wonder?

Memory transports me to childhood and I am a tomboy growing up in Brooklyn. Life is grand--playing stickball, running bases, boxing--until Norman moves in. He is twelve, straight, red hair and freckles, I am nine, short and wide, with curls I try to flatten every morning with  brush and water.  One day we are choosing sides for stickball.

Norman looks down at me and snarls: “I’m not playing with a girl.”  Then he swats me away like I’m an insignificant bug.

I step towards him and try to look menacing. It does not work well; he towers over me.

“Get outa here, runt,” he says sliding his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

I refuse to move.

Then he pushes me, his right hand shoving my left shoulder.  This is bad.  I know I have to hold my ground. But how? Then something takes over.

“Put up your dukes,” I say bringing my fists to my face, legs apart, shifting my weight, side to side. No one is more surprised than I am.

Norman laughs at me and looks away.  I do what I have to do.  I swing at his face with my left, closed fist, thrusting my whole body into it, as if my life depends on it. Jab, Cross. He is not expecting the punch, and he underestimates me.

Red-faced Norman goes down. Not only does he fall to the sidewalk, but he also lands in a puddle. While everyone is laughing at him, I am thanking God my life is spared. Call it a lucky punch, a supernatural power, grace; I cannot explain it.

Six decades later my life is good.  I have a job, family, and friends I love. Then out of nowhere a Parkinson’s diagnosis hits me by surprise.  Jab, Hook.  Stunned, disoriented, I stumble around. Then something takes over. I join a Parkinson’s support group; I hear a speaker on exercise as medicine. I join her gym, Rogue Physical Therapy and Wellness. I befriend others who have PD.

I am a make-love-not-war kind of gal, who accompanies spiders out the front door on a paper towel. But on those days when it feels like Parkinson’s towers over me--my arms feel like noodles, my feet feel like lead pipes clamped to the ground-- I know how to fight back. Exercise.  In boxing classes, I hit hard at Parkinson’s, throwing punches like my life depends on it.  Strength returns to my arms, lightness to my steps, my inner boxer comes alive, and I am playing to win.

I do not look away or underestimate the power of Parkinson’s. Neither do I underestimate the greater soul power behind my punches. I have Norman to thank for that.

Jab. Cross.

Jab. Cross. Uppercut.




Sage Bennet, Ph.D lives in Laguna Woods with her wife, Sandy, and their two dogs, Chloe and Freddy. She teaches philosophy and world religions online and is the author of Wisdom Walk: Nine Practices for Creating Peace and Balance from the World’s Spiritual Traditions.


Parkinson’s Got My Voice. Can I Get it Back Now?

by Peter Whyte

I have achieved a reasonable measure of success in my 40 plus years of business. I co-founded seven companies. I even started and sold a business in 18 months, and that was 6 years after my Parkinson’s diagnosis. As a business start-up guy I was always raising capital to start, operatec, grow or buy a company. I was always talking up a storm to one or more investors somewhere.

I learned a few lessons about pitching ideas, and one of them is to think of a voice as if it was a musical instrument. Pace or velocity changes, volume control, pitch and even ‘timber’ of one’s voice, the softness or coarseness that comes from the throat, can change the listener’s receptivity and willingness to listen longer and comprehend more.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2006. I had a DBS (deep brain stimulator) installed in 2010. My speech articulation was perfect in 2010, pre DBS. My symptoms improved marginally with a DBS installed, but I soon began to notice changes in my speech, that began in my jaw. It took years for it to really start a downward trend. In 2019 I really began to speak “slurganese,” some drooling started. I was adequately warned by my movement disorder doctor that a side effect of DBS is increased chance of speech impairment in time. I guess it was time.

I found a Big & Loud speech program at Mission Hospital and got hooked up with a Speech Therapist who spoke clearly and cared about her patients. But, I got sidetracked (translated, that means, I didn’t have the discipline to finish the program), and since I hadn’t ever met anybody who had completed and benefitted from the program, I wasn’t motivated enough to go back and finish the work. I now regret leaving early, because my voice is now at its worst ever. I rationalized not getting through this program because at the same time I was trying desperately to complete an album of my songs. Parkinson’s and I were in a race, me to finish my album and Parkinson’s to throw a monkey wrench into things. I got 11 or my 12 songs finished. The one that didn’t quite get finished was the most important to me though, a song I wrote for my Father.

My music making days were coming to an end. My prime singing range, or octave, was compressing slowly and my guitar playing fingers were no longer cooperating. In hindsight I thought singing every day held off the deterioration of my voice, so the program at Mission Hospital could wait. My voice and hands were losing ground to Parkinson’s. Slowly, but surely.

Another thing I loved, but lost because of my voice, was mentoring young adults in the ways and means of entrepreneurship. I called them my ‘Biz Kids.’ Mentoring allowed me to impart the experience and skills I had acquired over 4 decades of business life, and it was a great way to stay dialed in to the ever-moving technology sector where my interest lay. I loved sending a young person back to the streets armed with a new skill, tip or solution to their business problems. Many of those meetings were just me telling them a story, masking a lesson. Music and business building weren’t the only things I lost by letting my vocal capability erode.

The ability to communicate verbally was a big reason for any success I had, so losing my voice is devastating for me. Consider how many different situations benefit by having a good speaking voice. Negotiating an upgrade for a hotel room or airline tickets on your next vacation, public speaking engagements or asking questions in group meetings such as support group events. How about trying to get extra ketchup with your burger, or explaining what is wrong with your burger, or cheering for your favorite team, which might be your grandkid's soccer team. Don’t forget telling stories and jokes, and then there is talking to your dog. I know you talk to your dog.

The boost you feel when you get your hotel room upgraded to a suite, or when you get the extra package of ketchup, are all about the dopamine one can generate. Winning a game, or a bet, getting a present or remembering your anniversary day, and laughter, especially laughter, generates bursts of dopamine. We need dopamine.

Life is better when you can express yourself with your voice. Don’t lose your voice. It’s too important to allow it to slip away.

Listen to a clip of Peter's music here.


Sage Sojourns June, 2021

As the body changes, what is left is soul.

Rise Up

by Sage Bennet

I awake on Tuesday at 7:00 a.m., a day I will not be going to the gym. Morning light streams through the window. It’s another beautiful, southern California day. My meds have kicked in. Dopamine flows through my brain. I head toward the treadmill that is against the wall in my home office. A large print of sailboats with white sails, sandy beach, and palm trees hangs within view. I have a desire to mount this steed and ride like the wind. The promise of reducing my symptoms and slowing the progression of Parkinson’s is within reach if only I can get on the grey, steely machine and start stepping, one foot in front of the other, alternating long strides. I’ll feel better, less stiff, more mentally alert.  Get on the treadmill.  Instead, I’m pulled backwards in the opposite direction, into the inertia vortex of bradykinesia, slow movement, a common Parkinson’s symptom. How am I going to breakthrough to high intensity aerobic, exercise, 5-7 times a week, 60-80% of heart capacity, for 30 minutes or more, when I feel like I’m walking uphill through molasses?

Granted, it is hard to go from minus ten to 60, from bradykinesia to fast movement. Even if I have self-compassion instead blame for not breaking through to high intensity exercise, yet, I still need a solution. I need help. A prayer.

I sit at my desk writing this blog. I have repeated these Tuesday mornings all month. Even though I’ve gotten my heart rate up through circuit training and boxing, I don’t feel like I’ve broken through. I start to sink into discouragement. Then. From out of nowhere, I hear the lyrics by Andra Day:

And I’ll rise up. I’ll rise like the day. I’ll rise up. I’ll rise unafraid. I’ll rise up. And I’ll do it a thousand times again.”


I find a youtube and blast the song over and over until I am walking fast on my treadmill, past the cramps in my legs, the tightness in my chest, one long stride after another, carried by the soul behind the words.  “I’ll rise up. High like the waves. I’ll rise up In spite of the ache. I’ll rise up. And I’ll do it a thousand times again.”

            (Note to self: Make a playlist.)

“Sometimes people break through and don’t even know it,” my PT guru, Claire McLean at Rogue, said. This surprised me. She recounted working with a client on the treadmill consistently over a period of time. One day he was walking at a higher mph speed than he’d ever done before.  The breakthrough was unintentional and unplanned.  Something similar happened to me that very day. I was warming up on the treadmill and the machine jumped to a higher intensity than I had intended.  My friend, Ann, was on the treadmill next to me, jogging lightly and easily. My body followed suit and I started to jog. It was only for a few minutes but, undeniably, I was running.  When I got off the treadmill I exclaimed: “One day I hope to be able to jog.” Friends at the gym reminded me: “You already did it.”  My mind still had trouble grasping it. I hadn’t considered that breaking through pertains to beliefs about what is possible.

Another surprise I discovered was the positive power of anger. Not one, but two men I work out with, who have Parkinson’s, said: “Get angry –at being stuck, having Parkinson’s, the heat, or whatever. Just channel the anger into the propulsion to move forward.” I’ll try it.

Asking for help opened me to community.  Each and every person I spoke to said it was hard to exercise at high intensity, and they still did it anyway, reaping great benefits. I am inspired by my fellows. Glad we journey together.  “All we need, all we need is hope, and for that we have each other, for that for we have each other. And we will rise, we will rise, we’ll rise, oh, oh, we’ll rise….”


Sage Bennet, Ph.D lives in Laguna Woods with her wife, Sandy, and their two dogs, Chloe and Freddy. She teaches philosophy and world religions online and is the author of Wisdom Walk: Nine Practices for Creating Peace and Balance from the World’s Spiritual Traditions.


Sage Sojourns – May, 2021

As the body changes, what is left is soul.

Conversations with a Peppermint Tree

by Sage Bennett

sage bennettThis week I delighted in a post-COVID, late morning coffee with my friend, Marianne. Sitting on the outdoor patio of a coffee shop, we exchanged stories about how we wound up in Orange County, California.

I had been living in Marina del Rey, California, on a boat, a 35-foot motor yacht named Sophia with my wife and poodle-bichon mix dog. After receiving my Parkinson’s diagnosis, we knew that it would be better to live more stably on land, but I was reluctant to leave the westside. My friend nodded with understanding. “Sure, everybody likes it there. What finally changed so you could make the move?”

I explained my process. Over a few months we looked at properties at a 55 plus senior community in Laguna Woods. With every step I was stuck in resistance. I didn’t want to leave my old life. I didn’t want to accept that I had PD and may need other accommodations in the future. I didn’t want to confront the movie in my mind of a possible dim future because of PD.

“On one visit we had narrowed our house hunt to two properties, but I was still tangled in ambivalence,” I told my friend.

I walked outside to clear my mind and came upon a tall, peppermint tree. Drawn to its sprawling outreach of branches I felt welcomed by its beauty, shade, and peace. I leaned into the tree with an open palm, feeling its striated, dark brown trunk, warm and strong to my touch. Within a few timeless moments I felt assured this was a good place to lay my own roots and that all was well. I felt free to move forward.

I cannot explain my experience with this tree, but I do know I am not alone in recognizing the value of being in nature. In Taoism, intuitively following the flow of nature leads to a life of balance and right action. Native American spirituality offers the wisdom practice: let nature be your teacher; the sacred abides in every rock and leaf. The Japanese suggest forest bathing to attain inner peace and well-being.

I had not thought about that peppermint tree in many years until that recent conversation with my friend over coffee. But I remember that day deeply and it helps me see clearly. I don’t have to live in fear of a dim PD future. Although my future is unknown, a growing body of facts based in research now exist.  Studies show that exercise, plant-based eating, and positive social connections have a lot to do with the way PD progresses and many people live active, vital lives, despite having Parkinson’s for fifteen even twenty years. I can help create, and even transcend, my future. No matter how PD uniquely expresses in my life, the enchantment of nature and the secrets of the universe are ever present, waiting to reveal the mystery.  As Emerson muses: “We live in the lap of immense intelligence.…”



Sage Bennet, Ph.D lives in Laguna Woods with her wife, Sandy, and their two dogs, Chloe and Freddy. She teaches philosophy and world religions online and is the author of Wisdom Walk: Nine Practices for Creating Peace and Balance from the World’s Spiritual Traditions.