Category Archives: painting

Painting with Parkinsons

Below is correspondence I received yesterday from Anne Atkin who sponsors and facilitates Painting for Parkinsons workshops in Australia. Anne has been a former guest on the Parkinsons Recovery Radio Show. As you will read below her life has been terribly exciting recently!

Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.
Pioneers of Recovery

I am well and truly into my second book and it will be out in the first half of next year. I had to put it off for a while because our Federal Government gave me $20,000 to set up new Painting with Parkinson’s groups. Then there was a fire where I store all my art materials for my groups and I lost everything.
The community was wonderful and within 2 weeks I had enough money donated to replace it all!

In my new book ‘Still laughing. My journey continues’ I will be talking a lot about how neuroplasticity has changed my life. I will also talk about mindfulness, wellness etc .I get involved with as much research as I can and my neurologist said that he doesn’t need to see me as much as he use to and whatever I am doing, keep doing it.

One thing that is happening here at a big university is that first year medical students are taught all about meditation, mindfulness etc. And I am now part of a program called the Patient Teaching Program where I help student doctors with how to question a patient who is chronically ill.

Anne Atkin

Painting for Parkinsons

My guest on the radio show this week was Anne Atkin who has made remarkable discoveries for herself about what helps her get sustained relief from her symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Her radio show interview is remarkable in every respect and I strongly encourage everyone to listen. 

Anne was kind enough to send me a copy of her book, Living and Laughing with Parkinsons which I have now devoured. I did not stop reading and laughing until I landed on the final page.

Her book is a thorough and comprehensive review of the symptoms that are associated with Parkinsons and the frustrations that they present. Anne has drawn provocative and very funny cartoons that complement each explanation of a symptom and that embody the many challenges she personally encountered. You can purchase her book (which Anne sends to people to any country in the world) on her website:

Living and Laughing with Parkinsons is a beautifully written and illustrated book  that reveals the work of an incredibly creative woman. Anne points out in the book that the creativity of many people with Parkinson’s soars and blossoms.  Her work soundly confirms this hypothesis. When you see her book you will understand why,

In addition to sending me her book, Anne forwarded a letter she wrote in response to a question about what she has been doing to get relief from her symptoms, Anne gave me permission to post the letter which follow. May this not however be a substitute for listening to her interview which is full of golden treasures for anyone who currently experiences the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.
Pioneers of Recovery  

I am very careful about how I describe what is happening to me. Recovery is a word that is too strong; I like to think that I have reached an equilibrium and a state of balance with Parkinson’s. I feel that I am always improving some aspect of myself. If you think you have recovered, then you may allow bad habits to come back whereas to keep in balance you have to keep working at it. It all becomes second nature.

Yes, it is true that I no longer use a cane and that has happened because my quad muscles are much stronger and that helps balance. Also, my overall balance has improved because I spend time just practising standing on one leg then the other.

I don’t do hours of exercise because I would be bored silly. I exercise no more than 10 minutes at a time but at frequent intervals. This way I don’t get tired or bored. I do all my own housework, which is also exercise! I love gardening and I will talk about gardening more.

I don’t do anything that is complicated or difficult. Nor do you have to do everything exactly the way I do it. After a while you will find your own pathway and it will feel right and comfortable.

So I use a combination of:

•    creativity
•    socialization- being with people from all walks of life is the way to go. Don’t isolate yourself.
•    humor – develop a sense of humor as laughter is so good for our bodies
•    exercise – and you don’t have to join a gym. There is a great book on exercise for us and it is called ‘Delay the Disease.’ It is by Jackie Russell and David Zid.
•    Mindfulness
•    Wellness   These three are handled beautifully on the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation website
•    Visualization
•    Positive thinking
•    Not giving in to negative thoughts

In everything I do I have a little catch-cry –

‘You’ll never, never know if you don’t have a go.’

You can retrain your brain through thinking positively. It is very important if you have depression.

Whoops! I forgot about gardening. Gardening is an activity that is both creative and exercise. You get the best of both worlds. I love gardening and spend at least an hour a day in mine.

My book ‘Living and laughing with Parkinson’s’ is just at the very beginning of my journey and it is my second book which is being published later this year which will do a lot of talking about the dot points above.

I hope I have given you some ideas but I must impress on you that  you can find you own path to wellness and mindfulness. There is more than one pathway because Parkinson’s is such a mixture of symptoms. We are all different and therefore our pathways are going to be all different too.

I also started this journey about 4 years ago and the further along the pathway I went, the more easily I found it to take control of some symptoms. For example, anxiety attacks are now no problem because when I feel one starting, I just visualize myself drawing, or sniffing my roses or I see myself bathed in sunlight with, sitting on a hill and watching the clouds.



I do believe that the complexity of Parkinson’s means that there is a complexity of different ways you can tackle the condition. I concentrated on the motor skills because I like being physically independent. Plus, retraining the brain is vitally important. I hope people see that if a late middle-aged mum from Australia can help herself then it is something within the reach of most.

But the key word is Persistence.


Anne Atkin

Learning to Live with a Chronic Disease

Florence Caplow is a conservation
botanist, Soto Zen priest, and writer.
For the last ten years her primary
practice has been learning to live –
with some kind of grace – with a
chronic and painful auto-immune
illness, diagnosed as Undifferentiated
Connective Tissue Disease.

The illness forced her to give up
full-time work. She has chosen to spend
several years without a home: in retreat,
in the mountains and deserts, and
wherever she’s called to be.

Florence talks about her interview with
Michael Sawyer, Zen priest with Parkinson’s,
who died in 2008. Michael told Florence that
the best years of his life were the last
five because of the joy he experienced
through his painting. Florence tells us Michael
was a true inspiration to everyone who knew
him. So is she.

EVENT: Learning to Live with a Chronic Disease
To hear the recording, click this link now …

Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.
Parkinsons Recovery