Where are you right now? Not just the physical location, but emotionally, in your own head? There is more to feeling peace than your location. There is more to your location than the address where you are, what you can see, hear or smell, because there is more to your world than just the space you fill.
Take a moment to look around. Take a moment to look within. Ask yourself what you are feeling right now, right where you are. Are you feeling anger, anxiety, comfort, ease? Are you relaxed or tense? Those are just as much an indicator of where you are than the longitude and latitude of your location – even more so in many cases.
Every sight, every smell, every breath of wind you feel is processed by your brain in micro-seconds. Your brain takes 13 milliseconds to attach memories to the scents and sounds you experience. Those are what tell you to beware or to relax. It even goes deeper than that. It dictates how to respond.
We have all walked into a room or a party and gotten a sense that it will either be a dud or a great time. We have all walked into a meeting and instantly knew we were either going to kill it or it was just going to be 60 minutes of living hell. Those sensations quickly begin to shape your world, creating a better or worse situation for yourself to live in.
I bring this up for a very simple reason, all of those memories and expectations, as well as the memories yet to be experienced are attachments your brain layers onto a location. They are what shape your life. They are just as important to your well-being as the location you have traveled to. They are what make you comfortable or uncomfortable no matter where you are. They are what make you happy or sad, excited or bored, laying out the scene you will have to live through.
What does this look like in the real world? If you find yourself staring out the window while breathing in the sun and the sky outside, perhaps being cooped up in a floor of cubicles is not the job for you. I know you’re working hard for the windows of that corner office, but maybe the pleasure of having a corner office will wear off quickly as you once again start to feel trapped no matter how hard you worked for it, because it will never give you the escape you associate with living. Don’t worry. It’s not for everyone.
Some people are not comfortable in the great outdoors. They feel anxiety because to them, behind every tree and rock their your brain sees danger, creating stress with every step they take. Some people take to the ocean immediately. Others prefer the hardness of land beneath their feet.
There is a simple reason for this. Everyone is different. Everyone’s genetic makeup is unique, as is their upbringing. It is why it is so important to be aware of the places you are most at peace.
When you find yourself in a new location, take a step back and assess your feelings without judgment or comment. Breathe in slowly to bring yourself to a place of calm.
Begin to find the threads that connect those places to the happiness or the stress in your mind. Find out for yourself what makes you feel at ease or stressed, then use those threads as a way to weave your life into one you will love day in and day out.
That is how to use modern meditation as a tool to create a life of well being for yourself, no matter where others may find it.
Be well, and I hope this helps.
If you would like to have more posts like this emailed to you, please sign up on the upper right hand corner of this page. Plus we will send you a free guided meditation – The Buddha’s Breath.
https://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Where-Are-You-e1489418566951.jpg200318jeffcannonhttps://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.pngjeffcannon2017-03-13 11:27:232017-03-13 11:27:23Where Are You - Modern Meditation
There will always be days, weeks, even months when you feel as if the delusions of your life are over-running your life. It’s okay, we all get them. This is when it is time to wake up to the real world, not the one you think you are living in, but to the real world that is all around you. It may feel like you need a boost or a shot of caffeine. More than likely you are simply feeling tired of living your life in delusion. Stop thinking in terms of success and failure, winning or losing, think in terms of delusions.
I know it is not easy, but these tips may help get you back on your path and overcome you own nature – to truly Awaken to your own Simple Truth.
Here are a few ways to jumpstart your engine to keep you moving in the right direction. After all, it is your life and now is the time to start living it your way, only this time with a meditative twist:
Ask yourself when was the last time you got 8 hours of sleep? When was the last time you sat down to a healthy meal? When was the last time you sat down with a friend and listened, really listened? What you hear may surprise you.
Take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back, and smile. With every inhalation feel the relaxing strength of each breath flow from the top of your head to the tips of your fingers and toes. Begin with your scalp, feel each relaxing breath flow up to your scalp, then down to your eyebrows, your eyes, your cheeks, your lips and your jaw line. Feel that relaxing strength pass down your neck, your shoulders, your arms and your fingers. Feel each breath flow down to your hips, your legs and your toes. Relax and feel the ebb and flow of that energy as it flows through you, lifting you, giving you the Focused Calm to move forward.
Reach out and help someone. It does not have to be earth shattering. It can start with a smile, holding the door for someone, being fully present as you listen to them without judgment. Make someone else feel good about themselves without seeking anything in return. Then smile to yourself for doing so.
Touch the earth. Even if that is the side of a building or the pavement, a sidewalk or an office floor. Remind yourself that they are connected to the earth in some way. Tune yourself into that connection and smile as you follow that connection no matter how thin it may be. Remember energy travels though the thinnest wire to illuminate a lamp from the tiniest of batteries. Do the same as you re-energize.
Write down five things that you are proud of. Put that list in your pocket or handbag. Remind yourself that you have done great things in your life and will do many more in the future.
Stand in front of a mirror, raise your hands above your head in a power pose and stare at your smile in your reflection. Think of the great things you have achieved in your life. When your mind turns to dark thoughts return your gaze to your smile and say to yourself, “I am smiling through my delusions.”
Acknowledge what is happening in your life. Label the instances where you think things went wrong. Then acknowledge that you still have fingers and toes to feel the world with, you have eyes to see the world with, you have ears to hear with, you have a mouth to taste with, and if all those senses are gone, you still have a heart and your spirit to steer your moral compass by.
Stop picking up your mobile phone, stay off of social media [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram]. Pick up a book, sit back, and read instead.
Stop comparing yourself to others. You are not someone else, they are not you. Just know that they are just as insecure as you are. Now, laugh at yourself for being foolish and only seeing the curated life they want you to see.
Do not allow negative thoughts in. Every time you feel one bubbling up, call it out, label it, and return to the very real world that you are in. Scroll through your five senses as you look around, listen, touch and smile until you find one teeny, tiny bit of beauty in your world. Trust me, it is there. Feel that bit of beauty expand until it fills your world, the real world you are in, free from delusions.
[BONUS] Train yourself to quit the negative and focus on the positive. Start today. Know that we are trained at birth to see the rain more than the sun. It is human nature, but it does not have to be your nature.
To receive a weekly email with similar messages of Awakening simply submit your information on the upper right of this page. We will also send you a bonus Guided Meditation as our gift to you.
https://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Awaken-Image-e1488471647109.jpg200200jeffcannonhttps://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.pngjeffcannon2017-03-02 11:27:182017-03-02 11:27:18Awaken from Delusions
The negativity and suspicions that are your first response in most situations is a survival skill. It is a skill deeply rooted in your old brain – that part of the brain that we share with cats and dogs, toads and even alligators. It is the fight or flight mechanism that has kept us alive and brought us to the top of the food-chain over the past few millennia.
It has worked wonderfully up until now. But in the 21st Century world we have created for ourselves, what once kept your ancestors alive is now holding you back from living the life you want to live, happily, positively, and productively.
The key to winning your life back is not to get bogged down in how to rewire your brain, but in how to hit the pause button; to help you overcome your old habits and begin the process of living your life, your way. Something we like to call Humanity 2.0.
Doing this is a lot easier than you may think. All you have to do is to work backward.
First, simply be aware of the way you respond to the world around you. Keep a journal for this if you need to, but do it. It can be as easy as emailing yourself from your mobile device, or as deeply rooted as stepping away and writing down your emotions to the triggers in your life.
Take note of the moments when you first start to feel defensive, or when you first feel as if you are being attacked. It may be during your commute, or by someone in your office. It can even be with someone you love and trust within your own family.
Make a note of what this feels like. Do you feel anger or frustration, even jealousy? It will probably include a brief adrenaline rush, as your amigdala pumps more adrenaline into your system, preparing you for what it thinks is a fight or flight situation.
Second, rather than responding immediately to the provocation, physically step away from the event and make a note of what just occurred.
Breathe deeply. As you settle into that breath feel yourself calm down and smile.
Third, when you have time return to your journal or re-read your emails in search of those things that sent you spiraling into your old habits of responding before having the chance to think. They may not be found in the events that happened, but in the way those events made you feel.
You will quickly find a connection between the incidences that set you off, your triggers, and the emotions they stirred up.
Your triggers may include a car that cut you off on your commute, or a person who cut in front of you as you walked down or the look on an associate while in a meeting at work.
Make note of your triggers, also make a note of how they made you feel. Your emotions are what connects the triggers within your brain, and are the key to creating a more positive response to the world around you.
Take note of the kind of events that your old brain recognizes as a threat. You cannot stop these events form happening, what you can do is train your brain how to respond to them in a way that you are comfortable with.
As you grow aware of your triggers, you can begin to avoid those situations where your triggers are more likely to be activated. You can also go further. You can train your brain to respond in a way that is more befitting of the world you now live in. You can even set your base reaction to be no reaction at all.
This frees up your mind so that instead of generating the negative thoughts of your ancestors, you can put a smile on your face as you seek out a more positive response to your situation.
You know, a more positive internal conversation like “I wonder what is wrong in that person’s life, that they feel it necessary to race in front of me,” or “what a shame they cannot enjoy this beautiful morning,” or “Look at the rain, how beautiful it is even when it comes in sideways.”
Get the idea?
Remember, you cannot change the world around you, but you can change how you respond to it, and that will make all the difference in your life. What you will notice is that at first it may seem impossible, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Even better, your positive responses will expand into other parts of your life.
Instead of reaching for food or alcohol as a temporary solution, you will begin to search for other, healthier solutions. You may start yoga or running to bring calm into your life. You may approach the person who carries your trigger and suggest a better way to handle situations. Or, you may simply smile as you ride the waves of your life with happiness, rather than suspicion, as the core to your new response mechanism.
Try this, and feel free to respond to let me know how it has worked for you.
Be well, and I hope this helps…
https://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Greater-Positivity.jpg250250jeffcannonhttps://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.pngjeffcannon2016-03-15 09:08:172016-03-15 09:08:17Positivity Comes From Within
The Simple Truth is that many of you do not need meditation. you simply need to stop grasping.
Centuries ago, letting go was probably enough to bring calm into someone’s life. It was really all you needed to do to remove the stress that may have built up in your life. Life back then was pretty immediate, but there was simply not that much information moving back and forth to cause the kind of stress you have in the first few minutes of your day.
In today’s world, however, you are connected 24/7. You are overwhelmed with Megadata and microbytes. The level information spinning you comes in through all of your devices. The Simple Truth to it all is that most of it has little direct relevance to your life. The result is that you spend a lot of time on irrelevant topics and fail to actually live your life, in your way.
This year, make your life less about “Letting Go” and more about not rasping in the modern the first place. The simple truth is that most of the information coming across your screens is irrelevant. Most of it deals with subjects that will never effect your life.
Some of the rest may be important, but there is little, if anything, that you can do about it; no matter how hard you try. What remains is so distorted by the media that uncovering the truth is rarely worth the time and effort you will have to put in, in order to dig it out.
What this means for you is that if you truly want to find your own peace and calm, then stop grasping at the straws that inevitably fly by. Why hold onto opinions from pundits so that you can “Let it Go” later on. Stop carrying all of this information around with you. It will only add weight to your already complex life.
In the short-term it will prevent you from being nimble and able to move quickly. In the long -term it will wear you out and exhaust you. Either way, stop grasping at straws. Simply before those straws become issues you now need to Let Go of.
Teach yourself to live with an appreciation of the present moment you are in. Train yourself to see the information that is out there, but to ignore the distractions that are all around you. Do not put on the blinders all together, but recognize what is relevant so that you are free to focus on the things that effect your life directly.
Once you are able to do that you can begin to expand your sphere of information and to begin taking on additional topics when you are ready.
It is okay to admit you cannot do it all. Nobody can. There is simply too much going on in today’s world for your brain to handle it all, and that is okay.
When you stop grasping, you will no longer need to let go. Better still, you will be free from the weight of all that irrelevant information you now have in that baggage we call life.
That truly is the answer – to simply focus on just one task at a time.
Your brain is a wonderful organ, but it is not meant to multi-task. It is only meant to address one task at a time. What you think is multi-tasking is actually your brain ping ponging between individual tasks very, very rapidly. The result? Exhausting you and reducing your ability to perform tasks that require higher cognitive functions.
The moment you try to multi-task is the moment you lose it all. You brain gets overwhelmed. You become more easily confused, more easily frustrated, and unable to identify and manage the details.
How many times have you arrived at your desk to find all that work you did the night before to be a mess?
Removing stress and distractions from your life simply means returning to a point of singularity again and again. That means approaching a single point of focus by bringing your mind and your body to rest on doing one thing at a time. And yes, a key to this lies in your breath and your ability to focus on it.
And that is called meditation. It is why meditation works so well in the modern world we have created for ourselves. There is no mystery to it, it is simply bringing our brain from a confused state while attempting to do everything, to doing just one thing at a time.
So mono-task instead. When you are washing dishes, simply was dishes. When you are eating, simply eat. When you are working on a project, Simply work on that project. Do not try to squeeze one more task into what you are doing.
Instead, slow down and focus on the task before you.
Learn more at our event on this Monday evening [February 22, 2016] at 5:30. It takes place at the Mulberry branch of the New York Public Library. Learn more by clicking here or send us an email.
With 2016 off and running. why not start on the right path with our Meditation4All program?
We are arranging a number of free workshops for 2016, and the first one is coming up quickly.
On February 22nd, we are hosting a workshop at the Mulberry Branch of the New York Public Library. It is called Zen For Busy People.
As a part of our Meditation4All program it is free to everyone.
So take a look on our calendar at the Simple-Truth website for the 22nd, or copy the information below:
New York Public Library – Mulberry Branch
Monday, February 22, 2016
5:30 pm – 6:45
10 Jersey Street
New York, NY
We look forward to an enjoyable and enlightening evening and year ahead, and it all starts on the 22nd. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out at email@example.com. It will be a bit of short guided meditations, a bit of conversation, and a lot of AHA moments all around.
We look forward to connecting in 2016 and to seeing where it will lead.
Enjoy the start of your year and be well,
https://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Event-Image-NYPL-Mulberry-010816-e1454689800489.jpg200250jeffcannonhttps://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.pngjeffcannon2016-02-05 11:33:002016-02-05 11:33:00Zen For Busy People - A Free Workshop
Before our session started a new student asked me about God and meditation. “How does it all work?,” she asked.
These are two terms I increasingly hear together, especially since the rebirth that meditation is experiencing these days. It used to be that meditation was so closely tied to Buddhism that one just accepted they were born of the same cloth. But no more, and rightly so. Now that the idea of God has pulled away from the Biblical character raining down fire and brimstone on sinners, and has become a more Loving entity, more synonymous with the teachings of Christ or Mohammad, or even Abraham, finding God within yourself is a much easier concept to pursue.
It is why so many monks, like myself, have found a balance when they practice meditation. Regardless of religious affiliation meditation is a way to transcend the physical distractions of the body and find the higher self we so often seek. It is within that higher self, that we begin to touch upon the divine.
With practice, meditation will take you to a higher level of awareness, to a place where your consciousness is free to play without the pain and distractions of the human experience we are all a part of. In so many ways meditation allows you to find enlightenment in your body and mind so that you open up to the connections we all share on a more spiritual level.
Even if you are not a practitioner of any religion or consider yourself an agnostic or an atheist, there are elements behind a good meditation practice that will connect you with those around you, uncovering the Love that is common among all sentient beings.
“How does this work?” she asked.
I explained to her that meditation is not about floating on a cloud of Nirvana. It is a practice, and like any practice it takes time to develop. We do not all become Beethoven’s or Olympic class gymnasts over night. We sit. We learn to quiet our minds. We allow our focus to develop so that our awareness can grow. As our awareness grows, our consciousness expands. And when that happens we can begin to adopt more advanced meditation techniques.
I led her through basic meditation; sitting, breathing, acknowledging and letting go. Then I led her through the Simple Truth Method, through the thought interrupting Out Breath exercise and through the connection meditation that helps you become aware the people that are near you and support you through the natural Love that is within all of us. I then showed her how to weave the Love, understanding and empathy of these people into the intentions for you to follow, is the basis for how you want to live your life.
“That is how you find God in your meditations. Not as an angry being who is watching your every move, but as a caring, loving, understanding entity that represents the Love that flows within and around each of us.”
She smiled and said thank you. I held her hand. “Remember, there are two levels of meditation. The first trains you how to sit, how to calm yourself, and how to rid yourself of the stress and distractions of the world we live in.
“The second allows you to transcend this world and introduce yourself to the Love that is God on your terms.”
https://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/God-Meditation.jpg265571jeffcannonhttps://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.pngjeffcannon2016-01-22 10:04:022016-01-22 10:04:02Q+A: Find God in Your Meditation
Breathe when you are finding the stress and anxiety
We all so often talk about
Let your mind settle
And admit that you are human
As we all are.
https://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Peace-is-Within-You-e1450709986159.jpg228200jeffcannonhttps://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.pngjeffcannon2015-12-21 10:02:122015-12-21 10:02:12Meditation: Peace is Within You
This is such a wonderful Journey we are all on, let’s travel it together.
Whether you follow me or not, you have probably noticed I not been posting for a while.
I took an unexpected sabbatical almost eight weeks ago, something my doctors refered to as a series of severe seizures. Sabbatical or seizures – the implication is really a matter of semantics; the reality depends on what you do with your time.
From the doctors perspective, these were not the kind of seizures that jumps into people’s minds, complete with dramatic tremors and spasms. These were more internal than that – the kind that shuts off the connection between the cognitive segments of your brain and the motor skills of your body.
I have lived through enough of these to get over the shock pretty quickly. The first few days of my forced sabbatical are nice. All of my needs were taken care of and people respond to my smiles and eye rolls without too much conversation.
I was able to see, hear, and taste, I was able to contemplate big ideas and follow them to their eventual end, free from distractions, I just could not do much about them.
There was plenty of time for meditation and contemplation. The problem was I could not really read or write; my brain simply could not track a sentence let alone an entire paragraph that covered more than a single subject. The thoughts just overloaded my wiring – you will have to wait for my article about multitasking and distractions.
What I have learned is that time becomes irrelevant. Things take as long as they take and there is not much you can do about that, except stay focused on your thought.
Over the years I have learned that if you are able to write down the big ideas and the finer points, as my father taught me to do, you end up with a pretty amazing list of topics to dive into when you can write. You also have a list of well thought out points to support them with.
This is why I call it a sabbatical. With time not being an issue, I am left with little to do except to ponder and let my mind wander as my rehabilitation gets my body caught up with my brain, and my brain with my mind – connecting all that wiring, as it were, to re-teach me to walk, to read, to write, and yes, to smile.
If I am successful, I am left with what I think are, a pretty amazing list of articles to jump into, with such subjects as:
The Hypocrisy of the Hippocratic Oath
Returning the Barriers Back into Your Life
Even Yogis Duke It Out
There is Always A Choice – The Problem Lies in Taking Action
Dreaming is okay, but at some point you have to work for it
Estee Lauder & Colin Powell: 5 Tips That Will Focus You Mind, Body & Soul
Hipsters and Hippies – The Mistakes They Made The Last Time Around
Also, we will begin again with our weekly emails “Mindful Moments,” s well as the launch of our much awaited program: 5 Weeks to Meditation.
This is a wonderful Journey we are all on, join me, let’s travel it together.
https://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Meditation-is-a-reality-check1-e1449188716644.jpg250317jeffcannonhttps://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.pngjeffcannon2015-12-03 19:26:322015-12-03 19:26:32Wonderful Journey Through Meditation
This past Saturday I practiced yoga for the first time in two weeks – it helped align my muscles.
Yesterday morning I enjoyed a walking meditation along the Hudson River – it helped align my mind.
Yes, the birds do sing along the Hudson. Yes there are quiet places in the middle of the world’s largest metropolis. It simply depends on where you decide to place your attention and what you decide to focus your attention on.
This post is a story of what you can do when you place your attention on a single point of focus, and where that focus can take you.
Both practices, the yoga and the walking meditation, were the first time I was able to abide them since I had a rather massive seizure on September 20th. It knocked me down and took me out for several weeks. There was no convulsions. There was a simple shutdown as my brain experienced an overload and quietly rebooted itself.
In between these events, the September seizure and my walking meditation, I have floated in a muddle of missed connections and forgotten streets, of thoughts that have gone unexpressed, and of the constant reminder that the human experience is a glorious thing to behold.
Throughout it all, I knew the information was in there, I was just unable to access it. The process of which has been a process of breathing and patience, of stopping in silence, interrupted by flashes of knowledge as my brain awakened itself.
It has been a path of following the tried and true, interrupted by frantic thoughts and the need to quiet my mind, of getting lost in a city in a well laid-out grid, of waiting on random corners as my neurons settled down, of not moving until my sense of space and direction returned to me. Of getting lost in time on a park bench, blankly contemplating a leaf in empty silence until something sparked a memory in the back of my brain and stirred my mind to life.
On September 20th, the last coherent text I sent out was at 4:39 in the afternoon. After that my wife received a call from a stranger at 6:49, telling her I was sitting in our lobby, unresponsive and not moving. Unseen by either of them, the electrical pulses in my brain had quietly lapsed as it seized.
During this time, my brain was reducing the input, shutting down my sight and my hearing as it went through its own reboot. My sight closed in on me, reducing my field of vision to a very narrow band of light. My hearing began to fail as my brain, the good computer that it is, shut off the sounds that overwhelmed it a short while before. My fingers tingled and went numb as my sole focus was to painstakingly scroll through my phone to my wife’s number in the hopes that I could find someone to dial it before everything went dark.
What usually takes seconds took me well over an hour that afternoon – all with the thought of preparing for the chance passing of a stranger.
If I could have spoken intelligibly, I knew what I would have said, but the words and thoughts were trapped deep in my mind at this point, unable to be expressed. So I sat down on the stone steps of the lobby, resigned to setting things up; remembering, forgetting, taking each step one at a time before forgetting and having to reverse direction once again, reminding myself what it was I was trying to do – prep my phone so that I could hand it to a stranger and point to the dial button.
This was how I spent the seventy minutes between those two points of contact.
I remember the conversation going on inside my head. One voice saying “this could take for hours,” the other voice saying, “Well, it’s not like we’re going anywhere anytime soon, so just breathe and focus, and move as smoothly as you can so you don’t make any mistakes.”
It was a meditation of remembering, of forgetting, of focusing and of letting go.
As luck would have it I saw movement somewhere in the lobby. I tried to speak and showed him the screen of my phone. I may have said the word “wife” but I am not sure if that is what made it out.
He called her from his phone before realizing his phone was a stranger’s number to her, and he pushed the send button on mine.
In minutes I began to hear the wail of sirens as the ambulance raced my wife for the lobby to take me to the Emergency Room at NYU.
Collapse & Recovery
My seizures are somewhat unique in a way. They are the result of 9 brain surgeries that have removed more than 20 tumors in as many years, as well as a few rounds of radiation that have left my brain swollen and angry.
It is not that I lose consciousness of what was going on around me. I am actually hyper-aware of the input coming in – I am just unable to process it into anything meaningful. I can walk up to a door, I know that on the other side of this door is my destination, but I am unable to understand how the door works. I can see the key in my hand, but I have no idea how to fit it into the keyhole, let alone to turn it in order to open the door.
In this case I was able to make it into the lobby of our building, but that was about as far as I could get. So, there I sat, in a stupor, patiently abiding my breath as I gave myself up to the actions of those around me, trusting they would do the right thing.
In so many ways these seizures remind me of the inherent kindness and goodness that is within us all. It would have been so easy for someone to grab my wallet, my mobile, or to shuffle me off to some nightmare scenario that screenwriters are so quick to turn into a blockbuster. But this has never happened.
Not once in all my experiences has anyone ever done anything other than to help, to assist, to see me through. For that I am eternally grateful. I am also eternally optimistic that the human experience is not one based on hate or anger or fear, but on love and compassion and understanding. That it is within each of us to reach out and lift up those who are in need, as has happened to me again and again and again.
This seizure followed a fairly predictable pattern. I was running a number errands and had forgotten to take my Keppra – an anti-seizure drug. I dehydrated myself and skipped lunch which lowered my electrolytes and blood sugar, in order to get one more errand done. I put myself in what I call the danger zone, by adding level of stress to the whole situation, until I ran into a market that was loud and crowded and bright with more food choices than you could ever hope to see, and that is what flipped the switch. It over-stimulated my senses with brighter lights and jostling people and more noise than I could handle; and that is when my brain just said enough.
When then the seizure starts, it comes on pretty quickly. The signs give me perhaps a thirty or forty minute warning. It is like watching my brain shut down the inputs so that it can reboot. My field of vision quickly diminishes to create a tunnel. I begin to see flashing lights. My hearing begins to dim, and I get a numbness and tingling in my fingers and toes.
On this occasion I determined I had enough time to get home.
As I focused on the streets I knew it would not be long until my speech become unintelligible. I also knew I would start forgetting how to make the connections we all take for granted – like how to use a key in a door, how to take an elevator upstairs, or how to make a cell phone work. It is the funny thing about my seizures, I conceptually understand what something does, I simply cannot for the life of me make the connections that are necessary to make it work.
It’s kind of like being a car without a driver. The engine is idles just fine, but it’s not going anywhere without someone turning the wheel or stepping on the gas, let alone being ready to step on the brake.
In some cases if I catch it in time, I can stop the seizure by taking a cold shower to lower my body temperature, drinking an electrolyte replacement designed for marathoners called Skratch, or meditating to quiet down my brain’s activity. I can even nap for a few hours, or collapse into a deep unmoving sleep, until things seem to return to a normal path of recovery.
Needless to say, this time I missed that window of opportunity.
Instead, I felt the growing disassociation with the world as it shrunk in around me as I headed home, key in hand. I remember putting myself on as direct a path as possible. It was only a few blocks to our loft, not even ten minutes, but by the time I got to our front door, I wasn’t sure how to use the key that was in my hand in the lock.
I knew what was going on, so I stopped and breathed and settled things down. I focused on my breath until a connection was pulled together and slowly slid the key in, turning it, and opening the door.
In front of me was the steel door of the elevator that would take me to our loft. I knew what the elevator was for, but by this time I could not sync up the concept of the elevator with the idea of how to operate it [i.e., put the key in the lock, turn the key and push the button for the right floor].
I also somehow knew having my wife find me collapsed in the apartment would be less desirable than accosting someone in the lobby and getting them to call her. Don’t ask me how, but this is the way my brain works in times like these.
So I sat inside the lobby with my keys in my hand and waited. My vision continued to degrade into a very narrow band of light, into which I scrolled my phone one step at a time. I remember thinking to myself, “this is just like yoga, one movement for each breath. Slow and steady,” with the idea that if I could set everything up, if someone came in, if I could catch their attention, I could just push send and give them the phone.
As you already know, a neighbor eventually did come in. I managed to garble out the idea for him to use my phone to call my wife. How he understood I have no idea, but he made the call.
Alex, I thank you for that.
06:49 – Laura sent a text that she was on her way down and calling 911
Into the ER at NYU
I remember sitting there, sweating and listening to the sirens as they approached. Alex stayed with me until the ambulance arrived. I acutely aware of my head hanging down as I focused on my breath. I was aware of everything going on around me, without placing too much attention on any one detail. It was as if my brain was absorbing the events in a very distracted way. It was detached, but taking it all in, as if floating just beneath the surface of a lagoon, watching what was going on above the surface without being able to interact with it; calm and serene.
I could not see the EMT when they came into the lobby, but remember hearing them. I was trying to say something, but realized whatever I was saying made no sense. I knew what I wanted to say, but could not get the words out, so I just let it go and let them handle the situation.
I could feel them moving me this way and that, strapping me onto a stretcher and loading me out the door. It occurred to me that this was what Stephen Hawkins must feel like. Able to take in the world around him, observing and noting from afar, without the ability to interact.
Laura climbed into the ambulance and told them NYU, and off we went. The ride itself was a benign trip through which I closed my eyes. I felt safe, knowing that from this point on, everything would be fine.
When I opened my eyes, it was to the noises and lights of the ER. We had arrived at the NYU Medical Center where the doctors have had me on file for decades. The orderlies were taking vitals and placing electrodes on my chest and head. The nurses were securing IVs into my arms. There was nothing for me to do but lie there and breathe. Everything that could be managed was being managed. I was stable.
When I woke, it was to the flashlight of a nurse checking the dilation of my eyes. It wasn’t great, but they would get better.
The key difference between my seizures and the seizures caused by something like epilepsy, is that in my case, it is all about the buildup. I hover in the yellow-zone for hours until something pushes me over the edge. I get over-stimulated by some trigger, my brain gets overloaded and simply says enough as it starts to shutdown.
After the seizure occurs, the event is over. There are no follow-up seizures. It’s a one-time event before my brain goes into repair mode, busying itself as it re-establishes the neural connections it once mapped my life to. There are no cascading of electrical impulses where the brain continues to misfire. I am not sent down into a series of seizure after seizure after seizure. And yes, I consider myself extremely lucky in this sense.
It took a day or two of observation for the doctors to confirm that my brain’s activity had normalized, after which they saw little reason to keep me. In effect, releasing me on my own recognizance.
The Road Back
What I have learned over the various surgeries and seizures that I have had, is that the physical brain is a truly remarkable organ. Not only does it have millions of connections that not only keep the body alive, but it reorders those connections every second of every day in an infinite number of combinations to create the thoughts and dreams we call the mind.
It also reprioritizes the way in which those connections are put together, in order to better respond to the world around us. A London taxi driver’s hypocampus, the area responsible for mapping and directions is heavier and more deeply folded than yours or mine. It is a survival skill they need having to drive through the more than 10,000 streets of London that have been built up over the past several thousand years – few of which follow any kind of a grid pattern.
I was reminded of this as I began to look out the window of our apartment at the streets of Soho in Manhattan. This is the haphazard area that was laid down before the grid on Manhattan was established. No right angles. No first, second, third or fourth. Instead it is a mishmash of Spring and Mercer, Prince and Wooster, it was this pattern that I needed to access before I could leave the loft.
The amazing part of relearning the streets is that the harder I tried to picture them, the more difficult it was to do so. Instead, the more I relaxed, that more I let go, the quicker the image of the streets would come to me.
On the one day I went out thinking I would wander around the reacquaint myself with the neighborhood, I got lost within half a block. I could not remember what was North or South, East or West, uptown or downtown. I had to stop against a building and breathe for several minutes until I slowly realized where I was, and more important, where our loft was.
That was enough to send me back home for a very long nap.
On my second trip out, I thought of taking a different approach. I would take a left out of the apartment and stick to one street. As I walked down the street I read the signs as they begin to spark my memory. I could feel my brain make the familiar connections that were already there.
After several days of this I begin to visualize a grid around me. It was only a few blocks, but I begin to remember the names of the streets several blocks away. I even began to see the stores on the next block as if they were appearing out of some recess in my memory.
In between, there were moments of standing on a corner for minutes on end, unwilling to go any further until my brain could catch up with where I was. I was taking baby steps, allowing my brain to familiarize itself with the neural network it had slowly established over decades.
As my brain mapped the streets of the city, I could feel other aspects of my mind coming online. I learned it helped to put everything in a very specific place, and to not take any shortcuts. Life became easier when I was able to create familiar patterns that I could return to. As these patterns established themselves within my head, I could expand upon them more easily.
The moment I took a shortcut, was the moment I would get lost or confused, and have to take several steps backwards before starting over.
My conversation begin to get tighter. My writing became crisper. I could even remember the focus of a paragraph from the time I started and finished writing it. Oh, and autocorrect no longer confuses me by misspelling my words.
https://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.png00jeffcannonhttps://jeff-cannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JeffCannonLogo.pngjeffcannon2015-10-07 12:47:042015-10-07 12:47:04Meditations & Seizures to Recovery - Seizure Pt I