Meditation

Jeff Cann, Meditation Practitioner. Cool title, maybe I should print business cards.

I toyed with calling myself a meditator—Jeff Cann, Meditator—but I don’t like how it sounds. And who gets to decide which words end with or versus er? We’ve got bakers, renters, fighters and even practitioners. But then we’ve got meditators, mediators and aviators. And it isn’t because the root words end in ate, because we’ve also got skaters and haters not to mention second raters. Inconsistencies in the English language drive me bonkers.

I became a meditation practitioner just over a month ago. After dropping Sophie off at college at the end of January, Susan and I settled in for our nine-hour drive home. That’s a long-ass drive for us. We get edgy after about three hours. What do we do for those six extra agitated hours? On this occasion, I bitched about Tourette Syndrome.

For the new people: yes, I have Tourette Syndrome. Most people are familiar with the incongruous cussing—for instance telling the nuns at church or the little girl playing hopscotch in the driveway next door to f–k off. But that symptom, coprolalia, only affects ten percent of Touretters, and I’m not part of that ten percent. I have more benign tics—uncontrollable movements and vocalizations like squinching up my eyes, making grunting sounds and punching myself in the thigh. These things don’t impair a single aspect of my life, like I don’t get kicked out of church or the movie theater, and I don’t injure myself by flinging limbs or hitting walls, but I’d do almost anything to make my tics go away.

So driving home from Burlington, Vermont, I bitched about Tourette. I guess I bitched pretty hard, because it sent Susan to the internet (yet again) to see if she could help me. The next evening, she presented her research. Susan discovered a type of meditation training called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) spearheaded by Jon Kabat-Zinn which has proven to dramatically reduce Tourette tics. She found a meditation teacher right here in Gettysburg who studied under Kabot-Zinn, and she was starting up a MBSR meditation class at the end of February. Almost unbelievable, plus the class is even free. Providence.

I’m no stranger to meditation, Susan meditates almost every day. We discuss it frequently. We even listen to dharma talks (essentially sermons told by Buddhist teachers) together. She’s been suggesting that I start up a meditation practice for decades. I always respond “trail running is my meditation.” But running is running, and while I get a lot of mental health benefits out of it, I’m not meditating. If I was, I wouldn’t be paying enough attention to the trail, and I’d catch my toe on a root and smash up my elbow and palm by falling on a big flat rock just like I did two weeks ago. I’d really like—and I really need—a meditation practice.

So, now more than a month into the program, how am I doing? I don’t meditate! I take the classes; I make notes recording what the instructor says; I make plans for the coming weeks; but day in and day out, I just don’t meditate. Well, I have a few times since the class started: lying in bed, sleep elusive, I’ve meditated to fall asleep, but I’ve been doing that for years. I can’t seem to excuse myself from the room and find a quiet corner to sit for fifteen or twenty minutes. It’s really starting to bug me.

Meditation, for me, is an eat-my-peas chore. I know I will benefit from it, but I can’t bring myself to do it. As a kid, I never ate my peas. I sat alone at the kitchen table long after the dishes were done staring at that glossy green pile of death. When I heard primetime TV starting up in the next room, I steeled myself to shove the peas into my mouth. I chewed them into paste and crammed them, squirrel-like, between my gums and cheek. The thought of swallowing cold pea-mash made me want to throw up. When my mom saw my empty plate, she released me from the table. I ran straight to the bathroom gagging and scraped the pea gunk from of the corners of my mouth into the toilet. 

It’s two weeks until my next class, I need to make some progress. Julie, the instructor, sends us into Zoom breakout groups of three people to discuss our successes and failures from the prior weeks. So far, I only have failures. I can’t even say I failed; I just haven’t tried. Not only am I letting myself down, but also the other students in the class. There’s no debate: this meditation technique reduces stress, and reducing stress reduces tics. Relief is waiting for me, but I need to meet it half way. I need to start a practice. A consistent, daily practice.

Susan suggests starting at five minutes a day. Right, I won’t get much benefit from five minutes of meditation, but I get nothing from what I’m doing now. I think that by writing about this and publishing it for the world to see, I’m trying to shame myself into action. If I think everybody is judging me, I’ll step up my game to prove you all wrong. Not a very Zen approach to motivation, but after fifty-eight years, I know which buttons to push to get things rolling. Go ahead, start judging.

Namaste.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

35 thoughts on “Meditation

  1. Tourette’s syndrome gives you a unique insight into the common English. Should someone judge you? Smile and pity their inability to make use of common vernacular. I’ve been termed ADHD since preteens. Not the same as Tourette’s but you and I’s unwilling use of ‘automatic ‘ language flourishes. Apologies if I speak improper, but I relate in a similar way. I love the word play in the beginning of your piece. Illustrative.

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  2. Dutifully judging over here.
    And loved the ers/ors discussion. English is bonkers. And yet, here we are reveling in it.
    I can’t meditate either. Would rather be here I think, if it comes down to it…Best of luck!

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    • Thank you for the judgement. Make it harsh. I read something the other day where a Buddhist lama compared meditation to running. Just like it’s really difficult to start running, it’s equally hard to start meditating. His advice is ‘build your base.’ The problem is I started running 41 years ago, so I don’t remember what it’s like.

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  3. A friend of mine is an avid meditator (Yes, I had to hesitate there and then scroll up to see if I got the er or, or correctly – I did!) and she has recommended it for me. I’ve tried. I really have. Maybe it is the videos I am listening to but I just can’t ever seem to clear my mind for more than a minute or two before I am thinking about something on my list. I may get better at it if I tried more – but like you (and I laughed at the reference) I find it like an “eat my peas” chore. Good luck to you! May you find your way into meditation practice and I hope it brings you peace!

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  4. Hmm. Based on your post, Robyn’s comment, and my own experience, I wonder if there’s some strange brain wiring disconnect with longtime runners and the ability to start a meditation practice. I’ve tried, and failed. I figure it has something to do with movement: my mind calms and quiets when I’m moving/running, but fills when I’m still (like, trying to sleep).

    But hey, if shaming and judgment help, I’ll virtually shame you toward your goal of a meditation practice!

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    • Or it’s possible that we, as runners, try to expand the positive things we do for our mind and body and we fail as frequently as the rest of the population. Now I need to start asking around our running community if anyone successfully meditates. In general, we’re a pretty anxious, edgy, Type A lot.

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      • I don’t know if it’s because I was a runner for a long time or because of my ADHD, but any attempt at sitting still to try and empty my mind is often more stressful than running (or moving) has ever been! Perhaps that’s why I prefer yoga to meditation. With yoga, I can focus on moving and breathing in sync so there’s not much time for my mind to wander (at least, not as much).

        Either way, I wish you a successful practice!

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      • I’m too lazy to do yoga. Eight years ago I had an awesome practice and then when I started blogging I quit. Too much going on? Maybe. But there’s a lot of time I do pretty much nothing too.

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  5. Hello my dear Jeff Cann, a judge for you, you are 85 years old and you have come across many big challenges and achieved a lot of triumphs, you ‘ve won the outside things, but when facing yourself thru meditation, you have to surrender, you quit so easily, why ? I have been meditating 18months (from 9/2021) , I am just 25 yo now, no achieve so much triumphs like you but I win myself. there is a quote said something like, win yourself is the big achievement in this life…

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  6. Meditating is such a weird thing. I’ve been going through a 30-day YouTube meditation playlist (not every day though) and the longest one is 8 minutes or something like that. I haven’t been able to ~quiet the mind~ for more than a couple minutes at a time but I still feel calmer and more grounded even with that. I’d love to see what happens in the brain when people meditate. I wonder if it’s something different for people with Tourette’s vs people who don’t have Tourette’s.

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    • Using some recorded instruction seems like a good idea. I’ll give that a try. Good thought about brain structure. Perhaps there’s something there, but I’m not sure anyone would look. TS research doesn’t really have any money in it. Did you know there isn’t a single medicine made for TS. Everything we have was developed for other conditions but someone along the way noticed that it works sometimes for Tourette too. I’m on an antipsychotic.

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  7. If walking meditation is a thing, surely running meditation could be, too? If it helps clear your mind and relieve stress I’d say it accomplishes the same end.

    That said, for the past month I’ve been trying to do 5-minute breathing exercises every day, more to start building a habit than anything. Now I’ve downloaded the Calm app and have found a few of the 10-15 minute guided meditations quite good. My mind always – always – wanders too, but they say the key is to just let it come and go without judgement and bring your focus back to your breath or whatever it is you want. I hope it helps, will keep posted 👍 Good luck with your practice!

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    • My instructor (who I made read my blog post) thinks I can effectively meditate while running. She’s planning on discussing walking meditation next time and now will branch into running as well. The Calm app sounds… relaxing.

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  8. I’ve tried to make meditation part of my daily routine, but I can never get past a few days. I’ve read all about the benefits, and maybe some day I’ll get over the hurdle. I hope it helps you with your Tourette’s…

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  9. Wow! The Universe must have been sending you a very strong signal – a FREE meditation class using the technique you were interested in with an instructor who studied with the master right in your town! I love (and concur with) your description of meditation as eating peas. I think 5 minutes/day is a reasonable place to start. Did you ever listen to a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh? I love his talks. Sorry to read about the trail mishap. Hope you are healed up now.

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  10. Pingback: Meditating With Tourette Syndrome – The Good Men Project | | New Age Tarot Readings

  11. I’m with Laurie – everything aligned for you to take those classes. My mind seldom stops but, I have taken up “slow stitching” which is a very mind relaxing hobby. Look it up. Ever tried hand sewing??

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    • Well tomorrow is the last day, so I’ve made it through the program. And I’ve increased my weekly meditation from none to some so that’s a bonus. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to build the consistency necessary to to actually create an overall reduction in stress.

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  12. Oh my gosh… keep going!!!! I didn’t think I could get to the point where I enjoy meditating and look forward to it! Looked forward to a weekend of silence and meditation… Who’da thought? 😀 By all means keep going, the benefits are greater than just about anything! And… peas…. I agree!!! YUCK! I used to put them under my tongue until I could swallow them down with my milk, whole, like pills. My parents got wise to this and made me chew… YUCK! The worst was when they made them into pea soup…. Horror!!! Can’t get around the taste of peas in that!!! 😀 Namaste. Look forward to hearing how this goes for you.

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  13. “Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity”. – Swami Sivananda.

    Meditation is an intense spiritual as well as personal experience. Meditation may be described as a state of concentrated attention on a thought or on awareness. This thought process is, to turn the attention inward, to the mind itself. Meditation is used for personal development, better concentration, to achieve peace and harmony for spiritual closeness to God, to become healthier and even to impart calmness, love, purity, well being and truthfulness.
    https://www.indianetzone.com/1/meditation.htm

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