JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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Why I’m meditating these days. (Attempted murder is only part of the story.)

For the record, I have always been deeply skeptical of New Age medicine. Energy work, pyramid power, cranial sacral therapy, they all just seem like variations on a theme, that theme being snake oil. However, a severe injury from which you just can’t seem to fully recover will open your mind to new ideas, and my mind is no exception. I still don’t buy any of the above, but stuff like yoga, acupuncture and meditation, well, I can see why these things might help.

Take yoga: it exercises your body and mind, and can truly help you relax, no question. Acupuncture? A little mystical, I admit, but when I did it, I felt better and feeling better is the right path toward feeling good. Meditation? Um, this one, I don’t think I can speak from experience yet, despite my many attempts to master it. However, given that using the Brainport requires me to stand stock still with my eyes closed for 20 minutes TWICE A DAY, I’d better get my om on. Not only will knowing how to meditate help make using the Brainport more enjoyable, but also I think it could help with my songwriting and guitar playing.

But there’s another reason I want to learn to meditate. I heard a story from Dad once that has me totally convinced of meditation’s healing powers. It goes like this.

Years ago, my Dad worked for a big investment bank here in San Francisco, and one of his co-workers, whom I’ll call Bob, was married to a woman known to be, um, intense. She and Bob lived is a massive seaside house filled with cats but no children, and one evening Bob came home, called out his wife’s name and… nothing. Mystified, he called out again, poked his head into the kitchen, the dining room, the living room. Finally, he headed upstairs to the bedroom, where on entering he saw his wife standing in the back corner. She had been silently awaiting his arrival all along, gun in hand. The details of their dispute aren’t material to the story I want to tell, but suffice it to say, she was upset enough to shoot him not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, but five times, saving the last bullet for herself. She died, he lived.

In the hospital, Bob awoke to learn that he was paralyzed from the waist down, which was weird because he could “feel” intense pain in his legs. The doctors said he was experiencing phantom pain, and there was little they could do to help. So when Bob was well enough to leave the hospital, he had one goal: to stop the pain in his legs. His quest took him all over the world, from Western practices to Eastern, from fancy drugs to herbs. Along the way, cost was no object; he was willing to pay any price. But despite having all the money in the world, he could find nothing that worked. Until he tried meditation. Only it -- this supposedly hippy/dippy, supernatural mental mysticism -- offered real relief, without the nasty side effects of powerful drugs. Bob was sold, and ever since, he has meditated for several HOURS a day, gaining roughly two to three pain free hours for every hour he meditates. (And I’m complaining about 20 minutes.)

Quite a story, no? Well, what made this especially convincing for me, is that Bob is one skeptical SOB -- just like I am. Yet meditation worked, and worked wonders.

My most sincere hope is that my attempts to meditate, coupled with the Brainport, will help me rid myself of vertigo for at least a few hours a day. Sadly, my mind has wanderlust and resists focus like a duck’s back resists water, so meditation is very, very hard for me. But I am determined to learn how to do it, not only for my overall sense of well-being, but also, as I mentioned before, for my songwriting and my guitar playing.

I think meditation will help my songwriting because one of my techniques for focusing my mind is to work on songs. I visualize a guitar in my hands, try to hear the tones it makes, work through riff ideas, try lyric ideas, think about rhythms and arrangements. I find that this exercise works best when I already have some sort of starting point, as I need a reference note or something to build on. (It’s like relative pitch, I think, which, unlike perfect pitch, means you can only name other notes once you’ve heard a root note, like an E or an A.)

As for my guitar playing, meditation is probably the next best thing to a genuine practice session. In fact, the last time I went in to the studio to do some guitar work, it was for a song I had ‘practicd” while meditating. Amazingly, the session went far better than usual, with me playing more rhythmically and with few muffed chords. Pretty cool.

So there you have it, the story of why I’m meditating these days and what I think I’m getting out of it. As an added bonus, if Catherine ever shoots me five times (and I live), I’ll have a good recovery technique!

Om.