Jeff Cannon has had eight brain surgeries successfully removing 20 tumors. After his last surgery, he lost — but regained — his sight, speech, and ability to walk. The man clearly knows something about moving beyond or above the range of normal physical human experience. So when I heard the title of his new book, The Conversation: Your Guide to Transcendence, I leaned in a little closer, eager to be a part of the dialogue.
The book describes a series of semi-lucid dreams that Jeff had while vacationing on the Greek isle of Ithaca. The writing is dreamy, and so is the dialogue Jeff recounts — it is, after all, a dream that takes place on a sailboat. For five consecutive nights, Jeff is at the rudder of a sturdy craft that sails through the dark island waters while he converses with a form of energy, which he describes as “A watery wetness defined him that defied solid borders. He was more elemental than human. Almost as if a part of the ocean had shaped itself to keep me company.”
Together Jeff and his watery guide traverse the topic of energy in its various manifestations: love and connectivity, consciousness, perspective, and inner exploration. In their first meeting, Jeff’s guide explains, “The atoms that create your physicality are nothing compared to the space that is between them. What you recognize as real is in truth the energy that is found between atoms. That energy is what your consciousness is aware of.”
In an interview with Jeff, he says the process was actually “less as a conversation and more a transference ” which occurred when he was sleeping. He recounts writing down the dreams as deeply liberating, in his book. “As I unpeeled our conversation into layers I could put a pen to, I felt as if a weight was being lifted from me. It was as if my skin were not encumbered with the realizations of life and the worries of the mundane. I was free to be wonderously aware of everything that was going on around me, touched but unconcerned . . .
Many of the ideas in The Conversation clearly came from Jeff’s devoted work as a teacher of Modern Meditation, which weaves together traditional meditation practices in a way that Jeff feels is best suited to our times.
He adamantly rejects the idea that mediation needs to be practiced in austere seclusion – ideas that are antiquated and culturally specific. “Becoming enlightened, finding your transcendence is not about running away, it’s about bringing it in,” says Jeff.
The book cover and Jeff’s website, simple-truth.com, refer to Jeff as a “Modern American Monk.” But don’t get too caught up in the terms — Jeff is married and has never taken vows. The spirit of the phrase, however, sums up well what Jeff is trying to thread together.
“It was a term given to me by a friend, a Zen Monk on the West Coast, who reminded me that I had given up my old life after my 2009 brain surgery in order to pursue the practice of meditation and enlightenment. When I reminded him I was married, he smiled and said ‘Remind people that you are not a part of the old tradition, but a part of a changing world - that of building a bridge between Eastern philosophy and Western science’."
Western medical techniques is something Jeff knows a lot about. His first brain surgery was performed with the medical version of a hand drill. Since then, he’s witnessed the development of neuroscience and benefitted from its advancements. “I have been given a front row seat to neuroscience and neuroplasticity, as well as insights [into the brain] that not many people have had.”
Throughout it all, Jeff has used meditation to help him recover and he is a firm believer that, “by being flexible with his approach to meditation,” Jeff has helped his brain stay flexible and continue to evolve.
In late February, Jeff will have his ninth surgery. Like his previous eight, it will be followed by neurologists around the country. “We don’t necessarily chose our life but we have to live it as much as we can,” says Jeff.
Full recovery from these operations, coupled with dreamy insights into universal connectivity among the warmth of friends and picturesque vistas, undoubtedly sounds like a life truly lived. But as Jeff’s guide says in the book, “How your life is lived and enjoyed depends more on your vantage point than on the events that once seemed so important.”