Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Stirring the Pot: Open, the GOOD 4-letter Word
Like many mindful English teacher mothers, I have an absolutely tormented relationship with these things,
since they are technically technicolor non-foods, but in this case they've been transformed into letters, and possible tools of communication!
And...of course...a way to get the inside message out: SOS.
For the past week, I've actually been slaving over a hot post about saffron-scented mussels and the open-close nature of the heart, and the way this reactivity is embodied in the very unpleasant physical sensations of my heart clamping shut when I am in lockdown mode.
The recipe's entire premise hinged on a mechanism that seemed clear: Close: safety from perceived threat, Open: Die (and eventually Open: Free, but you'll have to read it).
Well, talk about a state of reflux, I thought I'd steamed open those babies for good last Sunday. Yet for a week that dinner I believed to be long-since digested has been...repeating on me.
For a week this painful open-close sensation has played out in my life and in my body in conflicts within myself, conversations with my husband, seemingly stronger with each painful experience: open-close, open-close, and then finally, an excruciating bout of prolonged contraction the past few days: mostly closed.
We do stir the pot, where we focus our attention.
The heart, like the brain, is a mussel which strengthens.
All this trying to fix ourselves and our mechanisms...just indicates more of the need there is something to be fixed.
You see, I'm onto myself like a barnacle. And the chief discomfort is actually the being onto myself--it's being aware. The awareness actually hurts.
In this case, there has been a dreadful self-consciousness this week, knowing I am closing, seeing what I am doing, and being unable with all the mindful tools in my recipe box, to stop it.
Still, a voice of gentleness, like a saffron butter bath has said, "It's not every time."
I have tried to be present for this this week. In the moments when I have felt the mussel relax and my heart open, I have tried to be there for it, to experience it...yet when I'm afraid and when it's snapped closed, I can't seem to recall how it even was to be open. I can't open and so I can't write about it.
It's not writer's block, it's be-er's block.
And the more I think and try to write through this. The less I truly feel, and the less I create.
So, I ask you…where does creativity happen, in the brain, or the heart?--I know like you know: it's the heart that holds the lotus and the key.
More immobilizing than being unable to open my heart might be being unable to open it again.
Okay, worse than that:
being unable to open it again, reliably.
Being unable to control it.
If you are a future-leaner and a past-propper (which is just the "tense" for an English teacher to write in: "the past-propper tense"), a perfectionist, a striver, a do-be A-student and the dreamer of impossible projects that somehow at this very moment seem to wildly and scarily, positively be taking off without control then...
I forgot about anything else I was going to say there in that paragraph--does it even matter? After the flimsy part where I finesse-bludgeon myself with my own words, I got just plain stuck on the the word control…how 'bout you?
Who resisted even the word, "control?" A tensing in the body maybe, a flinch? A breakneck nod?
Peacefoodlove feels out of control and I have only written one post.
Actually, I have 40 posts going and about 10 solid posts, but nothing "finished."
But what we are experimenting with here is not the solid, or the finished, it's the groundless and the vast.
Getting comfortable with the vast groundlessness of the kitchen floor that gets dirty all the time because someone actually cooks there.
I am always trying to think myself out of the grocery bag. This is just one of the ways I try to control things, I try to butcher-paper my brain around them and make them submit, sift and measure them, weigh them to a thousandth of a gram, make the recipe "turn out."
Here's the thing with these cooking meditations:
They don't turn out, they turn in.
In my mussels post I've pried open some extremely painful stuff, about my closed heart, chiefly: How to open it? It's soooo unresolved, and it's still..cooking.
Every time I've picked the lock on my shell this past week, it seems to close right back up again. This is maddening! What kind of cooking meditation is this! Why can't I get past this? What kind of endless, remedial cook am I? How can it take me over a week to finish this one post?!
Pema Chodron says we should stick to one boat and let it put us through its changes--changes will feel so much prettier, we think, on a catamaran than a dingy!--and the cooking meditation is no exception.
Jumping posts is a way of avoiding the full feeling of being in the changes.
It's a way of trying to control where and when and how the changes will occur, an emotional ass-saving time-stamp that's broken.
And I did say (I think out loud to you) that like it or lump crab it, I am in for writing about the changes, in real time, as best I can.
So, I guess if that means chewing on the same mussels for a week then that is what it is!
(Bravely, with zest!, but Sorry, Charley, still control, control)
This is what I do--what I have always done and how I have tried to find a sense of safety.
I try to control "it," especially with words (ask my husband).
I am coming to accept this as a false but self-preserving refuge.
Control: It's what's for dinner. It's what I've done and what I still do, but is it who I am?
Tara Brach says to me via podcast as I cook dinner:
"Here's the inquiry: who are you when there's no controlling?"
And I'm a puddle on the just-mopped kitchen floor because...I…do not...know.
Because I am so used to trying to control everything, I find myself flabbergasted by this inquiry. The idea that I could even separate "myself" from the need to control almost feels like what…a trick?
And I realize that I have painfully identified myself with the very mechanisms that I employ to bring relief from the pain.
You know the story: "Oh that's just Stacia, spinning the plates and the words, she's just so controlling."
[I might insert a caret here and say that a very deep clue to this false identification stuff is reckless use of the third person regarding one's self.]
As much as I love writing, I DO try to control my experience with it (and possibly everyone else's). I overthink, over research, and overwrite (nothing like that picture book course to bring this home--ideal publishing count?--700 words).
The problem is…you can't be in the now if you're mercilessly chronicling the now--or even the past or the future. It never gets the chance to just be there in your mouth.
Right under your copy of Jack Kornfield's The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace.
Too distracted to feel the pureness of the love and the unsolicited hug.
Too distracted, in favor of chasing the words to describe the feeling, to feel it.
Too distracted with what you are "supposed to be writing" (and possibly the fraud you might be to your friends or your blog, for actually having those horrid-pasty mindless Cheezits in the house), to see what he's simply spelled out for you.
The tiles of which are meant to be treated with curiosity and gentleness and eventual reassembly.
But meant to be eaten, not just written about.
You could also be too distracted to see what he's also pointed up, this Jack Kornfield piece, which you have read ninety times today but just now feel in your body:
"At times we feel we cannot love.
Because of our confusion and the pain we
carry, because of the suffering around us, our
love is buried.
In spite of this history, we must learn to find love again, in our body and our heart,
in our community, in all things."
In our body. In our heart.
It is in the body not the head that this must be learned.
This is the message inside to get out--Love through this body--not SOS.
Through the body, the love discovering itself.
We find love again in all things: Scrabble Cheezits and especially not writing and thinking about it so much.
And no deadlines on your cooking meditations.
And just paying attention and coming back to what's actually here. Here in the now to taste.
I was not too distracted to feel the glorious sense of my own heart, opening wide.
I took my hands off the keyboard, and PRESTO CHANGE-O:
Out of control, out of control.
Speaking of good!:
Tomorrow, I will be starting Rick Hanson's 8-week telecourse, Taking in the Good: Weaving Peace, Happiness, and Love into Your Brain and Yourself
And I will send it your way as we go.
(Pretty sure there's room at the table if you want to sign up!)
I will share the mussel post with you soon if you like. You are patient. It will be good.
It already is good.
It will come in time.
I borrow and bend a saying people who have quit drinking will say:
"It took every recipe I cooked."
And a little Shakespeare:
Lord what fools these mussels be.