Hunger is the worst of diseases ~ the Buddha

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Darth Mom & the Death Star Egg: Piece de Resistance

I'm Darth Mom, and this is the Death Star Egg.

Mind you, I didn't mean to make a Death Star Egg, and surely couldn't have had I been trying.

thought I was making Om Eggs. The intention went something like this:

"Hey, know! I bet I could make my own Easter egg dyes (say, out of bark and rhubarb), and then I could take a tiny copper tjap (a wax-holding pen used in batik, which I happen to have several of due to some urgent reason in 2006), and paint a design on each egg (the Sanskrit symbol for Om, ॐ), and then when the kids and I dip them in these barky-food-concoctions, the wax will resist the dye (leaving the symbol eggshell pure), ALL so I can write a post about…(yep, you guessed it)….Resistance!!!"

Including, but not limited to, the current focus of all of my cooking meditations since my cosmic stumble into Rick Hanson & his Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom: my maddening, lifelong resistance to Taking in the Good.

You see a while back I, who never follow a recipe, set out on the path (cooking meditations are just my particular means), to mindfully and very deliberately use my own mind to change my brain at a structural level for the good--which neuroscience says is possible. I know, Self-directed Neuroplasticity sounds kind of fancy, but for me, this is only my gut sense made manifest, that the most delicious things out there can only be made in your own kitchen And that hits me right where I live--in the Mettāphor.

I'm a good cook, but let's just say, I've only begun to learn how to eat at home.

Tell you a little secret: I'm used to being anxious and stressed--like Martha Stewart on speed. But I am not used to feeling fire and gripping pain in my chest, to feeling angry, when my dishes don't turn out. Actually, I'm not used to feeling anything. And I'm pretty sure, if I look closely, that one of my initial draws to Self-directed Neuroplasticity--as well as meditation--was the thought that I was going to mindfully think my way out of feeling, mopping all the evidence off my brow with a smartly hand-sewn synapsekin.

You know how this goes, right? The Death Star blows up about the time you get all smug about yourself and your clever means. 

And blow it did, during the week when much of the world, regardless of religion, was dying eggs. This may have been the intention and the timing--Om Eggs by Easter--but it was Mother's Day before I had the heart to start writing.

In one of the most mettathudding sentences ever written (and I only very recently read), Peter Levine said, "To be touched by the revelation of love or scientific discovery is among the greatest and most wondrous blessings of being alive."
And, for anyone who doesn't know, I happen to be experiencing both at the same time.
I think, as the body is his whole thing, Dr. Levine might not mind the riff:"…most wondrous and completely and totally physically consuming blessings of being alive." 

Here's what the prototype looked like: collapsed, faded, decidedly un-Martha Stewart, reeking of vinegar and impermanence.

And every time I looked at it, I pounded the kitchen counter (anger at this point still partially feigned) and thought: "But this isn't how it was supposed to be." 
Then, if I looked too long on it, a familiar, smoldering feeling bloomed in me: This didn't have to happen. I could have saved/foreseen/fixed/stopped it from happening.

Anger for how "it" turned out, resistance to how "it" unfolded.

Resistance, Anakin Skywalker style, to the way it truly is.
And the lingering smoke curl of rumination across the blue horizon of the present moment, wafting the deeper issue:
Because I can't make things work out the way I think they should, there is something wrong with me--or even, wrong with the Universe

I know, Master Yoda, I really do know:
Wars not make one great...especially with one's self.

Every generation sincerely believes it discovered pot, penny loafers, and Star Wars. It has to.
Because each of us must discover, for ourselves, our own awareness: our relationship to sensation (both simulated and organic), to aesthetics, and to mythology (implicating in some form, the Divine).
One of the jobs of the parent or teacher or friend--and the deeper, perhaps most intimate charge of the lover--is to step back and simply let that discovery unfold, to observe without interfering and without judging.

And though this was curiously effortless for me in the Kindergarten classroom, it's been true no place and with no one else--especially not myself. My heart knows that this farmhouse and this newly blended sangha--my family, my life--is my current classroom, but I admit I'd jack a pod racer someplace else--anyplace else at times--to where people do not know me and my dark places, my failed experiments and my Death Star collapses, so well.

It's not that I didn't "fail" in the Kindergarten classroom, I simply wasn't afraid. Because as intimacy and the possibility of rejection of the core self increases (and the ability to leave each day at 3 pm decreases), so does the fear, which is pretty much the whole thing with the Dark Side, right? FEAR.
Sigh, which means my husband sees the worst of it, you know.

It's painful at a physical, possibly even neurological, level to watch another struggle so hard to learn…especially one's self. 
And the peacefoodlove kitchen fairly gleams with reflective surfaces.

When faced with the collapse of my intention, I did what anyone would do in my situation. I reverted to old conditioning. I dusted off one of my favorite masks and strapped it on tight. And I made the old, Grievous error of pouring the twelfth cup of black coffee when I should have opted for true nourishment. I hunkered down inside the darkness of my mask, hands flexing and spasming over the keyboard, trying really hard to figure it out.

Still, another, wiser (far less dramatic) and more playful part of myself, the fledgling meditator, the seeker, knew instinctively that what I needed was not to hide, but sit.
And so I hung onto The Death Star Egg, and placed it in my kitchen window shrine, just noticing in my morning meditations (and trying to let go of) the way it rankled me. But more, noticing the way I felt felt completely drawn to this failure, curious.

I was waiting for the meanings to emerge because, count your meanings or not, they always do. 
Waiting for the egg's true nature to reveal itself, for the transformative moment when exactly what it is, right now, becomes better to me that what it was in my mind.

I thought (sigh, thinking again) that the meaning might be "resistance to the way things are." Well, guess what? Meaning-mining is a constantly changing game, and another one of those impermanent states.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am that woman who cannot, and more, will not, just buy the PAAS Easter egg-dying kit, the one that costs a buck at the supermarket. Not if I think I can make it myself. It's true that I'm aesthetically stubborn, with a Depression Era ethic gleaned from my grandmother, Viola, but more importantly, I have unwavering confidence in everyone's fundamental kitchen autonomy: You Can Make It Yourself. 
(aaaaaand the self-imposed corollary:…"So You SHOULD.")

It bothers me deeply (am I the only one who finds páthos in fruit snacks which contain no fruit?) that children are utterly brainwashed by what I think of as "learned & name brand helplessness." My children would explain, very early on (and somewhat apologetically, I'm sure), about our plain t-shirted, fruit snack-less playdates: "Sorry guys [shrug], my mom doesn't do licensed characters," for which I've clearly made a well-deserved exception, here.
Children are lulled almost from birth and definitely by school age, by the external
The Western almighty idea that you need to buy something or go out and get something other than what you already have, just to "make it at home."  
As someone who never even suspected until college that you could get something even vaguely resembling macaroni and cheese out of a box, it just makes me...angry. 

Now, this is exactly the sort of thing which stimulates a kind of chronic, low-grade anger in me: constantly judging my own failed creative endeavors, being offended by "other people" who self-select fruit-snack-filled lives of (assumed) McMindlessness, ongoing tangles with others (often ex-spouses) and what they choose and do that I am in fact affected by, but cannot control.

Cue up The Imperial March!  

I've been experiencing Star Wars for the second time now, through my children, and received the complete saga on Blue-Ray for my birthday.

When the first Star Wars movie came out, it was 1977 and I was six years old, which made my sister Kara three, and the fact that we had to abandon the film during the trash compactor scene utterly understandable…now. I wasn't very happy at the time, and have been lordvadering it over her for the past 35 years, that she "made us" leave because of her fear.

I would like to apologize to her publicly now, seeing the terrible power of my accusation, and what a decent and loving thing it is to honor the realness of another's fears (not to mention, apologize).
Also, I now believe that she was wise to innately and accurately perceive threats unseen but real, swirling and fetid. Because monsters we can't see--not paper Dianogas (garbage squids) in the bushes, real garbage squids, phantom-menacing us, slithering just under the surface--are legitimately fear-producing.

This is what my life is right now, becoming aware of what's really under there, and also, what is not; what is real fear warranting real physical response, and what is only vestigial stress-reactivity in my brain. 
What is actually happening under my own skin now.
What bodily tension is stored and compacted trauma trash to be physically processed then jettisoned, and what is actually necessary, appropriate tension (you do actually have to be rigid enough to sit up for sitting meditation).

What is here, everywhere, for sure and for real in my life is the Force, leading me to awareness.

The Force: it's everywhere. And though it's quipped and slipped into lunch boxes and VW commercials, whatever your bag is, baby--be it, Buddhism, brain science or brioche, it's incredibly useful, all the time, precisely because it is everywhere: from how to control (heck, even acknowledge) anger, to how to train and discipline your mind, to how to cultivate table manners in a Kindergartener ("Use the Fork, Luke"). 

For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. ~ Yoda

You don't have to carry around a 4-inch figurine in your purse to notice, but it's helpful, especially with children (and especially with yourself, when you're being stubborn and not looking). 

Because wherever you go, there it is, somehow standing upright in the bottom of your bag, a little pointier than is comfortable. Saying, take me out. Look deeply. Fit me in. Hold me up to the horizon.
Told ya, everywhere.
And a fine time to discuss the implications of a city called "Crystal" and the etymology of the word, "Illuminate," the implications, from lumens to luminous beings, to simply lightening up.

My 8-year-old minutiae-lover, Ava, takes comfort in the details of a complicated Universe, resting easily in the naming of things, ("Ah, Treadwell Droid," she says quietly, during a deleted scene in bonus footage from Episode IV).

And in the fall, Otto began the spontaneous practice
of wearing one black glove everywhere
(um, it's a wool glove, and it's pretty much June).

A nod to the mechanical hands of both Luke and Anakin Skywalker--dragging it through Starbuck's, the sand box, and the new Palace of Naboo fountain (a resemblance noted, but unintentional).

Over and over like some 6-year-old version of the Dharma Wheel.
But, I believe, in his own childlike wisdom, he does this out of respect for his own processing of, and reflections on, damage, and the ways we glove it and simply go on.

He draws with that hand.

Lately, Otto's been drawing "Damaged Darth Vader"--
and he makes that distinction verbally, and in these tenderly intricate drawings of the damage.
Of the mask taken away, of what's really under there.

I am in awe of what he is doing:

He is learning it by rendering it, just like I do, with fat.

Suddenly, I recall that each time I myself have painted a portrait, I've learned more than I've ever thought possible, and often, was comfortable with.

Staring so long at someone's eyes, you see the real person. The damage, the suffering, but the beautiful humanity.

People should draw all of their enemies. 

The other thing that's everywhere right now is "The Darth Vader Music," as it's known in our house (yes, it's even my ring tone). It's playing constantly, being hummed, or even being counted out, 1-100, to the tune. I have listened to it approximately 6,000 times this month alone.

Now, this piece (John Williams' Imperial March, exactly), like anger itself, is incredibly powerful and energizing. Whenever we put it on, I go storming around the kitchen and throughout the house like I am ten feet tall. It naturally makes you want to flourish and swoop, charging purposefully over dirty floorboards (and any naysayers in your path). You'll find that it makes even the most humble household task feel magnanimous and purposeful. Thwap! With the horn crescendo, unfurl a giant black trash bag to go pull weeds and plant flowers, and you'll see.

Power on, Power leg at a time, no matter your size.

Oh yes, your spine will lengthen!
You'll have purpose and power!--BUT...what is that power, and perhaps more interesting, how will you use it?

The "problem" is that this, unequivocally one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know, is charged with the gleam of a dark, glitter-black, Anakin-style passion which I also know, and it's really hard not to react at a physical level when it's on all the time. Sound is very powerful. Anger has this same swell, in the body and the brain. 
And I have discovered recently, that nothing fans the flames of your own anger faster or higher than marinating in the glower, except stalking around in your own cape--or apron. 

Luke: Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know... when you are calm, at peace, passive.

Um, NOT how you feel when The Imperial March is playing. 

Not to be gender-biased, but like most women, my preference would pretty much always be the climate of Tatooine over my husband's. And though my extremities are always cold, and I feel painfully cold, if you came up and touched anyplace on my core, you'd find my skin is crazy-molten. As a person, as a temperament, I burn exceedingly hot. I live in a super-high arousal state (often stress, creative hum, or over-thinking) allll the time. This is terrible for the body, with horrible costs, BUT as "super-high arousal state" might suggest, it's also seductive, hot

A big part of my kitchen meditations has been noticing physical sensations in my body (because, as one once frozen in Carbonite and vodka for a very long time, there is now a lot to notice)--like the ones I get from my own anger and from my own negative story lines.
I happen to feel anger as a rush of juice flowing through me, a searing heat and a burning. The entire length of my gullet becomes a white-hot boa constrictor, but crushing from the inside, out. It's pressure rising, coming through my eyes--I actually do see red ("see" both Anakin and Emperor Palpatine's eyes), and the intense heat pushes up all the way up to the crown of my head, pressing hard
Rising, I get out
Despite these recent insights, I can still revert to some automatic, cyborg heat-seeking missile mode--aggressive verbiage I don't like, but is apropos--because I find myself desperately (and self-destructively), half-humanly panting after the wrong thing, just to try to regulate myself.
Maybe it's just the Lit Major in me that desperately believes Everything That Rises Must Converge.

Sometimes I feel like Icarus, speeding towards the sun on the homemade wings of feathers and wax crafted by his father (probably he used a tjap, probably he had a blog), increasing momentum, rising furiously, but feeling so good in the moment: the big black bird (or cape, or apron), rising up, spreading it's wings, shadowing the ground and all self-doubt.
Feeling so powerful (and if you're me, frankly thrilled to feel anything at all after all these years), ignoring everyone's cautions: "Don't fly too close to the sun." 
Icarus wouldn't listen: not to his own father; not even to Yoda.
But can you imagine the power, the feeling?--just before all the wax melted and he went down in a fiery, heavy, false refuge-ball of flames, I mean. How could he possibly stop himself?  

I understand that feeling of anger. Of compulsion. Close to destruction. Playing with fire. Can't stop. Can't pause. Can't even breathe.

As you might imagine, Otto, at age six, is the resident expert on noise (so important for all younglings to have an area of expertise), including Darth Vader sounds, which, like all accents and yes, like I, myself, he can mimic perfectly. After years of reading aloud and in the classroom, I know that being able to do the voices in the story is a little bit gift, but more than anything else, just a skill called empathy: it comes from being able to just be that person/animal/inanimate object for a moment, and speak from there. This is why children are natural mimics--they're born with an empathic affinity.

We discovered quite accidentally, here in our very own kitchen, that "doing the Darth Vader breathing" actually has a very strong calm down effect, because it requires you to focus the sound into a long slow exhalation--at least twice as long as the inhalation. And this, I've learned, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system--the very regulating entity in charge of soothing the fight, flight, or freeze response:


This works pretty well with Otto, but Ava is a different story. I see so much of myself in her--she's wired high and burns hot, too, and has, as they say, a spirited temperament. There are times when I'll see her perseverating on something, ramping up, and coach (plead), "Just breeeeeeathe." But from between clenched teeth, she'll barely be able to spit out the words or have the air to say, "I…don't…want…to...BREATHE!!!" 
I know we all think that breathing is natural, but you have to practice, and "Hoopering" only works if you actually do it.
So, one of the things we have to work with is trying to even set the intention to breathe inside the mask (cape/apron/wax wings/glove), to want to calm down, to not resist feeling better--because though very few adults (let alone children) actually examine this, feeling C3PO'd can actually feel pretty good.

Even in the absence of real threat, the Reactive core is primed to blow with C3:
Concentric, Constricted & Contracted.
Now, when she is in a relaxed state, Ava also makes observations like this: "Wow, Mom. Did you ever notice Yoda has three big toes? He must be really stable."

Because when she, and we, are out of that Reactive mode, then we have access to just this kind of thoughtful observation and response, and a Yoda-toed stability that is our true nature, the essential elements of which we can count on three toes: happy, peaceful, free to be loving and wise. 

Insight meditation, or vipassana (of which I'm the barest beginning student), produces, as the name suggests, insights, and let me tell you some of them--chiefly the ones about myself--can be really, really hard to sit with.
Here's the thing: meditation is not about discovering some other unreal, blissed-out state of mind, it's just about discovering, exactly, your true state of mind, however that is, without judgment. Not so skilled with that last part [raises mechanical hand].
Maybe that's where the bliss will come from.

Not resisting this particular insight, I sense that the reason I tend to wind up with the Death Star when I'm trying to make Om Eggs, is that as much as I have been working with this, I cannot yet press the true sacred PAAS button on my thoughts (or judgments) with 100% reliability--especially not on those thoughts and urges related to what I falsely believe is my struggling, fearful, plate-twirling identity in the kitchen (insert motherhood/spousedom/classroom, etc.): my negative default.
I just can't (reliably) shake the negativity bias and the belief--not once that stimulus wormholes its way in from wherever it is outside the brain that thoughts actually come from. 

Thoughts may come from "out there" somewhere, but fear? Fear is a call coming from inside the house with faulty wiring--which I have been working on re-wiring through the Self-directed Neuroplasticity, meditation, and cooking. 
Because, unfortunately, your brain does not learn how to better deal with stress by repeated exposure alone. Faulty wiring and repeated stress exposure simply cause…amygdala fires.
We refer to this almond-esque pair of structures in the brain in the singular, amygdala, because
it has better mouth feel & it's just plain easier.
The amygdala, part of the limbic brain, is the alarm bell of the body. It's job, literally, is to stress you (with enough hormones) into the will to survive, into the Reactive mode: fight, flee, or freeze out the abominable, shaggy yellow-fanged, Wampa, say.

The problem is, that this system is Prehistoric, designed to keep us alive (not happy by the way, just alive to reproduce) from when we didn't live very long. The older we get, the more worn out and fritzy this amygdala becomes. It seems like the older I get, the more stressed I feel, the more anxious I become, the less resilient (I fear) I am becoming.

And, just like The Imperial March, the longer you listen to Clang, Clang Clang (Went the Trolley of Doom), the louder it actually gets, and the more you keep hearing it--it's stuck in your head.

You become ever more reactive, even when there is no threat at all--even when there is no Wampa, and you're not even anywhere near the planet Hoth.

The problem is,

in addition to being a miserable, chronically stressed-out existence ripe for disease, where even Ewoks look scary in the wrong light,

that one day, with our hands clutched to our heads in psychic pain, most of us will reach a point where we will step right over the Good,

mistaking even our own children playing in the warm laundry and actually trying to help us fold it, for Sand People.

Just to flee the dreadful clanging.

Another new (small) strategy I can share with you is to simply try to make different, positive, and louder noise than your amygdala whenever you can.

One day in the car, we were having a very bad everyone'shungry5 pm. This is a very dangerous place to be. In childrenI view this state as (a corollary to a well-known adult acronymbus cloud): HALLT: Hungry, Angry, Lego-Losing, & Tired. And though as a mom I try to steer us away from this precarious place, I do get lost in my own thoughts, dilly-dallying by the Clearance end-caps at Target far too often, and this is where we find ourselves: rocketing across town toward home in an old VW Eurovan, going down at light speed with amygdala engine fires.

Recently, in just such an exasperated moment of mother-of-all necessity, I started counting-singing to The Imperial March--and I did it FOG-UP-THE-WINDOWS LOUDLY. Too young to be truly horrified by me in public, both children simply stopped bickering, stunned, and then chimed in. We were all sucked into it. There was gusto and there was real smiling visible in the rear-view mirrors, and I'll tell you something else: there was joy there. Calming, focusing joy in the moment, the kind that allows you to make it home to a stocked pantry to something nourishing before a complete meltdown.

I think this worked for a few reasons, not the least of which is that counting is a simple pleasure (and 1-100 takes a LOT of parasympathetic exhalation), and, revealing one of my own compulsions, it's one I've always used unconsciously, to self-soothe. 
Even though I'm not a math person, I like the order of it, the way you know just where you're going and where you'll wind up. Eventually.

Except you don't, because no experience is that linear.
Awareness is not linear.
Neither is anger. And (sigh) neither is this post.

I know that right now, this post may seem light, and linear (um, for me). You've got some happy image of me in my peaceable kitchen, looking you in the eyes with that mock-Darth Vader get-up on, but I will encourage you, as Rick Hanson did me, as we found ourselves "accidentally" sharing a truly marvelous lunch of pot roast & providence, to look past someone's eyes and really see their suffering. Look past their glossy black masks, see past their mechanics and their habitual dark coverings, and just try to see their souls. 
Look past their eyes, and see their struggle with Dark Side. 
Mine is anger, of which I have only recently started to become aware.

These cooking meditations on Mindfulness have only made my habits and negative grooves more clear to me (& there's a really fine line to discover, between meditation & rumination).
I'm aware that I fear not being exceptional, and so in the past, I've butchered an elk or smelted napkin rings 5 minutes before the guests arrived, comparing myself against some impossible standard derived from extolling ONE attribute in another person, and then generalizing it to find the whole of myself lacking.
I'm aware of my urge to create extraordinary things because I feel lacking. 
Above all, I'm aware that I make things, lest they be made for me.
And, I'm aware that the space-time continuum of motherhood somehow often enough bends to accommodate my "projects" (in a way that doesn't overtly affect personal hygiene or make my husband leave me), so that I falsely believe I had something to do with it, with making it yield. 
With (lowercase) forcing it.

Surely, The Death Star Egg is an example of the way that thoughts we try to strongwill into being--ideas that we may be wedded to secretly (or even not so secretly) on Naboo, simply do not turn out, hold their imagined shape, or even look remotely the same once they take form, released to the Universe at large.
I mean, look at Jar Jar Binks. 
And I say this with new and deep respect for Jar Jar--even tenderness--which we will discuss shortly.
The flak that George Lucas got for this character, Jar Jar--childlike, clumsy, flop-eared and annoying as a pee-filled puppy when you just want to sleep--was epic. People, um, hated him (and I do not let people use the H-Word in this house & never did in my classroom). Hated his creation.
Hate, hate, hate. (shudder)

Clearly, no one is immune to this: having to face the unworkable, having to give up control over even right action or life choices with good-intentioned creative outcomes, not even George Lucas
This may be the greatest, most self-perspective-giving sentence I have ever written. 

So, in the case of The Death Star Egg, what actually happened is that my children went along with me just fine in the concept phase for (intended) Om Eggs, and we plopped about 36 of them in simmering water to hard-boil. 
I thought I was exercising Obi-Wan-worthy self-control, because I "resisted" the urge ("And…there it is!: RESISTANCE!" Nothing will get you like admiration and sheer relief for easy connections to your personal themes, nothing I say!) to make a separate trip to the store for kale just to make a green dye, quietly lauding my newly flexible thinking (consoling myself is more like it, for getting what I perceive to be the "B" not the "A+") that no one would be the wiser if I just used frozen spinach.

No one questions me on creative methods around here (which is a gift, and wasn't the case in my former marriage), and when they are politely beseeched (okay, sent) to gather "some of that curling bark that fell off the cherry stumps from the wedding seating," they only turn back in the pragmatic parsec leading out the mudroom door to ask, "How much do you need?"

I like that a lot.
Approximately eight hours into this project, this was the conversation:

Ava (age 8): Hey Mom, why are you cooking wood?
Me (age 41): Because I thought we could make Easter egg dye out of it.
This was accepted as completely plausible, by the way, and in that moment, I noticed that the "fact" of other people's usual behavior is a nearly perfect place of non-resistance for most of us. 
Ava: How do you do that?
Me: [stirring] I don't know.
Ava: [nods compassionately]
Otto (age 6): [flys into the kitchen in his Darth Vader mask and long underwear, cuts through the humid, woody air with a light saber Whooomp! ] Hoooo-prrrrrr (Darth Vader breathing noise) Hoooo-prrrrrr...That smells pretty bad! Whooomp! Awkward!
Ava [eyerolls] You're in Kindergarten. You don't even know what "awkward" means, literally.
Otto: Well, I know what "bad" means! B-A-D. Whooomp!

So much in Star Wars is about using power wisely--using personhood, not to mention parenthood, wisely. Using our minds for good, not B-A-D. 
Star Wars explicitly references the world's wisdom traditions, particularly Buddhism, which I am drawn to--but, let's face it, kids just like it because it's Star Wars, people. It's another galaxy, far, far away, filled with light and sound effects and derring-do (and sure, there's a lot of fighting, which I wish six year-old boys didn't like s'darn much, but all you can do is teach them that a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack).

It chronicles, so beautifully, our symbiant relationship with all creatures, big, small, and seemingly "Other." 
Ava [chuckling to herself]: Well, I think when Otto gets a look at the Geonosians in Episode II, he's really going to think twice about stepping on another ant."

Plus, it can give some real heft to your parenting in moments of desperation. When your six-year-old whines "It's too big. I can't doooo it," you can take a squat, chin-scrunchly stance, and quietly come back with, "That is why you fail," in your best Yoda voice. 
And you may see (for something like the nine seconds I timed, anyway) a sudden sweet--if painful--awareness and reflection bloom.

Well, what happened with the Om Eggs, bobbing there under the reflective surface of the dyes (which lived in various cups around the kitchen for days, leading me to the understanding that although no member of this household will turn down one of my homemade pickles, no one actually enjoys the smell of vinegar nearly as much as I do), is that we kept coming back, peering at ourselves in the different colors, dredging the eggs and checking them. And, lovely and vibrant as these colors were, they just wouldn't take. I didn't want to admit OUR eggs were a pale imitation of store-bought PAAS, but um, that's exactly what they were, and the best word here: pale. You could hardly see the ॐ.
So, we added more vinegar (my excessive nature said "more" must be better and more effective.) My thought was that it would set the dye. A LOT of vinegar. And we waited. And we waited.
And then when that didn't work, I started getting angry and added more vinegar. We waited longer. Harder.
These cups sat around for another 7 hours, taking up counter and brain space. The eggs would get darker, the design would show up...and the color would wipe right off with a thumbnail.

AVA: "On the PAAS box I read at the store it said it should be Heinz vinegar. Maybe that was the problem, Mom. You know you never buy the name brand."

Despair, Vader flounce, and (after a quick detour to discuss the terms cahoots, and kick-back), Hoooo-prrrrrr, breathe. 

I just couldn't let it go. 
I went to bed at some point, stewing, and when I woke up and fished the shrinkled thing from its acid bath of expectation one more time, surprise! Still no Om, but the egg had collapsed.
"Mom, that egg looks just like...The Death Star."

By the way, you may be reading this thinking, "Look Stacia, I can't boil water and I don't even try these types of crazy artsy mom-projects. I don't keep vinegar in the house, and frankly, I don't much care for outer space. And since I'm nowhere near being the most influential filmmaker of all time, I'm pretty sure I'm immune to whatever's going on with you. I'm safe I tell you!!--I'm not like you!"

Um, sorry, R2.

Of course you are. Because you are creating your own character (and setting and story lines) all the time through the physical act of be-ing a human being (not so much the do-ing). Just as I am. 
This is how we learn, the only way we learn.
That's all I've got, incidentally: my entire teaching philosophy after 10 years and a formative crush on Thoreau.
If George Lucas ever decides to plunk Harrison Ford at Walden Pond, I'm sunk (and by the way, I just quivered, the way you do with a crazy good idea hoping someone will follow through on it). 
Every day is creation; it's an art form. Perhaps the only and the purest one.

"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." ~ Thoreau, Walden 

And while air quality monitoring is something I know how to do instinctively as a teacher and a mother, I have just realized that not only have I been mad and resistant to the idea that I cannot control the day itself, I've often spent entire years filling my own character's lungs with B-A-D air. Maybe due to over-reliance on my (air) conditioning, maybe because no one ever taught me otherwise. But once you're a grown-up, you can turn blue all you want--ultimately, you have to fill your character's lungs with Good--and for that, you have to choose to open up to the fresh air, and breathe.
AND breathe. 

I know what you're thinking, and it's okay if there's some smugness or even Schadenfreude in it for you. 
You're thinking the meaning of The Death Star Egg might be [in your best cynical, pre-awakened Han Solo voice]: "Should have spared yourself the experiential heartbreak and bought the PAAS, kid."  

Ah yes, the prefab box with with single should-sheet of instructions, the little color tablets that look an awful lot like the plaque-seeking, disclosing tablets our childhood dentists forced us to chew up so they could see, very clearly, where the problems were. 
Sigh, neon magenta problem areas are soooo much easier to address. 

If you end your training now - if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did - you will become an agent of evil. ~Yoda
The not so quick and easy path is having the courage to address the hidden problem areas our own bodies hold the secrets of, with little hope of such handy disclosure tabs: 
The deep and turbid wells (Wells, seriously, is my middle name) of Anakin-acidic disenchantment with accepting life just as it is, the bays of disappointment, the inlets of resentment. 
The murky, sucking swamps of fear, and the small pools of pettiness and General Grievances, perking away, all the time.
Hardest of all to reveal: the deadly lava streams of what can only be called our core molten anger, running far, far below, all the time. 

Welcome to my personal lava mindstream: I'm angry. A lot. 
I catch myself in the bottom of the mixing bowl, and the cords on my neck are as taut and defined as Darth Vader's grille, even when I think I'm relaxed.
This may surprise you--it did me.
You're not supposed to be angry (you are also not supposed to wrestle with addiction, or anxiety, or self-loathing, or even disenchantment) when you're a mom. You are supposed to bake cookies, sustain and nourish others--and if you must make a hearty covered dish of your feelings from time to time, well, so what?

Flour-on-the-floor (or window) mess never makes me angry.

("You let them do THAT in the kitchen?!" even laid-back friends say)--
make me angry.
The Death Star Egg mess only I create.

So I'm not talking about flour-on-the-floor variety irritation or peevishness, I am talking about Vaderesque anger.

Anger at my shortcomings--and my inability to execute what I want to create--but more than anything else, my continued struggle to come home to the person I know I truly am, to the Anakin still-good in me, hard and anodized or not.

What does she have to be so angry about?, you ask--right now, I mean. 
She with the new life? With the like-minded, devoted (and rather undeniably hot) Qui Gon Jinn-esque husband, and the funky farmhouse with the low-tech kitchen full of peacefoodlove, the five amazing children, and the dream job of just learning how to be through cooking meditation?

Well, for one thing,I thought I had changed my course to the Dark Side four years ago when I quit drinking, and I have spent a LOT of time figuring out how to take off the blank, black mask with eyes like surveillance mirrors in a convenience store--the ones that make you feel guilty even when you're not doing anything wrong.

Ever notice the way someone who feels guilty won't look you in the eye? They'd sooner kill you, then get the slight nod of acknowledgment, made more ominous by the mask.

Maybe I feel guilty that it's taken me so long to get here and it doesn't go well every night.
I'm like a new restauranteur.

I never had any anger before (or any other feelings, to my knowledge. I was smooth, shiny & tall (often absurdly mistaken for confidence) and, mask clicked in place, I appeared damage free. 
We all have our ways of freezing scary feelings like anger "safely" into said Carbonite (substitute "vodka" or "work" or "cleaning") until we can deal with them.  
My best guess is that now that I'm in that relatively safe and loving place I have always longed for, with more and more time at a real living room temperature, yep, they're thawing out. 

And well, you know how you have to be very careful when you defrost something enormous like a giant rump roast or an entire spring leg of lamb. If you try to just stick it on the counter and leave it out to its own devices, it'll thaw, but it will not thaw evenly, and that can be B-A-D (not to mention E-C-O-L-I). Plus, taste-wise, it can turn on you.
You really need time and an ice bath, or space and a slow fridge defrost. Everybody knows this, right? Well, partially due to the fact that our healthcare system is, to be kind, not very forward-thinking in covering many of the tools which would be relevant and helpful to me now (somatically-based therapies like body work, acupuncture, Rolfing, and Chinese medicine, for example), but mostly due to the fact that this is just me and how I learn--in a small kitchen with a crunch for time and a reaaaalllllly steep learning curve--I have been thawing myself out here at home, on the counter top of the peacefoodlove kitchen.

And no, I'm not thawing out evenly. In fact, I'm painfully aware of entire numb stretches of my body (I mean this literally) and prickly-hot unbearable places.

I always say the thing I love most about Middle Schoolers is that they have no permanent mask, that they can't help but give you everything in the way they think and write because, despite their best intentions, they are developmentally "leaky" (emotionally, ideologically, etc), but I'm the one who's leaky now, and it's a bloody mess on white countertops.

What has been happening is that, in a leaky moment, I will do or say something so colossally unwise with my new feelings, like anger, that Whooomp! I will actually shake from it (this is always with my husband, and always has to do with dredging up the past or straining into the future). 
I am overcome by tidal heat and fury; this juice floods me. 

[But] beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will. ~ Yoda

It feels like there is no way back from this pull to the Dark Side, because of the "consumption conundrum" (indeed it kind of feels like the flu):
Even in that moment when I cannot believe how harmful I am being in my anger, to myself and to someone I love so deeply--just draining the soul out of him with gamma rays shooting out of my fingertips and my crazy red-socketed eyes, I feel…powerful, and passionate, and most importantly, safer than not doing it for some reason (which I have yet to figure out).
And then, completely ashamed.

Because it's not easy to stop right in the middle of an Evilgasm: 
(forgive me, but there is no other term)
And, going with the instinctual physical release of stored trauma theory, it is energy seeking a way OUT.

And I'm sure Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) noticed, but hardly had time in the midst of being destroyed to make the following Pulpy observation:  
"Check out the big brain on Bad."
Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body20th U.S. ed. Originally published 1918 (drawing lapsed into public domain)

There's no particular Jedi mind trick to seeing that the Emperor comes to physically resemble, more and more, a brain---a really scary unintegrated brain. Sure, he's got the powa, but boy, has he got a corpus callosal split going on, between powerful emotional instincts like fear (I don't care what he says, he's not in control) and reason and impulse control (um, not to mention, social graces), and that really is a dangerous conundrum.
This is the consumption conundrum I find myself in sometimes (less and less, but there is no "little bit consumed.")

Now, if you said to me, in that darkest moment, "But I can't do it. I've messed up again, I just...can't come back home now, my Dark Side is too strong."
I'd say, with true compassion (understanding that I cannot yet do this for myself)…
"I doubt that very much."

The final words of the Buddha are said to be, "Doubt everything. And discover your own light."
Of course, he is also said to have died from food poisoning, which draws me in deep obligation to the mettaphor, to offer you this modern take:
"Dare to doubt that the Dark Side is stronger; and discover your own light saber."

Doesn't that sound as easy as slicing through butter?

Butter on Anger, that is.
Okay, I don't know what "butter on anger" actually means, but I was trying to drive and that's what Siri translated; and, fat-on-fire style, it works here.

Nothing oils up the path to the Dark Side like Butter on Anger: which is that point where you think, "Oh man, I blew it so badly (again) that I can't even be with myself. Fine, maybe I'll just go riding off into that scalding lava sunset all by myself. Screw everything, maybe the Dark Side will take me. I'm so bad, let me be badder."
It's fundamental.

Because you can know the anger slip-slide is happening, that you're losing traction on Mindfulness, and yet you can keep right on laying a butter-pat trail in front of you, a slick, silken tractor-beam headed straight for the hem of Darth Vader's cape, which sucks you under its heavy pie crust hem, to fight your way back out again--if you can even summon the will to get back out, and not slink deeper down in.

Ever been inside a darth pot-pie of self-destruction? Yeah, me too: unfortunately it's warm, salty and snug in there, perversely, with enough little bits of sweet carrot dangling at the end of the butter stick to make it seem justified--not Good, justified.

The B-A-D news is that yes, the Dark Side will always take you, but the good news is that so will your true refuge, your goodness, your Rebel home base.

Because, I'm thinking that it is a bit of a rebellious thing to do to try to come back home, despite all of the story lines and against all the conditioning, everything that tells you you're are powa-less AND out of choices.
And that is one of the Emperor's big tricks, by the way: to seduce you into believing that you're just completely are out of choices.
When in reality you're not out of choices. Well, at the very least, you can always breathe. 

Inside, after a few of these Hoopers, I (think) I know: I am still good. No matter how much I have hurt myself or others.
Because all moms are Jedi Knights--and dads and anyone else who is a symbiont; an ambient, sentient steward--be it of a plant, animal, pet rock or "just" one's own soul. And that is…everyone.

Whether deliberate or intuitive, you're a Jedi, and this is a warrior's path.
And it's 6-year-old-whiny-boy-hard sometimes--especially when you no longer drown your sorrows and are trying not to drown your enemies, either (especially yourself).

When you give in to aversion and anger, it’s as though, having decided to kill someone by throwing him into a river [insert "of Lava on planet Mustafar"], you wrap your arms around his neck, jump into the water with him, and you both drown. In destroying your enemy, you destroy yourself as well.
- Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, "Putting Down the Arrow."

The Buddha called this human thing of making it worse the "Second Dart": the one we ourselves add to the First Dart, causing the biggest suffering, the worst damage. When we are hurt--and especially when we hurt others (like me, with my anger), what do we do? We rush to draw that Second Dart, that Second Arrow--or, Whooomp!--the Second Light Saber, the one we use to Darth Maul ourselves with. 
We are so highly skilled at turning it back on ourselves. 
So far, I have not figured out how to consistently avoid picking up the light saber and cutting off my other hand when I am angry (or otherwise reactive).

Just when you think your inner Obi-Wan told you enough, that you've revealed everything about yourself, the mirrored mask gleams with this spoiler: Luke, I am your anger.


Yeah, search your feelings, you know it to be true. 
And the resounding truth is, the Dark Side you are resisting? The horrible rage you feel against that "Other?" Is your anger, your rage, your father, is...YOU.

Dammit! @#$%^&*()&*!!!
Whooomp! Out comes the second light saber: and you cut off your hand to spite your face. Your mask-removing hand.
Your drawing hand.
Your vacuuming hand.

One day, I discovered Otto dancing and vacuuming the playroom with his Darth Vader mask on, and since this cleaning was completely volitional and an amazing sight, I tried not to disturb it with my comments or my camera.
I observed.
What I saw was that the mask wasn't keeping him from being functional in a daily household way AND from feeling--clearly evident in his body--joy. Sweet joy: that place where there's no past or future self or moment, there is only (gratefully borrowing from Rick Hanson once again) vacuuming up the pearls of Good.

Kids are naturally drawn toward the Good like a Dyson, "and they never lose suction"...because children understand that the mask is isn't real, that it's external to, and not part of, their true identity. So they can be playful with it.
And, unlike me, children never (under ordinary circumstances) purposefully resist the pearls and step on the shells in bare feet, angry with themselves for the mess and the missteps.

An insight I've had about the mask (which I created from alcohol, from do-ing, and from playing possum for many years), is that all of my rage got trapped behind it, and that the feeling is still living inside my body, a symbiont.
Now, in relative safety, the mask is dropping, but that's actually terrifying too, because behind the mask (and in my entire body) is still stored that Anakin-brand anger: being unable to just accept the way it is--whether that was the death of your mother at the hands of the Sand People, or the drowning of yourself at your own hands lifting the bottle, or simply the soul-snuffing marriage where you were not seen.

This device is really enmeshed with my identity now; I can't just take it off so easily. And I absolutely default react by "masking out" in stressful situations.

I always thought that something was seriously wrong with me...disordered, even, that I can do this, "mask out": put it on and be utterly black, numb and inhuman. Gone. In a second.
I know it scares others (ask my husband).  
But my gut tells me now, that Darth Vader, while scary, doesn't embody some evil disorder (borderline or any other)--and I.
Darth Vader simply embodies...a containment strategy.
Darth Vader is what happens when you terrify yourself so badly with your own anger, when you traumatize yourself with the glimpse that the damage in you would kill every living thing and everyone else around you, that you better create something to hold it in.

With a Mettathud, I see: Darth Vader is not disorder, but highly ordered, creative suffering. Physical reaction to the terror and flying-around (why do you think he has that cape?) feeling.
The groundlessness of one's own anger. This is the concept, by the way: rage turned inward, that I identified with so deeply in Peter Levine's book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness--that I had to stop writing for a while, and work through this pattern:

*For this project, you'll need a lot of heavy black fabric, a stitching awl, and a #12 royal glover's needle, a forging hammer, an anvil, and…a true, healing fire!

Sometimes we have to go right into the fire in order to find our true healing. ~Jack Kornfield

Everyone knows that Darth Vader doesn't wear black because it makes him look thinner or even to look more menacing. NO. He wears it because black, scientifically speaking, is the absence of all light. Really, he wears black in an attempt to hide from his own goodness, to cloak his own light. And...oof, I get this.
Because the pain of knowing--even if you are the only one--that there is still good in you, no matter the feelings, no matter the mask, no matter what you have done…is excoriating.

This is the complete pain and blackness of being driven from your true home, from yourself, from your own light.
Forget trying to eat anything; the kitchen light's on, but nobody's home.

There is no fire like passion; there is no losing throw like hatred; there is no pain like this body; there is no happiness higher than rest. ~ from Happiness, the Dhammapada

Homeless, there is no rest for the wicked, and that is why.

All of my get-ups and hang-ups are attempts to counteract impermanence, to ground myself, like self-stitched gravity-seeking black-booted heels desperately grinding into the scary-ass weightless feeling of outer space.

And the mask--for me and for Vader--is simply a way to cheat certain death, a way to keep living, a way we created so we could still keep breathing with the damage.

I am humbled to say it. I never ever EVER thought I would need to use Jurassic Park or Jeff Goldblum for anything, but I am now glad of it: "I'm simply saying that, uh, life finds a way."

And, for me, the way was (and still is) inward.
But in a word, empirically, sometimes I get it; sometimes I don't:

AVA  [in observation mode, several days out: sniffs and pokes the wrinkled, now-flabby Death Star Egg] Mom, Is there calcium in eggs?
ME:   [protracted pause] Where are you going with this? 
         Yes, if you eat the shells, but if you want calcium there are other sources.
AVA: [gentle eyeroll] Well, this makes sense now, Mom.
ME:   [blinking like a sheep, staring into the sun]
AVA: Because vinegar acts on the calcium of the shell and weakens its structure? [looks at me patiently, like I'm a child, then adds] You know, like when you put a chicken bone in vinegar and it rubberizes into a funny rubber chicken bone?

The not-so-subtle, smiling subtext was, Mom, you should have known this, you already knew this would happen, and...[insert small Buddha smile], it's really okay that you didn't remember this time.

This remembering is one of the extreme challenges of reactivity (from just plain failed Death Star Egg anger, to Darth Vader mask-donning, to full-on Emperor rage). We simply can't remember and react at the same time.
This is the point: Butter on Anger, where we need to practice cooling down the fires, to get out of, as Rick Hanson says, The Red Zone.

I know that I get stuck in The Red Zone partly from fear, partly from the Second Light Saber, but also, because staying there in my anger and lapping it up makes me feel temporarily full and powerful--this is the same effect carbs have on me, by the way, a stellar (if extraordinarily temporary) sugar rush. Isn't there some awful energy drink called "Red Zone?"

I am 99.9% certain there had to be beans or quinoa in Yoda's pot on Dagobah (I'd need some meat, but you get the idea here).
Because when I'm in Reactive mode, I'm absolutely sure my chemistry is also off. Eating some protein, stat, when I'm angry is like having a dopamine IV hooked directly to my brain.
I wish I could get to the point where I am skillful enough to choose wisely every time, to always rather have an egg than a Valium the size of a handball, I do.

Well, here's the thing with this Jedi Warrior's path: it's a process and you gotta accumulate skillful means as you go.
What did Luke have to do? 
Had to learn control by being in control.
Had to learn to cultivate a fearless heart by choosing not to act in fearless ways.
By practicing.
And by breaking a lot of eggs, I'm guessing.

Eggs are amazing on many levels, metaphorical and nutritional, not the least of which is their almost unparalleled beauty as a simple protein. 

Julia Child claimed that the true test of any chef's skill was scrambled eggs (I revere Julia). The issue, she said, and why so many cooks fail in this simple recipe, is too much fire. Her method, you see, was to turn off the fire. 
The secret of scrambled eggs is clearly resisting our instinct to resist the right action for ourselves. 

Maybe, I got to thinking, we could use that long, beautiful, parasympathetic exhale-- Hoooo-prrrrrr--to blow out the fire under our own pans and make eggs.
Get out of the red, and into the green.
So, I tried it.
                     Yoda Eggs (Scrambled Eggs and Pesto): 

Eggs (4):
Super protein source and full of choline (strengthens cell membranes & precurses the heart-rate lowering neurotransmitter, acetylcholine)
Pesto (homemade or storebought, it matters not):
contains walnuts (full of brain soothing and boosting omega 3's), olive oil (healthy fat that soothes the brain, the body & may stabilize wonky blood sugar), parmesan cheese (protein, calcium, low in rampy lactose) and basil (an anti-inflammatory and adaptogen, or stress-reducer"--look for my Basilade recipe with Simple (no really!) Basil-Agave Syrup this summer)
Coconut Oil:
previously vilified, virgin coconut oil has been linked to increased circulation in the brain, possibly even Alzheimer's prevention. (I'm a fan of blending butter & coconut oil for taste and function)
Sea Salt:
naturally contains traces of system regulating iodine, without aluminum (an anti-caking additive present in commercially processed "iodized" salt)

1. You already have a hot pan, a really hot pan: you have "Butter on Anger" (about half a tablespoon)
2. Intend to use it wisely
3. Whisk a mound of basil pesto into 4 cracked eggs and pour into the pan
4. Turn off the heat.
5. Step back from the stove. Walk away if you have to (it goes against all reason to leave a pan unattended, but I did)
6. RESIST the urge to check, or to touch the hot pan (Ha! I never wear potholders, by the way). 
7. Close your eyes or softly focus and count to 100, using The Imperial March, as needed. If you can't bear to actually step away from the pan, at least breathe. Hoooo-prrrrrr
8. Come back, slowly and deliberately, and mindfully fold the curds of egg over themselves until they finish cooking by their own internal heat: they will be light, softly green, luminous and…whole. 
Green and luminous.
Look, I know this is another of my empire-strikingly simple non-recipes. But I'm not going to apologize for my offering (another of Julia's mandates); it took me soooo many complicated ones to get here. 

When in doubt about eggs, or anger, simplify. Get rid of the dyes the distillations, the waxes, the tinctures of disguise, the metal implements. 
Resist complicated methods and simply turn down--off if you can--the fire in the pan.

Thanks Julia & Yoda, and thank you, Ava, who, crying hot, frustrated tears, HALLTed me in my tracks the other day when she said, as we were forced to make a meal in a gas station grocery aisle, "Mom, I just need some PROTEEEEEEIN!!!"

And there we found ourselves, staring, no amygda-lie, at a pair of vinegar-lovin', red-red beet eggs.

At first it can seem weird and sort of Darth Insidious, the way everything is connected, the way all these guises are the same (person) and it's you. 
But if you (um, I) can sit with that discomfort, it is possible to be present for its unfolding.

Because now we must talk about the connections between me and Emperor Palpatine.
The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) from the film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
© 1983, Lucasfilm Ltd. (Please see fair use rationale at end)

There is a point beyond Vader anger, steeped in the acids of rage turned inwards, where you completely lose presence, and from which you cannot come back without help.

It's Palpable, and it's loud--an Emperoar. It is shaking with undulating melting wax shudders, spitting, and...actually smiling with rage. And it's shrinkled up under a cloak hiding a terrifying secret: the weakness rage puts the mind in.

Beyond full and tall Vader anger, glittering, glowering, there is another entity, and it is empty, small, dull, pasty. Beet red-rimmed eyes that couldn't squeeze out a tear because that would require muscular tension (this is when you leak tears, you don't even cry), a point of collapse beyond hyper vigilance and tension and all possible tightening, like a rubber band stretched past itself, utterly slack. 
How shrunken and flat, how non-luminous, how dark this place is.

I, who have always been always rigid, with hyper vigilant mastery over every thermonuclear process and contractional inch of my body (sorry, this doesn't translate to actual muscle tone), over every ring of every sphincter system and muscle stretch even in my sleep, am not so sure in those moments if I can even control the basics: not vomit, fall down, or wet myself.

I, who fear loss of control more than anything, have lost it.
Um, like a star.
An exhausted white dwarf.
A Death Star.

With drinking, the metaphor is sometimes the pickle (and here we are at vinegar once again)--you can't go back to being a cucumber once you pass this point.
With stress reactivity, the top of the food chain actually flips to become the bottom in some kind of awesome, circular body logic: in the same way the body turns on itself (or, so it always seemed to me, as I was helpless at the end to a tablespoon of vodka) in order to preserve itself--there is no longer any tolerance.
Like the calcium in the eggshell, the bonds of the very shell are weakened beyond any ability or integrity to stay closed anymore.
Or (another way to see it): to resist being open to what is true. 

From recent personal experience, I am going to tell you that if you, as a system, reach this point, utter gravitational collapse, you will find yourself too powerless to act in the midst of a full-on catastrophe--whether that's the Death Star blowing up, or a dog biting one of your children during your own dinner party.
That is true.

The good news is that the Universe has always relied on collapse as a creation strategy.

I find the Emperor's end to be terrifying, don't you? So wrapped up in his own reactivity, so weakened by it, that he doesn't even notice Darth Vader, his sudden, masterful presence, closing the synaptic gap, as it were. 
The Emperor has lost all awareness, and so, his control and his real power. 
I am overcome, as I write this, because I understand this feeling so well. 
To become something so hollowed out, so weakened by rage, so empty, that Darth Vader just picks him up over his head, like a dried out christmas tree in the back tree-line, and chucks him over the edge. 
That's it.
That moment right there--that scares the crap out of me. I mean, really, that's it?
But because my number one childhood fear is not the black thing coming out of nowhere when you aren't prepared, it's the black thing coming back, I still have to check after the credits to make sure he's really been disposed of. Just to see.
But he has.
Helpless as a baby.

All of a sudden, swaddled up in this insight, I stop thrashing, and I really do see.
My reactivity, my whacked-out, clanging warning bell, suddenly feels decidedly female to me--feels me to me. Maybe because I've wrestled with my inner Siren plenty, and because as a mom this hyper-arousal is such a huge part of the job description--to be, literally, a protective siren. 
Why, even the amygdalae, these two clanging glands, are almond-shaped, just like ovaries. 

Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother for your baby, your anger. The moment you begin to practice breathing mindfully in and out, you have the energy of a mother, to cradle and embrace the baby." (from Anger)

This too, is part of the job, I see. To care for myself.
I have spent so much time being angry. Angry at myself and at my body, at my mind, feeling it had, has, and does betray me, when really, it was just protecting me all along in the best way it could.
It still is.
My mind has been in a state of prolonged contraction, but it has been my body preparing me, pushing me, undulating forward instinctively into some new channel, a space where compassion and change, awareness could be born--Com-passion: with the passion.

And as with childbirth, the body knows just what it needs to do, to return us to our basic state of happiness, peace and wisdom. 

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ― Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Oh yes, there is a space between stimulus and response, and it is the mother of us all.
The Padme Amygdala.  
Between the wise, seasoned and reasoned response of the prefrontal cortex, and the gut-wrenching, helplessly terminal reactivity of the amydgala. 
I have no idea if any such space exists structurally in the brain, but I do know this space is the lexus, nexus and lotus of our survival choices: fight, flee, freeze, or, finally, collapse into love.

Om Mani Padme Hum.
The jewel in the lotus of the mind, heart and gut. The sweet spot which is really this confectionary trifecta.
The sweet insulullaby which soothes, "Come back, dear one. You can come home now."
Padme: the mother of the twin parts of us, the wise and unwise, the light and the dark, the loving and the fearful.
This lotus space blooming, opening to hold us with her soft petals, like arms, while we learn. An embrace, holding us until we can birth loving and wise response.

I know this space exists for me, because I feel it in my gut right now as I write this. I know I belong there, in the sliver of space where our basic, changeless goodness resides, our true power, our true nature, shining its pearl-like luster on the Dark Side.
I know, because this insight is cool inside my head right now. 
Luminous beings are we in this cool, sweet space, not whatever crude matter-at-hand, not this crude meat.

Perhaps this space is only the Middle Way in another form (I'm saying this--I, who have resisted moderation in every form my whole life), a way where everything known or understandable actually flips over and becomes the other. Whether physiological or mettaphorical, it's there: the space where light becomes the dark and back again, where impossible things transform in the very push-pull of resistance to them, where we are everything all at once and that is okay. And this sudden feeling of transformation, this circle of lightening, is the Quan Yin to the Clang of the Yang.

When the clanging stops, I feel an indescribable wave of tenderness for the Emperor (I hope it's not the old urge to fix scary men but hey, there's a tiny bit of that). Yes, there's the baking urge in me, welling up. The desire to ask him what his favorite food is, what cookie he remembers from childhood. I keep thinking, if I could only make that for him, he would remember.
Remember the soft, melting, raw sugar balm 
In my mind, I approach the Emperor gently, a cookie in one hand, reaching toward his lips; the other placed softly on top of his head, over the deep crack in his humanity. 
I wonder if I could close the gap for him that way, hold the disparate pieces together. Hand him a cookie that tastes of something long forgotten, of care, of basic, divine sweetness that is otherwise unnamable. 
This strange little visualization of compassion for the Emperor suddenly makes my own pain much more workable--not because mine isn't as bad, but because it is.

Okay, here's a little leavening for your cookie.

As I feel the resistance I have to intruding on your reader's kindness without giving you a sight gag in return, I think that Resistance is just a force (neither good nor bad) making necessary space.
Like in the fridge.


A couple of weeks ago, there was this dreadful smell coming from somewhere in the kitchen. And though we took everything out of the fridge and sniff-tested it, we could not isolate the smell. It galled me, throwing away so much that was surely still good, on a gamble to pinpoint the negative, but I felt I had to do it.
The stench worsened.

Having no other explanation, eventually even I started to look askance at the Death Star Egg.
A cursory sniff across the dishpan revealed it smelled, quite inexplicably and as fresh mussels do, like a clean beach. 
The smell (later discovered to be festering cannelini beans, somehow mind-bogglingly concealed & sealed) still smelled.
In a few days, I went back to the Egg, still nestled up in my kitchen shrine. 
And I decided to pick it up.

When I went to pick it up it crumbled, so light. It fell apart in my palm instantly, like a day-old peony. Eggshell petals laid open to reveal the yolk, now desiccated, seeming to shine from within, luminous, like an uncut and unpolished gemstone.
The yellow ochre pearl in my own hand.

But there's more.
From nowhere, from inside the egg, like a magician's trick (okay, actually, more like a clown car) ants--hundreds of ants--started streaming out in a line, one stream, one being, one energy, wending and stretching out, across the fragile shell-shards, buzzing softly and purposefully, an energy moving across and with my hand and my forearm, through my fingertips to the ledge where our lovely Buddha statue sits, and right on up the greenhouse sides, across the glass, walking right along the horizon line.
Defying gravity. You know, that force we think we understand.

It was the strangest and most lovely sensation I have felt in a long time.

In an old farmhouse, losing battles include: drafts, plaster dust, dog hair, and most especially, ants.
Try dissuading them from your kitchen and your surfaces once they've found a home there.

Now, I'm a pacifist, with a child who will go to the mat for minutiae. If Ava could get me to stop the van for a stinkbug crossing the road, she would. But truly, this was a lot of ants. A LOT. Beyond the scope of my grandmother's "Don't worry, they don't eat much."

Creatures light on Ava--they always have: butterflies, praying mantises, ladybugs, toads, even once, a dove. Because they understand she is trustworthy, and more importantly, she knows that she is

Watching the streaming lines of ants carefully, fascinated, she said (okay, I'll tell you, but prepare yourself, because it's a doozy):
"Oh please, Mom! You can't let anyone hurt them! You can't!--they're just trying to survive!...And...they're nature's recyclers!"
I love that at 8, she innately and masterfully employs the zinging, two-tined fork of the soul's plea plus fact.

I knew instinctively not to take a picture of any of this or try to write any of it down. To pause and let it be. It seems I'm always rushing off for my camera or a pencil, and there are very few moments in my life where I am truly aware and not an observer, observing.
So I just wanted to...see.
Because each of us must be allowed to see, sacredly and intimately, our own awareness. To let the egg of our own awareness crack open, and see what's really in there.To see inside the egg of our own goodness. 
And then to trust what we see.

Munching away in a waffle, observing this whole scene, but very happily otherwise engaged in drawing characters (and surely choosing his own), Otto released the world's most beautiful laugh:

"Mom, did you hear what you just said?"

Actually, I wasn't aware I'd made any sound.

"You SAID, 'That's the Ant-swer'-- Get it?" 

Truly remarkable, the mind of a child is.
(And okay, I can't help it, Yoda's voice was immediately followed by a proud "YES!!! This is the true power of modeling word play!")

WE are the symbionts of the Force we cannot see, but is everywhere, that is bigger than our resistance to it.
Still, I needed to see, so I got ants.

Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you'll hear them speaking to you.―Qui-Gon Jinn, to Anakin Skywalker

Um, and apparently you will be able to see them without your early onset progressive bifocals---if that's what you need just then.

It was the Force: of the little ants in a great, vibrating, harmonic streamthat hollowed out the egg. And it has the power to hollow me out, too, to make space, recycle me and upcycle me, to some Omega Point where I remember I am whole again.

Please know that these sorts of insights are always forever happening as the last glass of milk's being drained at the breakfast table, as arms are threaded in jacket-sleeves. as we must run out the door.
With the same hot tears spilling that she once cried revealing her deep fear about our Sun's "impending" status as a red giant, Ava then begged me not throw away the Egg (or the ants) while she was at school.
"You can't just throw it away, Mom."
Sigh, she's right. I can't--I never can.
Because I have my own tagline to preserve around here, and it's: "Wait!-we could still make something out of that!"

Even if it's only meaning.

The ant-swer did just come to me, in a simple sentence with just three words: Stop resisting love.
Stop resisting my own learning, and how eggshell messy it is.
I just have to learn how to put on The Imperial March--to feel the rush of power, even the darkness and the beauty of the horn parts--and take off my mask at the same time.

FATHER: Luke help me take this mask off.
SON: But you'll die
FATHER: Nothing can stop that now. Just for once, let me look on you with my own eyes.

I love the part where Luke nods just slightly then. His eyes are so beautiful, completely comprehending the risk.

The risk of dying to the mask and your ego so you can see love, who you really are in others eyes, with your own eyes, all so you can come home to remember your true nature, held in the universal surname, Skywalker.
Because, "There is... another... Sky... walker…." and it is you.
Skywalker: One who uses his or her time in this life by staying with the training, by LIVING to defend another day of light, by be-ing the impossible, by, ant-like, defying gravity. Being one with the stream, not resisting, vacuuming up the Good in it, entire pearly constellations across the changeless, the vast, the sky.

To see and be seen, that's all anybody wants.
That, and the sweet sweetness of the moment when, unmasked, you might be able to say, You were right, you were right about me.
This is what parenting does.
This is what love does.
Love, full Force.

PS: Although every single thing I have reported here as fact is absolutely true, that my kids really talk this way, that I really put beet eggs on my eyes in spite of my finicky bifocal contact lenses so I can see better, that seriously, I just write this stuff for fun even if no one ever reads it because I need to, I suddenly realize that letting other people see me see is important and here's why:
This is why we have the gift of mettaphor, as humans: to believe our eyes, so we can see what's already there. 
Perhaps also, to positively perturb the system. 
Metaphor doesn't implicate the divine, ladies and gentlemen, metaphor is the divine, speaking through our children and our creative failures. 

Okay, I didn't understand Jar Jar Binks the first time around. At the time of Episode I, I was in the habit of drinking at home, secretly, to try to dull my anxiety. Now, my sister (the same garbage squid susser from IV) could always tell (even when no one else--not even my first husband--could), even when I was really quite masterfully, quietly drunk and trying to cover it up, because
she said it was like I had a mask on--and because she said I walked like Jar Jar Binks. 
So, even though my life is so happy and different now, watching Episodes I-III again produces some discomfort--and a lot of inquiry.
Sometimes the fruits of inquiry knock you flat (as I was occasionally when drinking), and sometimes, they hold out for much, much longer and surprise you with the gift of insight--thirteen years later.

Jar Jar, it seems, isn't some failure of mine. Some embarrassment, some shame.
He only represents past actions, past ways of being, and the choices which led me here. 
You can think of that as karma, or simply cause and effect.

I just realized that this post is my Jar Jar Binks of the NOW.
Maybe like Jar Jar, this direction with the blog, this post, this choice, will not make sense to anyone else, or even to me immediately. But I know it is good-hearted; it just wants to help me. And I trust it.
Because just like Louisa May Alcott, "I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship"--and it's the freaking Millennium Falcon of ships, baby.

I have no idea what George Lucas or anybody else would make of these theories (not to mention my pedagogy). And, who knows? Maybe it's all been "done" by other teachers (old and new) over at Edutopia--I did not look, very, very deliberately. Because I know myself. And I give my best only when I'm not comparing myself incessantly against experts or more "educated" opinions (not mention and the old "Drat, I'm sure someone probably already thought that the Emperor represents the identification collapse of an over-stressed amygdala."--That old chestnut).
It's safe in my beginner's mind, here in the peacefoodlove kitchen, where I sense I belong.
Anyway, it's memoir, not dissertation, which makes it a tautology--true, with nothing to prove.
Like every other kid born in the 70's, consciously or unconsciously, I looked at Star Wars, at George Lucas, and up at the sky and thought, "I want to be there when I grow up."
Apparently, I thought I was "making" Om eggs then, too. I had the right thinking, I did. 
Except there is here.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a, let us all be thankful.” ~  the Buddha

And, if you want to know, my favorite line in all of Star Wars, hands-solo down, is no longer "I have a ba-a-a-a-d feeling about this" which I would've latched onto so easily in the past, with my negativity bias.
Nope, the line--the mantra really--that gets me is, "Search your feelings," (and the sometimes explicitly spoken) "you know it to be true."
Because I do know what's true for me, and that always resides in how it feels.
And here it feels just plain right for me to dedicate this to George Lucas. For searching his feelings, my gut says surely, over and over again, and still putting it out there, for letting us see.
And for "creating" Jar Jar. Mesa grateful.

PPS: BONUS Universe alert!
In physics, the symbol (℧), Omega, is used to represent?…Yes, you guessed it, the ohm – a unit of electrical resistance. The Greek character for the final letter, the the be-all:
the Om.

Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge. ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Omega Point

Despite resistance, and your resistance of the resistance, you will naturally continue to rise and converge with the light...and you will also continue to crash land on Dagobah, over and over and over again, for the rest of this life, asking each time, What am I doing here? Claiming it's like something out of a dream.

Alphawave to Omega Point, over and over again. 

Fair (and deeply respectful) use of Emperor Palpatine's image:

This image is a screenshot of The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) from the film, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
 Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by U.S. fair use laws, because:
It illustrates an educational article about anger and the brain, which this image represents.
The image is used as the primary means of visual identification and to illustrate this topic for the reader.
It is a low resolution image, making it unsuitable for production of counterfeit goods.
The Emperor's image is not used in such a way that a reader would likely be confused into believing this article is written or authorized by the creator, George Lucas.
It was not replaceable with an uncopyrighted or freely copyrighted image of comparable educational value.


  1. Stunning. Courageous. Epic. Thank you :-)

  2. This is so beautiful, and so much fun to read. If you want, you have the heart - literally and figuratively - of a book right here.

    In a funny way for me, the perfect capper to the whole thing was your meticulous and deeply respectful note at the end about your usage of the image of the Emperor.

    Triple backflip bows,