Hot Peppers, Science, and the Brain

It’s a clear and cold winter. The perfect time to share in the value and power of Story as a practical and effective Winter Technology. Tracking is fun on these cold days, but working on the program shed extension, that will have to wait until the temperature gets back into the double digits. I know, I’m getting soft in my fifties, but it’s a perfect day to write this newsletter.  Music on shuffle, amazing windows filled with snow shrouded pines hold vigil for the promise of a distant Spring, silhouettes stark against a sky so vivid with blue it commands awe.

Have you ever just stared at that curtain of blue and suddenly realized this is what a gold fish stares at? I suppose the big difference is that the glass is a hard barrier against flopping around on the floor, where our sky is a swirling bubble of dynamic currents of gasses separating us from zero pressure and the near absolute zero of space. Unlike flipper the floppy pet carp, we would explode and instantly freeze. I imagine we would look like beautiful frozen crimson mimosa flowers floating through space. Miniature carnation pops in frozen tribute to a life a bit mismanaged. But I digress.

In this newsletter, I want to reach out to you to examine your role as story teller. It is one of the most engaging of our innate gifts. For thousands of years we have brought our kind to beautiful, moving, disturbing, and enlightening places through the retelling of experiences and deeds. We continue to do so inspite of a general lack of cultivation of this inherent skill. Some use acting, music, art, gossip, but every one of us is a story teller. Which brings me to the subject of this first bit.

Hot peppers in the garden have been a side obsession since I was a teen. I love hots. So, I’m going through the dried peppers from last year and taking out seed for next when I discover an ancient stash of cayenne’s. Somehow, this vagrant bag of spiceys, bailed off the Lazy Susan into a shadowy corner. The peppers, save for two or three, were a ghostly grey. I had to taste on just to know. As suspected, it was nearly tasteless, almost like rice paper meets brown paper bag. I tried a red one. Well, my life, in four short steps, immediately lost all purpose and I found myself being dragged about the kitchen by, of all things, my lips, who were apparently on fire and in charge. They bumbled with a singular passion, to put the molten tissues at ease as quickly as possible. With the grace of a banana slug in a bug zapper we, my lips and I, stumbled through the bag of spinach, devoured four celery sticks, and downed a half a gallon of lemon water. This journey started at the top of the refrigerator shelves and bounced around the door and back until everything, anything, that could extinguish the pain was either consumed or contemplated.

It was rather funny, but the pain itself put a damper on things. This is how great training opportunities present themselves! I remembered reading that peppers have learned to fool the body into thinking it was on fire. I started with attempting to override that process with that knowledge alone. It wasn’t enough. Explaining to the brain that it is experiencing a manufactured sensation and that there was no damage didn’t make the burn go away, just dulled it.  I needed a more powerful focal point; one that engaged the emotions and applied to my day to day reality. This burn was distracting me from making a kick ass newsletter. Hey, wait a minute, I know….

And so, this article is born. An article sharing the power of storytelling as an internal process for self-healing, transcending distraction, and fueling your vision. Written in real time, I can not remember when the burn completely subsided, but I CAN tell you it correlated roughly with the moment I got absorbed into the writing of the story. After all, this article is all about the power and effect of Story Telling as a Winter Skill. This was an educational story rather than a healing one, or a grieving one, or a story to test edges. This story involved hot peppers, the science surrounding brain function and plant relationships, and how each of you have your own story telling “style”. It also has a homework assignment. Share a moving part of your journey and one of the important pieces you came away with as a result of that experience with folks who could benefit from it! Story telling; use it responsibly, but use it. The Stories getting the most ratings these days aren’t always healthy.