Gero-Punk Tribute: Exploding Brains

I began writing this essay late yesterday afternoon and thought I’d finish it before bed but by 8:30 or so in the evening I had hit a wall. By “hit a wall,” I don’t mean that that I was physically fatigued, rather, it was that my capacity for consciousness had been exhausted—my brain was working just fine, but my mind needed some rest.

My daughter and I had an unexpected (to me) intense dinner-time conversation about something significant that happened recently in our lives which we are still trying to make sense of and recover from.  I was grateful for the conversation with my daughter, it was important and a step in the direction of healing and understanding, but as the evening progressed, as we together and on our own mulled over our conversation and tried to attend to the other things we both needed to do, I felt my mind become less open and aware, narrower and more rigid. I watched myself over-react to a simple request from my daughter, I watched myself begin to spiral down a bit, and, so, I stopped.

I swaddled myself in my down comforter as if I was a precious little baby and I went to sleep.


I am endlessly fascinated by how the human — and non-human– mind works. As I explained to my friend Roger Anunsen yesterday (Roger is an expert on brain plasticity and fitness), the brain is totally awesome, but I’m more interested in the mind, and even more so in consciousness.  My experience is that “thinking” is embodied and that what we think about – the contents of consciousness – is at least as important, if not more important, than keeping our brains spry.

I am also endlessly fascinated by the way we humans can think thoughts and feel feelings around the edges of something, but not remember the thing itself


As I was sitting in meditation yesterday morning, while placing my “gentle and precise” (thank you for that phrase, Julia K-T) awareness on my breath, one of the thoughts that came into my mind had to do with an essay I wrote in 2006 and have subsequently rewritten several times. Specifically, what came into my meditating mind was a question about whether or not I should submit the essay to a journal for possible publication, and to which journal, and then there was a whole monolog I gave to myself about whether or not I’d ever be able to find a journal that would want to publish my essay.  What I find to be wonderful is that I was able to continue following my breath during this little trip I went on, as well as laugh at myself for going on this little trip, as well as remind myself that such a trip is best taken while not meditating.  Ha! Meditation multi-tasking!

So, about this essay upon which I was perseverating. Transforming trauma, it is called (though its original working title was Exploding brains.)  To date, I have submitted the essay, which is written in a hybrid form — a mash-up of memoir, collaborative inquiry, and critical theory – to three scholarly journals of various sorts. It has faced rejection each of three times. I have also read various versions of the essay to audiences many times over the past seven years; I think it was well-received. I actually wrote the essay to be read by me and heard by others, so perhaps the fact that it is still unpublished is appropriate given the original intention I brought to writing it and the style in which I wrote it.

But, wait— what I just claimed, that’s not quite right. Truth be told, I really wrote the essay to help myself make sense of something – or perhaps to accept the ultimate no-sense of something. So perhaps in the end the essay isn’t meant to be published (whatever “meant” means), but was meant (again, whatever “meant” means) to serve as a way for me to give form to and share with others a profound experience that challenged my capacity as a gerontologist and as a daughter and as a mother, a crisis which reverberated – reverberates — life-wide.


Yesterday was “an anniversary of sorts,” to use my mommy’s phrase.  Seven years ago yesterday, February 19, 2006, she survived a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.

The essay I perseverated over during my meditation session early yesterday morning centered on my experience of being my mother’s daughter and caregiver after her ruptured cerebral aneurysm. But I didn’t actually “remember” that yesterday was the anniversary of my mother’s aneurysm until I hopped on to FB for a few minutes later in the day and saw my mommy’s profile update (which the time-stamp showed she posted shortly before my meditation session): “My cerebral aneurysm happened 7 years ago today!! I have the last of my MRA brain scans this coming Saturday…if all continues to look good no more neurosurgeons or scans!! Thank you God!!”


As I said, I am endlessly fascinated by the way we humans can think thoughts and feel feelings around the edges of something, but not remember the thing itself.

I’m also endlessly fascinated by this: There’s this spooky lovely thing that happens when we are interconnected, this collaborative consciousness that develops whereby its seems that what constitutes “mind” is not contained within our physical bodies but spills over the edges and is larger, roaming and wild. My mommy and me, and her mom — my Gramma Jewell– and me, and now my me and my daughter all have a weird kind of shared knowing, under and around and beside “thinking” and “remembering.” Not all of the time, of course, and what we think we “know” isn’t always “accurate,” though what we intuit about the other often has some real truth to it.

Roger, who I mentioned earlier, and I hadn’t seen each other for a few years and have had at best a sporadic email correspondence, but we’ve been tracking on one another in other ways – through relationships we have with mutual colleagues, on FB, because he reads my blog, because I hear from others the positive impact in the world he’s having.  So when we finally got together yesterday for about thirty minutes we had this crazy mutuality of attention and focus—we were enthralled with each other.  The ideas were flying back and forth. I swear there was an energy field in-between and around us—our mutual mind, our shared consciousness taking form.

Two embodied brains exploding, colliding and creating a new universe.


About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Gero-Punk Tribute: Exploding Brains

  1. helen says:

    I love the way you write – you think in your writing and share those thoughts as they come – you are down to earth and academic, you are real and deep and honest. Thank you for sharing your thoughts –

  2. brain mind embodiment consciousness … what does meant mean? You’ve given me a lot to “think” about . . . Plus, ditto what Helen says above.

  3. Jenny- what an insightful multiplex you offer here! The concept you offer in your last sentence- about “mind energy” fields- is actually a part of my thesis and a fascinating subject of research and in-search. I’ll share with you at some point the writing I’ve done about this mind-field of possibility, if you’d like.
    Thanks for your lovely, self compassionate journey of curiosity and “multi-tasking meditation” technique! Brilliant, you are!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s