Near the beginning of my chapter into mindful living I went to a workshop on meditation. I wanted to make sure I was doing it right, which is funny because one of the very first things you learn is that you can’t do it wrong. None the less I wanted some ‘professional’ insight. I went, I listened, I shared. I ate a raisin; the instructor coaching us through the process in infinitesimal steps of total awareness. Eating the raisin took 15 minutes. It was the single best raisin I have eaten in my entire life…ever! It was so good - one raisin was enough.
It was an incredible little exercise that left me feeling very sad for all the thousands of raisins I’ve eaten in my life and not tasted. Raisins have never been the same.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that raisin lately, mostly because we’ve reached that glorious time of year when oranges are sunshiny globes of pure perfection. While it’s rare to find an exceptional orange in say… September, it is equally difficult to get a bad one right now. I’m in orange heaven!
A meditation teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me of that raisin each time I reach for an orange. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches a gathering of children with a basket of tangerines that eating is an exceptional opportunity to practice some mindfulness.
If you’re not in a hurry, let’s eat an orange. If you are in a hurry, stop hurrying...let’s eat an orange.
Begin by choosing your perfect orange, from the grocers counter, your counter fruit bowl or your co-worker’s lunch bag.
Why did you select that particular orange?
Feel the weight of your orange, does it feel heavy and promising, filled with juice? Does it sound hollow when you bounce it up in the air and let it thud back into your palm? Run your fingers over the waxy surface and check your hands for the glittery oils that rub off and stick to your skin. Are there any blemishes or scars on your orange? Is it a deep colour or pale?
Turn your orange about in your hand. Can you see where it was once attached to its tree? Can you imagine the rains and sunshine being soaked in though the tree’s delicate green leaves and travelling through its intricate system of roots and branches to reach a single blossom? Can you imagine that the tree turns that rain and sunshine into fruit for you to enjoy. How hard the tree works against weather, pests and disease to do nothing beyond nurturing your orange.
A tree does not think “I must grow an orange.” It just does. An orange tree does not endeavour to be anything other than an orange tree. It does not wake up in the morning and question its purpose and wonder if it should be growing apples. It just puts all of its effort into growing an orange. We can learn a great deal from an orange tree.
Lift your orange to your nose. Breathe in the fresh bright scent. Close your eyes, can you see the sunshine?
Break through the nubby textured skin. Did you see the oils spray into the air around the puncture? Can you smell anything beyond the bold citrus scent released by that single action? You cannot eat an orange in secret like you can a chocolate bar.
Beneath the firm shiny covering lays that creamy yellow layer of pith welded to the fruit. I will pick for a lifetime to remove every veiny strand of its bitterness. At the very best oranges have peels that are thick and spongy and keep every ounce of juice from evaporating through the skin.
Break the peeled orange into segments. Do you do this all at once or peel each one off when it is time to be eaten? The membrane that covers each segment is smooth and dries out quickly. If you break a segment open you may find a seed. You are certain to find the wedge packed with teeny tiny droplets of orange juice. They pop with barely a pressure.
That first bite….
....is always a surprise no matter how many oranges you eat in your lifetime. That first bite sucks all of the saliva out of your cheeks and makes you pucker quickly before replacing it with sweet, tangy rivulets of sunshine and rain sweetened with time and the attention of nature’s simple efforts.
Nothing else on earth tastes like an orange. No other orange on earth taste like this one.
An orange eaten this way becomes more than fuel. An orange eaten this way becomes a tiny orange vacation.
I'll be enjoying as many 'vacations' as my body can tolerate over the coming weeks. Then it's back to raisins.