2. Essence of Orange

Being a novice meditator,
I struggle with the concept of inter-being.

As is now my practice, after completing my sitting meditation, I make my way to the kitchen to continue my practice of mindfulness in the preparation of my breakfast. Today, however, I am distracted from breakfast by thoughts of the ingredients I'll need to purchase for tonight's dinner. Yesterday, while looking through my limited collection of cookbooks in search of yet another way to disguise the fact that I am eating tofu, I came across a recipe with the instruction -- add one-quarter teaspoon of orange extract. Well, I must admit, I'm pretty ignorant about most culinary matters. If a recipe calls for something, I generally just put it in without thinking much about it. All I know about orange extract is that it comes in a bottle and is available in my local supermarket. That's it.

So as I reach for my breakfast orange, I find myself thinking about orange extract. I experience a flash of uneasiness that I am not focusing on my usual morning mindfulness meditation, but quickly decide that reflecting on orange extract (potential dinner) while peeling my orange (present breakfast), would surely "count" as being fully present in the orange-peeling moment.

I roll the orange back and forth between my hands, questions as to the nature of orange extract formulating in my mind. Let's see. Orange extract. So what is it that is being extracted? The essential oils I assume. Essential oils. So what are essential oils? Oils from the essence of the orange, of course. Ah yes, but where is the essence of the orange? I look at the orange in my hand as if for an answer? It remains silent. I conclude that tonight's tofu will probably be flavored by oils extracted from orange peel; however, I am doubtful that this conclusion has addressed the question of the orange's "true" essence, whatever that may be. I begin to peel my breakfast orange.

"Can an orange's true essence really be just in its leathery rind?" I wonder, as I cut off a tiny slither to examine it.

No, not there.

"Is it in the white, meaty pith?" I pick at a piece that is still clinging to the fruit and put it in my mouth.

No, definitely not there.

"Is it in that thick white stem that runs through the center of the fruit?" I separate the segments and remove the stem to examine it.

No, not there.

"Is it in the membrane that encloses each segment?" I cut a segment in half and look.

No, not there.

"Is it the delicate membrane that surrounds each tiny juice sac?" I remove a juice sac from the cut segment, empty it with a quick squish of a fingernail, and examine the almost microscopic remains.

No, not there.

Now I attempt to empty the contents of a single juice sac right onto my tongue.

No, not there either.

Getting closer to essence of orange, perhaps, yet somehow further away.

Having nowhere else to go in the dissection of my breakfast orange (wasn't I discouraged from doing this to my food as a child?), I sit down at the kitchen table and eat. Thus today's mindfulness meditation comes to an end, with my breakfast orange (essence and all) in me. I head for the bathroom to wash my hands, and get ready for the work day.

Standing at the bathroom sink, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the medicine cabinet. I stop what I am doing and stare at myself in the mirror. What is the nature of my own "true" essence, I ask?

"Is my essence in the reflection I see here in the mirror?"

No, not there.

"Is it in my body?"

No, not there.

"Is it in my feelings?"

No, not there.

"Is it in my mind?

No, not there.

"Is it in my perceptions?"

No, not there.

"Is it in my consciousness?"

No, not there.

Continuing to reflect on the location of my essence, I return to the kitchen.

On the kitchen counter, a bowl;

In the bowl, an orange;

In the orange, its essence.

A sudden flash of recognition.

Oh, now I understand -- there it is!