7. Black Spot

Being a novice meditator, 
I lose sight of the path.

I'd begun getting up at 5:30 a.m. solely for the purpose of making time for my meditation practice before the encroachment of my usual work-related activities which typically begin at 7:30. I had found that with practice I was gaining access to a place of deep peace within me not only during the time set aside for meditation, but also later in the day while engaged in activities that might otherwise have been a context for stress. In addition to relaxing me and allowing me to maintain my focus, my meditation practice was energizing me for the day ahead. This effect was most noticeable in my work. In fact, my work was benefiting from my meditation so much that before long I was able to begin my daily work routine even earlier than 7:30. If I went without breakfast, I could actually begin work before 7. One day when facing a deadline, I was able to begin work at 6 by shortening my sitting meditation. What a bonus; not only is meditation helping to relieve stress, but look how much more productive I am becoming.

So, this morning as I sit cross-legged on the floor on my meditation cushion, I am not surprised to find that my concentration too has never been better -- on work -- and I have come away from my "meditation" with a number of good ideas for a project I'm working on. I'm therefore eager to eat a quick breakfast and get to my computer before the ideas that bubbled up so forcefully during my meditation time are lost.

I hurry to the refrigerator and take out my breakfast orange. I probably would not even have noticed the black spot on the orange if I hadn't almost put my finger through it where the skin had begun to break down. Yuck! I reach in the refrigerator for another. None left. Now what will I have for breakfast? I don't have time to get something else, I have to get to work, before I forget all those wonderful ideas. It's 6:30 already. No time to waste. I examine the orange that I am about to throw away, and decide instead to try to salvage some of it. I'm not that hungry anyway.

Salvaging some of the orange requires me to observe carefully what is "orange" (in the form I need it to be right now) and what is "not orange." This requires careful scrutiny of the black spot and its range of influence -- where did it begin and end?

It is actually quite small; a black spot no larger than the size of a dot of ink that would be left by a ballpoint pen. Around the black dot is a circle about one inch in diameter. Within this circle the color and texture of the rind has changed, looking smoother than the surrounding peel and a perceptibly lighter shade of orange. I touch it gently in the place where I had previously almost broken through the skin -- within this circle hosted by the black spot, the rind is no longer firm to the touch. I take my knife, score the remaining rind, and peel it away with my fingers, eager to determine how much of the orange is salvageable for my breakfast.

Half of the orange appears unaffected. I gently separate the segments from this half and place them on my plate. Not quite enough for breakfast. I look at the other half. Each segment seems to be affected, but to varying degrees. Wherever the black spot's influence has reached, the flesh has changed -- now a different texture, color, and form. The flesh has been transformed into an undifferentiated orange-colored gooey substance, no longer readily-identifiable as my breakfast orange.

Remembering my mother's admonition never to waste food, I decide that still more of the orange should be salvaged. I take my knife and cut as close as I dare to the blurred and expanding boundaries of the black spot's territory. To determine how successful my surgery is I put one of the salvaged segments to my mouth and gingerly bite off a tiny piece. Bitter. I need to cut off a little more. That's better. I've managed to salvage about two thirds of the orange. Satisfied, I take my plate to the kitchen table, sit down, and begin to eat my breakfast, savoring every bite. I linger at the table watching the sun rise over the river.

I place my plate in the dishwasher and put the "not-orange" in a container to be taken out later to the compost pile, noting that it had gotten quite a head start on some of the other food scraps in the pile in their transformation to food for my flower beds. I open the refrigerator and peer into the fruit drawer wondering why it had not done a good job of postponing the inevitable process of decomposition. Was the orange beginning to spoil when I brought it home, I wondered, or had it been "contaminated" when it entered the fruit drawer, perhaps by that apple over there, the one that looks rather past its prime? Whatever the cause, I decide that the fruit drawer needs to be cleaned. I examine the remaining fruit, piece by piece, keeping only those that are fresh. I wash the drawer well, dry it, return the drawer to the refrigerator, and the fruit to the drawer, satisfied that the fruit is now in an environment set aside specifically for the purpose of maintaining its freshness.

I take the container of "not-orange" remains outside and empty it onto the compost pile. I turn the pile and note that it is "cooking" nicely and will soon be ready to put on the flower garden. I gratefully acknowledge the hard-working microorganisms responsible for decomposition that are now in an environment where they can express their "nature" amidst the remnants of yesterday's breakfast, without interfering with tomorrow's. I take a leisurely stroll around the garden before going back inside.

I look at my watch. I'd lost track of time. It's 7:30. And those brilliant ideas that I had for work ... ?