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18. Distance from Tree to Me

Being a novice meditator,
I do not readily recognize my own Buddha nature.

Today I find myself reflecting on the questions I had asked myself that first day when I began using an orange as an object of my mindfulness meditation. Those questions had helped me to become more aware of my sensory experiences. Today, however, I find myself wanting to engage a different level of awareness. Perhaps that's because my orange today is not particularly sweet or juicy. In fact, I'll bet it's been a long time since this orange was in the vicinity of an orange tree. Today, however, I don't mind at all. As I eat each segment I am mindful, not of my sensory experience of this orange, but of the roles that the orange and I both play in the life of the tree.

Clearly, the orange I am eating did not come into existence for the purpose of providing me with breakfast and an object for my meditation. No, this orange exists in service to the tree. And, in this moment, so do I. I pop another segment in my mouth considering all the participants engaged in the propagation and continued survival of the orange tree. Pollen filled blossom -- color, scent, taste attractive to pollinators -- in service to the tree. Fruit -- color, scent, taste attractive to agents of seed dispersion -- in service to the tree. Seeds -- hidden within fruit -- waiting to be transported to a conducive environment.

I bite into another orange segment, extricating a seed and placing it on my plate. Today I am an agent of dispersion in service to the tree, albeit not a very effective one. I examine the plump white seed on my plate, feeling regretful that unless I jump on a plane and take it back to Florida, it is unlikely to ever express the life essence of the orange tree through my agency.

I finish breakfast, but I'm not eager to get up from the table. I reflect on some of the other roles I play. Not only am I an agent of seed dispersion for many plants, I myself am a seed of the human tree that has germinated, taken root, and is currently perpetuating life of the flesh. But what role am I currently playing with regard to the Tree of the Spirit? Am I a seed? Do I serve the Tree well? Do my thoughts, words, perceptions, and actions reflect compassion? Or do they perpetuate suffering? Am I in an environment in which the Tree can grow?

I pick up the orange seed that was on my plate, placing it in the palm of my hand. Here within this small seed resides the tree itself. I take it to the potting shed, plant it in a pot of moist soil, and cover it with plastic to create an environment conducive to germination. Returning to the kitchen, I place the pot on a south-facing window ledge.

I sit at the kitchen table and still my thoughts.

Empty mind...

to the Tree returned,

never having left...