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15. My Kingdom for an Orange

Being a novice meditator,
I still create objects of desire.

Every moment since sitting down on my meditation cushion this morning has been filled with just one thought -- I have no orange for my breakfast. I had asked my husband to buy oranges yesterday. He forgot. So this morning I sit on my meditation cushion focused not on my breathing but on my breakfast. I just can't believe I have no orange for breakfast. Why, oh why, did he forget to buy me oranges? Doesn't he realize how important they are to my practice of mindfulness meditation? Shall I have yogurt instead, perhaps with some of those dried raspberries that he bought a few days ago? No, I can't possibly meditate on raspberries. What else could I have?

As I try to imagine a list of candidates, I wonder what I had for breakfast before I started meditating. Actually, I really didn't think much about it. I just grabbed whatever was at hand, usually cereal, gulped it down, and got to work. No big deal. Okay, perhaps I'll have a bowl of cornflakes. Yes, that's what I'll do, I'll have cornflakes, but boy, oh boy, I was really looking forward to having an orange -- that perfect object for my practice of mindfulness. Cereal just isn't the same. I try to bring my thoughts back to my breathing.

Breathing in, I calm myself.

Breathing out, ... I so wish I had an orange.

A recommendation I'd read for how to handle intrusive thoughts during meditation comes to me. If you can't let the thought go, focus on it, examine it. Finally, something easy! Wait a minute, isn't that what I have been doing? I Don't Have An Orange -- what else is there to think about? I begin to consider the very slight possibility that the problem might lie not in the absence of an orange, but in my need for it. The orange had certainly become an important symbol for me, a source of inspiration for my meditation and mindfulness practice. I lick my lips as I visualize myself cutting open the orange and sinking my teeth into it, the juice dripping down my chin as vivid associative images spring to my mind. I stir restlessly in my half-lotus position. Whatever will I do without it this morning?

I am reminded of giving up smoking many years ago. Every morning I woke to the thought of cigarettes, wondering how I could get though the day -- no, make that the next five minutes -- without one. The absence of a cigarette was so much the focus of my thoughts that it crowded out everything else. Could I really be equating the intensity of my craving for cigarettes with my thoughts about my breakfast orange? Well, let's face it, the sun has not yet risen, and here I am sitting on my meditation cushion and I cannot think of anything else except the absence of orange. That, I fear, in anyone's book, is craving, notwithstanding their presumably different physically addicting properties.

So, I guess what this is telling me is that the problem is in my attachment to an orange as the object of my mindfulness meditation. Attachment creates desire; desire and craving create suffering. Isn't this what I have been learning in my reading of Buddhist scriptures? Clinging, grasping, fearing that without it ... What? That inspiration will be lost? That my meditation practice will be undermined? That I will no longer be mindful? Have I imbued other things in my life with such power?

I visualize an orange in front of me once more. As I visualize it, I make it get smaller and smaller until it is the size of a raindrop, then I make it get larger and larger until it is the size of the earth. I make it go up. I make it go down. I make it go sideways. I make it go backward. I make it go forward. A creation of my mind. I spend the next 30 minutes focusing on my breathing.

I finish my sitting meditation, go to the kitchen, and open the cabinet. Carefully, mindfully, I select something that will nourish me for the day ahead.