1. Listening For The Peel
Being a novice meditator,
I'm used to taking "time-outs" not "time-ins".
I began my practice of sitting meditation, awkwardly, painfully, seated bolt upright and cross-legged on a cushion on the floor of my study each morning at dawn, wondering how on earth anyone could actually want to engage in this practice regularly, and extremely thankful that I was doing it "for research purposes only" and would stop just as soon as I got the hang of it and could gather the information I needed for my project. Never would I have predicted that within a week I would be looking forward to meditating, and would be viewing it as a necessary time-out from my otherwise stressful life. Almost immediately it provided me access to a state of calm I had never before experienced. Unfortunately, as soon as I opened my eyes and resumed my daily activities the calm left me or, to be more accurate, I left it. So, today when I finished my sitting meditation I'm in no rush to begin my daily activities - indeed I am extremely reluctant to leave this peaceful space that meditation has already begun to create for me.I get up slowly and make my way to the kitchen to prepare breakfast wondering what I could do to retain this feeling of calm. I decide that what I need is some sort of transition phase - something that will help me to integrate this centered feeling into my daily life. I open the refrigerator as if for inspiration. Mindlessly, I grab an orange to eat for breakfast and, while continuing my ruminations, I begin to peel it. It suddenly occurs to me that the answer may just be right here in my hand. I had read about the use of an object in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. Perhaps this orange will provide the transition I need. But how? Where do I begin? Am I supposed to stand here and just stare it? Surely not. Perhaps it would help to pose some questions. Here goes...
- When I hold the orange in my hand in readiness to peel it, do I experience its weight, do I notice how my fingers curl spontaneously in response to its roundness?
- Does the peel's intricate texture capture my interest, or am I so busy chasing after my runaway thoughts that I fail to notice it?
- As I begin to peel it, do I notice whether its rind is thin or thick?
- Does the rind yield readily to my touch, falling off in large unbroken segments with just a flick of my fingers and wrist, or does it cling tightly to the fruit inside permitting only small pieces to be tenaciously pick, pick, picked away?
- Do the segments cling tightly to each other in a tight orb or are they easily loosed from their connective tissue?
- As I carefully separate each segment do I notice that enclosed within are hundreds of tiny membrane-covered sacs filled to bursting capacity with nectar?
- As I raise a segment to my mouth, do I notice the heavy scent of citrus in the air?
- Am I mindful of the way that teeth, tongue, saliva, movement of the jaw, all work together as I take my first bite?
- Is my first response to what is now in my mouth a judgment as to its quality, its sweetness, its juiciness?
- If I am not rewarded with sweet fruit, do I think it any less an orange?
- Do I understand that this orange co-arises with my sensory experience?
- Do I listen for what the orange can teach me ... about itself?about myself? about non-self?
Having peeled my breakfast orange and asked myself these 12 questions, I have come away with my first small insight. All that is required to bring the peace of sitting meditation to my daily activities is to be fully present in each moment. And thus I began... listening to the orange peeling.