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13. Sliced, not Peeled

Being a novice meditator,
I strive to meditate the right way.

My meditation practice today was guided by last night's reading on the use of mandalas in Tibetan Buddhism and by my early morning reading -- Meditations on Tara -- from a book entitled "How to Meditate" by Buddhist nun Kathleen McDonald. I had learned that the Green Tara (The Liberator) is known as the Mother of all Buddhas and that she is the wisdom of enlightenment. After studying the beautiful images of Tara I decided that today I will use Tara as the focus on my meditation. So, as instructed in the book, I begin by visualizing Tara radiating emerald green light, and asking for her guidance:

"Tara, relieve me of the need for perfection," I ask, realizing as I speak that everyone who knows me has been praying fervently for this to happen for years.

I then visualize Tara sharing her wisdom, speech, and heart with me. Finally, I visualize her becoming one with me.

Following my Tara meditation I go to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. I look at my orange and suddenly decide to prepare it differently today. Rather than peeling the orange and separating the fruit into segments, I take my vegetable knife and boldly cut the orange in half. I notice immediately that this action produces a spray of juice. There is the heavy, sweet scent of citrus in the air, but there is also now a messy splattering of juice on my clean plate. I decide then and there that my usual routine of peeling the orange and gently separating the segments is by far the superior method of orange preparation. It's neat, it creates a minimum of disturbance to the essential oils and juice; the "disturbance" waits instead to occur once the orange segment is discretely contained in my mouth, unable to escape into the environment. Still, it is a lovely smell, and the orange halves look so beautiful. The segments cut like this remind me of a wheel -- the membranes of each cut segment forming spokes that begin from a creamy white hub and end at a deep orange rim. Now I am reminded of last night's readings on the Tantric Mysticism of Tibet -- the image of the wheel of life that is at the entrance to Tibetan monasteries. In looking at the image in my book last night I had almost missed the small figure of the Buddha at the top right of the wheel pointing towards the simple 8-spoke Asoka's wheel -- symbol of the Dharma. Easy to miss. Can I see it here in my orange?

Next, I ponder the question "How shall I eat this?"

I take my knife and prepare the orange as my mother used to when I was a child. With my knife I cut away about an inch of the peel from around the cut surface of each orange half leaving just a small circle of rind at each half's base. I am struck by how different my breakfast looks today. Rather than seeing separate orange segments lying neatly on my plate, each one tightly enclosing its hidden juice sacs, today my orange is brazenly letting its juice sacs burst forth. It is difficult to think of yesterday's and today's breakfast as the same.

I pick up one of the halves and take a bite. The juice sacs, no longer confined by segmental membranes, rush out en masse to greet my mouth, sometimes missing it in their haste, and landing on my nose or cheeks or chin. My tongue darts out to catch an errant sac, too late, it empties and rolls down my chin. What a mess, I won't do this again. I'll stick to the neat way of eating an orange. I lick my fingers now too, with renewed commitment to finish my breakfast without creating the need for another shower.

I'm almost finished with the first half. I turn the peel inside out and use my teeth to scrape any remaining morsels that are trying, in vain, to attach themselves to the peel base. I toss the remnants of the first half's rind back onto my plate, and reach for the remaining half.

Its beauty stops me momentarily. It really is quite lovely against the white plate, its rounded base causing it to recline at a slight angle relative to the plate's surface. The air is still thick with the scent of citrus as I pick up the orange half and bring the cut surface to my mouth. Then, I begin to eat, abandoning any need to contain it. I am a baby in a high chair. What fun!

I head for the shower trying to keep active that part of myself that had been awakened by my Tara meditation. When I step out of the shower, I put my slippers on the "wrong" feet. It feels and looks odd, but I decide to wear them this way for a while to interrupt the automaticity of my usual routine. I feel Tara's presence again.

Having washed away all evidence of my encounter with my breakfast, I head for the bedroom. Slippers still on the wrong feet, I move awkwardly, but purposefully, to the bedroom closet until I stumble over something on the floor. I look down. I see my husband's creative use of the floor as a clothes closet and the wide open bureau drawers overflowing with ten years' worth of unmatched socks. I take a deep breath, and try to see the scene calmly as if through Tara's eyes.

Tara? Oh, Tara? Where did you go? Tara, come back here. I need you.

I return my slippers to the right feet, close the bureau drawers, put the dirty clothes in the hamper, and get dressed for work. I'm still a novice after all!