Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tasting a Tangerine

"Often, instead of tapping in to our direct experience, we substitute concepts. An exercise we sometimes do in one of my classes at Naropa University to highlight this phenomena involves mindful eating. Many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to try this exercise on a regular basis. In class, we might take a tangerine and begin by silently looking at it. We examine the texture, color, and shape of the particular piece of fruit in front of us. We pick it up and notice what it feels like in the hand. We might hold it up to our ear and see what sounds occur as we roll it in our fingers. Slowly, we begin to peel it. We sniff and notice its aroma. When thoughts arise of past tangerines or imaginings about how this one will taste, we notice them and let them go, by coming back to this tangerine in this moment. Carefully, but not too carefully, we separate out a section, and taking our time, we bring it to our mouth. We continue the exercise by noticing the spontaneous preparations that the mouth takes as the section of tangerine approaches. Then we taste it as if we've never tasted a tangerine before--and in fact, we never have tasted this tangerine before. We continue in this way until we've eaten the entire tangerine, letting each moment be unique.
This exercise highlights not only the details of the present moment of eating a tangerine; it also reveals, often rather pointedly, how often we miss the present moment. All too often, instead of tasting the tangerine, we taste our ideas about it. For example, I "know" that I don't like tangerines. I even have good reasons for my distaste: tangerines are acidic, they sting my chapped lips in the winter, they can be messy. However, if I just do the above exercise, and taste a particular tangerine, it is quite different from my mental tangerine."
-Karen Kissel Wegela from The courage to be present: Buddhism, psychotherapy, and the awakening of natural wisdom

No comments: