Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Charmed I'm sure

The first meeting of my Advising Tutorial, "Buddhism & Liberal Arts," was like a dream. Somehow, seven students I don't know had found out about it, and five of them are free Tuesday afternoons - something that never happens. And what a fascinating bunch! From first year to senior, a linguist, a dancer, a global studies major, a libertarian socialist anarchist (whatever that may be), with various generally non-academic exposures to Buddhist traditions and eager to find out more. Our time together was framed by tangerines - everyone got one with the syllabus, and at the end of our discussion we passed around Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh's description of mindful tangerine-eating, each reading a section, and had a second. Here's some of it:

When you children peel a tangerine, you can eat it with awareness or without awareness. What does it mean to eat a tangerine in awareness? When you are eating the tangerine, you are aware that you are eating the tangerine. You fully experience its lovely fragrance and sweet taste. When you peel the tangerine, you know that you are peeling the tangerine; ... If the tangerine is real, the person eating it is real. That is what it means to eat a tangerine in awareness.

Children, what does it mean to eat a tangerine without awareness? When you are eating the tangerine, you do not know that you are eating the tangerine. You do not experience the lovely fragrance and sweet taste of the tangerine. When you peel the tangerine, you do not know that you are peeling the tangerine; ... Eating a tangerine in such a way, you cannot appreciate its precious and wonderful nature. If you are not aware that you are eating the tangerine, the tangerine is not real. If the tangerine is not real, the person eating it is not real either. Children, that is eating a tangerine without awareness. ...

A person who practices mindfulness can see things in the tangerine that others are unable to see. An aware person can see the tangerine tree, the tangerine blossom in the spring, the sunlight and rain which nourished the tangerine. Looking deeply, one can see ten thousand things which have made the tangerine possible. Looking at a tangerine, a person who practices awareness can see all the wonders of the universe and how all things interact with one another. 

Children, our daily life is just like a tangerine. Just as a tangerine is comprised of sections, each day is comprised of twenty four hours. One hour is like one section of tangerine. Living all twenty-four hours of a day is like eating all the sections of a tangerine. The path I have found is the path of living each hour of the day in awareness, mind and body always dwelling in the present moment. The opposite is to live in forgetfulness. If we live in forgetfulness, we do not know that we are alive. We do not fully experience life because our mind and body are not dwelling in the here and now.

All more easily said than done, as we confessed to each other! I'll bring more tangerines next week. Eating together (and, in our last session, cooking together) is a big part of my plan for the group's  journey.

Incidentally, I didn't have to buy these tangerines. I dropped off some leftover Spanish chickpea stew with a friend who's hurt her hand and can't cook, and she surprised me with this bag!

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