Thich Nhat Hanh - The Miracle of Mindfulness - Eating a tangerine
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Miracle of Mindfulness – Thich Nhat Hanh
Eating a tangerine
I remember a number of years ago, when Jim and I were first traveling together in the United States, we sat under a tree and shared a tangerine. He began to talk about what we would be doing in the future. Whenever we thought about a project that seemed attractive or inspiring, Jim became so immersed in it that he literally forgot about what he was doing in the present.
He popped a section of tangerine in his mouth and, before he had begun chewing it, had another slice ready to pop into his mouth again. He was hardly aware he was eating a tangerine.
All I had to say was, "You ought to eat the tangerine section you've already taken."
Jim was startled into realizing what he was doing.
It was as if he hadn't been eating the tangerine at all. If he had been eating anything, he was "eating" his future plans.
A tangerine has sections. If you can eat just one section, you can probably eat the entire tangerine. But if you can’t eat a single section, you cannot eat the tangerine.
Jim understood. He slowly put his hand down and focussed on the presence of the slice already in his mouth. He chewed it thoughtfully before reaching down and taking another section.
Later, when Jim went to prison for activities against the war [in Vietnam], I was worried about whether he could endure the four walls of prison and sent him a very short letter: “Do you remember the tangerine we shared when we were together? Your being there is like the tangerine. Eat it and be one with it. Tomorrow it will be no more”.