What’s up with the oranges? Well let me tell you about the oranges. The oranges were the start of how I learned to use mindfulness in my everyday life. How I learned to slow things down and really live in the moment! I took the simple act of peeling an orange and turned it into one of the most powerful and popular classes I teach! When I introduce this class and explain what we are going to do every class has mixed feelings about it! Some people look at me like I am off my rocker! Others are excited to see what it is all about. BUT! By the end of the class every student get’s it.
Each student learns what it is like to actually slow their lives down and see things they never saw before! Each student will fill 1or 2 or 3 or even 4 pages in their journal with their experience of peeling an orange.
We then share what we wrote openly! This is the best part of the class because everyone has a different experience. Each person see’s, smell’s, tastes, feel’s and hears so many different things. That is were the lesson is! That each and everyone of us can experience different emotions, different feelings and we also share the same emotions and feels as well. Even when doing a simple task as peeling and orange and writing about each step. This is so important because everyone learns that they share so many things in life with everyone, but also that they are unique as well.
So how did this peeling the orange exercise come to me? Well it was part of my therapy for my depression, part of this wonderful hippie, trippie stuff that I love so much! Mindfulness and Meditation.
Mindfulness was taught to me in therapy as way to slow my life down, to learn to relax and enjoy life. At that time in my life I had a very hard time doing anything for myself without feeling guilty or selfish. Even the smallest act of kindness I would show myself felt unnatural and strange.
My behaviors were backwards and need to be changed, so my therapist introduced me to mindfulness. We started with a simple act of going to a coffee shop before work to just sit and drink my coffee, and do nothing but enjoy some time alone to myself. It was so hard for me to do this. My thoughts where “I could be at work right now getting things done before the store opened”, or “I could be using this time to catch up on all these repairs.” So as I sat there and had these thoughts running through my mind, I did something that I like to do and I wrote. I countered my thoughts and I wrote them down.
I could be at work right now getting things done before the store opened.// Why should I do that? I don’t get paid for coming in early.
I could catch up on all these repairs.// Why should I take my time before work and use it for something other than what I would like to do? I deserve to be happy, I deserve to do things I love. Work is not my life!
So I started to use this time before work to actually enjoy something for myself, and who knew that what I enjoyed the most was actually writing! So now I was actually in a hurry to get to the coffee shop so I could sit and write! I ended up writing eighty percent of “Why I Run” in that coffee shop! And I still can be found there almost every morning before work, just sitting and doing something I love. It was not an easy task at first but over time it became natural. Just like everything in life, we can accomplish great things with practice (and more practice!) and before long the unnatural becomes natural.
One of my home work assignment’s was to peel and orange. Yes I always had home work to do each and every week. This homework assignment was to eat an orange every morning.
I was to take an orange and sit at my kitchen table and place a napkin in front me. Next, I was to pick up the orange and roll it around in my hand, noticing everything about the orange: how it felt, if it was soft or if it was hard, determine whether its skin was it slick, lumpy, bumpy, give it a little squeeze, etc.. I was to then look at the orange and notice what the skin looked like, noticing the texture of the skin and all the little imperfections which made it perfect unto itself. How it was yellow in some places and light orange in other places and dark orange as well, paying attention to every change in shade. I was to take note that this orange was unique and still just an orange, even though nothing about it was perfect.
Then I was to peel this orange and as I did, I watched and paid attention to every detail of the action. The sound of the skin as it came off the orange. How I had to break through the skin with my thumbnail. How I would carefully place the skin on the napkin. What was happening to the fruit as I peeled off the skin and the juices were squirting out, covering my hands. I would suck the juices off my thumb and fingers and get a taste for what was going to come next. Just a little tease for what the orange is going to taste like.
Once the orange was peeled, I would then break off pieces of the orange and eat it slowly. With each bite, I was to take in all the flavours, notice how each bite of this orange was always different and unique to itself, and in doing so I was once again reminded that nothing is perfect in life, and that even this orange I was eating was not perfect but its own version of perfection because of it’s different tastes and textures. When I was finished, I took great care to clean up the orange peels and throw them in the garbage.
I then came up with a great idea, I combined this mindfulness exercise with writing. I loved to write and I found that I reached an even deeper state of calm as I wrote about my experience as I peel the orange. Writing about each step with great detail heightened my experience and also cleared my mind completely, only concentrating on what I was doing. When you write you have no choice but to be in that moment. Each letter you write, each word you write, each paragraph you have no choice to be in mind, body & Soul. You can not be on auto pilot, because those thoughts and feeling and details won’t get put on that paper with out you being fully present! We spend to much time on auto pilot and not being present in our lives. So writing makes it so you are 100% there in what you are doing, not just going through the motions.
I actually started enjoying peeling the orange, I started to bring an orange to work and peel it during my lunch break, I would look forward to my lunch because I was going to slowing down and treating myself to this experience. Not only that but I started to use mindfulness in my daily routines and I also realized something very special.
If every orange was different but still an orange, maybe just maybe I could start seeing the world differently, accept things I wasn’t able to accept before.
If I slowed down my thoughts and my emotional reactions, allowed my self the time to see everything, feel everything, with great detail like I did with peeling the orange. Then I would be able to acknowledge my emotions feel them and let them pass over time. Mindfulness was working! Mindfulness became a gate way to changing my life.
This peeling the orange exercise can teach you many things about yourself and your life! You just have to practice and learn to slow things down! I have one student who always says I have the best oranges ever! But the truth is there is nothing special about the oranges I bring to the class, it is just the fact that people are slowing down and actually enjoying the orange the have. When you learn to slow down you will start to enjoy the life you have as well! Peeling that orange and writing about it will show so many things about your self it will blow your mind!
Learn more about how writing can be a therapeutic tool buy visiting: https://www.darcypatrick.com/copy-of-creative-writing-2
“Only with open conversation can we break the stigma behind depression, let’s start talking and do it together”