Learning from Apple Juice

Bordering on the TMI – I’ve been having some difficulties nursing Jack. Mainly in the ouch department but more deeply with the frustration of knowing that if it is hurting me he is more than likely not having an easy time of getting the amount of nourishment he needs. He nurses every 2 to 3 hours around the clock and so it’s really easy to get achingly, wearily frustrated when you translate that schedule into the amount of sleep I must be getting!

The other day I decided to sit in a different chair, one that happens to be next to a book shelf, when he started to show signs of hunger. Blissfully, Jack latched on to me with out the need to grit my teeth and I just sat there looking at him for a while. I saw a book of Shel Silverstein poetry on the shelf so decided to read to him but then noticed The Sun My Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh and decided to read from that instead. Must say, as I read to Jack, the first story in the book brought tears to my eyes, reminding me to slow down and just be. (You can read the passage, beginning on page 3 in the google book thing below or, for those who may not have access to the book thing – sometimes these things don’t work on certain computers – I’ve typed it out below.)

Today three children, two girls and a little boy, came from the village to play with Thanh Thuy (pronounced ‘Tahn Tui’). The four of them ran off to play on the hillside behind our house and were gone for about an hour when they returned to ask for something to drink. I took the last bottle of homemade apple juice and gave them each a full glass, serving Thuy last. Since her juice was from the bottom of the bottle, it had some pulp in it. When she noticed the particles, she pouted and refused to drink it. So the four children went back to their games on the hillside, and Thuy had not drunk anything.

Half an hour later, while I was meditating in my room, I heard her calling. Thuy wanted to get herself a glass of cold water, but even on tiptoes she couldn’t reach the faucet. I reminded her of the glass of juice on the table and asked her to drink that first. Turning to look at it, she saw that the pulp had settled and the juice looked clear and delicious. She went to the table and took the glass with both hands. After drinking half of it, she put it down and asked, “Is this a different glass, Uncle Monk?” (a common term for Vietnamese children to use when addressing an older monk.)

“No,” I answered. “It’s the same one as before. It sat quietly for a bit, and now it’s clear and delicious.” Thuy looked at the glass again. “It really is good. Was it meditating like you, Uncle Monk?” I laughed and patted her head. “Let us say that I imitate the apple juice when I sit; that is closer to the truth.” (pp.3-4 The Sun My Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh, Berkley, California, Parallax Press, 1988.)

The pulp had settled and the juice looked clear and delicious.

There’s the aspect of clarity related to just ‘being’ and there is also the aspect that, even when things are cloudy, clarity exists and I just need to wait, it’ll show up.

It’s easier to remind myself of the need to just be, to sit and settle, when Jack isn’t crying and I’m not hurting and we’re both quietly doing what we need to do but I figure the more I remind myself the more of those moments we will have together.

And if I can do that with Jack, a 1 month old (today!), I can probably do it with any child, including those in my classroom.


  • JeanMarie says:

    As someone who will never have a child of her own, I live vicariously through your posts, Tracy. This brought tears to my eyes. I am also learning so much about life from you. Thank you.

  • Again, I’m hugely behind in my blog reading. Please accept my belated congratulations on Jack. He is so sweet. I have a Jack, too. My Jack is going to turn 7 on Wednesday!!!!! Hard to believe he was once so little. I know everyone says it, but it’s true, those days pass sooooooooooooooo quickly. The only way to slow them down (which is, of course, impossible) is to be present in them. Easier said than done, right? Oh yeah, and take lots of pictures!

  • Cheryl Arnett says:

    This post touched me more than any other lately. Such simple truth in this story, but the one thing we don’t consider often enough. When things seem overwhelming and out of control, a time to relax and let everything settle often solves the problems. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story!

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