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Many of us are propelling through life at lightning speed, like the superhero Flash from DC Comics and Quick-Silver from X-Men. Not only are we at risk of making incalculable mistakes when moving at such a speed, we often miss out on the beauty hidden within every detail. 

The ambassador of my drug counseling class once asked me to experiment with the easiest of tasks: eating an apple. “When you take a bite,” she told me, “Activate all of your senses. Feel the initial crunch, smell the aroma as you expose the juicy inside, and most importantly, as you chew each bite, take your time — 5 to 10 minutes in total — and focus on the experience all the way through.” 

I thought to myself, “Five to 10 minutes? Sheesh, I could easily polish off 10 apples in that amount of time. 

After smiling and promising her that I would give it a shot, I went back across the yard to my building and into my cell. I didn’t have an apple at that moment, so I filed the request away in my inner to-do list and went about my day. 

Two days later, I received an apple on my meal tray. Once breakfast was over, I finished my morning routine, cleaned my cell, bird bathed, and ate some oatmeal. At around 10 o’clock in the morning, I sat down to relax. I looked at the apple and began my journey. 

Picking up the apple, I removed the stem and sticker and began to rinse the skin. I thought about all the steps leading the apple to this point, from falling off the tree all the way to receiving its label. I saw the little rinse of water as a last expression of gratitude to the apple for the nutrients it was about to provide my body. In my imagination, I saw embers of red glowing on its glossy surface.

After sinking my teeth past the layer of its protective skin, I felt the juice burst from the apple’s surface. I listened to the crunch, and then the tear, as I broke off a chunk and began to chew. 

Instead of the usual — chew, swallow, repeat — I chewed with a purpose. The flavor of the apple became more and more evident, and I then began thinking about our complex anatomy, and how our saliva mixes with the broken-down substance so that every time we swallow, we are able to take in more nutrients.

This minor realization caused me to experience an immense feeling of gratitude. I envisioned the broken down apple, skin and all, ready for abstraction. With each bite, my awareness for the entire process grew to the point where I began viewing the whole process from a third-person point of view. By the time I reached the apple’s core, I pictured the seeds as the origin of this apple and was filled with awe. 

This exercise taught me just how much there is to experience in the simple and seemingly insignificant processes of our daily lives. How much more joy, gratitude, appreciation, and patience would we be able to generate if only we would stop and smell the roses (or savor the apple)!

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

C.R. Addleman is a writer incarcerated at Centinela State Prison in California.