The analogy of an onion is often used as a visual illustration of peeling back layers of emotions. A complex person is described as multi-layered – just like an onion. But when you peel back the layers of an onion you just get more onion; not useful in the context of mediation.
Cue the artichoke.
The artichoke is the bud of a thistle (an apt metaphor in itself) and the stages of preparation and cooking of the artichoke perfectly mirror the various stages in the mediation process. If you're still unsure, read on!
How to prepare and cook an artichoke:
Slice off the often thorny tip of the artichoke - this will allow for better access to the inner parts during the cooking process.
Gently, but firmly, pull off the tough outer leaves.This can often prove challenging but don't give up.
Next, place the artichoke in water and turn up the heat. Once boiling point has been reached turn down the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the artichoke).
Pierce the boiled artichoke with a sharp knife to check if it's tender all the way through. You should be able to push the blade in with little or no resistance. If not, simmer a little longer.
When tender, carefully remove the artichoke from the water, drain and allow to cool then carefully remove the remaining leaves. There should be minimal resistance at this point and the leaves will be get easier to remove as you go further towards the centre.
When the choke (heart or core) is in sight, employ a gentle coaxing-nudging technique to remove the protective fibrous hairs. Take great care to keep the heart intact. It should not be damaged.
I often now use the artichoke similitude when describing the mediation process. Of course, I don't mention all the sharp implements - it's only a metaphor after all.....
(With thanks to the mediator Graham Perry who first acquainted me with the artichoke analogy which I've expanded upon)