Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us what it is we are looking at when we look deeply at just one flower.
When we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it.
All is interdependent.
Without clouds, there could be no rain, and there would be no flowers. Without time, the flowers could not bloom. In fact, the flower is made entirely of non-flower elements; it has no independent, individual existence.
Of course we are the same way: Each one of us carries a 13.8 billion year story in us, so that when we encounter one another we ought to be awed by the experience. And when we encounter ourselves! No wonder self-knowledge is a journey that takes a lifetime. After all, every hydrogen atom in our bodies has been in existence for over 13 billion years—imagine how many stories they have to tell us alone!
Every day we encounter the cosmos. It is our bodies, our food, our air, our everything. Says Thich Naht Hanh:
In East Asia, we speak of the human body as a mini-cosmos. The cosmos is our home, and we can touch it by being aware of our body.
This understanding is called microcosm/macrocosm in the West. We also touch the cosmos by our awareness of the interconnected origins of all beings.
One thing is made up of all other things. One thing contains the whole cosmos…. A piece of bread contains sunshine….Without a cloud, the wheat cannot grow. So when you eat the piece of bread, you eat the cloud, the wheat cannot grow. So when you eat the piece of bread, you eat the cloud, you eat the sunshine, you eat the minerals, time, space, everything.
So important is Creation in Thich Nhat Hanh’s view, that if we fail to penetrate it we will fail to find the ground of being behind it.
Like Christian mysticism that sees every being as another Christ, so Thich Nhat Hanh recognizes that “all beings in the animal, plant, and mineral world are potential Buddhas.” Indeed, for a Buddhist, the supreme fullness of being human is to be awake (“Buddha” means the “awakened one.”) A Buddha is someone who is awake. But what is more valuable than being awake to the present moment and the present place?
Existence itself is a kind of miracle and we ought to wake up to it.
Our true home is in the present moment. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment.
The more we appreciate what a gift it is to walk on the green earth, and how long in the making, the more literally we can take Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice.
The technique is to be in the present moment, to be aware that we are here and now, that the only moment to be alive is the present moment.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 39f.
Banner Image: Walking meditation among giants, Crescent City, CA. Photo by Connor McSheffrey on Unsplash
Is it true that “the only moment to be alive is the present moment”? What follows from that?
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit
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