Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us what it is we are looking at when we look deeply at just one flower.

“Blessed rain for the canola crop, East Damboring.” Image by Jean and Fred on Flickr.

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:

“We are Stardust.” The 15th Symphony of Science video, featuring Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman and Lawrence Krauss. Uploaded to YouTube by melodysheep.

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.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh describes how walking mindfully on the Earth can heal us and the planet. Video by Omega, uploaded to Youtube by Plum Village App

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.

Total presence in the moment: a surfer in the tube. Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash.

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?

Recommended Reading

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


Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.

Join Rabbi Rami Shapiro and Rev. Matthew Fox for a 1.5-day Virtual Teach-in on “Cosmic Wisdom and the Divine Feminine: Lost Insights for an Emerging World.” Friday, June 25, 4:00 PM to Saturday, June 26, 2:30 PM Pacific (GMT/UTC-7). Enroll HERE.

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9 thoughts on “Buddhism and the Wonder of Creation”

  1. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    To live in the present moment alive… one has to be accepting, open, and receptive to the full range of human experience. What I mean by this full range is what we humans often put into categories of dualistic seperations… things labelled as good or bad, light or dark, joyful or painfull… and then often we select that which we deem the better of the two sides, rejecting and choosing not to be present to the fullness of the moment. Often living in the present moment alive is portrayed as always a positive experience… when in reality it can be also negative, as well as creatively transformative.

    To live in the present moment alive, one also has to learn how to let go of expectations, attachments and projections. There is a mysterious kind of detachment that actually draws you into something else much deeper, more intimate, a sense of solidarity and shared unity with, in this letting go.

    To live in the present moment alive, takes courage and vulnerability, as well as an honest humility of surrendering to the fullness of all that it offers in trust… without trying to control its movements. The closer you get to the center of it, the less tension… as you learn to ride the wave of the full range of all that the present moment has to offer with some sense of balance. This takes lots of practice… and we stumble and fall.. but then like St Benedict says, we learn to choose to seize the present moments offered lightly, without grasping as we begin again and again daily, to live alive to it all.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, the present moment is always here. Reality is just an endless series of present moments. The question is, “What do we do with this moment.”

  2. Avatar

    I studied classical piano for many years and would often spend an inordinate amount of time on a single note- how to alter it’s color, volume, it’s relationship to the sound before it and after it. But as a person as I did this work, I was deeply broken and unstable. Years later, in a mindfulness class, I discovered the “raisin” activity (imagining all aspects of a raisin – being completely in a moment with a raisin) was essentially this same activity I had done within the context of music practice. My healing began as I recognized the power of being present to whatever one is experiencing in every moment in every aspect of my life. Now, as a participant in Centering Prayer at my local Catholic parish, I am praying in a meditative way – being fully present with God, allowing the moment to be fully experienced.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Leslie, thank you for your comment. I too studied piano and it drove me crazy. I felt like I was in a straight jacket having to do everything according to their book. So I started writing my own music and have felt a lot better about what I do. Also, I have done mindfulness meditation on eating a raisin very slowly and with mindfulness, and it has always stayed with me…

  3. Avatar

    What a treasure and blessing to read these heartfelt meditations and responses. I feel connected to you. Thank you. Words are hard to describe my heart as I write this.

  4. Avatar

    I have been working at staying in the precious Present Moment for years, and the only thing I’m sure of is that I CAN ALWAYS COME BACK TO THE PRESENT. It’s pretty difficult to always be in the moment, which I believe will only be possible (for me, at least) when I get to “the other side.”

    By the way, I’ve yet to receive access to the recordings of the first class on Hildegard! And I feel really deprived . . . It’s now 5 days since the class happened! WHAT is going on?? I’ve contacted The Shift but have not had any satisfaction from them . . . HELP someone!! thanks!

    1. Phila Hoopes

      Dear Vivian,

      Thank you for asking! We’re forwarding your message to the Shift course manager, Linda Kealey, cc’ing you, in case you have any further questions.

      Here is the response from Shift:

      Recordings are available within 24-48 hours and transcripts take up to a week. Find these and all of your program materials in the Course Sessions of your Course Homepage:

      If you click on the Deepening Practices button, you get the homework assignment.

      There are also buttons on all the emails and on the course homepage where students can reach Customer Service if they are having issues like not receiving the homework emails.

      I’m happy to have Customer Service reach out to anyone who is having issues getting access or getting emails. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of emails going to their Spam folders. But rest assured that the emails are all getting sent out on time! I’m on it!


      Linda Kealey
      Course Manager
      The Shift Network
      Phila Hoopes
      Blog Coordinator

  5. Avatar

    We are stardust. I am as excited now as when I first learned that. Everything comes from stardust.. Wow!

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