Getting older I find it easier to be more fully in the moment, a place without clocks or calendars. The present moment is all around us, though mostly hidden, covered by our thoughts and the patterns of the day. It contains both the outer physical world of the senses and also the mystery of the soul, a dimension full of meaning and spiritual secrets.

Subscribe to our podcast:


Transkript in Deutsch


The present moment is all around us, though mostly hidden, covered by our thoughts and the patterns of the day. I try to catch it early, often in the half-light, before the world wakes, watching the colors change in the sky. Or in the soft light of evening, when even the chipmunks seem not to scurry so fast, and sometimes I can see the wings of an owl moving between the trees. It is so easy to lose this moment, to return to what the mind tells us, to all of this world’s dramas, hopes, and fears. But then, picking a ripe tomato from the garden, tasting its sweetness, the moment is back, unadorned, complete.

I think that young children mostly live in the moment, until they are taught to forget, to become full of the world of their parents, to experience time passing, clocks and calendars. But the moment is not like this. Times passes here too, like the rise and fall of the tides on the wetlands outside my window, or the clouds passing, the sun shining through. In this flow moments pass but remain without questions or answers.

Last week we had to cut down the wild rose bush that was breaking the fence. We have to keep the deer out of the garden otherwise there would be no more roses or colors. It had grown unnoticed. Having a garden one is always weeding, tending, mulching, pruning. But sometimes a plant grows unnoticed, returning to its wild self. If we are present in the moment is this a practice or a natural way of being? Or have we lost what is natural so long ago that we need to consciously return?

Watching the breath, watching it rise and fall, come and go, is the simplest way to be present. One cannot breathe in the past or future, and here there are no thoughts, just simple awareness. For some this is an awareness of the body, sensations and feelings. But the breath also has a mystery, long known to spiritual practice. The breath connects together the worlds—the outer world of the senses and the inner world of the soul. With each and every in-breath we return back to our own soul, until the out-breath draws us into the outer world. Mystery upon mystery, with each and every breath.

While our culture is restless and full of countless activities that do not respect the original rhythm of life, the breath-rhythm always brings us back to this primary rhythm and flow: of letting come, letting go, and of waiting. If we don’t use our willpower for breathing, but allow and surrender to this natural rhythm—in-breath, out-breath, and the often overlooked space before the next in-breath—then the breath can bring us back into harmony with life and become a bridge between spirit and matter, weaving the essence of the soul into creation in the most beautiful and meaningful way.

And so the living moment contains both the outer physical world of the senses and the mystery of the soul, a dimension full of meaning and spiritual secrets. Sadly our rational culture has censored much of this interior world, its symbols and sacred meaning. Then the moment no longer breathes, is caught in the out-breath, no longer sings. When in the evening light I see two falcons on a branch something touches me, reminds me of an elemental world of symbols and signs. I do not try to understand, but rather allow myself to be met, to be spoken to in this primal language. It helps me to feel at home in a world that is increasingly strange.

It is not hard then to remember a world in which we walked in constant communion with the inner, when symbols were alive, and the sacred sang to us. Was it progress that made us forget this elemental connection? Part of our journey of separation that has taken humanity so far from the source? When I am present in the moment there are neither questions nor answers, these belong to my thinking mind. Simple awareness is not like this, more a state of being.

These are the last late days of Summer. The garden has fewer colors now, the last blooms of yellow and pink roses. The final squash are flowering. The apples and tomatoes turning red. My only thought for the future is whether the pair of crows will eat all our apples before they fully ripen, as happened last year. Soon the seasons will turn, the moments will have different textures. Hopefully the rains will come, storms rolling in from across the Pacific, wild nights. I feel very fortunate. I have a dry roof, a warm bed, and food in the fridge. I know that half a world away, where the war drags on, the moments are more cruel, inhuman, sorrow and tears, as well as kindness and courage. All because of an old story of conquest and control. There the moments must have an intensity very different to here, in our small community beside the ocean. There death walks more visibly.

As our world seems to spin out of control I am privileged to rest in simplicity. Or maybe this is just what happens when one gets older and the demands of the day fall away, when there are few desires left. Then all that is left is the moment. For many years now I have practiced both sitting and walking meditation. Sitting in silence with an empty mind, being drawn further into love and emptiness. And walking, feet on the ground, often watching the breath, trying also to keep my mind empty, but present. I can make the same walk again and again over the years, but each day is different—the movement of the trees, the sunlight on the leaves, the texture of the clouds. Watching the fruit in my neighbor’s orchard ripen is how time speaks to me. I do not understand why people need to scroll through social media, be angry about what does not exist. Love and friendship and silence make sense to me.

Yet in the moment I also often feel sadness, grief at how we are treating this beautiful Earth, the same being I feel under my feet when I walk. Sadness also at how we have neglected the inner worlds and the place where spirit and matter meet. Each moment is alive in so many ways, ways we seem to have lost long ago. Both when I am walking and sitting, dreams, visions and unseen worlds can catch the corner of my eyes, as in the moment when you awake and your dreams are most present, before the day forgets them. I can sit under a tree and feel its living presence, but I also know it belongs to a whole landscape from which we have estranged ourselves. I do not ask too many questions, preferring just to watch and be present. But I do wonder if it was our destiny or choice to wander so far from what is always around us, what sustains us and gives us sacred meaning. Did our desire for progress force us to become so blinkered in our awareness?

In some moments stories are present, some threads woven across centuries. Here, beside the bay, it is the stories of the land and the seasons, of those who walked this land for millennia, who understood its rhythms and patterns of subsistence, who fished its waters, before they were banished along with their language and customs. The stories of today are also present, those of the climate crisis, droughts and heatwaves, the fires that burn each Summer. There are also the strange distortions swirling across the country. If I am drawn to any stories it is those for a living future—what we need to remember in order to form a community that respects the land and its spirits, so that the future can be sacred. Something so simple and yet so easily forgotten, hidden like the deer trail I just found the other day at the edge of my garden, leading into the deeper forest.

Some moments I am present in these stories, wondering how humanity will journey through the changing landscape, how will we transition back to the living Earth, to a way of being that respects its more-than-human inhabitants. But when I watch the deer and her fawn eating the grass in the evening these thoughts fade away, in the same way on my early morning walk when I stop by a spider’s web sparkling with dew drops. Moment by moment life is alive in ways beyond my limited understanding. It is woven together in so many threads, patterns of interconnection constantly evolving. This is how the world has always been. We may have pushed the biosphere past tipping points and into feedback loops. But this does not deny its simple wonder and patterns of regeneration.

As I walk this land in these last years of my life I am no longer concerned about purpose, even spiritual purpose. Those are just ideas long left by the wayside. If I can spend some of these years, these days, these moments, in the simple presence of what is always around me, it is like a note being struck that resonates deep in my being. I am reminded of a Chinese poem:

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

I meditate, I pray, I water the vegetables in the garden. When the first light comes in the morning I am often awake, waiting for the sun to turn the hills first pink and then red. When evening comes and the setting sun is reflected from over the ocean I wait for the first star of the night. Some nights I can see the Milky Way stretch across the sky. I am happy with rice and vegetables for lunch, especially if the squash came from our garden. A slice of bread and cheese in the evening, bread that my wife baked. Soon I will make tomato chutney with the green tomatoes that did not ripen.


©2023 The Golden Sufi Center,