“Sometimes people ask you: ‘When is your birthday?’ But you might ask yourself a more interesting question: ‘Before that day which is called my birthday, where was I?’
Ask a cloud: ‘What is your date of birth? Before you were born, where were you?’
If you ask the cloud, ‘How old are you? Can you give me your date of birth?’ you can listen deeply and you may hear a reply. You can imagine the cloud being born. Before being born it was the water on the ocean’s surface. Or it was in the river and then it became vapor. The wind is there too, helping the water to become a cloud. The cloud does not come from nothing; there has been only a change in form. It is not a birth of something out of nothing.
Sooner or later the cloud will change into rain or snow or ice. If you look deeply into the rain, you can see the cloud. The cloud is not lost; it is transformed into rain, and the rain is transformed into grass and the grass into cows and then to milk and then into the ice cream you eat. Today if you eat an ice cream, give yourself time to look at the ice cream and say: ‘Hello, cloud! I recognize you.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, A Lifetime of Peace,