During our busy days we forget to be mindful and to just breathe. Each moment of daily life is an opportunity to arrive in the present moment. Gathas are short verses that we can recite during our daily activities to help us return to the present moment and be mindful. As exercises in meditation and poetry, gathas are an essential part of the Zen Buddhist tradition. Using a gatha doesn’t require special knowledge or religious practice. You can memorize a favorite verse, write the verses down in places they are likely to be seen often, or if you are inspired to do so, you can create your own gathas to support a specific practice.
When you turn on a water faucet, look and see how precious water is:
Water flows from high mountains. Water runs deep in the Earth. Miraculously water comes to us and sustains all life.
While brushing your teeth, you can make a vow to use loving speech with this gatha:
Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth, I vow to speak purely and lovingly. When my mouth is fragrant with right speech, a flower blooms in the garden of my heart.
Before turning on the engine of your car, you can prepare for a safe journey by reciting this gatha:
Before starting the car I know where I am going. The car and I are one. If the car goes fast, I go fast.
Here are additional gathas you can use right now in your daily life:
- Waking up: Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and o look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.
- Walking Meditation: The mind can go in a thousand directions. But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, a gentle wind blows, with each step, a flower blooms.
- Talking on the phone: Words can travel thousands of miles. May my words create mutual understanding and love. May they be as gems, as lovely as flowers.
- Laying in bed: Resting in the ultimate dimension, using snowing mountains as a pillow and beautiful pink clouds as blankets.
The gatha brings your mind and body together. With a calm and clear mind, fully aware of the activities of your body, you are less likely to get in a car accident.
Gathas nourish your mind and body, giving you peace, calm and joy, which you can share with others. They help bring meditation practice into every part of your life.
For further ideas see Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living and Present Moment Wonderful Moment: 52 Inspirational Cards and a Companion Book (Berkeley CA: Parallax Press, 2006).
This review was gleaned from various sources at Laughing Rivers Sangha, Pittsburgh, PA. www.laughlingrivers.org.