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Practicing with Gathas


Thich Nhat Hanh became a monk at 16 and entered Từ Hiếu Monastery in Hue, Vietnam. His teacher, Thanh Quý Chân Thật, gave him the traditional first practice of our lineage - gatha study. Thay spent the next two years tending animals and learning to practice with gathas, which are short poems designed to help us see the sacred in the ordinary (pronounced got-ah.) 


Gathas can initially seem trivial: How can memorizing and reciting little poems wake us up? But gathas are a deep practice. Our minds contain many beliefs and assumptions about the world. Most of these ideas are untrue and make us suffer. Gathas are antidotes that help us heal and transform our unhelpful views. 


When we stop to recite a gatha before engaging in everyday activities like waking up, brushing our teeth, using the toilet, or driving our car, our views are shifted. Instead of throwing out garbage as though it were disconnected from us, we see the interbeing of all things. Instead of cutting a flower and taking its life for our benefit, we nurture gratitude. Instead of washing our hands as a duty before eating, we vow to use our hands to preserve this precious planet.


Gatha practice should be fresh and alive. Choose one or two gathas that call to you and begin there. You might enjoy writing the gathas on little pieces of paper and posting them within view of the activity you’d like to transform. Recite the gathas with your heart rather than your mind and allow them to practice you. You don’t need to figure them out or make it into hard work. After some time, switch to new gathas and keep the practice relevant and flowing. You might even like to write your own.  You can download these Gathas for printing, also, from our Resources page.


Anacortes Mindfulness Community Gathas


Waking Up

Waking up this morning, I smile.

Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.

I vow to live fully in each moment

and to look at beings with eyes of compassion.


Taking the First Steps of the Day

Walking on the Earth

is a miracle!

Each mindful step

reveals the wondrous Dharmakaya.


Turning on the Water

Water comes from high in the mountains.

Water runs deep in the Earth.

Miraculously, water comes to us and sustains all life.

My gratitude is filled to the brim.


Washing Your Hands

Water flows over these hands.

May I use them skillfully

to preserve our precious planet.


Brushing Your Teeth

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.


Using the Toilet

Defiled or immaculate,

increasing or decreasing--

these concepts exist only in our mind.

The reality of interbeing is unsurpassed.


Entering the Meditation Hall

Entering the meditation hall,

I see my true self.

As I sit down,

I vow to cut off all disturbances.


Sitting Down

Sitting here

is like sitting under a Bodhi tree.

My body is mindfulness itself,

free from distraction.


Calming the Breath

Breathing in, I calm my body.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment!

Adjusting Posture

Feelings come and go

like clouds in a windy sky.

Conscious breathing

is my anchor.


Greeting Someone

A lotus for you

a Buddha to be.


Before Eating (The Five Contemplations)

This food is the gift of the whole universe

the earth, the sky, and much hard work.

May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy to receive it.

May we transform our unskillful states of mind,

especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.

May we take only foods that nourish us

and prevent illness.

We accept this food to realize

the path of understanding and love.


Inviting the Bell to Sound

Body, speech, and mind in perfect oneness,

I send my heart out along with the sound of this bell.

May all hearers awaken from forgetfulness

and transcend the path of sorrow.


Listening to the Bell

Listen, listen,

this wonderful sound

brings me back

to my true home.


Smiling at Your Anger

Breathing in, I know that anger makes me not beautiful.

Breathing out, I smile.

I stay with my breathing

so I won't lose myself.


Breathing

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

Breathing in, my breath grows deep,

Breathing out, my breath grows slow.

Breathing in, my mind is calm

Breathing out, my body is at ease.

Breathing in, I smile

Breathing out, I release.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment.


Driving the Car

Before starting the car

I know where I'm going.

The car and I are one.

If the car goes fast, I go fast.


Drinking Tea

This cup of tea in my two hands,

mindfulness held perfectly.

My mind and body dwell

in the very here and now.


Watering the Plants

Don't think you are cut off, dear plant.

This water comes to you from the Earth and sky.

You and I have been together

since beginningless time.


Communicating with Others

Words can travel thousands of miles.

May my words create mutual understanding and love.

May they be as beautiful as gems,

as lovely as flowers.


Walking Meditation

The mind can go in a thousand directions,

but on this path, I walk in peace.

With each step, a fresh wind blows.

With each step, a flower blooms.


Turning on the Light

Forgetfulness is the darkness,

mindfulness is the light.

I bring awareness

to shine upon all life.


Washing Vegetables

In these vegetables

I see a green sun.

All dharmas join together

to make life possible.


Cleaning

How wonderful

to scrub and clean.

Day by day,

my heart and mind grow clearer.


Sweeping

As I carefully sweep

the ground of enlightenment,

a tree of understanding

springs up from the Earth.


Throwing Out the Garbage

In the garbage, I see a rose.

In the rose, I see compost.

Everything is in transformation.

Impermanence is life.


Cutting a Flower

May I cut you, little flower,

gift of Earth and sky?

Thank you, dear bodhisattva,

for making life so beautiful.


Lighting a Candle

Lighting this candle,

Offering the light to countless Buddhas,

the peace and the joy I feel

brighten the face of the Earth.

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