Thay has always encouraged people to give calm, clear-seeing and intimate attention to each daily activity, whether eating a meal, washing the dishes, or walking quietly, aware of the contact between our foot and the earth that supports it.
Gathas are short verses that help us practice mindfulness in our daily activities, whether we are sitting, walking, washing the dishes or slicing potatoes. A gatha can open and deepen our experience of simple acts which we often take for granted. A gatha accomplishes several aims: It occupies our thinking; it sets a direction for our practice at that moment; and, if used correctly, it helps us to be mindful of our breathing. Unlike a mantra, which is the same for all occasions, we can have specific gathas for specific activities. When we focus our mind on a gatha, we return to ourselves and become more aware of each action. When the gatha ends, we continue our activity with heightened awareness.
As we turn on the water faucet we can look deeply and see how precious the water is. We remember not to waste a single drop because there are so many people in the world who don’t even have enough to drink. While brushing our teeth we can make a vow to use loving speech. Before turning on the engine of our car, we can prepare for a safe journey by reciting the gatha for starting the car.
Dwelling in the present moment, we can see so many beauties and wonders right before our eyes – a child’s smile, the sun rising, tree leaves. We can be happy just by being aware of what is in front of us. Practicing with gathas can help us return to ourselves and to what is going on in the present moment. It can be helpful to memorize gathas, a few at first, and more as you go on with the practice. When we practice well, the gathas are with us continuously, and we live our whole day in awareness.
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.
Stepping out of Bed. If today I inadvertently step on a small insect, may it not suffer too much. May it be liberated. Homage to the Bodhisattva of the Land of Great Happiness.
Turning on the Water. Water comes from high mountain sources. 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.
Looking in the Mirror. Awareness is a mirror reflecting the four elements. Beauty is a heart that generates love and a mind that is open.
Sitting Down. Sitting here is like sitting under a Bodhi tree. My body is mindfulness itself, free from all 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. This food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we be worthy to receive it. May we transform unskillful states of mind, especially the habit of eating without moderation. May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. We accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.
Holding the Empty Bowl. Looking at this bowl, I see how fortunate I am to have enough to eat to continue the practice.
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.
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.
Using the Telephone. 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 beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, a cool 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.
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.