Gathas & Poems

Put Some Poetry Into It!

Towards the end of a retreat, we’re always asked, “Now, what? How do we realistically apply these new-found mindfulness skills to everyday life?” It can be quite daunting, especially when we see that our current life style, friends or environment are not as conducive as we’d like.

Gathas are short poems that correspond to regular moments throughout the day. We gently weave gathas together with our daily actions and our breathing. Whether it is waking up in the morning, starting the car or finishing a meal, we can gently remind ourselves with poetic assistance.

As we recite the first line, we return to our in-breath. With the second line we follow our out-breath. Third line: in-breath. Fourth: out-breath. It’s important to really allow the poems to work their way through us rather than reciting by routine.

There’s no way I can easily convince you to memorize five poems. It’s much simpler to write them down on a small sheet of paper. Post them accordingly: bedside, bathroom mirror, tea-mug, etc. Then, when you wake up, brush your teeth or drink your tea, the small slip of paper will put some poetry into your mindfulness!

If you find the practice of gathas inspiring, more can be found in the book, Present Moment Wonderful Moment (Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press).

Waking Up

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live each moment fully,
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

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.

Drinking Tea

This cup of tea in my two hands,
mindfulness is held uprightly.
My mind and body dwell
in the very here and now.

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.

Turning On the Light

Forgetfulness is the darkness;
mindfulness is the light.
I bring awareness
to shine upon all life.

Beyond Gathas – Poetry

Defuse Me

If I were a bomb
ready to explode,
if I have become
dangerous to your life,
then you must take care of me.
You think you can get away from me,
but how?
I am here, right in your midst.
(You cannot remove me from your life.)
And I may explode
at any time.
I need your care.
I need your time.
I need you to defuse me.
You are responsible for me,
because you have made the vow (and I heard it)
to love and to care.
I know that to take care of me
you need much patience,
much coolness.
I realize that in you
there is also a bomb to be defused.
So why don’t we help each other?
I need you to listen to me.
No one had listened to me.
No one understands my suffering,
including the ones who say they love me.
The pain inside me
is suffocating me.
It is the TNT
that makes up the bomb.
There is no one else
who will listen to me.
That is why I need you.
But you seem to be getting away from me.
You want to run for your safety,
the kind of safety
that does not exist.
I have not created my own bomb.
It is you.
It is society.
It is family.
It is school.
It is tradition.
So please don’t blame me for it.
Come and help;
if not, I will explode.
This is not a threat.
It is only a plea for help.
I will also be of help
when it is your turn.

– Thích Nhat Hanh
Please Call Me By My True Names