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Sangha Stories / Creating Gathas – Mindfulness at Play

Gathas are short practice poems, that help us bring mindfulness, concentration, and insight to daily activities. Sister Giac An offers a selection of Gathas created recently in the Lower Hamlet Sutra class.

This spring and summer, the sisters and long-term residents of Lower Hamlet are attending a weekly sutra class, led by Dharma teacher Sr Luc Nghiem. Aside from studying a sutra (The Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing), we learn to turn the teachings into concrete practices that we can use in our daily lives.

One of these concrete practices is the use of gathas as poetic reminders for us to return to the present moment. Many gathas (little poems) are available in the Plum Village practice (see the book Present Moment Wonderful Moment ). Gathas can be memorized and cover a wider variety of daily chores and are recited as we wash our hands, brush our teeth, helping us to stay present and fully alive. We can also combine gathas with our breathing, with one line for an in-breath and the next for our out-breath.

As part of our sutra class, we were asked to create our own gathas, inspired from our daily activities. Below is an offering from the Sutra class of Lower Hamlet, in English and in French (with translation). We hope you will enjoy them and find the inspiration to write one of your own as well.

The Classic Plum Village Gatha

“I have Arrived, I am Home”

Our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh teaches on the classic Plum Village gatha
“I have arrived, I am home,
In the here and in the now.
I am solid, I am free,
In the ultimate I dwell.”

Daily Life
(From Flip Flops to Toilet Paper)

Feeling the water in my cupped hands,
I can see the sea.
Feel the freshness on my skin,
Feel the sun warming my heart.

Putting on my flip flops
I dress my feet with grace
My toes are breathing
While my ankles and smiling.

Putting on my monastic robe
My happiness is alive.
May my peace and joy
Bloom in the hearts of all beings I meet today.

En ramassant les déchets
j’essaie de ne pas juger
je me souviens de mes erreurs passées
En prennant soin de la Terre Mère
je me respecte avec tous les Êtres.

(Picking up the garbage,
I try not to judge,
I remember by past mistakes
Taking care of Mother Earth,
I respect myself together with all beings.)

En mettant ma montre,
je réaliser que le temps passe.
Tic tac tic tac,
Chaque minute est précieuse.
Ma vie est précieuse,
Et j’en ferai bon usage.

(Putting on my watch
I see that time is passing
Tick-tock, tick-tock
Each minute is precious,
My life is precious
I will use it well.)

Sacred toilet paper,
Coming from a tree.
I see clearly,
The FOREST is with me.

En écrivant une lettre,
présent dans tout mon être
Je sens couler à flots
Mes mots et parfois mes maux
et j’y apporte ma douceur et ma bonne humeur

(While writing a letter,
fully present,
I sense the flow, of my words, of my pains sometimes,
I bring to it my sweetness and good humour.)

En lisant un livre
Je suis consciente de ce qui m’enivre,
Je souhaite cultiver en moi, la solidité, la paix,
l’amour, la foi, la joie et la
confiance en soi

(Reading a book, 
I am aware of what excites me,
I wish to cultivate solidity, peace, 
love, faith, joy and trust in myself)

Breathing in, I allow my six senses to be awakened to this joyful work.
Seeing the sacredness of this simple work
I vow to work wholeheartedly with a smile on my lips,
That this body and these hands will pour love and compassion into each moment.

Reflections From Nature to the Ultimate

The wind of the Dharma
has come from a long
and ancient way.
It blows over all dharmas.

My dear little orchid, 
I am here for you.
This water from the heart will refresh and heal you.
We have been together for innumerable lives.

Sitting at the bank of the lake,
I contemplate my own reflection.
When the water is calm,
I see the unseen.
Treading softly on this earth,
I allow my heart to guide me,
As I fall gently into presence.
I enjoy each step
As if it were my last.

En écoutant le chant du vent,
Mes pensées s’evaporent dans l’air
Les feuilles dansent autour de moi
Ma respiration callée au rhythme de battements de la Terre
Hier, aujourd’hui et demain ne font plus qu’un.

(While listening to the song of the wind,
My thoughts evaporate into the air.
The leaves are dancing around me,
My breath follows the heartbeat of the earth…
Yesterday, today and tomorrow become one.)

En mettant un pied dans l’eau de la rivière
L’eau est fraiche, l’eau est douce
L’eau est claire, l’eau est profonde
Quand mon pied entre dans sa vraie nature
Je touche l’ultime et le trèfond

(Putting a foot in the river
The water is fresh, the water is soft,
The water is clear, the water is deep.
When I see the true nature of my foot,
I touch the ultimate and the store.)

Smelling the perfume of the rose,
oh wonderful moment!
Smelling bad smells,
I know the rose is there as well.
Can I smile to the rose?

Being and Interbeing 

Stopping to let the sun shine on my face,
I feel my grandmother enjoying its warmth.
Seeing the presence of my ancestors,
I know their strength and joy is also mine.

Mes yeux dans le miroir,
les yeux des mes ancêtres,
un sourire sur mes lèvres,
un sourire sur leurs lèvres.

(My eyes reflected in the mirror,
The eyes of my ancestors,
A smile on my lips,
A smile on their lips.)

The human doing stops….
and sees the ultimate.
Be a human being is more than enough.

Reconnaissant mes ombres, 
je souris au chemin parcouru.
Je choisis la confiance

(Acknowledging my shadows, 
I smile to the path already travelled
I choose trust.)

Observant les chatons,
S’agiter et explorer le monde,
Je vois la vitalité et la joie innocente.
Puisse-je cultiver ces graines en moi,
qu’ils soient là ou non.

(Watching the kittens
Active and exploring the world,
I see their vitality and their innocent joy.
May I also cultivate these seeds in me,
Whether the kittens are there or not.)

What creates a gatha?

The creative process of gatha making.

What is needed for a gatha to arise from the depths of our being?

The answer from the class was very diverse, but we were in agreement that time and space were key ingredients for something to manifest. Joy, insight and play were key conditions for some gathas; others found their gathas while looking for more connection with life, or a wish to be fully present in the moment. Ordinary objects of daily life or daily actions became infused with spirit bringing forth a sense of oneness, care and trust, increased awareness and connection with life.

Have you created a gatha for your own mindfulness practice? Please share them with us in the comments below!


Join the conversation

  • Gatha for music teachers

    Breathing as my pupil arrives
    I sense her energy
    Watching with equanimity
    as she settles on the piano stool
    Letting go of my goal for her
    I can accept what is within her reach
    Learning a piece one beat at a time
    living life one breath at a time

  • To the USB which has lost it’s cap:

    No lint, no sand:
    you gotta hold it in your hand.
    Breath in, breathe out
    try not to let it walk about.

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    What is Mindfulness

    Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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