Gathas for Ordinary Moments


Gathas are short verses that capture an ordinary life moment with the purpose of supporting mindfulness. Teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Robert Aitken compose beautiful gathas and share them in their teachings. Over the years of my own practice I have often composed gathas as a way of representing something that is arising for me that I want to be especially aware of, or moments that have an inherent clarity and stillness that is a model for what I seek in each moment of the day. I don't consider myself a poet, but I don't think that is necessary for this practice itself to be supportive of mindfulness. So, here I will post from time to time some of my own gathas. Because of the "nothing special" quality of the moments captured, it may be that you too have experienced a moment like the one described. If so, it is my hope that the verse is useful in bringing clear seeing to that experience.  Perhaps you will even be moved to write some of these short verses of your own. 


Seeing the pleasure arise as I taste my morning coffee

I breathe and remember

To recall the presence and labor of so many

Behind each sweet moment life offers.

What do dreams mean?

The mind's pockets emptied at day's end

Such clutter and confusion -

There'll be more tomorrow.

If sorrow should well for a moment

I breathe and remember

To feel fully its pain and power

Then return to the peace of this breath.

Watching the moose move shoulder, leg

As if in water. No hurry.

Weight dropping through snow...

Ah! My own load lightens.


When hurtful words crowd at my lips

I breathe and resolve

To taste their bitterness fully

That awareness may nurture wisdom.

The mind is full of wriggling fish

Toss and gather the net of awareness

The fish are many, small and quick

A nap by the pond won't catch freedom.

Moving through a day of solitude

Noting how action and breath become precision and prayer

I breathe and remember

Neither to wish it away nor wish it to stay.

When worried by unwelcome and uninvited thoughts

I breathe and remember

To regard them as the skywriting they are

Watching, I see them float briefly and dissolve.

Notice - Every moment is meditation now.

The sifting in and out of the breath,

Soft calm like a hammock for body and mind,

But what a wild ride to get here.


When racous magpie conversations

shatter morning quiet

I breathe and remember

Joy need not be tuneful and soft spoken.

My body hums

its own melody of being

sweetly private in my ears.

Listen... There it is. 


If difficult words must be spoken and heard

I vow to remember

To breathe, listen deeply, and speak with compassion and truth.

When desires for small distractions and pleasures

Are thwarted or simply fall short

I vow to breathe and remember

I can pull the teeth of suffering 

by returning to what is: here and now.

In the midst of karmic collision, I recall  my teacher's words:

"You will be misunderstood."

From the ashes of pain's fire, a miracle -

No phoenix-self arises:

A moment's liberation.

Rain's rhythm, stirred earth

Frogs sing

Breath's rhythm, senses open

Heart sings.

Day's end, weariness melts bone

Heavy inside and out

Thought sinks

Like sand through water

Mind clear and still.

When I willingly ride a thought train 

Predicting the actions of another

I breathe and remember

To derail such runaway stories

Each now is a new beginning.

If, waking to my alarm bell some mornings,

My weary body rebels

I breathe and remember

To look closely and choose wisely

Moving to my cushion or back to my pillow awhile.