The Buddha’s model for Yoga practice, the “Noble Eightfold Path,” begins with the two limbs associated with wisdom (prajñā): samyag-dṛṣṭi which can be translated as ‘right’ or ‘appropriate’ view or understanding and samyak-saṃkalpa, which is variously translated as ‘right’ or ‘appropriate’ intention, aspiration, motivation, or thought. This month, our daily practice will be to connect with a basic intention through the practice of two gathas to ‘bookend’ our day: one for waking up in the morning, and one for retiring at the end of the day.
Thich Nhat Hanh describes gathas as “short verses which we can recite during our daily activities to help us dwell in mindfulness.” Without these ‘reminders,’ we often fall into forgetfulness. We forget to look at the people we love and to appreciate them, so lost in our own mental chatter! Even during ‘leisure,’ we seem to not know how to get in touch with what’s happening in our life. To practice mindfulness is to grow in our understanding of what is going on – in our bodies, our feelings, our minds, and in the world. Stopping and coming back to the truth of our life ultimately brings the wonder and mystery of life into full focus.
When using gathas, we return to ourselves, and become conscious of our actions and, importantly, the motivations behind our actions. When we stop and recite a gatha, it’s like a short break in the tumultuous momentum of our life. When we resume our activity, we do so with a heightened sense of awareness. This helps not only us, as we find greater peace, calm, and joy, it helps those we interact with as we then share our peace, calm and joy with them!
In the beginning, we may need to have the gatha written so that we can read it to ourselves. Ideally, we memorize the gatha so that it comes to us naturally, spurred by the conditions of the particular situation the gatha is designed to wake us to.
This month, our practice will be to write out in our own hand the following two gathas: one to read/recite upon awakening in the morning, and the other to read/recite upon going to bed at night.
I suggest you write out the gathas on attractive colored paper, and place them near your bed (on your bed-stand if you have one). When you wake in the morning, sitting up at the side of your bed, read the “Waking Up Gatha” to yourself. If you live alone – or with a supportive partner – it can be helpful to say it out loud at least occasionally. Don’t rush through it automatically just to get it done. Take a few breaths, then read it slowly, fully aware of your breath as you do so. After reading it, take three breaths, then get up and on with your day.
In the evening, sitting up in bed, read the “Gatha On Impermanence” and reflect on your day’s efforts to live mindfully. This is NOT an opportunity for self-recrimination and judgment. Simply review honestly, with the understanding that we are learning day by day. Renew your commitment to stay awake the following day, and enjoy a deserved good night’s rest.
Throughout this month, I invite and encourage those of you who choose to engage in this Daily Practice to share your experience here through the Comment Tool. Feel free as well to ask any questions that may arise. May you enjoy your practice!
Poep Sa Frank Jude
Waking Up Gatha
Waking up this morning, I smile.
A brand new day is before me.
I vow (intend, aspire) to live fully in each moment,
And to look upon all beings with eyes of compassion.
Gatha On Impermanence
The day is now ended.
Let me reflect carefully on how I have acted,
And with all my heart, may I diligently engage in the practice.
May I live deeply, freely,
Always aware of impermanence
So that life does not drift away meaninglessly.