Verses that Nourish the Soul: Gathas

A couple years ago, my beloved brother-in-law Tim and I discovered that we had a mutual interest in the teachings of Zen Buddhist master.  Soon after, Tim gave me a book by this great teacher called Peace is Every Breath, which presents inspiring and accessible ways to cultivate greater mindfulness in everyday life.  One practice in this book that really spoke to me is the expression of gathas.


In Sanskrit, the word gatha means a “song” or “verse”.   In the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a gatha is simple and very short verse that can deepen the experience of little acts we often take for granted, like brewing a fresh cup of tea or washing our face.  In a world where the pace of life can seem like it’s getting faster and faster, it’s all to easy to become mindless as we run from point A to B and lose site of the preciousness that can exist in each moment.  Slowing down and focusing on the task at hand with a tool like gathas can help us come home, reground, and find new depths of gratitude and presence.  As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Gathas are nourishment for our mind, giving us peace, calmness and joy which we can share with others. They help us to bring the uninterrupted practice of meditation into every part of our day.”

Here is an example of a gatha of Thich Nhat Hanh’s that I love about using the phone:

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.

For inspiration, you might want to pick up a copy of Peace is Every Breath or visit this website that shares many gathas of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Let this practice be about remembrance instead of precision. There’s no need to recite these verses word for word.  In fact, you can write a your own gathas in your head as you wash the dishes or vacuum the living room.  Let us know how it feels to give yourself the gift of greater presence.

by Sophie Slater