Breathing with Images

Many years ago I learned a five-part gatha (pronounced GAH-tah) from Thich Nhat Hanh.  A gatha is a practice poem that helps us bring mindfulness and intention to our experience.  While I no longer practice it formally, I often find myself using one of the images it suggests.  During this month I’ll be commenting on a verse every week.

Here is the whole gatha:

“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in; breathing out, 

I know that I am breathing out.”

“Breathing in, I see myself as a flower; breathing out, I feel fresh.”

“Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain, breathing out, I feel solid.”

 “Breathing in, I make myself still, like a pond on a mountain; breathing out, I reflect things as they are.”

“Breathing in, I see myself as space; breathing out, I feel free.”

Each verse begins with awareness of breathing, which is a way to ground and embody the images and experiences that are then suggested in the second through fourth verses.  When we practice awareness of breathing, we bring our bodies, minds and hearts together in one place.  We focus on the present moment and let go of our everyday chattering mind. We can whisper to ourselves the shorthand of  “in….out” with each breath. Inevitably our mind wanders off; when we realize this we can notice the quality of awareness that we experience when we come back from the thought train and begin again.  

The tag line of my website is “breathe a little smile…” which reminds us of the ease that can come when we turn up the corners of our lips a bit. But don’t stress or strain with this or feel like you have to pretend to be happy!

I invite you to spend some time reflecting on each verse.  Notice what comes up for you and if there are times when one image might be especially helpful.  Next week I’ll write about “flower…fresh.”

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