By Peggy Denial
My first memory of gatha practice, though we didn't call it that, was when I was two or three years old. Whenever I went out the door my grandmother would say, "May your guardian angel" and I would respond, "protect me and save me." When I stayed with her she had other similar sayings for when she woke me up or put me to bed. Gathas are now one of the tools I use most in daily practice to bring me back to the present moment. It's hard for me to open a door without the door-opening gatha running through my mind. Sometimes I'm still not present but my chances of returning to the present moment are greater.
For years, I fought gatha practice, thinking it a "Mickey Mouse" practice. Thay would highly recommend the practice each retreat. I'd come home and try again. Over the years, I started to do the practice more regularly, but I had to keep renewing my efforts.
When my son Matthew moved in with us almost four years ago, the memory of my grandmother returned. Suddenly, the practice became more solid and my attitude toward it changed. I used gathas with Matthew the same way my grandmother practiced with me. We use it less now that he is ten but when he was seven and eight, he just loved it. I would say gathas when I combed his hair, when we dressed, washed hands, and brushed teeth. Sometimes we would say them as written and other times we had fun. I would say "While putting on my clothes, I hope" and he would answer "that all animals have lots of fur that keeps them warm." Through the practice with Matthew, my grandmother came back to me. The strong seeds she sowed were watered and grew into a nourishing daily gatha practice.
Order aspirant Peggy Denial, Medicine of the Heart, practices with her family in Cotati, California.