Imagine . . . warm garden soil pressing between your toes, a gentle breeze caressing your face, luscious fruits ripening on the vine, sparkling dew drops decorating a spider’s web

Connect . . . with all the ways that earth, air, fire, water show up to sustain your daily life and life on Earth

Reconnect . . . to a playful and resourceful relationship with the elements of the natural world

Does a commitment to a routine mindfulness or spiritual practice often find a place on your actual or mental to-do list and then languish without action? Do you long to be more connected to the natural world yet find that the constructs of daily life tend to disconnect you? Here’s a simple practice that you can bring into the present moments of your life, starting right now wherever you live. All you need is paper and a way to print or scribe gathas to post around your home.

“Gathas are short verses that help us practice mindfulness in our daily activities. A gatha can open and deepen our experience of simple acts which we often take for granted. When we focus our mind on a gatha, we return to ourselves and become more aware of each action. When the gatha ends, we continue our activity with heightened awareness. Thich Nhat Hanh

For this practice, I selected some gathas from the Zen Buddhist tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh that support the flow of gratitude and right relationship with each of the elements – earth, air, fire, water, sacred center. These are marked with an asterisk* below. I then adapted others or wrote my own to create a complete set for the elements.

EARTH

Feeling the earth beneath my feet, I vow to be sturdy and kind in my thoughts, words, and actions.

Taking kitchen scraps to the compost, I welcome the new soil they will become.

FIRE

Before starting the car, I know where I am going. The car and I are one. If the car goes fast, I go fast.*

Sensing the light of a new day, I welcome the sun's energy to fuel my actions.

AIR

Dialing a telephone, I know that words can travel thousands of miles. May my words create mutual understanding and love.*

Brushing my teeth, rinsing my mouth, I vow to speak purely and lovingly.*

WATER

I wash my hands in flowing water. May I use them skillfully to preserve our precious planet.

I vow to use the water that flows from high in the sky and from deep in the earth to sustain all life.

SACRED CENTER or SPIRIT

Looking in the mirror, I see beauty as a heart that loves and a mind that is open.*

Dwelling in the present moment, I breathe in. Enjoying the present moment, I breathe out.*

This food is the gift of the whole universe – earth, sun, water, air, and much hard work. May I eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy to receive it.*

USING GATHAS

I like to print gathas on small individual cards, laminate them, and post them around my home. For example, a card about water might be by my kitchen sink, or a card about starting the car might be on my dashboard. You might also place a card in a wallet, notebook, or book that you carry with you away from home. Whenever you come across one of your posted gathas, breathe in and invite awareness of the precious nature of the element(s); breathe out with deepened awareness of the action you are taking. Return to your activity with a heightened awareness of your connection to the element(s) and all life on Earth.