"Sometimes short poems or sayings are used in meditation retreats or as part of daily practice to remind us of what we already know but so easily forget or take for granted. These poems or sayings are called gathas in the Buddhist tradition. There are gathas for waking in the morning, for saying over a meal, for having tea, for remembering to appreciate this in-breath and this out-breath, for almost every occasion in everyday life, all so that we can stay in touch with what is real, and not lose ourselves in thought.
"If they are repeated mindlessly, by rote and habit, these verses are virtually of no value. But if they are held, like precious birds, and stroked, and invited to visit, and used judiciously, consciously, they have enormous power. They are very simple, just reminders, but they have a wonderful directional energy. They heal and they soothe. They also point to what we need to remember. Our children learned this little 'gatha' in school:
"The sun is in my heart
It warms me with its power
And wakens life and love
"The whole class recited it aloud at the beginning of each day in kindergarten and the first few grades of elementary school. The words were accompanied by a series of arm movements that painted a flowing picture: sweeping circle over the head for the sun; the hands tracing lines from over the head back to the heart; palms open to the sky; arms extending out with warmth; to end with the hands being brought back to the chest, closed around each other, and, finally, opening with the life of bird and beast, then forming the petaled cup of a flower.
"We very much liked that the children were visiting this little gatha of the heart on a regular basis. We thought it good food for their minds and bodies, and as important, if not more so, as anything else they might be learning. It felt like the daily repetition of this verse was protecting and nurturing something precious in them, reminding them each day of the power and the preciousness of life, and of the central empowering energy of the heart, which we call love. A little morning meditation for the class, to call the heart to awaken and remind the children of interconnectedness . . . sun, heart, life, power, bird, beast, flower, children, love, all one inseparable whole."