Opening to the Sacred

I’ve arrived and I am home,
In the here and now.
I am solid, I am free;
In the Ultimate I dwell.*

Once again, I quote a gatha by my primary spiritual teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn. This one never grows old for me. I’m inspired by the idea that we “arrive” in each consecutive moment; that we can nurture the sense of “coming home” anywhere and anytime, simply through awareness of our breath. Our home is the here and now—in the present moment, wherever we happen to be. The line about being “solid” and “free” refer to Nhat Hahn’s teaching on deep awareness of breathing. When our minds are scattered and our thoughts diffuse, we are like the small branches at the top of a tree in a storm: we are blown every which way and feel as if we might be dislodged from our source of nourishment at any moment. But when we bring our minds and bodies together through conscious breathing, we are like the base of the tree: strong, solid and unmoved, our roots safe in the deep earth. Seeing ourselves as one with infinite space, we experience a transcendent sense of freedom.

The last line is about nurturing a sense of oneness with the sacred or transcendent. Nhat Hahn speaks of “the ultimate” and “the ultimate dimension” in the same way that a monotheist speaks of God. In fact, he equates mindfulness with the Holy Spirit—a concept some Christians and Buddhists find shocking—but which resonates perfectly with me. To mindfully “dwell in the Ultimate” is a spiritual exercise not unlike the Centering Prayer endorsed by the Benedictine order in ancient times and popularized in the 1970s by Abbott Thomas Keating.

To use this gatha in meditation, inwardly say one line during your in-breath and the next on your out-breath. After ten to twenty minutes of mindful repetition of the gatha, you’ll find yourself opening to the sacred, centered in the ultimate, and deeply calmed.



*From The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hahn


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