How the Philosophy and Practice of Haiku Can Enrich Your Life
The details beneath,
Finger-tapping on life’s beat.
Connecting to the texture of our lives seems important. To connect with not just the contents, but the emotion, the detail, the nuance, the juiciness. Rather than simply letting the world and your experience hit you like a ball against a wall, taking the time to reflect, digest and breathe it in. Living in contexts and environments that constantly draw us away from ourselves and out of our experience, it seems like a worthwhile endeavour to develop a way to re-connect with the bumpy, itchy, silky smooth, slimy and velvet texture of our lives.
Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, says that “writers live twice.” They live once, as most people do; getting up from their slumber, probably having a coffee or other morning drink, going about their day, waiting in line at the cafe and sitting on the tram amongst the many on their way home from work. Writers though, live it again when they sit down for practice, reflecting on the detail in the moments, asking themselves ‘why’ and ‘how,’ and ‘what if?’ They contemplate, and re-live it all over again, in high-definition.
At the change of year and entrance into 2018, of my commitments to myself was to nurture my creativity. I was going to do 12, 30-day ‘creativity challenges’ over the course of the year, to exercise the right hemisphere of my brain a little more, and strengthen my courage muscle with a daily practice.
So I wrote down 12 possible challenges I could do:
- Share a pencil drawing each day
- Record and share a vlog everyday
- Write a personal affirmation note and share it everyday
- Take a photo and share it each day
- Write and share a haiku a day
- Perform a spoken-word poem each day
- Create a small collage everyday
- Share a rather audacious new idea each day
- Wear something slightly differently each day
- Record yourself dancing everyday
The first challenge I chose was to write a haiku a day. Poetry was something I used to enjoy writing in primary school and it was time to re-connect with this. In fact, my first ever piece published in a book was in Grade 3; a lovely poem by 9-year-old Al, called ‘Summer Days in the Sun,’ that was published in a collaborative book with students from across Australia…there it all began!
For my month of #dailyhaikus I would take a moment at the end of each day, to close my journal entry with a haiku that encapsulated the most meaningful or significant moment from the day, a way to summarize my journal entry into a digestible, bite-sized poem. It might have been the great sense of feeling lost and helpless, the spark of inspiration from a walk with a friend, the cheer in someone’s laughter, the flowing of the river.
Here I’ll simply say that since then I’ve now written over 260 haikus since then. My 30-day challenge has become a life-enriching contemplative practice, and even more, a philosophy through which I digest and meet the world around me.
As John Paul Ledarach says, “It’s amazing how something you learn in second grade could become the light that enlivens the spirit.” John Paul is someone I’ve connected with recently who shares a very similar relationship to haiku. No, I’m not the only one! 😉
Haiku is a Japanese poetry form that uses just a few words to capture a moment and create a picture in the reader’s mind, a tiny window into a scene much larger than itself.
It is considered to be more than simply a type of poem though; it is a way of looking at the physical world and seeing something deeper than what first meets the eye, to touch the beauty beneath the surface.
The philosophy of ‘seeing through the lens of haiku,’ prepares you to be touched by the beauty around you.
For me, I now not only sit down to write my haiku after my journal entry at night, I practice simply opening myself to the haikus that exist in each moment. They’re there, waiting to be noticed! The noticing of the haiku moment is the ‘aha’ when the world is revealed for what it is and that five-seven-five is landed on and experienced as you say it to yourself.
More than writing down a haiku to share, I now finger-tap the pulse of life as it happens around me. If you ever see me walking, and see me tapping or counting my fingers, it’s because there are haikus all around you.
Do you have a practice that has you connect with, reflect upon and digest the many textures in your life?
Also published on Medium.