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Tag Archives: conversational journey

Morning Haiku

When I taught, I used haiku for a various reasons. They are included in two curricula: Language Arts and Social Studies. In Language Arts, students are asked to select words that bit fit rhythm and message of a poem. In Social Studies, haiku were part of a unit on Japan, its history, and its culture. The unit included traditional and contemporary examples. Last, but not least I enjoy haiku, as well.

I think students sense when teachers are passionate about subjects, but conflicting messages adults send can be confusing them. At times, students came to school and said a parent questioned them about why I made them learn “stupid haiku.” I worked for an administrator who made a similar comments. I tell others that leaders pick words carefully and poetry helps us learn how to make those choices.

I love poetry and haiku because they challenge me to think about choosing words, spaces between them, and punctuation. Language and its rules have power that we often overlook.

Sonia Sanchez wrote this haiku and it reminds me how I experience my day tells others something. When I responded to students about why we learned haiku, I chose my words carefully, tempering the conflict that arose because of how I experienced poetry versus how a parent did. I hoped the words I chose signaled something about my day well so that others could enjoy their day.

Let me wear the day
Well so when it reaches you
You will enjoy it.

dig in.

“find your place on the planet. dig in, and take responsibility from there.” ― gary snyder

Source: dig in.

I enjoy Gary Snyder‘s poetry and essays, which has a Zen-like view of humans and their relationship with the world. It does not exist out there as if some mysterious wilderness we travel to. Instead, the objective and subjective worlds speak to each other through our senses.

In arguing we do not live outside of the objective world, John Dewey contended humans “live in community in virtue of the things they have in common.” My view is the community includes all sentient and non-sentient beings.

When we think of ourselves as living in community with all beings, animate and inanimate, we find our place in the world, dig in, and assume responsiblity for that piece of the world and our actions.

When we think, speak, and act responsibly, we become leaders who act as stewards, serving future generations in concrete and ethical ways. We grow mindful and attentive to a world we inhabit intimately and communicate with it on a moment-to-moment basis. It is real, existing inside and outside of us simultaneously.

Forget about Enlightenment.

Occasionally, I read articles about mindfulness in the workplace. I am OK with the good practice, but I find that it is not about letting go of old habits. Instead, it is often about gaining some advantage over others.

I find, perhaps as a product of getting older, the harder I chase something the harder it is to find it. When I sit and wait and do not chase, what I need most comes to me. It finds me when I let go of the idealized past and fantastic future. Rather than something I turn on and off at will, mindfulness letting go and appreciating who I am and what I have.

John Welwood counsels us to listen to the wind singing in our veins and the longing in our bones as we open our hearts to who we are in each moment. Certainly, the ensuing conversation and questions we ask in are a monumental task, but the love and patience we show ourselves makes us whole and holy.

Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be,
Not the saint you are striving to become,
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You are already more and less
Than whatever you can know.
Breathe out,
Touch in,
Let go.

When the Mind Is at Peace

When we experience the world, we often do so through the traditions that have been passed down to us. Those traditions colour the world in a particular way that is hard to shake. Culture and its traditions are not easily overcome without questioning how we perceive the world.

Marcel Proust suggested to overcome the cultural biases we each have was to see the world through new eyes rather to seek new landscapes. This idea is shared by others in various ways. Shunryu Suzuki described the beginner’s mind, which involves an attitude of openness. As we study a subect, we seek to explore it as child might rather than limiting ourselves to a single “expert” view of the subject.

Layman P’ang’s proposes peace in the world is a result of having peace of mind. In this way, we are ordinary people exploring the world not through pre-conceived ways of knowing, but always emerging and fresh understandings. We remain open and question what we think is real.

When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy nor wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

From the Rivers to the Sea

Sarah Tremlett provides a meditative quality in this poem. When I read the poem, it reminded me of Lao Tzu‘s quote that “all rivers flow to the sea, because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.”

Poetry calls us to meditate, but not to know a single meaning. Instead, it calls us to explore transforming meaning, accepting humility and understanding that we cannot know something completely.

When rivers reach the sea, it adds depth to them and room to explore them more fully. Seas do not have fixed and rigid boundaries. The boundaries remain fluid and permeable. What can humans learn from this? Perhaps, it is that we are all one and the boundaries we think exist are fluid, allowing us to move more easily in the world with each other.

Time reveals that to

execute means to begin

and to terminate

So all the rivers

in each and every country

flow into one sea


I Opened a Book

Julia Donaldson reminds us that reading is potentially a mindful activity. We lose ourselves in the as we stride into the book, mixing magical elixirs, and making new friends with whom we share the journey.

For me, Paulo Coehlo is an author that I lose myself in his novels. There is something magical about them and his most famous book is aptly named The Alchemist. I recall the first time I read the book losing myself in it and not being able to put it down.

When we finish the book and we have been mindful in reading it, it stays with us and becomes part of us. I used quotes from The Alchemist in writing as it had left such an imprint on me.

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

Walking in the Mountains in the Rain

Similar to our emotions, the weather moves through quickly like a cloudburst. When we pay attention and grow mindful, we sense changes around us and ones further away.

I sense Wang Wei proposes a there are benefits that occur in occasional changes in our immediate surroundings. Those changes mute distant sounds and other stimuli that intrude. Whether it is outside or inside us, the impending storm signals we need to find shelter and take stock of what is happening.

Perhaps through our questions and wonder we awaken and become aware of the world. What happens further downstream from us? What is happening out at sea? What do our emotions mean to the immediate world and the larger world we experience and share? What does it mean to lead, teach, and learn in this world?

In this quick cloudburst
air thickens, the sky comes down

dark mountains
flashes of lightning

out at sea new clouds
have just started to form
and this small brook I straddle
is a river in flood somewhere

rags and blankets of mist
hang on these slopes and cliffs

then the clouds open and vanish
rain patters off
and moonlight silvers
that whole reach of river
foothills to ocean

and even from this black mountain
I can hear boatmen singing.

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