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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.

Imperatives

What imperatives do we set for ourselves in living? I find this question reading this poem. When we take in the world and as Kathleen Norris suggests drink of it, we elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

With a Zen-like quality, Gary Snyder reminds us that “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” Nature is a place we belong and share with others, living and non-living. We do not despoil nature and it remains sacred.

When we experienced sharing the world, we discover ways to reach out, love, forgive, and ask forgiveness. When we mind and care for the world, perhaps we share wealth and pass through the eye of a needle into Heaven.

Look at the birds
Consider the lilies
Drink ye all of it
Ask
Seek
Knock
Enter by the narrow gate
Do not be anxious
Judge not; do not give dogs what is holy
Go: be it done for you
Do not be afraid
Maiden, arise
Young man, I say, arise
Stretch out your hand
Stand up, be still
Rise, let us be going…
Love
Forgive
Remember me

Rivertalk

Wendell Berry wrote that “there is a great restfulness in the sounds small rivers make.” When we mindfully stand and listen and perhaps close our eyes, we hear the restful sounds more clearly. We discover being rooted to a particular place, at least for the moment.

Those small rivers invite us to jump in and paddle as a child might. What the child adds to those sounds and waves are sounds of pleasure. There is no enjoyment while standing on shore, unless we close our eyes and listen closely. Besides the child, we might hear nature speak to us as it hums gently and touches us unexpectedly.

Jeanne Lohmann counsels us to be less serious and not to look for problems to fix as we move through life. The river serves as a wonderful metaphor and life calls to us to be present in each moment and to be fully present.

is whatever comes along,
practice always here while we

keep on shore, all the time
saying we want to get wet.

But the river has ways
of sound and light, ripples

and waves that tell us:
don’t be so serious, rumble in

where nothing is finished or broken
and nothing asks to be fixed.

 

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.

Planting Chant

Both sides of our family descend from farmers. Farmers and indigenous people have affection for the land and its properties. They share the land with their sentient and non-sentient neighbours and step gently leaving a footprint that can be wiped away.

The Osage celebrated planting crops with the following chant. As I read the chant, I understood that planting belongs in all seasons. When humans plant and harvest in sustainable ways, we prosper, laughter fills homes, and we leave a small footprint.

Thich Nhat Hanh proposed humans “walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” When we walk on the Earth in this way and leave an imprint as a kiss, we act as stewards for future generations. When we live in harmony with nature, we form a sacred covenant with nature and future geneations.

I made a footprint: it is sacred.
I made a footprint: small green specks push through it.
I made a footprint: new green blades push upward.
I made a footprint: above it, blades wave in the breeze.
I made a footprint: over it grow new stalks.
I made a footprint: above it the blossoms lie gray.
I made a footprint: smoke rises from my house.
I made a footprint: there is laughter in my house.
I made a footprint: my family lives in good health.

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