Kelly Lawrence on how writing haiku has helped her appreciate the beauty of the present moment, interspersed with haiku examples.
The present moment, we are often told by those in the know, is all we have. Yet it generally feels like the one thing I don’t have…I have tried to capture this elusive present in meditation, in my yoga practice, on shamanic healing retreats and in chanting circles, only of course to realize that as soon as you try to hold on to it… poof! It’s gone. I have had to admit to myself that that blissful sense of timelessness, that here, now; free from ruminating over the past or worrying about the future is more easily accessible to me lying in a bubble bath with a glass of red wine after the children have finally gone to bed, than it has ever been on my meditation cushion.
But of course the whole point of mindfulness is to live in the present, not capture it like a photograph – which then becomes a memory. It’s a paradox that left me despairing of ever discovering this power of the present moment until I discovered the Japanese art of writing haiku – three line, seventeen syllable poems that perfectly preserve a single moment without somehow diminishing it, so that when you read them you are again suspended in that single, elusive moment. I devoured haiku collections with no real intention of attempting to write them myself until I found words popping into my head unbidden during — of all times — the rushed morning school run.
Always on the horizon
Like watchtower, or parent
Ice crushing underfoot
Does not sparkle as bright
As my daughters eyes
I have often been able to lose myself in writing, to feel that sense of flow that is perhaps what we really mean when we talk about living in the present – that expansive feeling of part of a creative process where our notions of beginning and end slip away. Until of course the phone rings or the doorbell chimes or we remember that pets or kids or spouses (whichever of those, if any, we have) and ourselves need feeding.
Haiku to me sums up that expansive feeling — whether it describes a sudden flash of inspiration, or a single moment that might otherwise go unnoticed, a smell, a taste, a look, a routine part of our day suddenly seen for the gift it is.
Blow out the candle flame
On the window sill
Yet the fragrance remains
Rain caresses the streets
Reminds me of your hands
On me this morning
Haiku is also grounding. When going through difficult times, where the past is a burden and the future seems bleak, it can keep you firmly anchored in the present, reminding us to take it one step at a time, not just day by day, but minute by minute.
I do not believe faith
But it makes them easier to climb
Life is a series of these moments. The mundane and the magical, the odd and the ordinary, the painful and the poetic. I need a spirituality that is practical, relevant and grounded, and haiku helps me achieve this.
Kelly Lawrence is a teacher, mother and writer living in the Derbyshire Dales, where the landscape is constantly inspiring her practice. Her first novel, Wicked Games, comes out in July 2013, published by Random House. Read more at her blog.