Poetry can be a kind of meditation, explains Rashid Hughes. He explores how the art of haiku can bring a sense of peaceful, awe-inspired expressiveness into your practice.
Life has so much to offer, if we’d only listen. The evening was young and my body tired from being in motion all day. There was an intrinsic quietness in the air, with gray skies above and an unceasing but very tender rainfall. I sat at my desk, looking out of my back window as I often do after a long day of reading or writing. The usual sounds of insects and animals on a late summer evening seemed to be very few. The candle flame to my left on my ancestor altar reminded me of the sacredness of resting, so I allowed myself a moment to just be. I enjoy cracking my window a little to listen to the rain with the coincidental thunder on the horizon. As I feel on many rainy days, I felt like the rain was inviting me to listen deeply, so I obeyed.
As I sat enjoying the rain for a while, I began reflecting on a few words from mama Alice Walker’s poem “Be Nobody’s Darling.”
Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
I felt alone, but not separate. I exhaled. Something sacred was in the midst: an undivided knowing. A deeply-rooted conviction of belonging arose within me. It was as if I was bearing witness to my boundless love. In awe, I surrendered.
From within this knowing, the following haikus came to me in a very spontaneous, unstructured way. In that moment, life felt both intimate and imminent. A solitude and a fresh clarity caressed me; a moment of effortless meditation unfolding. There was no goal or desire present, just present-moment awareness.
I’m not sure why haiku was the form of writing that came to me at the moment. Poetry or writing isn’t how I usually express myself after meditation. I may jot down a few notes, but hardly ever in the form of poetry. I tend to prefer to bathe in the natural clarity of mind after moments like this. Maybe haiku emerged due to the natural slowness of pacing and spaciousness that is required throughout the haiku poetic process. Who knows?
With the window slightly opened, allowing the sound of the gentle rain and a soft breeze in, I began to write these haikus.
Poetry Can Be a Kind of Meditation
If you don’t understand the meaning of the haikus, that’s OK. The gift of haiku is the patience that is invoked, the wonder, and, on special occasions, the confusion. You may sense that there are many possible interpretations of a haiku. That’s OK too; let all be both true and untrue. I invite you to take a breath in between reading each haiku.
A different knowing
That enters me from beneath.
They frown at me, Shrink!
I hear them calling
In the cool breeze on my feet.
I contract, it’s me!
It’s time to slow down.
What shall my five year plan be?
It’s night time, don’t sleep!
Overcast, light rain.
The sunshine of so much grief
Felt within the peace.
Yaaaass, dreadlocks and beard!
The way they stare in the streets
Feels like, please don’t shoot!
The leaf’s holding on,
Fall, a few yellows and pinks.
No hurry, just be
A candle burns bright.
Walking back and forth I think,
Tomorrow not now.
Try Your Hand at Haiku
It is my wish that everyone might be able to find joy in writing haikus. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Go for a walk or sit in your favorite seat at home.
- Observe your surroundings. Notice the colors, the weather, the sounds.
- Listen to your heart and sense what is happening within.
- Without much thinking, in two sentences, pause and write down what is capturing your attention.
- Then write a third sentence that is not as closely related to the first two sentences.
- See if you can draw some surprising connection between the first two sentences and the the third.
- Remember, try to really get clear on what insight or message you want to reveal to the reader.
- If you’d like a challenge, rewrite the three sentences following the traditional haiku structure: three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.
- Most importantly, don’t judge yourself for what you come up with.
The invitation is to connect with your senses in a real or imagined setting. What do you hear? What do you smell? Note the emotional content of the space. And when you’re done, take what you learned to the page in whatever way suits you.