The Haiku Challenge

I have decided to set myself the challenge of writing a Japanese Haiku every day for the month of March.  In Feudal Japan it was considered an art form and as worthy of praise as fine swordsmanship, if a member of the Samurai class could spontaneously produce poetry.  Often a senior member of the court would throw a leaf from a bridge into a nearby stream and by the time it had reappeared the compositions from those participating would have to be read out. It was reckoned to be a fine method for developing what the great 16th century Zen Roshi Takuan Soho called ‘the unfettered mind.’

I shall be following the simple structure of three lines of five, seven and then five syllables (although I do not promise not to break those rules!) and I encourage readers to join me without a care in the world for how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ our attempts may be!

To get me started:

Past the next big wave,

Beyond the reach of the tide,

Taking me back home.

Future Lives

I’m in a capsule,
Leaving all I know and love far behind,
No going back- these existences like sand dunes
Rising and falling each in it’s own infinity,

Lives so close yet never touching,
I search for just the right one, not too hot nor cold,
Or did I leave that perfect one behind

Forever out of reach?
There’s no shortage of friends to help
Me travel onwards,
On each I bestow the power to travel with me,
Into unknown futures of time and space,
Over the waves, on the other side of the dune
To the next existence,
Home seems so far away now,
So far from where we started,
We’re still in love with that idea,
The idea that’s taken me across mountains,
Past death and into new life-
Adventure
Long may it’s call carry me on,
Past the next dune.

Spontaneity/Being Grateful

Image Credit:science.nasa.gov

What could be more spontaneous than giving without hope of return, of doing without expectation of outcome, of taking each day, each passing moment as it is and being grateful for it regardless?

What is Love?

Image credit, markandhelen.org.uk

In all this time,
As I walked a lonely landscape,
Thoughts captured only by the prism of my own awareness,
I was content to be alone.
Perhaps I’d stop along the way,
With friends or lovers a passing fancy,
But always their steps would part from my own,
Nothing would hold me back,
From this adventure I was determined to have,
The future man I was determined to become.
Well it turns out that he prefers life shared with another’s eyes,
Two viewpoints overlapping, enriching,
Dancing alone now seems an empty pursuit,
Poetry that only means something read to another-
Not in slavish dependence, or jealous possession,
But feelings shared between two wanderers
Who have decided to wander this lonely earth together,
Through the wilderness of changing fortune,
Each strong enough to stand alone,
Yet deciding not to,
Hand in hand by choice, not need-
And this I think, when all else is left behind,
Is what love is.

Appropiate Action

The Last Samurai

The essence of Zen is appropriate action. This is not an abstract concept or idea. It is the very opposite of that.

Most religions, philosophies, political ideologies and even sometimes scientific theory rely on fitting every situation into a prescribed formula that guides and explains our actions. For example Christians are taught to turn the other cheek regardless of the physical situation. But what if the appropriate action is violence?

Now of course this is not an attack on Christianity, which I actually regard quite highly. One could argue that ‘turn the other cheek’ has many other useful and enlightening interpretations, and many situations in which its application is admirably appropriate.

But such a discussion would be a kind of play of ideas with & against one another. It would be an academic thesis in a vacuum far from reality. Such a discussion would move us no nearer the truth.

Zen is not actually about ideas, (even saying “Zen is not actually about ideas” is only an idea!) it is about action: Taking one step forward and seeing where that leads, and what further steps are needed.

It claims no special knowledge, promises no security. It gives no answers, other than what presents itself after that first step forwards into the unknown. Yet in that first step we find all we will ever need.

Being Ill

When tightness crawls up the nose,
Slime slips down the throat,
Limbs grow cold and mind is fuzzy…
Now’s the time to save those words,
Now’s not the time for mountain climbing,
Those distant cloudscapes are better saved,
For when red blood pumps adventures’ call
Now its time to crawl abed,
To huddle under warm blankets,
Hot water bottle for a stomach,
Ten thousand pillows for a neck,
Movies for eyes and music for ears,
A fantasy for life held in stasis,
And deep dark sleep,
Where the cave of healing brings relief
Till once again health’s bright morning
Creeps under eyelids
With new horizons for the soul,
But for now the King’s trumpets do not call…
Sleep on.

No star to set

A swirl of thoughts upon this tide,
Of brown boots trampling future lives,
Quickly to – and no delay,
The forest falls before this day,
No fairies end can I endure,
No star to set while I hold store,
With powers greater than myself,
That smile upon this lonely wretch,
And give him words to say
He is, and always will be:
Their friend.

Two lovers walk

Two lovers walk,
Under the arms of bended tree,
Through the ashes of past life,
Their grief as poignant as roses,
As bright as their love,
Walking through eventide,
Towards the promise of a new day dawning

Aging

The price paid for our excesses
are writ large,
On faces creased with sorrow
or with joy,
Scars worn with pride & love,
A life lived fully till the end

(C) Copyright Mark B Williams 2014
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