Haiku poet Tom Clausen says, “To be a poet one should be somewhat a mix of detective and a reporter … looking for clues and reporting on the under-reported news of the day.” Living gratefully, we too are invited to be attentive — to notice and bring to light “the under-reported news” of our observations, experiences, moments.
Br. David Steindl-Rast loves haiku. Over the years Br. David has crafted countless haiku, some in calligraphy, which is common to the Japanese form.
This eight-day exploration of haiku as gratefulness practice is guided by Tom Clausen — cited in Poetry Matters as “one of the most original and respected contemporary poets writing haiku in English” — and accompanied by Br. David’s sublime, instructive reflections on haiku and graceful calligraphy.
Please note that no prior experience is necessary. Writing haiku is less about the final product and more about the joy that is discoverable in seeing with “fresh eyes” and about experimenting with new forms of creative expression and spiritual practice. You need not consider yourself a writer to benefit from this practice, and we provide tips each day to help inspire your exploration.
We recommend you bookmark this page and move through the practice days at your own pace. You might move through the practice alone or consider exploring it with others, as part of a group experience.
Day 1: Read to Find What Moves You
We begin our time together with an invitation to give yourself over to reading haiku — discover what you are drawn to, and notice the experience that is triggered in you. “Read to find what moves you, what you love, what you like and what you enjoy and brings meaning to you.”
Day 2: Shape & Structure
Shape and structure are often what first come to mind when we think of haiku — which is usually presented in three lines (sometimes in one or two lines) of typically less than 17 syllables. Today our invitation is to experiment with the basic shape and structure of haiku.
Day 3: Belonging
Today we will explore how approaching life with a haiku “mindset” can reveal a profound sense of belonging. Through inviting all of our senses to be awake to the revelatory possibility in each moment we are in touch with the “fleeting preciousness of experience” and of nature.
Day 4: Peak Experience & Forgetting Yourself
Br. David writes, “If you have become aware that you are most truly yourself when you forget yourself; that in truly being alone you are one with all…you have discovered in your own experience the paradox in which Haiku has its roots.”
Day 5: Play & Discovery
As haiku becomes a regular practice, we discover that paying attention — teamed with “forgetting ourselves” and connecting to the truth of our belonging — serve to inspire and nourish a sense of wonder, curiosity, and play.
Day 6: Silence
“The Haiku is, paradoxically, a poem about silence. Its very core is silence,” writes Br. David. Today we invite you to explore silence around and within your haiku. How might every word that speaks to us then return to the silence from which it has arisen, leaving us touched but not taken away from our experience?
Day 7: Celebrate Existence
Today we invite you to welcome a celebratory spirit into your day and allow it to influence how you see the world and how you will craft your haiku. Remember, nothing is too big or too small to be included and fully — thus gratefully — perceived.
Day 8: A Healthy, Happy Habit
Just as we can cultivate gratefulness through practice, we can cultivate a haiku sensibility (which, as we now see, can also inspire a grateful sensibility) through continual dedication and devotion. Today we invite you to consider adding haiku as a regular practice to your life.
Haiku is written and celebrated all over the world and there are societies, organizations, and journals accessible online. If you are interested in exploring more, the Haiku Foundation links to many of these organizations and journals, offers educational resources, and a great deal more.
We hope that your exploration of haiku — and what it opens up for you — is meaningful, joyful, and filled with surprise.
PS: Enjoy this selection of haiku from our community members who have participated in this practice.
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