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The Secret Blueprint To Achieving A Zen State of Mind With Haiku Right Now

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

How to implement the Japanese poetry form of haiku into your daily self-care routine, and improve your emotional and mental health, every day.

A frog in a well knows nothing of the sea. This Japanese proverb means someone sees the world through their limited perspective. Too often are we quick to judge and think very big of ourselves. In the breath of seventeen syllables, haiku allows one to imagine things are much bigger than themselves, which is key to discovering inner peace.

In this article, we will discover the origins of the Japanese poetic form: haiku. We will also discover the secret blueprint to achieving a zen state of mind by applying haiku poetry to our daily self-care.

Butterfly on massage stones in zen garden. Photo by RomoloTavani from Getty Images Pro. Modified using Canva.

In This Article

A Brief History of Haiku Poetry

Haiku poetry arguably begins its roots with the notoriety of the 17th-century monk and poet, Matsuo Bashō. Whereby Bashō was a bit of a wanderer and could often be found observing magnificent mountains, dense and lush forests, or the common rainbow koi swimming in a reflective pool of gentle water. You might have even heard his infamous haiku Old Pond.

Old pond
A frog leaps in
Water’s sound

The term haiku is denotive of “guidance and calmness,” which are qualities of the basic principalities of Buddhism, and didn’t originally begin its commonplace 5-7-5 structure. Haiku is a part of a larger Japanese prose form known as renga, which was used in ancient calligraphy. In this form, the beginning phrase is called hokku, which is the term that haiku eventually became derived from.

Ancient haiku popularized the use of kigo or seasonal words. These unique words are directly associated with one of the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter. They are also noticeably attached to generating a deeper connection with the natural world.

According to eastern philosophy, haiku has two essential parts: wabi-sabi and kurumi. In Japanese the term wabi is associated with “satisfaction with simplicity and austerity,” and the term sabi is associated with “an appreciation of the imperfect.” Lastly, kurumi, is “the lightness of something, or depicting something through the likeness of a child’s eyes.

The Power of Daily Haiku

While there are many different forms that haiku can take, we will focus on its traditional seventeen-syllable version, the 5-7-5 structure. We will be using haiku as a tool for journaling to enter a zen state of mind.

What is zen, though?

Zen is when a person is open to their “true nature” of expression and obtained only when we can accept the joy of simply being. According to The Zen Studies Society, the process of zen “is a way of realizing the non-dualistic, vibrant, subtle, and interconnected nature of all life,” and is similar to zezan or meditation.

Zezan Tam mentions three ways we can apply haiku poetry effectively in our daily reflections.

1). Choose gratitude for the small things. Do you remember the proverbial phrase: Is the glass half empty or half full? When showing gratitude for the everyday things that often get misplaced in our minds, we are showing appreciation for something more than ourselves.

Whether that is sipping on a freshly brewed coffee, or simply being thankful for the very air we breathe. No matter what form this gratitude takes, it is important to remember that everything has importance.

Write an ode in the form of a haiku to something, or someone, that often goes unnoticed.

2). Be brave and choose courage & vulnerability over fear. Have you ever felt the presence of heaviness on your shoulders? All too often we put on a suit of iron armor and are too afraid to shed that skin. However, Tam says that vulnerability leads to the path of increased joy and enlightenment.

It is easy to question everything and want to prepare for the inevitable storm that is coming. The challenge of shiranu ga hotoke - or not knowing is Buddha - is permitting ourselves to let things be.

Choose something that has been eating away at you, and write a haiku about how you can just let it become mizu ni nagasu - water that flows - or water under the bridge.

3). Practice humility over ego. Stubbornness never led to a good cause. In other words, isn’t it easier to put our hooves in our mouths? To swallow that pride? Confucius says humility is the solid foundation of all virtues, and Tam agrees.

Sometimes there are moments in our lives where we can become prideful and resentful. This generates negative karma that can bite us in the tookus (if you believe in that sort of thing). Finding that balancing point. Practicing give and take. This is the way to having a balanced yin and yang, a complete life. Both in health and in living experiences.

Identify negative traits you possess, or a moment when you became too possessive of your ego, and write a haiku poem about how you can accept that part of yourself and move on from it in a positive way.

Haiku Submitted By Covers

Let's take a look around town and see what our fellow Covers have to say about haikus in these three specially selected poems.

"Hanano" By Bendy Nguyen

Field of flowers, re

Minds that youth is fading, so

Make most of this world

"Untitled Haiku" By Marc Brimble

End of term exam -

folded paper has answers

cheats always get caught.

"Untitled Haiku" By Shen Friebe

From the day you left,

I watched my orchid buds shift

From green to purple.

Special thank you to all those who submitted their haikus for this post and to my fellow blogger team member, Suchita, for helping me in selecting each poem! Also, don't forget to jump into the discussion of these magnificent forum threads dedicated to haiku poetry:

As always, here at The Poetry Cove, we love seeing the community grow and flourish. In the spirit of that growth, we'd love to see what haiku poems all our readers, writers, and poets may have in store for us. Please feel free to share any haikus that you've written or have read in the comments below!

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