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Haiku Challenge

For the last 117 days I’ve been writing a haiku a day. I was inspired by John Paul Lederach’s self-challenge of writing a haiku each day for a year. I was also seeking to add to my personal resilience practice in a way that would increase my daily mindfulness and reflection. And so, I started writing a haiku a day. If you are new to haiku, it is a three-line poem where the first line is five syllables, the second seven, and the third five. In 17 syllables one must simply communicate the full complexity of the subject. As John Paul Lederach writes in his book The Moral Imagination, “Haiku, if you let it, will take you on a journey through difficult terrain in search of a place with great promise but where it is hardly possible to live except in short, extraordinary moments. It is the place where simplicity and complexity meet. I happen to believe that this is also the place where the heart of peacebuilding pounds a steady but not often perceived rhythm and where the source of the moral imagination finds inspiration. … A haiku must capture in a few words the complex fullness of a moment, a setting, or as the poets themselves are fond of saying, an experience. I have come to see the haiku challenge as a metaphor. The practice of haiku is this: to embrace complexity through simplicity. I believe this is a core practice of peacebuilding, both discipline and art.”

When John Paul embarked on his one year haiku a day challenge, he wanted to notice - to note, dwell on, and record those brief moments in a day that cause one to pause and remind one to breathe. I began with the same goal. Yet, I often found the topic of my haiku writing interestingly shifting to include what you might call summaries of the day, or at least the most meaningful experiences or thoughts from the day. Complexity into simplicity. In many ways, the experiment seems to be working. As I go about my days now, I actively look for those moments. The ones that pull us up short and demand of us a bit more of our time to breathe in, breathe out, and absorb them. Sometimes I don’t have the space to write a haiku in that moment, so I try to snap a quick picture and write the haiku later. Other days I find myself at the end of my day, reflecting on what it was all about and the moments that made a difference. However it happens, I’ve come to look forward to that moment in the middle or at the end of my day when I pause, breathe, and journey through complexity into the simplicity on the other side, evidenced in a haiku and usually accompanied by a picture or maybe a quick video. Just 17 syllables, without which my day is incomplete. Or, more accurately, it’s the moments of reflection that complete my day. The moments when I walk through the fullness of my life’s complexity into the simplicity waiting on the other side.

Here's how it all started:

Birdsong beckons me

Pointing the path to stillness

Don't wait. Start right now

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