Patricia Donegan’s Haiku Mind

Tom’s recent comment that ” When I buy a book of poems, it’s like buying a bottle of single malt. It’s a rare event and I enjoy it very slowly over a long period.” seems rather appropriate to the next book I began reading haiku mind: 108 poems to Cultivate Awareness & Open Your Heart.

It’s the kind of book with commentary that almost demands a daily reading, something, I’ll have to admit, that I’ve never been very successful at. I bought a book several years ago entitled 365 Tao: Daily Meditation and I don’t think I ever got much beyond the 5th day. I am many things, but methodical certainly isn’t one of those things. I’ve always been better at totally immersing myself in a a subject than tackling it one piece at a time.

So, this might well be the only entry you’ll ever read on this book, but despite the fact that I plan on several outings in the next few weeks, I’ll try to read one entry a day as long as I’m home. It might help that I’ve liked the first few haiku, and the commentary following those haiku.

It begins with a haiku that explains the author’s motive in writing the book:

1 Pausing

halfway up the stair-
white chrysanthemums


Pausing is the doorway to awakening. This haiku epitomizes a moment that occurs naturally in our lives, but that we often hurry or gloss over. Haiku awareness is a simple way to slow down and tune in to this fleeting moment, to appreciate what is right in front of us. We pause not only with our body but also with our mind. And sometimes we can be attentive and sometimes we cannot, but that is all right, for the next moment always brings us the fresh possibility to pause and be present again. There are no steps to follow, there is no enlightenment to work toward-there is only the simplicity of relaxing into this very moment that is complete in itself. This naked moment is the only guide that we need to relax our mind. We need to trust this: in the midst of our daily life activities, the possibility to slow down, to stop, and then to appreciate naturally unfolds. For a fleeting moment we pause and note the sunlight on the sheets as we make the bed, note the warm sun on our cup as we sip tea, or note the fading light on the curtain as we enter the room. And we let out a breath or sigh. Pausing.

ELIZABETH 5EARLE LAMB (1917-2004). The foremost American haiku poet living a life dedicated to haiku, called “the first lady of Ameri- can haiku” Lamb was one of the founding members in 1968, along with Harold G. Henderson, of the Haiku Society of America and editor of Frogpond, its journal. She was also an early president of HSA and an honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives. Her last book was Across the Wind Harp: Collected and New Haiku.

As noted above, I tend to be a Type A personality, so pausing, except in the summer when I wasn’t working, has never been something I’ve done very well until I retired and took up Tai Chi and, coincidentally, birding. Perhaps this new found “awareness” is why I’ve become more and more fond of poetry that employs concrete images.

One thought on “Patricia Donegan’s Haiku Mind

  1. “Pausing is the doorway to awakening.”

    Thanks for this post today, Loren.

    For my birthday last year, an old friend gave me Chihuly: 365 Days. I was skeptical, didn’t consider myself a fan of Chihuly, but decided to take one day at time with this book of photos and short quotes by and about Chihuly and the nature of art. Much to my surprise, I began to look forward each day to looking at a photo of Chihuly’s colorful work and reading the thoughts of an artist on art and quotes by other artists as well as curators and critics.

    I take a little time just after I wake up in the morning or just before I go to bed, to turn another page in the book. It’s been an unusual and fruitful addition to my creative process, and I’ve realized that, for the most part, my blog and photography have become my art form, and that at this time in my life I am more apt to pause to take a photo and then work on a blog post than to pause and then sit down at my painting table to paint.

    Your post reminds me that I could also pause before I sit down to paint as well as remember to pause throughout the day to really wake up.

    “The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep.”

    Marc Chagall

    Didn’t expect to write so much. Hope this goes through (-:

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