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Awareness of the Present
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Awareness of the Present


"If we live in forgetfulness, if we lose ourselves in the past or in the future, if we allow ourselves to be tossed about by our desires, anger and ignorance, we will not be able to live each moment of our life deeply. We will not be in contact with what is happening in the present moment, and our relations with others will become shallow and impoverished."

Thich Nhat Hanh, "Essential Writings," p.38

When beginners come to modern waka, they often write a narrative about something that happened to them in the past. Perhaps another member of our community will point out that the verb tenses will be more effective in the present tense. There is a reason for this advice. In modern waka we are not attempting to tell a story that happened to us but we are trying to re-create the experience in the present so that the reader can experience just as we, the writers, did. That is why one hears the advice on Mountain-Home to use actual events in nature rather than relying on past events or imaginary events in the mind. One of our goals is to become more aware of the present through our waka practice and the way to do that is not to become stuck in imaginary concepts of the mind but to "mindfully" experience the present.

Another corollary of being mindful of the present is that waka is a personal understanding of one's self and one's relationship to the earth. It is not a "shallow and impoverished" glance motivated by disdain or anger but a deeply thought-out verse. One sometimes sees a 5 line "tanka" that is really a barrage of anger about a country's actions or other people's thoughts or actions. While this might be great material for modern free verse, it would not advance the Buddhist/Taoist aesthetics that modern waka advocates. In exploring the self, one begins to recognize those qualities of "living deeply" such as love, joy, compassion and even suffering that bind us to all life--all others and nature. It is the exploration of these bonds that helps us to recognize that we are not alone, not alienated in this world--only in our own mind if we choose to see our life in that manner. It is also in the awareness of these "eternal" qualities that the content for modern waka is found--content that has depth and will bring us insight into the nature of "living deeply."

All Souls' Eve;
Some branches breaking
In an unknown woods--
Who is there to join me
In this cold darkness?

Donna Ferrell--2003