"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?