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In this article, discover how to experience mindfulness when writing haiku in nature. By concentrating on the landscape and details around us, it is easy to focus on the present. Haiku gives us the opportunity of expressing the awe and wonder we see in nature and how we experience it.

Haiku enables us to live in the immediacy and directness of that which is truly present in the now. Going on a Haiku walk (Gingko in Japanese) not only is a wonderful way to get inspiration for writing haiku, it allows us to connect to nature mindfully.

Before you go out on your walk, familiarize yourself with haiku. Here are three haiku written by Japanese masters. There are links at the bottom of this article which will take you to more.

autumn moonlight -

a worm digs silently

into the chestnut (Basho)

summer night - even the stars are whispering to each other (Issa)

they end their flight one by one - crows at dusk (Buson)

How to get started

1. Choose somewhere to walk. It may be somewhere you know well or to somewhere you’ve never been before. Make sure it is a place where you feel comfortable, safe and provides opportunities to be creative. You will need paper and a pen.

2. Before you start walking take a minute to breathe deeply, relax and clear your mind. As you walk you will be more into the moment as you focus on what is around you. If you have distracting thoughts always come back to what you see on the walk.

3. Walk slowly noticing your surroundings. Nearly always you will see something that will attract your attention and stir up an emotional response. You may have an aha moment. For example, a beautiful pattern in an icy puddle, a single autumn leaf hanging onto a branch above the first snowfall, wild flowers covering the forest floor.

4. If you see something that inspires you, write down as many words as you can think of to describe the experience. Notice how you feel, any smells, textures, if there is any wind. Include a word or words which indicate which season it is. For example, winter moon, first snowfall, icicles on the waterfall. If you cannot write a haiku there and then, your notes will be useful for when you return home. You may also want to take a photograph.

Writing a haiku from your notes Here are some simple rules with examples for those starting out with haiku.

1. Write in three lines without counting syllables. There should be no more than 17 if possible.

meteor shower a gentle wave

wets our sandals (Michael Dylan Welch)

2. Try to write a phrase and a fragment or a fragment and a phrase.

spring gust ...

a cat's tail points

to the moon

L1 is the fragment while L2/3 are the phrase.

3. Haiku often have a pivotal point after line one or in line three.

autumn sun all in a row

the glow of one on tatami mats...

ripe cherry (Cindy Keong) moon gazing (Issa)

The pivotal point indicates a shift and divides the haiku into two separate parts. However, not all haiku have a shift so it is not always necessary but it is considered to be a good technique to use in haiku. Below is an example without a pivotal shift.

a bee staggers out of the peony (Basho)

4. Haiku uses language that is every day and concrete. Avoid words that are judgemental such as 'pretty' or 'fantastic'.

5. Include some element of nature.

6. Use a 'kigo' word. This is a word that is associated with time of year. You do not have to use spring, summer, autumn and winter. Instead, consider using words that are associated with the time of year. For example, 'first snowfall', 'smell of lilac', 'geese heading south'.

7. Use verbs in the present tense. A haiku focuses on a moment that is happening right now so write in the present tense. Readers can then share the immediacy of the moment.


shatters the darkness -

the night heron's shriek (Basho)

8. Use your senses: smell (rotting leaves, smoke), taste (lemons), sound ( the wind, the hooting of an owl), touch (tree bark, hawthorn bush ), sight (the stars, the moon, the ripples on the sea in sunlight).

in the moonlight

the color and scent of the wisteria

seems far away (Buson)

9. Punctuation should be limited to a colon, a dash or ellipsis to indicate a pivotal change in the haiku although this is not always used.

10 Avoid all unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Keep it simple.

winter well

a bucketful

of starlight ( Toshimi)

11. Do not use rhyming words.

12. Do not use capital letters.

13. Do not use a title.

Once you are proficient in using the rules above, you may want more of a challenge. There are links below which will help you move onto the next level with your haiku.

Help with structure

If you are having difficulties with structure, you could try using the prompt words below for each line.

Line 1: When? summer moon

Line 2: Where? walking on pebbles

Line 3: What? lovers hold hands

You could also change this around by putting line 1 last. Now check the structures of good haiku and see if you can use these as a guide. There is a link below.

Tip: If it is difficult to get out, watch some nature programmes on television and stop the programme when you see something that stirs up a strong emotion.


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