Stop, Look, and Pay Attention

It’s the season for forgiveness, repentance, and a new beginning in the Jewish tradition.

Now is a good time to notice Haiku, and it may be an excellent place to find peace when you are seeking it. The reason is as simple as the poem itself. “The Old Pond” describes a silent scene where something happens, a sound, and everything returns to its former quiet. The writer, Matsuo Basho, has paid attention to a site that most of us wouldn’t have noticed at all. How pleasant it would be to develop the skill of observing what surrounds us all the time, simple, peaceful things that can feed our souls.

“The Old Pond” by Matsuo Bashō

An old silent pond

A frog jumps into the pond —

Splash! Silence again

I’ve never been an admirer of Haiku, but recently I heard its purpose described as a way of paying attention, and my appreciation of this form of poetry has developed.

I picture most of us frantically running around, always on guard, being bossy, and telling everyone what to do. We are so busy listening to our inner voices advising us to judge and critique everything and everybody around us. We listen to others with one ear while using the other ear to formulate our responses.

Also, we offer solutions to everyone’s problems, sincerely trying to help but instead, resulting in diminishing their feelings of competency. Perhaps we can eliminate this habit and replace our responses with a kind word, silence, or a hug.

To an overwhelming degree, we need to break free of thinking that we always know the best answers. Maybe, paying attention to our environment will help. Notice the elements of our daily lives. It’s a peaceful approach — not intrusive.

Time out! Stop! Look around!

Instead of welcoming the presence of helpmates, we push them away, and we become more and more isolated. Acceptance of the helper gives honor and love to this benefactor. It’s similar to accepting an invitation from a friend and showing up. Showing up honors the hosts; it makes them feel they are worthy of our effort.

We try hard to change our behavior, but when confronted with situations that trigger ancient pain, our responses revert to the old ones we thought we had fixed. Changing ourselves presents ongoing challenges.

For example, I can’t tolerate having someone who I love being angry with me. No matter how hard I try to change my response, I revert to my childhood, ready to give in, to do anything to wipe away the other’s anger. Abandonment is my underlying fear. I’ve learned that this starts in early childhood.

It brings to mind scenes from my young years when I went shopping with my mother in S. Klein on the Square in NYC. She would park me on the floor against a wall with all our previously acquired packages, so she could continue shopping unencumbered. I was terror-stricken that she would forget me.

S. Klein had multiple racks of clothing hanging next to each other. From my vantage point on the floor, all the shoppers became invisible, except for their ankles and feet extending below the clothes. For survival, I would locate mom’s shoes and watch them travel along the clothing racks, keeping my visual connection to her. I never told her how these shopping days felt for fear of making her angry. Her anger was too much for me to handle.

I felt too powerless to expect the world to operate “my way or the highway.” Ask yourself if you are one of them. These folks, once self-identified, might revise their attitude toward being less obstinate and more flexible. Their life would improve by leaps and bounds if they could do it. Seek generosity in place of power.

So, if Haiku can add to your life, grab it, and continue to challenge your character for its betterment.

L’Shanah Tovah. Best wishes for the New Year.

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Lynn Zimmering

Well, I’ve done it — I’m ninety! I can hardly believe it myself and still writing. Here’s the deal; I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Thanks.