Haiku and Healing
The Haiku and Healing Panel this morning featured Don Eulert, Angela Deodhar and Daniel Spurgeon.
Spurgeon began his comments by focusing on “being present.” As a Hospice worker, he discussed working with people who are dying, grieving, shifting to end of life care. As a practitioner of haiku, he argued that sensory connection is a way to become present. Connecting to his body and himself is a way to connect to this person or family.
Deodhar handed out a pamphlet of haibun, many of which dealt with using writing as a way to heal or served as her personal evidence of the power of writing to heal.
Eulert began with a personal definition of haiku: “the way things come together in nature to give a momentary glimpse into the oneness of things, and the offness of things.” He argued for keeping the ego and personal out of haiku. As a teacher of therapists and psychologists, he said that he tried to urge them to “take the subjective out of the objective. If they can’t take their subjectivity out of the objective moment, they won’t be good healers.” He also urged us to remember that we were not talking about curing, but healing, which he defined as a restoration of harmony, balance and relationship.
When asked by Spurgeon, “How did being ill relate to your connection to your own body, and how did haiku help your awareness of that connection?” Deodhar responded “Just the act of putting it down was healing. In the ICU, see monitors, etc.—you’re very aware of your own body.”
When asked about his use of haiku and writing in therapy, Spurgeon responded “It’s very rare that I’ll ask a patient or family to write, rare that I’ll use haiku as intervention. My practice of haiku affects me, affects my way of being, and I bring that into the room—it affects the energy. When someone gets witnessed without agenda, but a clear slate of knowledge, it can be so connecting and healing.”
After Deodhar read her haibun, ““A Year Later,” Spurgeon brought up Issa’s haibun about his dead children. He discussed Joan Halifax, who wrote Being With Dying and presented the Dhrama Podcast “On Grief and Buddhism,” in which she argues that Issa is “opening the hand of grief.
Later, Spurgeon argued that haibun is particularly powerful for grief because “the prose allows you to go where ever you want. That part of us that wants to tell our story, over and over again, the prose offers a place for our voice to do whatever we need to do. Haiku asks for structure, for pointed observation. Haiku offers an opportunity to get present to this world. “
This was a very moving panel, and profound and energetic enough to go overtime. What I really enjoyed was how all the panelists connected haiku to the body, contemplatively as well as physically. It was a beautiful and engaging reminder of the power of writing.