Words of WonderLightning - Matsuo Bashō

How admirable –

a man who sees lightening

and not satori

by Matsuo Bashō


In this very short poem, we are given a piece of pith wisdom for our practice. As I understand it, it is saying – watch out for when you lose the freshness because you’ve married yourself to limiting concepts! (Satori is a Zen Buddhist word for enlightenment).

Having been practicing now for almost two decades, I know that a practice journey goes through many seasons. Some of them may be subtle and some are disruptive in all sorts of ways, but what I’ve come to understand is that it is of utmost importance that I respect what is happening. There are fertile times and arid times, times of faith and times of doubt, times of discipline and commitment and times of avoidance, times of light and movement and times of shadow and stuckness. I believe, whatever is happening in my relationship to and my experience of my practice, is a message. If I can listen to what is being communicated, I can hear the call to grow and evolve. Somewhere deep within me there’s a wisdom voice that won’t settle for a half-hearted or stagnant situation. I feel that the short poem above by the 17th century Japanese Haiku poet Basho, points towards the need for us to always open our eyes afresh to what’s actually here beyond our preconceived ideas. We might think we know what meditation is and how it’s supposed to be. We set out towards this destination, only to find we’ve lost the freshness and we’re heading for a narrower and narrower path. Consider the poignant metaphor- the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself.

So, what is season are you in with your practice right now? Is there a way that you can turn towards the presenting experience and ask: ‘What is important about this?’ Then give yourself time to live into the answer…

PS. If you find the wisdom in poetry beguiling, check out our popular six week Mindfulness Meets Mystical Poetry course which is running for the third time this September…

Photo by Brandon Morgan on Unsplash