Zentao Verses from 2023

The last third of the year seems like a good time to share some of the daily senryu I write and share on social media. I call them “zentao” with the intent of echoing both the spiritual traditions of Zen Buddhism and Taoism as well as the more western joke “that was Zen, this is Tao.”

Like many people, I started the year with a resolution:

Do your little bit
to fix our broken systems.
Also, enjoy life.

I must confess that I have not done as much to address either of those resolutions as I would have liked. The broken systems are still ascendant and at times they affect my ability to enjoy my life.

My verse for January 1 was also about finding the good things. It’s a good one to remember when you’re confronted with options:

Doors open and shut.
Go through ones that lead to joy.
Slam the others hard.

A lot of my posts are social commentary of some kind, which is in part why they fit better under the term senryu than haiku, even though they have the same syllable count. Haiku are traditionally more about nature; senryu have room for sarcastic comment on things that are happening now.

Here’s a sarcastic one:

Nothing’s working right.
Phone. Weather. Health care. Housing.
And, of course, Congress.

And here’s one that recognizes the importance of imagining that something can be done about the problems we face:

First we imagine
capitalism will end.
Then we can do it.

And another about the power of imagination:

Now is the time to
use our imaginations
and remake the world.

Here are a couple that get at my core philosophical beliefs, drawn from Aikido and other studies. I strongly believe that all the life on Earth evolved to be in balance with each other and our planet, and that centering ourselves in relation to that is how we end up with happy lives.

Living in balance.
It’s not to be virtuous.
It’s how all life works.

Re-enchant the world.
Find the harmonies of Earth.
Stay centered with that.

And here is my response to the way far too many people with some power in this world approach things:

No one gets wealthy
by fixing our real problems,
so they don’t get fixed.

And the frequent reminder that humans are social creatures:

Working with others
can be hard, but it’s also
how we get things done.

This one might be more of a haiku. It was inspired by driving down to San Diego from the Bay Area after our very wet winter:

Snow on coastal peaks.
Green hills and flowing rivers.
Flowers everywhere.

And then this one from the way back home after another storm rolled in. Note that it is impossible to get from San Diego to Oakland without crossing mountains at some point unless you go along the coast. The coastal highway was flooded, and there was snow in the mountains we had to cross, so we went way east to the desert and then angled back west to cross the mountains when things cleared. The geography of California is fascinating, but not meant for travel in bad weather.

Winter storm travel:
Green desert, flooded highways,
avoiding trouble.

And a combination of weather and politics:

High winds. Heavy rain.
Glad to get home and inside.
Some folks live outside.

Some political advice from Aikido:

Don’t struggle and fight
where the opponent is strong.
Find their weakest point.

And here’s a good one to end on:

I’m always waiting
for another shoe to drop.
Life in modern times.


Zentao Verses for 2020

Every morning, I write a haiku-like verse with the goal of catching what’s going on in my mind at that moment. These are closer to senryu than traditional haiku, since only a few of them are about nature and they sometimes have a humorous or satirical turn.

I call these “zentao” and you can find them on Twitter with that as a hashtag. I also post them on Facebook.

I’ve been doing this since January 1, 2015, and I don’t seem to be able to stop. When I go back through them, I find that I have often said the same thing in slightly different words.

Since it’s 2020, you won’t be surprised to find that many of this year’s verses are related to the pandemic or to U.S. politics. This verse from January 9 – pre-pandemic unless you were in the know – kind of sums things up:

I feel unsettled.
The whole wide world’s unsettled.
I guess I’m in sync.

This one, from later in January, was motivated by the political mess, but it’s on point for everything that’s happened:

Our system assumes
people will act in good faith.
Our system’s broken.

Continue reading “Zentao Verses for 2020”