As the old year careens relentlessly toward the new year, you might be thinking of the resolutions you want to make. Perhaps those resolutions will help you change your body. Maybe you’re hoping to pick up a good habit or two – hopefully to replace those bad habits. Maybe you’ve even made some spiritual resolutions.
Here’s a new twist on an old tradition: the gratitude haiku!
You remember how to write a haiku, right? It’s a poem of three lines, and most people think of it in terms of the syllables per line: five in the first line, seven in the next, five in the final line. Seventeen syllables in all.
First, a disclaimer. I’m using the word “haiku” very loosely. I understand that there’s much more to haiku than the syllables per line.
You may be saying, “But what’s a gratitude haiku, exactly?”
Here’s one I wrote a few years ago, titled “Gratitude While Hearing Rain”:
My soft bed and you.
A roof that keeps out water.
Dinner, wine, and you.
You might ask, “Why gratitude in the format of haiku?” Why not just keep a gratitude journal?
The practice of gratitude journaling is one I’ve come back to periodically. You might have done it too – at the end of the day, write down five things that fill you with gratitude. There’s no doubt that it’s a powerful practice. But I want to be honest. When I’ve kept this discipline for any length of time, my gratitude lists begin to seem quite similar. As always, cultivating a quality of mindfulness does not come naturally to me.
Once, I changed up my gratitude journaling practice. Quite by accident – as I recall, it was in a desperate attempt to stick to a poem-a-day ritual one April – I wrote a gratitude haiku. And then I wrote another. And I kept doing it for several weeks. The practice short-circuited my tendency to keep the same list. I found myself paying attention and trying on subjects for haiku possibilities. I found myself more lighthearted than I sometimes am when I’m keeping a gratitude journal – it’s fun to write haikus.
You can also do it in a group; I’ve led a haiku workshop at a retreat that had us contemplate the cosmology questions raised by the guest speaker. I’ve wondered what it would be like to do it with a church group or a study group whose members saw each other on a more regular basis. I’ve wondered what it would be like to do it with a family at the beginning or end of the day.
I wonder what it would be like if I wrote one per day, each and every day this year. I suspect that at the end of the year, I’d be a much different person.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott is a lifelong Lutheran, a college professor and department head. She has taught a variety of English and creative-writing classes for the last 20 years.