A Deep Pool of Strength
the homeless man
takes off his shoes before
his cardboard house
by Penny Harter *
The following is an excerpt from “Haiku Mind” by Patricia Donegan
The innate dignity of the human spirit, in spite of difficult circumstances: one only needs to recall Anne Frank’s story of the Holocaust and how her personal diary written in a hideaway attic, not only uplifted her spirit but the spirits of millions who came after her. There is a word in Tibetan Buddhism, lungta, or windhorse, meaning “uplifted energy”; something primordial within every living thing, which we can tap into anytime to refresh ourselves and uplift one’s head even though depressed, opening a window to refresh the air, or taking off one’s shoes to not dirty the floor. These small acts have more power and windhorse than we know; they can change our state of mind on the spot, and in accumulation become a whole way of life and thinking. At times we need to remind ourselves by consciously invoking this energy, anytime, anywhere: in the car, at work, or by our cardboard house. The Shambhala Buddhist teacher, Cynthia Kneen, clarifies: “Invoking windhorse is like raising a sail to catch and use the wind... You can invoke it, tap it, tune into it, and ride it. Everyone without exception is born with personal dignity, power, and energy.” ** Likewise, this haiku is poignant because the “homeless man” is viewed not as someone to ignore, revile, or to pity, but seen as just an ordinary human being who has lost something yet still maintains something deep within: that dignity which makes us truly human.
Aside from contemplating your own deep inner pool of strength, you might want to take a trip to Eastern Siberia to gaze upon the deepest lake on earth, Lake Baikal. Park yourself on its banks and ponder its depth. If Eastern Siberia is a bit too far of a jaunt, find a nearby lake and imagine you’re at Lake Baikal.
Here are some interesting facts about Earth’s deepest lake:
- Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world with a maximum depth of 1,632m (a little over a mile).
- It is also the world's largest volume of fresh water 23,000 cubic km.
- This means that one-fifth of all the fresh water in the world is located here at Lake Baikal.
- Baikal is also the world's most ancient freshwater lake, it originated 20-25 million years ago.
- It is home to many unique species of animals and plants including the freshwater seal.
- There are 27 islands in Lake Baikal, most of them uninhabited.
- Baikal Lake’s coastline measures 2100 kilometers (around 1300 miles).
- More than 300 streams and rivers flow into Lake Baikal, but there is just one outlet, the Angara.
- The water in the lake creates a mild micro-climate around its shores.
- More than half the species found in Lake Baikal are unique to this place.
* Penny Harter is one of the foremost American haiku poets, yet writes mostly longer poetry. For years she has been a teacher and promoter of haiku in schools, and she is the coauthor (with William J. Higginson) of The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku. She was also a former president of the Haiku Society of America. Her poetry books include Turtle Blessing: Poems; Lizard Light: Poems from the Earth; Buried in the Sky; and recently, The Beastie Book, a book for children; and a poetry collection: The Night Marsh.
** Cynthia Kneen, Awake Mind, Open Heart: The Power of Courage and Dignity in Everyday Life (New York: Marlowe and Company, 2002), 129, 131.
Patricia Donegan's books can be found here: http://www.shambhala.com/authors/a-f-1/patricia-donegan.html