Killing Ants

From Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness & Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan.

I kill an ant…
and realize my three children
were watching.

—Shuson Kato

Donegan assesses this in light of the topic of honesty.

The microcosm of one ant crawling across the floor and our response to it.  “Be honest to yourself; and write what is there.”  These words are from the Japanese woman haiku master, Teijo Nakamura, given in a rare interview when I had asked her what was the greatest principle of haiku. At first I thought the interpreter had made a mistake, for her reply seemed much too simple; later when I tried to practice it, I realized how hard yet truly profound it was.  This haiku reflects the courage it takes to be that honest with oneself in order to become a true human being who lives mindfully moment to moment.  As we all know, not causing harm to oneself or others is the basis for creating more peace in our own lives and those around us, extending out to the rest of the world.  But it can only happen if we are honest and start where we are now, for honesty is the root of this transformation.  Starting this very moment with whatever is happening and seeing it clearly with a gentle heart, no matter how embarrassing, how painful, how sad, no matter what: this is the human journey.

How can you be honest with yourself today?  Gently, slowly, so that you won’t break into a thousand pieces?

[Post image: Spring work by xvost on stock.xchng]


  1. dasephix
    Sep 15, 2011

    I like to think of it as a slowly unraveling process. Each thought representing the microcosm, and the consciousness as the macrocosm.

    I think I start to become honest with myself, with each thought, and then as this recognizing builds, it eventually culminates into the general awareness of how I rationalize different modes of thinking that prevent me from being honest with myself I think the idea is implied, that we can start small, then we can see big. But then as “seeing big” can become too amorphous, we have to recalibrate our approach by seeing small, with each thought that arises.

    • Elissa
      Sep 15, 2011

      What a lovely way of putting it. I always tell myself, “Baby steps, baby steps.” Not so glorious as yours. 🙂

  2. dasephix
    Sep 15, 2011

    No, “Baby steps, baby steps”, is great! It’s simple and easy to remember because I think it can be really easy to forget to take the small steps, especially when we get caught up in our daily routines.

    I find that sometimes I’ll wake up on some days, and totally forget about why being more mindful can be important or helpful. It’s just out of habit that I’ll default to what I’ve become accustomed to because it’s comfortable and non-confrontational. But what is especially true for me now, is that “writing what is there”, brings these thoughts into awareness too. What a great way to get things out on paper and to some degree off my mind. Oh how long I put writing off!

    The hardest part I think about being honest with myself, is dealing with that inner critic, and I think that partly stems from my kind of “tough love” upbringing, and maybe because of the normative ideals that I was unaware of in the past. Unfortunately, this kind of mindset became a kind of false self-motivator to do my best or never fail, and always succeed etc.

    I think you articulate this point in your post “Holding Yourself in Kindness”, especially when you mention Rilke, “Ultimately, it is on our vulnerability that we depend”. Being honest with myself is hard, because it makes me aware of my vulnerabilities. But, it is the self-compassion that prevents me from “breaking into a thousand pieces”, in addition to the strong possibility that these kinds of thoughts might visit me again in the not too distant future. In which case they are welcome… well, for the most part. Ha ha!

    • Elissa
      Sep 16, 2011

      You’ve distilled it quite nicely. It’s the teeter-totter of holding yourself in kindness (and compassion) on the one hand AND being brutally honest with oneself on the other. One encourages vulnerability; the other encourages firmness. Both operate in the realm of truth, and we need both to live appropriately…I think.

      And I do think writing is important, extremely important…for forgiveness, for truth, for sorting things out, for healing, for so many things. It’s amazing what a seemingly insignificant practice can do for your sanity! 🙂

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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