New readers here may wonder why I call the old verses written by Bashō, Buson, Issa, and all the rest of the gang hokku, while elsewhere they are often called “haiku.” There are two main reasons for that, the second even more significant than the first:

1. All of the old Japanese writers prior to the end of the 19th century called such verses hokku, so “haiku” is both historically incorrect and anachronistic.

2. “Haiku” is a word that has become so widely applied to a number of disparate kinds of verse that, unlike the old hokku, to use it is often merely to confuse the reader.

If you have any doubts about #2, you need only look in a recent anthology (Haiku in English; the First Hundred Years) covering the last century (somewhat haphazardly) in the history of the Western haiku (not hokku) movement. When you see everything from a short poem by Ezra pound to one-line and even one-word poems called “haiku,” it is obvious that the definition of “haiku” has changed drastically since Shiki began using it near the end of the 19th century. One amateur reviewer, after reading the book, wrote, “The book almost gives the impression that haiku has devolved.”  What we can definitely say is that the definition of haiku has become unmanageably vague and various.

Westerners seem to have been confused by the hokku from their first exposure, and re-made it according to their preconceptions derived largely from English-language avant-garde poetry in the first half of the 20th century. The modern “haiku” movement that began in the latter half of the 20th century is largely the consequence of that.

The bulk of modern haiku no longer have a connection with the season, which was essential in hokku. Many also no longer have a connection with Nature and the place of humans within Nature, again an essential of the old hokku. Often, modern haiku emphasize the ego of the writer, something avoided in hokku. And one can find many other differences between hokku and all that is called “modern haiku” today.

So, to avoid that labyrinth of confusion, I use only the historically-correct term, hokku, and I use it only for those verses that maintain the aesthetic essentials of the old hokku, the connection with Nature and the seasons, with simplicity and selflessness. I regard hokku and modern haiku as two very different things that should never be confused.

Here is an old hokku by Bashō. As you see, it is written for a particular season, and it has as its subject matter Nature (and the place of humans within Nature):


Cold rain —
Enough to blacken the stubble
In the fields.

In the old original, it is in transliteration:

Shigeruru ya ta no arakubu no kuromu hodo

Shigeruru means the cold rains that come in the late autumn through early winter are falling. Ya is a cutting word, used to give the reader a meditative pause in which to feel and see the early winter rain. Ta no arakubu — “field’s stubble” means the short stubble left in the fields after the harvest. And arakubu no kuromu hodo means “enough (hodo) to blacken (kuromu) the “new” stubble (ara-kubu).

Even though this verse is over three hundred years old, it could have been written as a new hokku now, this very day. That is how close modern hokku is in spirit to the basic aesthetics of the old hokku tradition, in great contrast to the multiplicity of form and content found in modern haiku.



Quite some time ago I mentioned an unusual system of self-healing that I was introduced to during a course in Vipassana meditation several decades past.  I recounted my own experience, but that was secondary to the point of the article.  The healing system was separate from the Vipassana training.

Today I would like to tell you just what that system is.  Robert Hover, who introduced me to it, later called it IMH — Internal Movement Healing.

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, Galleria d...

Put very simply, here is the system.  It involves focused observation, then action.  Perhaps I can clearly explain it by using an example.

If one has an ache or pain or physical ailment, it is often the case that one will say, “My foot aches,” or “I have a pain in my neck.”  That is a form of simple observation, and for most people, the observation does not go beyond that level.  But this system does.

So, if one, for example, has a pain in the foot, and one pays very close attention to the pain, which is a kind of looking at or observation of it, one will notice that the pain becomes increasingly localized; it is not just “in the foot,” but is in a particular place in or on the foot.

To do this, one should sit (or lie) calmly and relaxed.  Then just look within the body, focusing the attention completely on the problem area.

One can assist this more intense, focused looking by asking oneself a series of questions, for example, “Where is the pain precisely ?”  “How deep is it?”  “Does it have definite boundaries?”  “What size is it?” “What is its shape?”  “Are the edges clear or ‘fuzzy’?”  “Is the pain-object solid or ‘foggy’?”

Mr. Hover would say that what we are finding and feeling in this initial stage is something that actually exists within us, a kind of ‘faint matter’ that is not matter as we ordinarily think of it, but it is there nonetheless; we can feel it, touch it, and often even see it with the mind/awareness.  So this is mental seeing, feeling, touching.  Please note that it is NOT visualization.  We should not imagine this or that in the area.  This process is very empirical, meaning we rely upon our actual experience as we explore the area of pain with focused awareness.  We use only that; we do not use the imagination in this process, which would divert us from actually experiencing.

That is the first stage, the observation stage.  Obviously in this observing, one brings awareness to the locale of the pain, one moves one’s awareness around it, one touches it with one’s awareness.  One can be there, mentally, at or in the pain.  This is a kind of touching, even though it is not what we think of as “physical” touching.  Instead of using a hand or a finger to touch and explore the pain, we use the mind, the awareness.

The next stage, once one has located and explored the boundaries and nature of the pain, is to manipulate it.  This can be done in a number of ways.  The simplest is just to focus one’s awareness on the now very localized pain, which one has discovered to be ‘faint matter.’  This alone puts a kind of pressure on it.  One just keeps the awareness touching, or even inside, the faint matter object.  But one can do other things also.

It is possible to position one’s self, that is, one’s focused awareness, at the top of the object.  If we were giving ourselves instructions, we would say, “Be at the top of the object/area.”  Then, with a to-and-fro motion of the mind, we go across the object/area, overshooting the edges slightly, and gradually proceeding down and through the object, until we emerge at the bottom of the object.  This is the same procedure a carpenter uses when planing wood; one planes away a sequence of layers.

When one has reached the bottom of the area, it is time to pause and look at the object/area again.  Has it changed in any way?  Is it less dense, less clear, or has it changed form or intensity, etc.?  Any such change is a good sign.  But one should not be discouraged if at first there is no apparent change; one just keeps working at it, by next proceeding to ‘plane’ through the area from bottom to top, repeating the observation after that is done to look for any change.  One may continue and plane the sides vertically, from left to right, and right to left.

Another tool one can use is to position one’s self at one side of the object/pain/faint matter, then to strongly push against the object, pushing in whatever direction it may move, immediately or eventually pushing in the direction of the outside of the body.  This is the method that worked with my headache; I gave a very strong mental push while being at the inner side of the very localized object in my head, and it slipped right through my skin and out of my head completely, and my headache was instantly gone, much to my amazement.  Again, please note that this is NOT using the imagination.  When one does this process carefully, one finds one can actually create a kind of pushing force within the body that we might call “mind force” or “awareness force.”  It is NOT the same as imagining doing it.  It is really doing it.

That concept — the distinction between imagining doing it and REALLY doing it with the mind may seem odd at first, but that is only because this kind of awareness and manipulation is quite new to us, and we do not realize until we do the process that such things are actually possible, that these are abilities we have but just did not know we have, because we have never used and explored them.

Some pains/objects/faint matter accumulations respond very quickly, as did my headache.  Others may take a longer session, and some require repeated sessions of mental, internal work, from a few minutes to as much as an hour an a half per session.

This kind of focused internal mental work can be tiring when much time is spent on a session, so one should rest and recuperate between long sessions.  One should always finish a session by giving the area a gentle, loving mental massage–just gently massage it with the same force you used in manipulating the pain/object/faint matter.  One may also use this mental massage as a manipulation technique, in which case it may be more firm and intense than the final, finishing massage.

Occasionally, when looking inward to precisely locate a pain/ailment source/faint matter accumulation/object, one may find a kind of structure there, with faint matter ‘connectors’ attached to the object.  In that case one mentally cuts the connector, and then one pushes it into itself.  If there is more than one connector, one continues in the same manner, cutting them and pushing them into themselves until they disappear, and then working to dissipate the main object to which the connector or connectors had been attached.

Again, in doing this process, one pauses after each main action to again look at the area with focused observation to see if there has been any change.  In this system, any change, including temporary worsening right after mental manipulation of the pain/object/faint matter, is a good sign.

Some problems, like my headache, are rather quick and easy to localize, observe, manipulate and disperse.  Others may take considerable time and repeated sessions.  Sometimes there will be an improvement followed again by a kind of “relapse” or return of the pain/problem.  In that case, one just keeps working.  It is like cleaning up a spill of water.  One removes the initial spill, but if water is still coming into the spill area, one has to keep cleaning it up until all the ‘water’ is gone, session after session.

Now obviously this is a system one may use on one’s self for many kinds of physical problems/pains/etc., but it is also particularly helpful to do it with another or to have another as verbal assistant.  That is because, as can be seen, there is a series of questions, either thought or spoken, that are helpful to follow in the process of mental focusing to localize and manipulate the object (such as “Where is the pain?”  “How deep is it?”  “How big is it?”  “What is its shape?”  “Are its edges clear or ‘foggy’?).  An assistant can also help to initiate manipulative action by telling the person being helped such things as “Now be at the inner side of the object”  “Now push hard!” And so on.

There are further tools that may be used in the system, such as mentally “nibbling” away at the edges of a solid object, etc., but the description of the method that I have given is sufficient to get one started.

Now all that I have said here is, of course, just a very basic description of the process, but it gives one what one needs to look inward, to localize a faint matter accumulation or object, and to manipulate/work on the object or accumulation to change and eventually disperse it.

What are the limits of this healing system?  Honestly, I do not know.  I do know that in years of using it on himself and others, Mr. Hover worked with many kinds of physical problems and ailments, from the mild and bothersome to the much more serious.  So I would say that it is a matter for experimentation, experience, and research on the part of those who may wish to experientially explore this system of internal observation, manipulation, and dispersion of the faint matter that lies behind aches and pains and bodily ailments in general.

Now obviously this discovery of  ‘faint matter’ underlying aches and pains and ailments within the body is, as Mr. Hover said, something different than the system of acupuncture meridians, and is quite different than the visualizations used in some therapies.  This system does not involve visualizing a problem or an action, it involves actually observing/feeling/being at or in a problem, and actual actions/forces brought to bear on the faint matter accumulation, rather than simply “imagined” manipulation or action.

Again, no doubt all of this is very new to readers here.  But to vary what Mr. Hover used to say, “It will only work if you work.”  That means one must do the internal observation and manipulation, and then see what happens.

A final remark:  I have always felt opposed to use of this healing method for material gain.  So if  those reading this wish to explore the method personally and then, having that experience,  wish to help others learn the method, please NEVER ask for money or expect material return for it.  It was given to me for free, out of the kindness of my teacher’s heart, and I pass it on in the same manner.  Using it or not is up to you, but as in my own case when I had a bad headache, you may find it a very useful thing to know.

Even though Mr. Hover passed on several years ago, a booklet he wrote on this subject is still available.  It is written in somewhat more complex and detailed manner than I have used here, and for those interested,  it is still available at: