Zafu Limerick


There Once Was a Man . . .

OK, so perhaps this isn’t the finest moment in my career as a booster of meditation. I just happen to have a soft spot for limericks. And as anyone who knows something about limericks  will attest, one limerick deserves, nay demands, another.

Dear Reader, the snow is about to fall in Vermont. Potentially stressful holidays loom. The economy is poised on the brink of something, but it’s hard to tell what. In these moments the mind turns to meditation. Ah well, yes very important. This time however, the mind turned to limericks.

Please Post

My request is simple: compose a (traditionally) five-line limerick using the word “zafu.” The word “zafu” can appear at the end of a rhyming line or in the body of the limerick. Comment on this blog post with your limerick and anything else you would like to share. If your limerick is “family friendly”, we will print it here. Traditionally limericks are opportunities to uncork profanity in unexpected ways. We respect this tradition but can only follow it up to a point. Apologies in advance; if you send us a really dirty limerick, the chances of publication are well…severely diminished.

The Word

In case you have stumbled upon this challenge based upon your love of limericks rather than your pursuit of the noble path of meditation, we might explain. “Zafu” is a Japanese word for a round pleated cushion used originally in the Zen tradition for the practice of Zazen or meditation. The practitioner sits on the cushion, traditionally with legs crossed in the lotus position on a Zabuton Mat.

Some of you might have endeavored the lotus posture in an earlier, more limber, era. Unless you are an adept, I suggest you refrain from trying it now (unless under supervision.) Speaking of limber, part of the challenge with using “Zafu” at the end of the limerick line is that limericks typically rely on anapestic phrasing. That is, a set of words or a word comprised of three syllables with the accent on the last syllable – like seventeen or well, yes, Nantucket. Attempting to use the two equally accented syllables of “Za-Fu” at the end of a line  raises challenges to this convention.

Out of Time

This is a blog about meditation. If would be great if your limerick somehow addressed the subject, but we won’t insist. While nonsense has its place, limericks reach their apogee when word play and word meaning support each other. According to Dictionary.com, the term limerick comes from a party game played (in Ireland or England) at the end of the 19th century. Participants would extemporize verse and their efforts would be followed by the chorus “Won’t you come up to Limerick”  – a town in the west of Ireland.

To extemporize means to recite spontaneously. How does one do this? The word’s roots here give a clue. Literally “ex-tempore” — is latin for outside of time. This time beyond time is the moment in which insights are born and also traditionally when true meditation is achieved. It may also be the only time when things happen. Speaking of out of time, when, you may ask, is there the time to compose this limerick? Commuting time, waiting in line, and while seeming to listen to someone complain are all great opportunities to turn your mind to the 5-lined monster.

A couple of limericks:

The Sound of One Cheek Sneaking

In Zazen, stuffed firm and sewn round,

A Zafu keeps your cheeks off the ground,

Not to be crass,

But if more than time you must pass,

Dense stuffing means no sound will be found.

(And a more solemn effort:)

The View of Meditation

From his black cotton buckwheat Zafu,

The Zen Master taught on the View,

He said, “Not as real as it seems,

Life’s like a Dream.

Zazen is no-thing to do.”

Editor’s Note: We have as yet no examples of the poetic tradition Mr. Greenleaf favors in our book inventory.  However, for other examples of poetic expressions of the spontaneous nature of insight see First Thought Best Thought by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche,  Haiku Mind by Patricia Donegan, The Spring of My Life by Issa, or Narrow Road to the Interior by Basho.  Patricia Donegan’s instructional book Haiku is aimed at young writers but is eminently useful to all who wish to try their hand at that form.



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15 Responses to “Zafu Limerick”

  1. Christina Says:

    I’d like to be better about sitting
    But my day just seems so busy
    My zafu awaits
    But then it’s too late
    Better sign up for some sessions

  2. Kate Baker Says:

    whilst practicing meditation
    –a noble and calming vocation–
    tis useful to find
    a firm seat for your behind
    which is a zafu, in my situation.

  3. Ming Says:

    There once was a meditater from Maine
    Sitting on the floor made her feel lame
    She bought a Zafu
    And a text or two
    Now following the breath is her main game

  4. Andrew Moore Says:

    For sitting a zafu’s sadistic
    A gomden is much more sophistc-
    ated and square
    for letting you dare
    to sail away into the mystic

  5. Andrew Moore Says:

    if you don’t have zafu, what have you?
    a gomden’s too tall you giraffe you!
    sitting close to the floor
    kleshas come to the fore
    buddha mind separates from the chaff, too.

  6. Thomas Fortenberry Says:

    beware a return to nature, for beneath the sky
    splinters don’t find the mind’s eye
    but distract just the same
    breaking zazen with pain
    remedied only by a zafu lotus and sigh.

  7. Constance Greenleaf Says:

    A ZAFU

    THERE ONCE WAS A MAN FROM VERMONT
    A BUDDHIST WHO STUDIES A LOT
    HE SAID “VIEWED AT CLOSE RANGE
    THE COSMOS IS STRANGE
    WHAT SEEMS REAL REALLY IS NOT

  8. Noel Horton Says:

    King Richard could not sleep in his bed,
    All he wanted was to clear his head,
    But “zafu” was not a word,
    That he had ever heard,
    So he called out for a horse instead.

    As down the avenue I boozed,
    I met the Buddha (not amused),
    I said yo bro’ when yer thru,
    I’ll need yer zafoo,
    Cuz my mind is like, totally confused.

    In the dead of winter the zen master sits alone,
    I ask him his secret, tell me your koan!
    He says get Michael to send me,
    A zafu to mend me,
    My butt has frozen to this stone!

  9. Michael Taney Says:

    When Trungpa came to the West
    To teach wild minds how to rest
    He took the zafu from zen
    and said sit here, but then
    decided a gomden was best.

  10. Peter Seidler Says:

    Look there’s some red colored space
    With a square of yellow on it’s face
    Twirls round the sun
    Supporting yet supported
    by buns inextricably in place.

  11. Steven M Ward Says:

    “not black, not blue, not that, no true”
    by Sward

    To pursue,
    Is thought of redu.

    “Me-too”,
    Is self-untrue.

    One is of IQ,
    Other of woo.

    Use a Zafu,
    No black and blue.

  12. Steven M Ward Says:

    O! in five lines

    not black, not blue, not that, no true
    To pursue, is thought of redu.
    “Me-too”, is self-untrue.
    One of IQ, other of woo.
    Use a Zafu, no black and blue.

  13. Dia Ballou Says:

    There once was a man placed his tush on
    a brand new Samadhi zafu cushion.
    Fell into shamatha’s pool
    and started to drool —
    We finally had to call in the Rusung!

  14. Jane Philpin Says:

    a certain young fellow named Matthew
    experience a painful type snafu.
    till he’s healed up a bit
    he must stand for his ‘sit’
    since mistaking his cat for his zafu

  15. Isabelle Augros Says:

    Should I grab my zafu and just sit?
    Instead I could text on my IPhone,
    or surf the net just for a bit
    I am not afraid to ponder alone
    so here I go before I have a fit!

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