Monday, April 23, 2012

The Vow of Friendship

Druid Vow of Friendship
I honor your path.
I drink from your well. 

I bring an unprotected heart to our meeting place. 
I hold no cherished outcome. 
I will not negotiate by withholding. 
I am not subject to disappointment.

Oh dear, it's been a while since I've posted; sorry about that. It seems there are some weeks when the brain decides to do a walkabout rather than have a seat. And I've been in Ohio the last few days, leading a marvelous writing workshop with the MFA students at Ohio State University.

I love these kinds of workshops. You never know how it will go; so much depends upon the attitudes and chemistry of the people involved. And lucky me: this particular group was absolutely marvelous! We wrote, we read, we laughed, we cried.  Even I wrote and read and laughed and cried. I didn’t feel like a teacher, but more like someone who’d arrived in the midst of a really good party.

Whenever I teach a weekend workshop now, I’ve learned to start by setting intention. I have the students spend five minutes writing down their intentions for the weekend ahead of us, and I do the same. This may seem obvious: wouldn’t all our intentions simply be to learn something about writing, to improve our writing?

Sure, and that part takes about 30 seconds to write down. But they have to write for five minutes, which nudges them to dig a little deeper into their real intentions, the ones that go beyond the expected or the predetermined.

At five minutes, they set down their pens. They think they’re done. They think now we’ll get to the real work. But I look at them kindly, and say: Now write down the obstacles you have in fulfilling those intentions.

They issue a barely audible, collective groan, but they do it anyway, because I’m the teacher, and they’re supposed to do what I say. So they diligently write down their obstacles. I have mercy on them; I make them write for only three minutes this time.

Again, they put down their pens and beg with their eyes: can we get to the real work now?

Almost, I say, almost. Now I’d like you to imagine what it would take to dissolve those obstacles. What magic wand could you wave to make those obstacles disappear?

They have to write for only two minutes now. Because this is the thing: once you’ve articulated intention and obstacle, the way to fulfillment clears.

They share this morning’s writing with each other. Because it’s all well and good to articulate something for ourselves, but it’s even better when we forge the common bonds that bring us together in our work.

Okay, I say, after the hubbub has died down. Now we can begin (though they'll find out the real work has already been done).


Which brings me to the Druid Vow of Friendship.

I traveled to Port Townsend a couple of weeks ago for a few reasons:

1. to see my friend and co-writer Holly J. Hughes to check in about some ideas for the promotion of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World.  (Coming soon: an interactive website, and a workshop near you! We'll also have "Letters from Brenda and Holly" that can be delivered right to your inbox!)

2. to see my friend Sheila Bender and her husband Kurt,and loll about on her couch, reading and writing.

3. to hear Kim Stafford read from his work. Kim is one of those people who just makes you happy to be alive. He read poetry, and he sang songs, and he recited from memory poems he had written in his head. But he began by reciting to us the "Druid Vow of Friendship."

And when he  recited this Vow, so many things became clear to me about intention and obstacle and dissolution of obstacle. I heard this vow as a way to set intention in our friendships yes, but also in our relationship with our writing, and with ourselves.

Think how marvelous it would be to arrive at our writing with an unprotected heart. How would it feel to hold no cherished outcome? Can we free ourselves from disappointment? Can we truly honor our own paths, and drink deeply from our own wells?

I'd like to find out. So I vow to remember this vow of friendship as a way to make friends with myself. And with my writing. And to deepen my friendship with you. Will you join me?


  1. This was just what I needed to hear this morning, Brenda. So, I thank you and the unseen divine synchronicities that led me to your page today, and I say, yes. Yes, to having an unprotected heart and no expectation of outcome -- in writing and in life.

    1. Glad to hear we crossed paths today, Kate!

  2. What a wonderful tone you set by opening your workshops with contemplation on intention. What a great reminder of why we write, and how to get out of our way. I am going to incorporate this into my daily writing. Thank you Brenda.

  3. Lovely & helpful post. Thank you. --D. Steiner

  4. very helpful, brenda! i'll be doing your exercise this very day, and reposting this entry.

  5. Thank you so much for this. I just sent in my eighth packet, and am excited to write outside of the packet format for a bit; also overwhelmed with finals/grading/end of semester/impeding editing work. This sounds like a wonderful way to prioritize what is truly important. I love brain "taking a walkabout rather than choosing to have a seat."

    1. Thanks Ela! How wonderful to have the final packet done; exhausting, but wonderful.

  6. What a lovely, helpful way to begin my writing day, Brenda! Thank you so much. Namaste!

    1. So glad to join you in your writing day, Natalia!

  7. This doesn't just apply to writing, I see it apply to life. There are a lot of new things I need to try or to go after. If I write or think about my intentions with each thing I want to try, write/think about the obstacles and problems, then I will clearly see a solution. It just takes slowing down and thinking about one thing at a time. (Along with some yoga meditation to clear the mind out). Thanks for this! <3

  8. Thanks to your OSU workshop, Brenda, I've been a writing madwoman for the past two weeks. Your prompts helped unlock new material for my thesis - which I submitted today. Thanks for a wonderful weekend, Jenny

    1. Hello Jenny! Congratulations on your thesis, and so glad to hear that you've been writing with energy and passion.


What say you?