All the True Vows, David Whyte

I am writing the LearnBook for the Plug In! course. (I’ve decided not to use the term workbook anymore because learning isn’t work, it’s joy. So from here on all my support materials are going to be called LearnBooks. Don’t you think that sounds much more fun than the heavy workbook?)

Plug In! is about how to step into The Intersection to access the kind of creativity, guidance and support that will take your writing or other creative endeavor to a whole new level.

One of the steps in The Intersection is to write your creative blessing and then speak it aloud every day. To support that idea, I am reading David Whyte’s “True Vows” to the class. Re-reading it today, I fell in love again with the profound ideas, and the elegant way David expresses them. Like a tumble of water, the words flow into your mind and heart and you cannot help but feel them in your bones. Speak this poem aloud slowly and ideally standing. Let these words flow through you. You will be changed.

All the True Vows

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

David Whyte
The House of Belonging

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What one poem will they read at your memorial?

The House of Belonging by David WhyteI went to a Celebration of Life memorial service for the Rev. Geri Glinski at Unity Church of Palm Harbor today. Geri was a light. And I don’t mean metaphorically. Geri glowed.

At the service, her daughter read Geri’s favorite poem, “The Road Less Travelled” by Robert Frost. Immediately I wondered, what would they be reading if this were my memorial? What poem would my family and friends instinctively know is my all-time favorite. Hafiz, of course. I’m forever reading and quoting the great Sufi mystic, Hafiz. But if they had to read just one poem, I think it would be David Whyte’s, “All the True Vows.”

When I read this poem in 1997, my marriage had disintegrated and I was desperately seeking a core, an essence, an answer that could make the chaos make sense. Reading this poem, I knew that my answer lay in writing my own “true vows.” I call it my Covenant with Spirit. And from the moment I wrote my seven vows, they began to magnetically rearrange my life. I still repeat my seven-line Covenant every day. It’s still true, and it would still kill me to break them.

All the True Vows
(from The House of Belonging)

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,
it wants to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way, you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

I, too, spoke in my own voice before it was too late. And that call, that voice, that new, personal, sacred promise created the life I now live. So, although I so want lots of mystical poetry at my celebration, lots of Rumi and Hafiz and Meister Eckhart, first and forever, there must be David Whyte.

How about you? What words have grabbed your attention, turned your head, and will not let you go? Whatever that poem or statement is, find it, print it, say it. Say it. Say it today.

And share it with us. What one poem do you want them to read at your memorial?