To break a promise

The other morning I walked to my place of prayer, leaned into the brilliance, and said what I needed to say all along, in words as simple and mine and heard as the birdsong above my head and the river beside me. I let my words go, to carry their own life without me. I let my promise go with the river, breathing and joining with every other promise the world has ever made. I walked away.

Profound thanks to David Whyte for his words and his wisdom and his solace. He said it this way:


Make a place of prayer, no fuss,
just lean into the white brilliance
and say what you needed to say
all along, nothing too much, words
as simple and as yours and as heard
as the bird song above your head
or the river running gently beside you.

Let your words join
one to another
the way stone nestles on stone,
the way water just leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.

Now, let them go on,
leave your words
to carry their own life
without you, let the promise
go with the river.
Have faith.
Walk away.

THE SEA IN YOU: Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love

© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

Whyte explains that his poem “To Break a Promise” sometimes lives under the title “To Make a Promise.” To him, both making and breaking promises “involve exactly the same combination of absolute presence and radical letting go.”

What I needed to say all along is what I have been saying all along: “I am determined to be transformed by the sounds arising out of the stillness of my soul, and to let my own heart call the tune to which I dance my life.”

And for those words, I thank Sheldon Kopp.

I do have words of my own, and I promise to say them. That’s what I came here to do.


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