“Samurai” friends give each other an active helping hand on the voyage down the river of life. They help each other to learn, grow and generally do better; and when things go wrong they help each other out of potholes and back on track.

Why samurai? Because it implies strength, courage and an element of protection. Samurai friends have the guts to face up to life, and they look out for each other too.

I first read about Samurai friendship in Lesley Garner’s book, Everything I’ve Ever Learned About Change.

 
 

I loved the idea – who wouldn’t want a brave help-mate on life’s journey? – but did nothing about it until, a while later, I loaned the book to my friend Jane. She returned it a week later with the question: “Will you be my samurai friend?

That was six years ago and we’ve been “samurising” regularly ever since. And as the years go by, and to our astonishment, as we find ourselves approaching, or over, 60, the insights we come up with and the mutual support we share become all the more important.

How a Samurai Friendship Works

We get together regularly in one or the other of our cosy kitchens whenever there’s a chance to be undisturbed for an hour or two. We often have a meal first and talk over what’s going on in our lives. This gives us a chance to mull things over and prepares us to focus.

Then, before dessert, we settle down to our samurai session, the part of our friendship that differs from the usual shared chat, and which we both find so incredibly valuable.

Speaking Openly, Listening Carefully

One of us takes first turn to talk for uninterrupted minutes about whatever’s on her mind, being as honest and open as she can, while the other acts as listener and scribe, making a few notes in the speaker’s book, and paying very careful attention to what’s being said.

After 5-10 minutes of this, the scribe reads back her notes, checking that she has understood rightly. She might also ask questions to clarify and offer insights (but not advice – unless specifically asked!). This part of the exercise alone is extremely helpful, as hearing your own thoughts read back really does help you to work out what’s going on in your mind and can put worries into a new perspective.

Then comes the final stage, when whoever is speaking comes up with a list of active choices to move herself forwards.

This is a great opportunity for us to help each other avoid self-judgement. We’ve developed a keen ear for each other’s inner gremlins and always encourage each other to make at least one self-nurturing choice.

We always check in on the current list of choices when we meet, to see what we’ve achieved. In between sessions we keep in touch by text, giving each other many a pep talk, pat on the back, string of gold star emojis or virtual hug, as we do our best to put our choices into action.

A Great Chance for Fun and Creativity

Of course, this is just a basic formula. There are no rules, and you can invent your own ways of building on your samurai friendship.

Over the years, as Jane and I have been working together on our journey of self-development, we’ve had a great time trying all sorts of techniques to help come up with answers for ourselves.

We’ve written quick poems using random words picked from a book (very revealing), made collages, meditated together, and made lists of the things in our lives we want to celebrate. At the moment, we’re playing with the fruitful exercise of “Living the Questions” rather than trying to think out an answer.

We’ve developed a whole set of tools and sayings to use whenever the going gets tough. We love using metaphors and imagery, and for a while envisioned ourselves in boats afloat on the river of life – mine a coracle, Jane’s a canoe – zooming down the rapids, getting becalmed, or twirling helplessly in a whirlpool, always with one ear open for the distant roar of Niagara around the very next corner.

We had to keep our samurai life-jackets on for that one!

What Does Samurai Friendship Offer?

Jane texted me the other night after a great session: “Thank you so much for body and soul nourishment last night. The curry was wonderful, and even more so your constant friendship and attentive support for my wrestlings!”

I feel just the same, and indeed, it would be hard to over-emphasise the importance of our samurai friendship. We’ve built up a high level of trust and a lot of knowledge, not just about each other’s lives and challenges, but about our hopes, fears and dreams.

Samurais go deep, and that’s where the relationship becomes more than just a close friendship. We give each other the gift of time and listening, build on what we’ve learned, have a lot of laughter and fun and give and receive a consistent support.

Both of us have been through some very testing times during the last few years and our samurai friendship has helped us both, over and over again, find creative solutions, be brave enough to act, turn away from rash decisions, embrace adventure and live our lives to the full.

As we move into our 60s I know we’ll continue to grow, together.

As you read this, does someone come into your mind who you could ask to be your Samurai Friend? Or do you already have a similar kind of friendship in your life? Please share your thoughts and experiences with the community.

Elizabeth MartynElizabeth Martyn is a writer and personal coach. She lives in the UK and blogs at Beyond 60. Here she intrepidly explores this unexpectedly extraordinary time of life, one of fresh insights, new opportunities, and exciting – and occasionally unnerving – freedoms.

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