Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Four Agreements

Photo of the Month
Ringling Grounds, August 2015

Surprise!!! It's been a while! A LONG while!

A recent conversation with a friend inspired me to post this. Much of this post had been in draft for a long time. How regular this becomes remains to be seen. 

Some of the following information is from the website:

Don Miguel Ruiz is the author of The Four Agreements. He is from the Toltec tradition, which is a ancient group of scientists and artists, formed to explore and preserve the practices and spiritual knowledge of their ancestors. It is not a religion, but a way of life.... simple, but profound. The practice of the The Four Agreements can help to create love, happiness and most importantly (for me) the experience of personal freedom!

The Four Agreements are:

1. Be impeccable with your word:
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of the word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don't take anything personally:
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality or what the author calls their own "dream." When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don't make assumptions:
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. Remember, that just as others do not know what you are thinking, you also do not know what they are thinking. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always do your best:
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment and regret.

Each of these could be a post in and of themselves, but today I will focus on Agreements #2 and #3. These two go together well and have helped me countless times in my life, especially when it comes to the actions of others. We often make assumptions about what other people are thinking - - and then we take these assumptions personally.

Starting with #3 - Don't make assumptions

We assume first, THAT other people are thinking about us and second, we assume WHAT other people are thinking about us! We often assume that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think and feel the way we feel.

The TRUTH is that most of the time other people are not thinking about us at all. Most of the time, most people are thinking about themselves.

Freedom comes from understanding this.

- Be aware of unconscious assumptions - Assumptions are made so fast and unconsciously most of the time that we don't even realize we are doing it.
- Discern the Truth - We make an assumptions, next we we believe that it is the Truth. 
- Assume Nothing - We often assume that others know what we think and we don't have to say what we want. We assume they are going to do what we want because they know us so well. If they don't, we feel hurt. Try to remember that just as others do not know what you are thinking.... you also do not know what they are thinking.

How does this apply to daily life? 

Let's use a simple example... a friend says they will meet you for lunch. That morning the friend texts you to say that they cannot make it... but does not give you a reason. This is the second time this has happened with this particular friend, so you begin to feel annoyed. What is going on? Why is this person canceling - - again? And last minute!

What are you thinking? What are you assuming? Do you think the person is trying to get out of being with you? Do you think the person just doesn't like you? What else? You are probably able to add a few others.
Let's move on....

#2 - Don't take anything personally

I have seen this quote attributed to:Wayne Dyer
Anthony Hopkins and
Michael J. Fox.
So I am not sure who said it initially...
but it was so good that many have repeated it! 
My suggestion is to pretty much disregard the opinions of others. Whatever people do, feel, think, or say, don't take it personally. Other people are going to have their own opinion according to their upbringing and their belief system. Whatever they think about you is NOT about YOU. It is about THEM! If someone says, "I like your blue dress." That doesn't say anything about you. It could say that they like the color blue or that they like that style of clothing.... or that they are trying to be nice today! (Or any number of other things... but I don't want to make assumptions.) Just know that it does not have anything to do with you.

- Everyone lives in their own "dream" as the author calls it - They are in their own mind... and that can be a completely different world from the one that you live in.
- Be immune to others' opinions - what others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their lives (or their "dream" as Don Miguel Ruiz calls it.) When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

Let's go back to our example of the friend canceling lunch. What happens after you make the assumption that your friend doesn't like you? You take it personally! You start to question why doesn't your friend like you.... and ask what is wrong with you? What happens next..? 

You start to feel bad.    

Whenever you see yourself doing any of the above...
- Simply STOP and remind yourself that most of the time people are not thinking about you, they are thinking about themselves. 
- It's ok to ask questions if you need to. It is always better to ask questions than to make assumptions. Once you hear the answer to a question, you won't have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.
- Relinquish our own self importance. When we take things personally, we are thinking of ourselves as so important that the other person is also thinking about us. This is an expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is all about "me!"

As always, there is the need to clarify. If someone is offering an opinion to you, I am not suggesting that you be rude or unkind to anyone. It is ok to listen and hear them. It's just it is not necessary to accept their opinions as Truth.   

Let's revisit our example one more time. You run into your friend the next day. She tells you that her grandmother has not been well. She has come to stay with her and she was not able to be alone. Your friend asks if next time maybe you could get take out and come by the house because she has been very tired from care-taking! Was she thinking about you at all? Of course there are nearly infinite explanations....  Even if your friend eventually says something like they don't really see the friendship going anywhere, that is ok too! It is a gift of honesty. Love and respect yourself. You are never responsible for the actions of others, but you are responsible for you. If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. You may hurt for a while, but your heart will heal, eventually... and their decision is still about them! Not you!

Until next month,
Keep it simple!

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