Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Four Agreements

During the events surrounding my brother's accident I was painfully reminded of a lesson I learned from Don Miguel Ruiz' book, The Four Agreements. Don't take anything personally.

The stress of having a seriously injured loved one brings out the best and the worst in people. That's just how it is. Tempers get short after long nights spent in uncomfortable waiting rooms. Emotions run on overdrive causing careless comments to go uncensored. And sometimes, people who do not like you use the situtation to twist the perverbial knife another excruciating turn. Don't take it personally. You can't, otherwise you would be filling yourself with the equvilent of poison.

In The Four Agreements, Ruiz relates Toltec wisdom passed down for over a thousand years from parent to child, shaman to apprentice, warrior to young man. I can imagine an ancient mother comforting her crying child. "What he said to you has everything to do with how he feels about himself and nothing to do with the kind of person you are." Similar words were taught to most children of my generation. It went something like this..sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Easy to repeat, harder to put into practice.

It was a few days after the incident before I let the wisdom sink in and the next chance I had I pulled out my copy of The Four Agreements and scanned it again. Each of the concepts are designed to help you live a more peaceful, stress free, productive life. They are simple to think about but at the same time often difficult to do in a society that seems based so often on looking out for number one. It's worth the effort.

The concepts or agreements with yourself are:

Be impeccable with your word - Think about what you say before you say it. Mean what you say. Don't use your words to wound others. Do what you say you will do. Be honest always in your dealings.

Don't take anything personally - Everyone is living burdened by their own perceptions, world view, and view of themselves. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.

Don't make assumptions - Instead of asking difficult questions of each other we make assumptions about the behavior of others. Then we misunderstand their intentions, we take it personally and end up creating a big drama where there need not be one.

Always do your best - Under any circumstance always do your best. Some days that will be less effort than others because you are tired. Other days you will be extremely productive and full of energy. No matter what is going on around you do your best and you will have no regrets. Do it not for reward but for how it makes you feel.

These are words to live by. I often have to remind myself that I will be happier if I do so and in these last few weeks I've needed more prompting than usual not to assume and not to take others words personally but I'm getting there. We are all works in progress and I'm happy for each day I'm given to practice being the kind of person I want to be.

If you only buy one book this year I would suggest The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It's a small book that can be easily carried with you, left in the car or your brief case for times when life gets to be a little too much and you need some simple guidance.

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