“Becoming awake involves seeing our confusion more clearly.” – Chögyam Trungpa
When I listen for the whispers of God, or what some might call intuition, sometimes this voice is barely audible. In these instances, it’s fitting that God’s voice is often described as a still, small voice, because that’s what it feels like: an almost imperceptible nudge, like I’ve licked my index finger and held it in the air to feel the direction that the wind should take me in.
Other times, because I’m a hardheaded human, God yells at me. Mostly this occurs through God’s use of other people to repeatedly try to get a message across to me if I would only open my ears to receive it.
This is how I came to know that the next book I should read is “The Four Agreements.” I kept hearing about the book from multiple people, and God was meanwhile tapping His foot with impatience for me to read it already.
Loud and clear, boss, even if it did have to get to the point of the flashing sign on the side of the road.
Don Miguel Ruiz wrote “The Four Agreements” based on the ancient spiritual wisdom of the Toltec people of southern Mexico. Allow me to share the four agreements, why each is challenging, and real-life application of each agreement:
The First Agreement
Be Impeccable with Your Word
According to Ruiz, “Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself” (Ruiz, 1997, p. 32). He argues that the words we speak are a powerful force and that we are going against ourselves whenever we use words to judge or blame ourselves or others. He also suggests that we always tell the truth and communicate with integrity.
Why It’s Challenging
We are a society based on gossip. Ruiz touches on the fact that we use gossip to feel close to one another because it makes us feel better to connect with another hurting person. Negative self-talk is also an easy trap to fall into.
When that stupid person says that stupid thing, and we go around repeating the story to every person that will listen to justify our point of view and validate the fact that the other person is clearly stupid (not that I have any experience with this, moi?), the better solution is telling the truth from the beginning. This means that instead of standing there like a deer in headlights when someone hurts us with their words, we have to get brave enough to address the issue when it happens.
Quote: “You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word” (Ruiz, 1997, p. 44).
The Second Agreement
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Ruiz writes that nothing others do has anything to do with us. What people decide to do and say has only to do with themselves. Even when we are directly insulted by someone else, this has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the agreements the other person has in their own mind.
Why It’s Challenging
Umm, this one is my Achilles heel. As I shared in this post, I’m a highly sensitive person, so having a thinner skin than average is the way I am built. Ruiz explains that taking things personally is the ultimate measurement of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about us. I would also add, however, that feeling sensitive towards my own feelings also makes me sensitive towards others.
Not too long ago, I was in a conversation with someone (who shall remain nameless), and this person said that I am the opposite of driven. Ouch. I may or may not have proceeded to call up every friend that I know to argue my case against this statement (moi?). Instead of making such a big deal over the comment, I could have taken a step back to realize that this person’s perspective has everything to do with the other person’s story, and nothing to do with mine.
Quote: “As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices” (Ruiz, 1997, p. 60).
The Third Agreement
Don’t Make Assumptions
Ruiz points out that we all tend to make assumptions about everything, including about what people are thinking and why they take certain actions. Instead of making assumptions, Ruiz advises that we have the courage to ask questions and communicate with others in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
Why It’s Challenging
Thanks to the human brain that wants an explanation for everything, when we don’t have an explanation, we tend to make one up ourselves. But not only do we make assumptions, Ruiz explains that we believe that they are the truth.
I recently published an article about a book I read and decided to tweet to the book’s author to notify her about the article. She completely ignored my tweet, so I went ahead to make a number of assumptions. She either a) hates the article, b) thinks I’m a nobody in the writing world c) thinks I’m a loser because I only have 56 Twitter followers, or d) all of the above. Did you see what I did there? Not only did I make assumptions, I also made them personal and judged myself, thereby breaking all three agreements. Great job Guest! What I should have done instead was have the courage to send a follow-up email to the author.
Quote: “All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally” (Ruiz, 1997, p. 64).
The Fourth Agreement
Always Do Your Best
In any circumstance in life, be it with family, community, or work, Ruiz proposes that we always do our best. He makes the important point that our best won’t always look the same. For instance, if we are sick or tired, our best won’t be at the level it is when we are healthy and rested, but as long as we are trying our best under any given circumstance, we will avoid self-judgment.
Why It’s Challenging
According to Ruiz, most people only take action to do their best in order to receive a reward instead of allowing love to be the motivating factor behind an activity or a job.
With the blog, I easily focus on the writing part because this is the aspect of blogging that I love. I’m not doing my best when it comes to social media and promotion because I don’t really enjoy those aspects of blogging. This results in me feeling guilt and self-judgment, because I know I’m not doing my best.
Quote: “Taking action is being alive. It’s taking the risk to go out and express your dream” (Ruiz, 1997, p. 82).
Why did God, or my intuition, lead me to read this book? Well, when I pause and reflect on the book, the agreements are tools that can be used to combat a fearful ego. Left to its own devices, my mind/ego will invent fearful stories and adopt them as truth.
True personal freedom is becoming aware that the fearful thoughts and stories we tell ourselves are just a veil.
Freedom comes when we lift that veil and notice that love is patiently waiting, all the while wondering what took us so long to return home.