The Four Agreements, Pt. 2
We’re back again this week to conclude the lessons presented in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, “The Four Agreements – A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom”.
We started last week looking at the premise that we are domesticated by our families, our schools, our churches, our cultures, even our Nationality.
Ruiz says “Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system. …somewhere someone told us through their word, that we were not enough and we agreed with it.”
He suggests that if we accept these four agreements and put them into practice…then many of our old, painful outdates agreements (or beliefs) will fall away.
We are here to transform life to, aren’t we? Our lives and the life of the planet. We are here to find deeper parts of ourselves, to let go of that which binds us…and to find something larger which expands us and moves us into a deeper peace, a deeper appreciation and a deeper love.
So let’s move on.
Last week we looked at the first two agreements –
- Be impeccable with your word…and that means each and every word we think and speak. The word impeccable means “without sin,” or anything that you do which goes against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.” “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.” Ruiz tells us that this is the most important agreement.
- Don’t take anything personally. The second agreement is about the thoughts, actions and words others have about us and how to handle them. For example:
A policeman was heading home after a long, hard day on patrol. He had dealt with a whole succession of difficult people, and a mountain of frustrating paperwork. All he wanted at this point was to kick back, unwind, enjoy some peace and quiet, and maybe watch a few innings of baseball on TV.
But, as he neared home, he was startled by a vehicle that came careening around a sharp curve and narrowly missed his squad car. As the car passed within a few inches of him, the other driver shouted “Pig!”
The police officer was suddenly energized. He slammed on brakes, all set to turn his squad car around and head off in hot pursuit. But as he rounded the curve, … he ran head-on into a large pig that was standing in the middle of the road!
Did he take anything personally?
Now we are ready to look at the last two agreements.
The 3rd agreement is: Don’t make assumptions…
We do have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. But they are all based on our domestication…
When we fail to ask for clarification about something, we make an assumption about it. Sometimes it’s a simple thing like seeing someone with an “I Love Italy” shirt on and assuming they are Italian.
But when we make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking, and it’s not true according to them, we take it personally, we blame them and react by sending them “emotional poison” with our word or reaction in the form of anger, negative talk, negative body language, avoidance, etc. We try to make them be in the wrong when it was us who made the assumption!
Think about it…when have you made an assumption lately?
I could be making an assumption about whether or not you are even listening to me by your body language. You may have a serious face, sometimes frown – may be shaking your head- maybe just staring off at the field behind me! I’m thinking – they aren’t getting it or they must really disagree with what I’m trying to say. After Service you may come up and surprise me by saying, “you wrote that lesson just for me!”
When we make assumptions – we make mountains out of molehills, create conflict and make ourselves miserable.
We continually make assumptions, in our relationships, often to our detriment. I can remember in an early relationship thinking if they love me, they will know what I like. Or how I pay attention to what they are saying so I know what they want, so they should do the same.
Of course, back then there was little real communication about what we wanted. Now I know better.
We have many, many questions in our heads and we need an answer to feel safe. We have a fear of not knowing – fear of the mystery of life. We don’t like “not knowing.”
Ask yourself this: How comfortable am I with saying “I don’t know?”
To have clear communication, we are called to move through our fear and stop making assumptions. Imagine what your life would be like if you started communicating from “I don’t know.” and started saying “I don’t understand. Can you help me get more clarity? or What do you mean by that? or How do you feel about that? what do you think? And my mentors’ favorite – “Say more about that.”
Let’s imagine the day when you stop making assumptions with your loved ones and eventually everyone else in your life.
Your way of communicating will completely change and your relationships will no longer be plagued by conflicts that arise from mistaken assumptions.
- ASK QUESTIONS> It’s easy to jump to conclusions. But, before you jump the gun on anything you might read or hear, remember one simple word: Clarify. By asking questions and filling in the blanks, you can weed out fact from fiction.
- LISTEN> Are you really listening to the person talking? It’s called Active Listening. Are you misinterpreting what they are saying? Are you finishing other’s sentences? Sometimes we only see what we want see to see and hear what we want to hear. Take a minute to truly be present. Then take a few deep breaths, make eye contact and listen.
- GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK> Remember that you are perfect in your imperfection. We sometimes make progress by moving two steps forward, one step back. Recognize that – be present to it and keep moving forward.
- Practice> Don Miguel Ruiz writes ‘Taking the action over and over again strengthens your will, nurtures the seed, and establishes a solid foundation for the new habit to grow. After many repetitions these new agreements will become second nature’
“There is just one more agreement, but it’s the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits. The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three. Always Do Your Best.
Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other time it will not be as good.”
Ruiz says, as we build the habit of the four new agreements, our best will become better than it used to be. So we are called to always do our best in practicing the first three agreements – being impeccable with our word, don’t take anything personally, and don’t make assumptions. At first, this sounds like a source of stress, this thinking we must do our best at all times, especially for those of us who battle with a tendency toward perfectionism.
But here’s what he says about doing our best:
We must accept that “our best” changes from day to day, from hour to hour. It ebbs and flows with our mood, with the state of our health, with countless other factors. He says we often stress ourselves out by trying to do more than our best. Intentionally doing less than our best leaves us feeling guilty and frustrated, but overdoing things simply depletes our energy and keeps us from accomplishing our goals.
And if you are one of those people that takes everything seriously and turns this inward, take a deep breath and be gentle with yourself. We need to remember that this is not about perfection, it’s about progress. So the real question for us in regards to this practice, or any other practice is, “Where are we now?” Not compared to our neighbor, but where are we now in how we handle ourselves in difficult situations and conflict and challenge and joy and opportunity? Where are we with that now, compared with where we were a month ago? Six months ago? A year ago? Our own Personal Best.
It’s important in our daily practice for us to always do our best. No matter what. Whether it’s a small challenge or not so small challenge. No matter what the circumstances might be. Even if we think the people around us don’t deserve our doing our best. Doing your best, no matter what. That means we don’t say, I will do my best when I get another job. Or when I meet someone else. It means right here and now. In the job I am already in, in the relationships I am already in.
Isn’t it interesting that we start a new relationship doing our best and that is called courting? And then there is the honeymoon – where we put our best forward physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. And then at some point in time there is a time when we get lazy…. We say well, I’ll do my best when she is more loving and affectionate. Or I’ll do my best when he listens to me. Or I’ll do my best when…. well, not until they change. Any one relate to that?
Whatever we do, we must strive to do our best, because when we always do our best, we help ourselves grow spiritually and then we’re better equipped to handle our next challenge. The truth is Yes; some days we are going to feel better than others. But it is important for us to do our personal best – the best we can do at that moment.
Doing our best means taking action. It means setting an intention or goal, putting our attention on that intention and then practicing. You know, the fifth basic Unity principle is putting into action the truths that we know. It’s good to study and to have an intellectual understanding of spiritual truth, but knowing the truth doesn’t change our lives – putting what we know into practice is what changes.
Don Miguel says, Action is about living fully. Inaction denies life. God is life in action. Every action becomes a ritual honoring God. We are an individual expression of God. We honor that by doing our best.
I’m convinced that the way of God is not about perfection, the way of God is about authenticity. It’s about showing up as all of who we are.
The way of God means waking up to our God consciousness. And when we do that we become spiritual warriors, showing up with the courage to create the life that we want to live. When we are committed to leading our lives from God Consciousness we possess the spiritual courage to look at what’s not working in our lives and to make changes. When we live from God consciousness, we will always do our best.
Don Miguel says you can only be you when you do your best. When you don’t do your best, you are denying yourself the right to be you. You express your divinity by being alive and loving yourself and others.
Doing my best means being open and available to Spirit, reaching for the way of God in every area of my life. If I’m looking to leap into the unknown, or I’m thrust into the unknown, doing my best is saying, Here I am, God, move through me. Because it’s in that place that there’s divine wisdom, divine power, divine love, divine wholeness.
SO, there you have it…4 ways we can all use to continue on our Spiritual Journey. Be Impeccable With Your Word; Don’t Take Anything Personally; Don’t Make Assumptions; & Always Do Your Best. Simple but not easy; still very helpful for us all to be the best representation of the Christ within, expressing as ourselves.