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One of the most important things I have done in transforming my life was adopt don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements.
It wasn’t just reading the book that helped. It was the process of adopting the principals in the book that made all the difference.
Remember, it was the process.
The process, for me, began with taking personal responsibility for my actions. While I recognize that we are indelibly imprinted with certain fears, anxieties, and behaviors that begin at childhood, our reactions to those wounds is completely our responsibility. Taking that responsibility, and owning it, was an important first step in that process.
Once that step was complete, I began to realize all of the agreements I had made in my life.
I had agreed to be a victim of childhood abuse. I had agreed to blame my behavior on my childhood. I had agreed to live in fear of what others thought of me. I had agreed to change myself to please those who would so easily judge me.
Mostly, as I see it now, I had agreed to say I had forgiven myself and others when, in fact, I had forgiven no one.
I was paying lip service to the process of healing without ever really doing the healing itself. In other words, I was not being impeccable with my word in this instance and in so many others. I was not living, nor saying, my truth. Instead, I just wanted to make you happy.
Once I made the agreement to be impeccable with my word, everything began to change. My writing became more vulnerable. My heart began to open. Fear of judgment was replaced by a complete acceptance of who I am as a person. I began to truly forgive those I believed had done me harm. I began to see those instances of pain in my past as great teachers.
In that understanding, I began to see those things I saw as wounds in a positive way. After all, they had eventually led me to great beauty. And if something leads you to great beauty, can it truly be that bad?
During that part of the process, I began to truly love myself, and in that love, I began to forgive myself. One of the most important visions I had was one when I went back to my younger self and uttered the words that still echo in my heart:
“Be strong. You are a wonderful soul who will endure. I forgive you now for what you are about to do, what you are about to think, and the wounds you will continually open because that is all you know. One day, you will awaken to the realization of your heart, and you will know the love you believe will never come.”
Through tears, I stood beside the younger me, realizing the imprint of horrible illusions that were beginning and forgiving myself for all that meant in my life. That moment began something wonderful. I realized that I was me and not beholden to how others would have me be. I owed them nothing and they owed me nothing. I owed my experience of living the attention it deserved.
Accepting new agreements is a practice, and as such, I practiced until the gaps closed.
Soon, I felt strong in who I was and offered no apologies for the essence of me. While I once feared sharing the truth of who I was to the world for fear of rejection, I now fear the opposite. I fear being accepted by the world in a lie rather than known for the truth.
As those gaps closed, I began working the second agreement which says, don’t take anything personally. That became a major challenge, and one I still work on regularly. Nothing seemed to highlight my humanness more that this agreement.
We are taught how to take things personally from a young age and, of course, the importance of pleasing those who take things personally. This became, for me, one of the most tangled webs I would have to unravel. I try hard not to take my failures to meet this agreement personally.
It does lead me to the point of this article, but more on that in a bit.
The third agreement I made was don’t make assumptions. This seems easy to do, but when you try it, you realize just how many assumptions we make in our lives. I remember laughing when I realized that the first thing this agreement taught me was that I had made an assumption about how easy it would be to master. Nothing was further from the reality.
I would assume that something would be hard only to find it was pretty easy. I would assume something would be easy only to be mired in difficulty.
I think the most important realization I made with this agreement isn’t so much about the assumptions themselves, but how my happiness or suffering depended on them.
If something met my assumptions, I would be usually be happy or, at the very least, find comfort in the security of things being as I thought they should be. If something didn’t meet my assumption, I would react in fear. My reactions depended so much on assumptions and how reality met those assumptions. That is why I try hard not to make assumptions and not to take the outcomes so personally. See how that works?
All of this leads me to what I see as the most important of the Four Agreements.
What can happen with making these agreements, as can happen with believing in any system, is that we can become mired in self-loathing should we fail to meet one or more of the agreements we have met. Ruiz has incorporated our ability to be quite human into this process of transformation in a simple, yet important, agreement.
Always do your best.
When I made the agreement to always do my best, it tied all of the others nicely.
I don’t make an assumption as to what my best is, or should be. I don’t take it personally when others suggest that perhaps I am taking something too personally (and thereby violating an agreement) because I can say with impeccability of my word that I am trying my best. Since adhering to these agreements is a practice, all I demand of myself is doing my best in that practice.
That “best” means different things at different times. Sometimes I am stressed and feeling particularly vulnerable and I may make more assumptions or take things more personally than would otherwise be the case. I may take things personally when someone informs me that I am taking things too personally. Whatever the case, I always am trying my best regardless of those judgments. That practice truly has made those judgments irrelevant.
Needless to say, the remaking of my agreements has had a tremendous and important impact on my life. My experience has been enriched and I am able to be more open and vulnerable while never fully ending the practice of sticking to my agreements. It isn’t always easy, but it does get easier.