The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, are the basis for one new method of understanding our place in the world. They are Be impeccable With Your Word, Always Do Your Best, Don’t Make Assumptions, and Don’t Take Things Personally. Within each agreement one can find several different satellite ideas, but to understand the whole, one must first accept each Agreement as a broad truth. The process of familiarization is usually not done quickly — I read the Agreements and thought about them and thought about them for a very long time. This is how that went:
When I first heard of the Four Agreements, I was mired in depression and the feeling that I would never climb out, no matter how many books I read, or cards I turned. I got the Agreements down very quickly, but applying them to my life was far more challenging, and often felt damn near impossible. Not take things personally? Someone has got to be kidding me.
My entire life unfolded before me as one big, fat personal failure. I didn’t know anything about accepting myself for who I was; rather, I heaped on self-judgment, so I didn’t recognize an invitation to make my life better, much less accept this new path and take chances when I had no guarantee they would change my life. My mind was like a sponge, but soaking in concepts I just wasn’t ready to understand.
Years passed, and I remained depressed, and continued to gather information about the Agreements, while at the same time not believing that I could find an answer there. “Don’t Make Assumptions” could not possibly work for me — my assumptions were too important to my survival, as they provided some sanctuary. If I avoided doing something because I was afraid to fail, my assumption might have been that people I care about expected me to perfect, and since that was impossible, why make any effort at all? Or, if I am always doing my best, and my best isn’t perfect, how can I be perfect, so as not to disappoint those same people, or even worse, have to admit to myself that I couldn’t measure up.
Obviously, I was caught in a trap I had learned far earlier in my life, one which grew stronger and more confining as each incident occurred in which I felt a failure.
One day, a friend of mine wrote an unpleasant response to my Facebook post. I was horrified, and immediately set about writing a cutting email that would put him in his place. Strangely, that is exactly what happened to me. I sat in my chair, and picked up the Four Agreements card I drew that morning. It was from the Agreement, Don’t Take Things Personally, and the message was No One Can Hurt Me Unless I Let Them.
Well, I cocked my head to one side, and thought about how often, (very often,) sister S. and I had discussed this particular point, and suddenly, like flicking a switch, I got it. I got most of the ideas we’d discussed, and about which I’d read for years. I felt transported, euphoric. I wrote down as much of the story as I could, but I was easily pulled back into a sort of reverie, while yet another idea rose to understanding in my mind and spirit. I came to think of that event as my epiphany, and although the wonder and marvel are vastly reduced with time, I am nevertheless in possession of an understanding that I didn’t have before, one that I apply daily in my life.
I guess my entire purpose behind writing this story is to encourage others, and myself, to be unafraid if change is taking a long time. The day will come when all you’ve heard and thought about will click in your mind and spirit, and your life will undoubtedly change. Don’t give up — that time is coming.