07 Nov Living the Four Agreements: Foundational Awareness
In the Toltec teachings there are three masteries: awareness, transformation, and intent, which don Miguel Ruiz also calls the mastery of love. We don’t “graduate” from one mastery and then leave it behind as we move to the next. I visualize the masteries more like a pyramid. We want to have a strong base of awareness as the foundation for everything we do. The middle layer is transformation, which arises from aware action. And the pinnacle of the pyramid is the mastery of intent, which is the love child of awareness and transformation.
Striving for mastery in anything, from playing the piano to living The Four Agreements, takes practice. And more practice. There is not a stopping point once we “get it right.” The world’s top athletes and musicians practice their craft more than anyone else. The key is to find the joy in the practice. As aikido master George Leonard writes:
How can I describe the kind of person who is on a path to mastery? First, I don’t think it should be so dead serious. I think you should understand the joy of it, the fun of it. Being willing to see just how far you can go is the self-surpassing quality that we human beings are stuck with. Evolution is a whole long story of mastery. It’s being real. It’s being human. It’s being who we are.
To master your awareness is to open your perception to pay attention, without fixating, on all aspects of your being: mind, emotions, body, and energy, and to the environment around you. That’s a lot to be aware of! So your attitude makes all the difference.
Now, you are probably already a master of paying attention to a small part of your mind: your dead serious judge. To master your awareness involves practicing over and over again replacing the voice of the judge in favor for curiously witnessing all aspects of yourself.
With practice you can step back and take in the bigger picture of who you are. You are not just thoughts. When you get present you see that your judge, even though it can seem loud and all-consuming, is only one tiny part of your overall experience.
When we get them out of the grasp of the judge and into the open arms of our inner compassionate witness, The Four Agreements are the best practice guides to help us ascend the pyramid of awareness and transformation and to awaken to our truth and authenticity and live from intent and love. Let’s start with using The Four Agreements as support for increasing our awareness.
Each day when you wake up, witness your thoughts. Are they positive or negative, busy or calm? Feel your body, without judgment. Where do you experience pain or freedom from pain in your body, and where is there tension or relaxation? Start with paying attention to the state of your mind and body first, and later you can add in your emotions and energy.
Now, as you move through your day keep The Four Agreements in mind. When you notice your thoughts get louder or your body gets tense, ask yourself: Was I impeccable with my word? Did I take anything personally? Did I make an assumption? Did I do my best?
Remember: mastery of awareness, not mastery of judgment! If your judge slips in, keep shifting your attention back to witnessing, with love. Use The Four Agreements as spotlights that illuminate where you are so you can get a bigger picture of your habits and patterns.
Next blog we will explore how to use The Four Agreements on the path of transformation.
This week: Keep a notebook handy and write down what happens in your mind and body when you don’t live by one of The Four Agreements. So for example, yesterday at dinner I shared something with friends and then felt a tightening in my belly. Later when I reviewed The Four Agreements: Was I impeccable with my word? Did I take something personally? Did I make an assumption? Did I do my best? I realized I had gossiped, and the result was a contraction. So I would write: gossiped at dinner, belly tightened. Just start here, checking in with The Four Agreements to become more aware. Don’t judge! Simply witness what happens when you don’t follow one of The Four Agreements.
Heather Ash’s apprenticeship with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, began in 1994, and she now teaches with the Ruiz family. She is the author of The Toltec Path of Transformation and founder of Toci, The Toltec Center of Creative Intent. www.toci.org