08 Apr Living The Four Agreements — Starting with Agreement #0
The simplicity and potency of The Four Agreements are what make it one of the most cherished self-help books of the century. The Four Agreements are like foundational tools: the hammer, screwdriver, wrench, and pliers of inner transformation. But despite their simplicity, The Four Agreements can be surprisingly challenging to live by.
Take the second agreement, Don’t Take Anything Personally. Over my almost twenty years of studying and teaching with don Miguel Ruiz, the question I most often hear is: “How do I not take things personally?”
The answer to this question, and of how to truly live each of The Four Agreements – Be Impeccable with Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, and Always Do Your Best – begins with a secret.
I call this secret Agreement #0: Don’t Use The Four Agreements Against Yourself.
The problem, as I see it, with all self-help books is this: Our inner critic, or judge and victim, peers over our shoulder and reads every word right along with us. If we are not paying attention our judge and victim, or what the Toltec call “the parasite,” then can use any teaching, even something as powerful as The Four Agreements, as a way to punish or find fault, rather than as a way to support our path to freedom.
Imagine that you read The Four Agreements and are so inspired by the teachings that you make the decision to never take anything personally again. You are so excited to start life fresh, to release caring what other people think or say, and to live your own dream. Yes!
Then you walk out your front door, and within a short amount of time you take something personally. Inevitably, someone rudely cuts you off in traffic. A friend calls and is upset with you. The boss doesn’t like your idea. You get triggered by your parents or children.
Ah, so many ways to take things personally…. But now you have made the agreement: I’m not supposed to take anything personally. What do you do next?
Here is where we start to use the teachings against ourselves. We often judge, feel ashamed, feel overwhelmed, and/or get angry with ourselves when we make a new agreement, but can’t yet live by it. This dampens our energy and our enthusiasm, and starts a cycle of self-punishment and frustration.
Not so much fun.
When we start to use the teachings to support ourselves, we know that embodying a new agreement takes time. It is our compassionate witnessing of our behaviors and patterns that allows us to stay aware and use the tools properly. We don’t set ourselves up for failure by saying “I’m never going to take anything personally again.” Instead we say, “I am going to do my best to not take anything personally.” And then we use our awareness to be really curious about what the next thing is that we will take personally.
When we start at Agreement #0, we consciously create the toolbox that holds The Four Agreements with patience, compassion, perseverance, and self-respect, rather than judgment, perfectionism, comparison, and “shoulds.”
In my next blog I’ll share tips and tools on “How To Not Take Anything Personally.” Until then, practice not using anything against yourself…
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