11 Sep Living The Four Agreements: Lessons from the Beach
When I planned my first visit to the Texas gulf coastline I bounced around like a kid for a week before the trip, excitedly gathering things for the journey. Sunscreen. Sand castle building tools. A good mat to lie on. I had visions of barefoot walks and sand between my toes, the lull of waves, playing with my dog.
I was surprised by some of my friend’s responses when I told them of my destination.
“You probably won’t like the beaches of Texas.”
“The beaches of the gulf are ugly, nothing compared to California.”
“Don’t get your hopes up too high.”
Earlier this summer, while letting the waves kiss my ankles on a quiet Texas beach near Galveston, I mused about these not-so-positive responses to this part of the world. My friends made the assumption that since I had been to some of the best beaches in the world, there was no way I would like the small waves, brown waters, and oil tanker dotted landscape of the Gulf of Mexico.
The truth is I don’t like the beaches of Texas. I love them. I enjoy them as much as I love the glorious beaches of Maui, and Bali, and the wild California coast.
As I sat and watched the pelicans play follow the leader I realized why I love Texas beaches, and why some people don’t.
Every wave, each grain of sand, every seagull is doing its best. This beach doesn’t say, “I wish I was more like a tropical white sands beach” or “I wish my waters were turquoise blue instead of greeny-brown.” It simply is what it is, no excuses, no justifications, no comparison.
If I had showed up for the first time and expected the gulf to by like the beaches of the West Coast or of Asia, I would have been disappointed. Just like I can get disappointed and frustrated when I expect other people, or myself, to be different.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have any preferences. If someone said, “If you had a choice, would you rather be on a beach in the Bahamas on a beach in Texas?” I’d go for the Bahamas.
But while sitting on a hot Texas beach or playing in the gentle waves, I don’t let myself fantasize about being in the Bahamas, or wish this beach were any different than it is. It is doing one hundred percent of its best.
In my personal life, I also have preferences. Despite my preferences, I have the choice to do my best and let others do their best, whatever that is in the moment, whether I agree with their choices or actions or not. And I’m still at choice of who I want to spend time with. I’ve noticed that the more I do my best to be with others where they are at, the kinder I am, and the clearer my yes and my no’s are.
Nature is always doing its best. Trees, mountains, antelopes, scorpions, iceburgs, forest fires all do their best at what they do. When we drop beneath our preferences or ideas of what nature should be, we magically connect to the nature of the moment. We recognize that we are also part of the perfection of the natural world.
While elephants and berry bushes and the every wave on the ocean are being their best in each moment, humans often struggle to do their best. But is not my place to decide if anyone else is doing more or less than their best. My place is to support myself in not just doing, but being my best.
When we do our best, we hit that sweet spot where we are not longer trying to be anything, we simply are. We show up for what is, bringing our attention to what is in this moment. We have what Buddhists call equanimity – a calm, friendly greeting to whatever we are being introduced to.
Take this week witness how everything in nature is doing its best. Let nature be your teacher in how you can let go of trying and simply be in the fullness of what your best is right now.
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