Saturday, January 24, 2015

Five Wise Agreements

Numerous years ago, I came across a book that really made a strong impact on me and really helped me in my day-to-day dealings with others as well as with myself.  I first heard about it while reading one of Oprah’s magazines where she interviewed Ellen DeGeneres.  Ellen was talking about this book and how it made such a huge difference in her life.  A day or two later, I received my book club packet and the book was on sale.  Because of that serendipity, I knew I was to read the book.

This wonderful gem of a book is called The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz.  Later he and his son, don Jose Ruiz, wrote another book titled “The Fifth Agreement.”   When I learned to practice these Five Agreements, I found that they made my life so much easier in the long run.  These are the Agreements:

“Be Impeccable with your Word ~Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”

Thoughts have power.  Not only those thoughts we think to ourselves, but those we put into words towards others.  Are we using our words to lift others up, or tear them down?  Those include the thoughts we think towards ourselves.  I can beat myself up worse than anyone put together.   Thoughts can become our reality, so we need to be mindful of the thoughts we think.  I love the saying “You may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest.”  This is the same with our thoughts.  If a negative thought occurs, it’s up to us what to do with it, and we can turn it around into something positive whether it’s a though in our mind, or something we speak towards others.

When it comes to gossip, anyone who knows me well enough knows that I despise gossip.  If someone starts people bashing, I will immediately stick up for that person or group of people, change the subject, or leave the conversation.  Gossip is poison and it reflects more on the person doing the gossiping than the person or people they are gossiping about or bashing. 

“Don’t Take Anything Personally ~ Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

I used to take everything personally.  If someone didn’t react the way I thought they should, I would wonder why they were treating me that way, if they were mad at me, or why they didn’t like me.  In reality, not everyone is going to like us for whatever reasons.  There have been people in my life who were determined not to like me no matter how nice or kind I was to them, and it would make me more determined to make them like me.  I finally had to realize that it had nothing to do with me.  They were only projecting their own life issues onto me, so I blessed them and let them go.  When I worked with these same people every day, I had to learn to just send them love and go about doing my job.

I also learned that it really isn’t any of my business what other people think of me.  If I did something to hurt someone’s feelings or make them mad, then of course I would take responsibility and apologize.  Beyond that, I had to learn to let it go.  Rev. Terry Cole-Whittaker wrote a great book titled “What You Think of Me is None of My Business,” which I would also highly recommend reading. 

Don’t Make Assumptions ~ Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”

It is so easy for us to make assumptions.  If an assumption crosses our mind, we can ask “Do I know this for a fact?”  Most times, we don’t, and even then facts aren’t always clear.  If I think there was a misunderstanding or if someone might be upset with me, I ask them.  Sometimes I have to work up a lot of courage to ask, but it’s better to find out than to fume over what could be nothing, and most of the time, it is nothing but a misunderstanding.

“Always Do Your Best ~ Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”

You can only do the best you can with what you know at the time.  That goes for everyone.  Your best is based on your upbringing, beliefs, experiences, etc.  We never know a person’s state of mind.  It also makes it easier not to judge people because you realize they were only doing the best they could with what they knew. We have to remember that everyone has a story, and we don’t always see the bigger picture.

When we’re not feeling well or we’re feeling negative, it’s easy not to do what we think was our best, but we still did the best we could at that time. Once you understand this agreement for yourself and others, you can find compassion and understanding, and not be so judgmental.  As Oprah says, “If you could do better, you would do better.”

“Be Skeptical, but Learn to Listen ~ Don’t believe yourself or anybody else. Use the power of doubt to question everything you hear: Is it really the truth? Listen to the intent behind the words, and you will understand the real message.”

This is the Fifth Agreement.  Relatively speaking, truth is an illusion.  What do I mean by that?  The same truth can be different to different people.  Ask ten witnesses at an accident what happened, and you can get ten different answers.  At one time, it was believed that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.  This was their truth at that time.  Today, we know this isn’t so.  There are many things that were known as truth at one time, and that truth changed.  Just think about religion and politics where everyone in those realms believe theirs is the only truth, and yet everyone disagrees with the other.  So, who is right and who is wrong?

I’ve learned to just keep an open mind in all things because I know that my own truth changes as I learn and become more knowledgeable and enlightened.  What I believe now is just my truth at this time in my life.  That’s why I won’t argue with people about anything either.  You can’t argue a person’s truth because to them, they believe theirs is the only truth.

Practicing these Five Agreements have drastically changed my life for the better.  I’ve learned to have so much more love, compassion, and kindness not only for others, but for myself. 

don Migel Ruiz says “You don’t need to change the world; you need to change yourself.”  And Gandhi stated “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Practicing these Five Agreements is a good start.  We can only change the world, by changing ourselves first. 

(“The Four Agreements” Copyright ©1997 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D.  “The Fifth Agreement” Copyright ©2010 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D., Jose Luis Ruiz, and Janet Mills.  Both books:  All rights reserved. Published by Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, CA, U.S.A.)

Published in the Putnam County Visions Magazine January/February 2015 issue.


Joy Scudder said...

Thank you, Karen! Once again, you are on target. "Don't take anything personally." I still have to be reminded of this agreement. Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

For every thing I hear, now I ask, What is the purpose? What is it for? If it sound part of a situational drama and a person uses crying or manipulation to get what they wanted, I always ask myself, then what? God didn't give me any thing that wasn't given to everyone else, says" A Course in Miracles". Empathy for someone else sometimes Rob them of their own strengths. It also works for me when I inadvertently fall into one of those" poor little me" states. We are certainly (80/20) stronger than our difficulties. There is no death, and as soon as we overcome our fear of death, then, at that moment, we realize that we live forever.