My first pass through the book, "The Four Agreements", left me stunned. Here were four key rules that would improve my life dramatically and change the way I saw the world. Change my perception.
I had already embraced the concept that individual human beings simply don't understand one another although I have known a few who think they do, which includes myself. That includes other family members. Thus, all people simply represent shadows to me. Shadows on Plato's cave wall.
The idea that you really know nothing about anyone else is actually a very healthy one. It creates a level playing field wherein you have made no judgments, rendered no opinions. The actualization and beauty of that is that you will never have to do that again. It is simply un necessary.
As I reflected back on my life and the four agreements, I realized how often I had violated those simple rules. It was an embarrassing and humiliating moment for me. I also remember thinking how powerful it would have been to be taught those rules as a teenager. Would I have embraced those principles at 15? The answer is yes, I think so.
I read the "Four Agreements" several times. It is a quick read, about three or four hours. In the weeks that followed, I began to formulate an action plan. These are the key components to the plan I adopted.
1. A willingness to change the way I saw the world. My way simply did not work well.
2. I would wipe the emotional slate clean. I would accept that friend or foe, I simply didn't understand nor could I possibly understand, anyone else.
3. I would put the "Four Agreements" into action. "Use Impeccable Words, Take Nothing Personally, Make No Assumptions, Always Do Your Best. I made a commitment.
I had some difficulty with "Take Nothing Personally" as it applied to me. That was a very difficult concept for me to grasp and understand. I re-read that chapter a total of nine times. Eventually I found myself accepting that. Taking nothing personally meant accepting complete responsibility for every thing that happened to you, refusing to accept a victim role or wallow in self pity, and understanding that other people are simply living their lives.It is and never was-personal.
When someone judges you, they simply reflect who they are and their beliefs. It has nothing to do with you. They are making the same mistake that we have recognized in ourselves and are trying to fix. We accept that others are entitled to their beliefs and we are fine with that. What others say simply bounces off us. Because we have understanding.
That doesn't make us better or worse, we simply have recognition.
To actually acquire and practice these agreements takes commitment. It may take you a few hours to read the book but a lifetime to implement.
The "Four Agreements" became my base operating system. I found myself changing all the rules. My ego desperately wanted to cling to it's false beliefs and it struggled for survival. I began to realize how insane all that was.
I'm not suggesting that the "Four Agreements" is the only path to emotional freedom but it's not a bad place to start. I've known others who have used a "Course in Miracles" as a reference and I am stunned at how insightful they are. In fact, I see both texts as mutually beneficial and they achieve eye popping results. In fact, the written course seems a very appropriate choice because it is done in black and white and not subject to the ramblings and distractions of verbal coaching. I met one couple who used both. They coach and teach for free.
(A hint from a good friend. Read the black stuff, not the white stuff.)
Make no mistake about it, in the beginning you are about to engage in a tug of war with your ego and a belief system that doesn't want to change. It will use fear and identity loss and every other available tool to prevent you from becoming who you want to be. We must also accept that it is a two steps forward, one step back, kind of thing.
One last caveat. In a world of fast food, credit cards, and Federal Express emotional freedom is not something you get immediately upon demand. It is a slow and arduous process to recognize and unlearn bad belief systems. Then we must build new ones. We spoke briefly about expectations. It takes what it takes. If it's taken us 50 years to recognize and accept that racism is a flawed belief system, well let's hope we achieve quicker and better results for ourselves.
Making a commitment means recognizing that we want fulfilling and emotionally free lives. We want to love and see love in return. I accept that there is more than one way to get to Denver and so it is, I accept that there are other paths to obtain emotional freedom than the one I found. Whatever path you select, make a commitment. Making a commitment means that you are about to begin the process of loving yourself. You will accept your mistakes and realize that you are not doomed to repeat them. We become part of the solution when we commit to this process. You do not have to feel fear, guilt, pain, or shame ever again.
If you think of the last 2000 years as a sociology experiment, then perhaps clubbing each other over the heads, arguing, and killing each other might lead you to believe that we might be doing something wrong. In my past life, we call that prima facia evidence.