The Stories we write.., in our heads!

Almost twenty years ago my sister graced me with a book that would change the way I interact with the world around me – “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. This incredibly short profound book opened my eyes to the ways we sabotage ourselves every day. I read it, then re-read it, and continue to open its worn pages to again digest its wisdom.

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I’m a Buddhist, so one of my biggest beliefs is, ‘Everything changes, don’t take it personally. ~Alan Ball

Today I am only going to chat about one of the four agreements, this is a bit challenging for they are all intertwined with one another – however in my life experience this one is such a main root cause to so much pain and misunderstanding. The Four Agreements are as follows:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best

If I was still teaching junior high language arts, this book would be a part of the curriculum every year, for once you embrace these teachings as a way of life, so much grief and relationship drama is completely avoided.

Today I want to talk about the second agreement – “Don’t take anything personally” – whew is this a huge monster in the room and not just in our close relationships, watch a political debate, or observe your next business meeting, or family gathering, you get the idea; not a day goes by that I do not observe or hear this happening between people.

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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. Don Miguel Ruiz

A recent personal example that I can share is on a previous blog my opening paragraph states – “Was it written on my forehead? Could everyone see the truth? Was I bad person? Had I failed again? How do I tell my kids? My friends? My Family? Ugh…especially the latter group, for I had always been the misfit here, the “black sheep” who could “not succeed”. The last line is in reference to me telling my family that I had lost my job “again”. As a daughter and sibling I was choosing to take personal the compassionate and caring comments of my family, writing my own story about their worried helpful ways. It was/is a story that stems from my own self-talk – “I am not a success like my brother, dad, sisters? I can’t keep a long term job like everyone else in my family. I am a failure financially because I just cannot play the societal game….” Blah..Blah..Blah…!!

No one in my family has ever said those words; they are my interpretation of their actions and caring comments. I selected to take things personal and thus write my own self-beat-up stories!! Have any of you done that? In true reality my family has always loved me, stuck by me, helped me and been there for me. I am different from my family members, I always have been – what drives me and fuels my flames of passion, creativity, and pursuit of happiness is not in line with theirs, that is totally okay and a good thing, yet for years I have chosen to let it be a barrier, a line that separates me from them. In humble vulnerable honesty this is a story I get to let go of and choose to not take personal. Opening to this change will allow me to pull down the wall to just be with, to love without expectation or attachment. Now, since it has been a story for so long, it is likely going to be a conscious process to not take things personal and thus to not make assumptions (#3) about what they mean when they share and ask me personal questions.

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My first book, ‘Radical Acceptance’, grew out of the suffering of feeling personally deficient and unworthy. Because most of us are so quick to turn against ourselves, the teachings and practices of radical acceptance continue as a strong current in ‘True Refuge’: nurturing a forgiving, understanding heart is a basic step on the path.  ~Tara Brach

We take things personal in every arena of our lives. Think about it! When your partner/lover says they cannot go out to dinner with you tonight, do you hear “oh, they don’t want to spend time with me”? Or your kids say they do not like the meal you prepared; do you say to yourself, “I’m just a horrible cook”? At the last business meeting did your boss say something that made you react, chances are if you reacted then there was a “take it personal” moment that got triggered. The journey of learning how not to take things personal is an adventure into awareness first. It is about “feeling” your reactions when something is said or done, once you sense you are reacting it is about looking at that reaction with authentic honesty – what does it stem from. Then it is time to vulnerably look at why you are taking it personal, or ask for clarification (Don’t assume) with regard to the subject.

In my twenty years of working day in and day out with this teaching I continue to be humbled by how often I still take things personal. However I can say that practice has helped me to quickly identify when this is happening. Once I have noticed and identified I can shift my reaction to let go, accepting that it is not about me, or if I need to I can ask for clarification, taking away the power of assumption. I can joyfully tell you that as I have learned to inquire and not assume, I am most often delighted to discover that I “assumed” completely wrong.

In conclusion today I ask you, “What are the stories you write based on things in your life that you have taken personal? Do these stories help you? Or do they limit your true magnificence? Why do you give others such power? What is so scary about asking for clarification? I can honestly say that learning to embrace the teachings from “The Four Agreements” has changed my life in so many ways; enriching my relationships and interactions with others. The joyous freedom to be your true self buds forth in a new light!!

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The underbelly of the human psyche, what is often referred to as our dark side, is the origin of every act of self-sabotage. Birthed out of shame, fear, and denial, it misdirects our good intentions and drives us to unthinkable acts of self-destruction and not-so-unbelievable acts of self-sabotage. ~Debbie Ford
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