In the nifty little book “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz describes wisdom passed down from the Toltecs. This includes the recognition that our lives are framed in a collection of agreements we make with our culture. We don’t think up these agreements. We are trained, “domesticated” Ruiz says, to accept them.
Our agreements tell us who we are, what is right, what is wrong. They are conventions, like the agreement that this “B” is a letter and it represents the sound “Buh.” We don’t usually question such agreements. They become part of the collective dream that is our culture. Our society, our parents, our teachers and our employers want us to comply with the culture. We are rewarded when we do, and punished when we do not. This way we become what we are not. We learn to fear being who we really are, because not buying into the agreement means judgment and rejection. It is painful to be on the outs with our culture.
Ruiz says, “If you want to live a life of joy and fulfillment, you have to find the courage to break those agreements that are fear-based and claim your personal power. The agreements that come from fear require us to expend a lot of energy, but the agreements that come from love help us to conserve energy and even gain extra energy.” p. 22 The rest of the book looks at four agreements we can make with ourselves that help us break the unhealthy energy draining agreements that keep us from being happy. These Four Agreements are:• Be Impeccable with Your Word
• Don’t Take Anything Personally
• Don’t Make Assumptions
• Always Do Your Best
This idea that what we usually refer to as reality is nothing but a collective dream is worth exploring. We do ourselves a disservice when we believe that our perceptions are “Reality.” The truth is that we are living under the influence of what the Toltecs called a mitote (pronounced MIH-TOE’-TAY). It is a fog of the mind. The Hindu’s call it maya, which means illusion. We all agree on the prominent details of our so-called reality so that we don’t live in chaos. The price we pay for that convenience is loss of freedom and a life of fear.
Examine your life. What agreements can you identify? They shouldn’t be hard to find, because they are all around you. But they might be hard to find because they are all around you. It is said that fish don’t recognize water, because it is where they live. We take our agreements for granted, so we may not recognize them for what they are.
What are your agreements about what kind of person you are? Look at your clothes and your home. What do they tell you about who you are agreeing to be, or perhaps agreeing not to be?
What groups do you belong to? People group together when they agree on certain things. You may belong to a certain religion or political party because the other members generally agree with you about certain important beliefs.
What is your spiritual dream? Do you believe in a god or gods? Do you reject the whole realm of spirituality? Is science filling in for religion in this area?
What are your agreements about your country, nationality, and race?
Where do you stand on killing?
People of a different type OK?
As you consider these agreements, observe your responses to the questions. Do emotions come up? Do you resist the question? Don’t want to think about it?
From time to time, remind yourself that you are participating in the dream of the planet and seek to wake yourself up a little. Challenge your own beliefs. Observe that other people on the planet, perhaps those living far away, will have a different view. Practice seeing from different points of view. Step into other people’s dream and see what’s different. Practice suspending judgement.
© 2009-2011 Tom Barrett