I try to live by the guidelines of The Four Agreements. While they are simple in essence, they require our ongoing inward attention in order that we embody their words of wisdom.
One – Be Impeccable With Your Word – Say what you mean and mean what you say. The implication here is to speak truthfully. In addition, one must discern what should be said from what is better not spoken. Speaking one’s truth is important, yet there are times when silence is golden. The overriding objective of any life well-lived is to purposefully create conditions consistent with the greater good, (i.e. collectively as well as personally). While we are not required to sacrifice self-integrity by committing to words or actions solely for the sake of pleasing (i.e. people pleasing behaviors), we are wise to discriminate when to speak up and when to hold our tongue.
Two – Don’t Make Assumptions – The human intellect offers us many advantages. Along with advantages, there are some very consequential drawbacks. Active minds are forever seeking something to mull over, searching for activity is the nature of the mind much as a dog will seek a bone/toy to chew on. Without concrete information, the brain masterfully spins a yarn. It weaves together loose fragments of data, i.e. sensory input, old memories (i.e. stored for what they actually were as well as mistaken through lost pieces of processing or retrieval) and knowledge gained through outside sources (i.e. learning). It is then beholden to confabulate some fantastic narrative. Triggers can awaken memories of long past events, particularly those laid down in haste (i.e. cases of insufficient metabolism of what occurred). We understand that PTSD is the brain’s erroneous retrieval of memories that were hastily stored (i.e. traumatically), resulting in memory retrieval at the suggestion of something even remotely related (i.e. being triggered), perhaps as the brain’s never-ending attempt to achieve resolution. To a lesser degree, we each are triggered by unresolved events of the past, (i.e. feeling rejected, abandoned, or judged as “not enough”). These emotional traps cause us to conjure up new scenarios representative of unresolved past events, in order to reframe them in the present. Our unwitting desire for resolution causes confusion and lends us to believe that whatever our mind is thinking is true. In truth, nothing could be further from the truth!! The mind is a vast compositor of misinformation.
Three – Don’t Take Anything Personally – What goes on around us is the result of many circumstances, past and present, seen and unseen, known and unknown. We engage in an act of arrogance when we assume that another’s actions or words (particularly as they affect us negatively) are specifically directed at us, i.e. by assuming words/actions of others are fully under their conscious control. A general life rule is people react outwardly according to how they perceive the world inwardly. In other words, people see the world as they are, not as it is. This suggests the onus for others’ actions lies upon their self-perceptions rather than on anyone or thing external to their self. When we believe what others say and do is attributable to our sense of being, this is akin to viewing the sun as orbiting the Earth. People make mistakes, all the time; get over it. The very fact that we all are prone to exercise judgment of others is evidence enough that we are all prone to error.
Four – Always Do Your Best – This agreement is subject to the greatest confusion. Unless our actions are undertaken with positive attitude and motivated by a pure heart, as we are rooted in present-moment awareness, they cannot be qualified as our best. Yet in truth, the effort of our sub-optimal actions may be “good enough” at times. Is it a reasonable expectation for anyone to always do his/her best?? We live in a cyber-paced world today, where multi-tasking is used to achieve simultaneous competing tasks. Brain studies show that brain circuitry does not favorably accommodate multi-tasking. The cerebral cortex can only be tasked with one assignment in any given moment so that each additional mission merely compromises its efficacy. In order to do our absolute best, we are required to dedicate ourselves fully to whatever is in front of us. In order to apply our selves in a task with an open heart, we must be free of negative attitudes, such as resentment, distrust, anger, and hurt. Being human makes us subject to a high degree of variability in our emotional state and unless we are in touch with our core truths, we are unlikely to know when we are being compromised. We owe it to ourselves to hold the light of self-compassion for our human frailty. Our limited ability for maintaining single-minded focus in application to any task is of constant challenge to us. Still, focus of our dedicated attention merits our sincere efforts. So long as we bear this in mind, we are more apt to grant ourselves the compassion necessary for growth and evolving throughout our life. In the interim, we are only responsible for maintaining the best possible attitude and greatest degree of effort towards best possible outcome; albeit by doing our relative best at any given moment.