Thursday, September 19, 2013


The Four Agreements - 

15th Anniversary Illustrated Edition

Paraphrasing Don Miguel Ruiz, a Toltec spiritual teacher and author of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Forgiveness is about letting go — it does not mean you have to accept what has happened; it’s about understanding what’s done is done and moving past it so you don’t continue hurting yourself over what has happened. You need to love yourself to forgive yourself.

We punish ourselves thousands of times for the same mistakes and the same harsh judgments — 

Well, ain't that the truth.

The truth is hard to hear and I need to hear that phrase again: "moving past it so you don’t continue hurting yourself over what has happened."  It's a powerful message.  Even knowing that holding on to the past is compromising the present — why is it so hard to forgive?  

At this late stage, I'm beginning to understand that there might be a different approach to "forgiveness" than the one I've always held.  Instead of the blanket "let-bygones-be-bygones"  (which doesn't sit well with me) it may be less about forgiving the other person and more about letting go of what's inside me — giving the send-off to the feelings that prevail within and the harsh judgments I keep dispensing upon myself. 

How do we stop the judging, critical voice that badgers and beats us and keeps me awake night after night?  One of the guests on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, (I think it was Michael Singer said we must work at finding inner silence between our thoughts so your mind isn't controlled by your thoughts.  So at night while I'm lying in bed and the negative stuff is swirling around on repeat-repeat-repeat, I imagine the top of my head flips open (like a hinged flip-top lid) and I will the negative thought to drift upward, out of my head and off into the atmosphere.  It's a powerful image and it works!  At least for the moment.

Between CBS Sunday Morning and Super Soul Sunday, I get a strong dose of the cultural and the spiritual and I soak up what Oprah's viewers have to say about guest Don Miguel Ruiz' four agreements.  Here's what I heard:

Be Impeccable With Your Word — Be deliberate and thoughtful about everything you say; say it with intention that you support with action.  If you are impeccable with yourself it will change everything around you.

Don't Take Anything Personally — You are never responsible for the actions of others, you are only responsible for YOU; we make the assumption that everything is about ME but everybody is only a secondary character in someone else’s life.  Stand in your own truth.

Don't Make Assumptions — Making assumptions creates drama because we don’t have the courage to ask what someone else is thinking/feeling, because people don’t see the world the way we do. And the assumption that may get us into the worst trouble is assuming if people love us, they should know what we want or how we feel.   With very few exceptions, people don't see the world the way you do.

Always Do Your Best — The first three agreements focus on what's in our mind but this agreement is about taking action and sharing that with others.  Your best is all you can do, and if you’re doing that it should take off all the pressure because — no matter what the result, you did your best.

If I look at these I know the work I have to do is with agreements two and three: Don't Take Anything Personally and Don't Make Assumptions.

I take everything personally.  My friend Susan just said to me, "You know when people say, 'It's not personal' ?  It IS personal — it's ALL personal!" and I do feel that way.  But it certainly gets me in trouble because I view the world through this lens.  How can that change?  

I grew up in a family where I was overlooked because everything else was a disaster and I was not.  From a very young age I tried desperately to be on a good track, doing well in school, following the rules.  I thought this way would garner me the attention and love I craved.  But it didn't work.  The negative behaviors, the bad things happening within my family got all the attention — there was no time and no energy left for those being good or doing good.  Try as I might, I just couldn't get them to pay attention to me.  They were running around putting out fire after fire, trying to survive one crisis after another.  But at the time, all I could feel was that they weren't paying any attention to me. That I wasn't important enough or good enough or something enough that made me someone of value in their eyes.

Even knowing now what I know about the tumultuous life my parents were living — the challenges they faced with my always-in-trouble brother, my father's violent temper and continuous health issues, their precarious and ever-present financial instability — when you're little and no one in your family pays you any attention — it's personal.


  1. I always felt that you were an extra special person in your family. I felt that way about Donna as well. I am sorry that you didn't feel what my family felt for you. I guess that we did not project our feelings as well as we could have. I was always at my sister's side, and whether or not you felt that, didn't matter, as long as she had someone to lean on. We all go thru disappointments, heartaches and some can't be resolved because there is no solution. So take heart and enjoy what you can. From someone who loves you.

    1. Thank you very much for sharing that love and warmth which helps me accept what cannot be resolved. I am very grateful and will enjoy all that I have---including the friendship of you & your sister.

  2. And to all those good guidance points one might add:
    Accept imperfection
    [not that one has any choice]
    But accept that, as the man said, ‘most things break.’
    And always remember we have to use the imperfect, inadequate mind and the imperfect self as our guides to understanding the mind, one’s self.

  3. I loved this post and I can't wait to read the book you mention here.

  4. Being in your home, being with your family, I can see why you wrote what you wrote. But I think the key is that they did love you and because you didn't require all the extra attention, they loved you even more. Your mom was a warm person. Your dad was in a funnel cloud. Sorry. It is what it is. But they did something very right because LOOK AT YOU! You made the right choices. Unlike the male in your family. Again, it is what it is. Love ya!