Going further with The Four Agreements

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Don Miguel Ruiz‘s book “The Four Agreements” is a compact text full of practical wisdom that can transform our lives.  I often recommend it as a resource to those wishing to lead a conscious life. Don Miguel Ruiz subsequently added a single “Fifth Agreement” and wrote a separate book on that as well.

Here, I simply list the Agreements and then share some reflections around them:

The Four Agreements

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take It Personally.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best ( and know it will change from time to time)

The Fifth Agreement

Be Skeptical, But Learn To Listen

While the above are quite self explanatory in themselves, Don Miguel Ruiz’s teachings bring out the nuances and are astute pointers as to how unconscious we usually are and how much we function from the past.  The Agreements provide useful guidelines on how to conduct ourselves and how we can better receive the world.  For those interested in better understanding and applying them as intended by the author, please see his books.

Here, I would like to extend their application.
I believe they also imply how we can be sensitive to where others are coming from.  As we attempt to implement the Agreements with reference to ourselves on a consistent basis, it is easy to see that old patterns can be challenging to break.  So it is helpful and sensible to remember that the person in front of us may also be struggling with their own challenges.

Below are some suggestions as to how we can be conscious of the Agreements in context of where others are located:

Be Impeccable With Your Word

Be cognizant of the possibility that the next person may not be fully mindful.  

    • Most of us often say what we don’t mean and don’t say what we do. 
    • Look for their underlying intent and try to understand the space they are coming from.
    • While their words may wound, they may not intend to.  So  try to forgive the person, even if the behavior cannot be condoned.

Don’t Take It Personally

Avoid making it personal

    • Support what you say with data and facts.
    • Whenever possible focus on the larger issue or principle, instead of making it about an individual.
    • Look for the pattern or other influential causes and address those instead of initiating a blame game.
    • Don’t bring in the history.  You may be relying on reactions and conclusions that were made when you were in a less mindful space.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Minimize the possibility of the other making assumptions 

    • Do your part by expressing yourself as clearly as you can, in a timely manner.
    • Deliberately withholding information can also lead to communication problems.
    • Learning to say a clear “Yes” or “No” can go much further than ambiguity.

Always Do Your Best

Remember that the other is also doing the best he/she can 

    • And their best will change from time to time, just as yours does.
    • If they could do better, they would.  There is always a reason behind the apparent behavior.  While one may not know or understand it, being aware of this can help one to be more patient and compassionate.

Be Skeptical, But Learn To Listen

Don’t make it a formula

    • Rigid points of view or habitual application of the best of guidelines can be counter productive.
    • Being present and listening to your heart goes hand in hand with the helpfulness that broader guidelines (such as these) provide.

Would welcome your comments and if you find any of this useful, please do share it with others. 

Writing – Why Bother?

bkcover its your life As I eagerly await the cover design for my fifth book from my publisher, I am reminded of my first  book and the gumption it took to get it out there.It’s Your Life – A Practical Handbook for Chronic Ailments” was written from my firsthand experience as a primary caregiver for different members of my family, at different points of time.  I have spent over a month outside the general ward of a government hospital, because my brother’s brain injury did not allow him to be moved.  The year of paralysis after that.  Asthma attacks and heart attacks.   Kidney failure.  The list is long.  The experience deep and lasting.  I have interacted with patients and families from different walks of life.  From diverse strata of life.  That is where I learnt how to listen.  Because that is all that you can do in those situations.  To offer platitudes would be futile and insensitive.  In response to all this gut wrenching helplessness and the mind boggling challenges of navigating an often inefficient and sometimes corrupt medical world, I drew on the pragmatism instilled in me by my parents. I kept learning, testing and unlearning in the best way that I could, so that my family would receive the best support that I could muster. As I looked around, I realized that most people were struggling in these situations.  Their emotions would cloud their ability to function rationally and many of them were overwhelmed by the dictatorial authority figures and medical jargon.  So I began jotting down my learnings in as crisp and useful a manner as I could. What was intended to be an article on a friend’s complementary healing website turned into a concise, but detailed handbook.  And I had no clue whatsoever as to what I was supposed to do with it. But as I started sharing the draft with others, the response was unanimous.  Every reader felt this book should be put out there.  How, no one knew. But for all my noble intentions, there were practical challenges.   I have no formal background in writing or publishing.  Nor did I have any contacts in this field.  Also, I had no funds.  With my husband on dialysis, every rupee was precious and carefully monitored.  After a lot of discussion within the family, my father finally declared, “You have to do this.  Even if one person benefits, its worth the effort.” These words have guided me ever since that day.  I keep writing and sharing, with the consistent prayer that someone, somewhere, benefits. It is not always easy.  To share personal experiences (like this one). To share openly.  There are any number of opinions that can come your way. “Oh, you self-published?”   “You gave it away free, is it?”   “Isn’t it too short to be called a book?”  And sometimes I bought into these stories – of how self publishing, or gifting the book or making it concise  – were shortcomings in some way. Despite two print runs, one translation, The Caregiver’s Manual, and the hundreds of downloads and heart warming feedback from across the world, I now marvel at how apologetically I would confess that I had written two books.  Only after “Emotional Freedom Techniques” came out thanks to Wisdom Tree, did I feel it was safe to call myself an author.  SOUL made it a little more comfortable and now I finally feel ready to release my fifth into the world. Today, I have gotten over the step motherly treatment I have given my first two books.  I look back amazed at my dad and my husband.  I feel grateful… for the faith they placed in me.  For the printers, who refused to take payment once they read the book. For the donation from a pharmaceutical company official for the second print run.  For the cover design created and contributed by my healer friends.  For the translators who translated the book into Marathi.  For the innumerable friends, family, doctors, patients and medical social workers who took it upon themselves to reach this book to wherever they thought it was needed.  For the  feedback from readers that has frequently left me in tears. So when someone asks me, “You know, I always wanted to write a book.  I have this idea I am working on… what do you suggest?  How do I get myself to sit down and write it?  How do I get a publisher?  What will sell better, ebooks or paperbacks?” and so on… I have no suitable reply. But for those who ask, “How many copies have you sold?  How many Likes did you get for that article, and you must have spent hours writing it?  How many hits does your blog get?  Do you really make enough money from writing?  Why do you do it?” For them, this is my answer. After “It’s Your Life”, there has been no real choice in the matter.  The books, articles, poems – they write themselves and insist upon being freed into the world.  And  because the urge to honour them, to reach them wherever they are meant to go, is far greater than any resistance, excuse or inhibitions I may have – I offer them to you. That’s why I bother to write.  And in the bargain, I have gained a little understanding of:

Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana” ~ Krishna, Bhagwat Geeta (Do your duty and be detached from its outcome, do not be driven by the end product, enjoy the process of getting there.)

Reading Between the Lines

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I have devoured books from an early age.

However, there has been a significantly different quality to the reading experience in recent times. I may not be able to express it in so many words, but I feel I must make the attempt.

Time seems to slow down.  The gaps between the words seem more alive.  The intentions and energies of the writer seem more available. Touching deep recesses of the heart in indescribable ways.  Triggering a knowing that bypasses the comprehension and understanding of a thinking, verbal mind.

I listen to the sound of the words in my head, feeling their texture in my mouth.  What would it be like to voice those unspoken words, own them as though they were your own?  Because they are.

Every experience, concept and thought expressed in the collective is in some unknown way, a part of your own. There is no co-incidence and if those words have come dancing before your eyes, they are singing a silent song for your heart’s ears.

These seem to be the times to listen to such voices.  To allow such a flow.

To accept and acknowledge how the world reflects your being and your being influences the whole.

Perhaps my words make little sense.  But here itself is the opportunity to give it a try.
Read these words slowly and meditatively.  See what comes through.
Now move on to read a poem – and you may experience something completely different, unknown, new.

Here is one of my own poems, “A Fresh Start”:

“I came to visit you last night
Did you notice I was there?
You handed me the worst of yours fears
The hopelessness and misery
All of the despair.
That warmth you felt
When you tightened the shawl
Around your slouched shoulders,
That was me.
Holding you, as I always do,
Albeit gently…
Giving you enough room
To move – decisively, freely,
It is, after all, your life to live:
You are allowed to run, occasionally fall,
No matter what direction you take
You can rise to your feet again,
Shake the grime off, stand tall.
For every time that you have stumbled
Or felt the dark night too long,
I have offered you a fresh start,
A blank canvas…
See – here is another new dawn.”

(Poem first published on FB on January 1, 2013
Photo Credit: Flickrninico creative commons)

You Are Not Alone

For all those who have been struggling to reconcile their head with their hearts, science with faith and pragmatism with idealism, here is a book that will capture your attention and offer solace for the doubts that may have haunted you for years.

I happened to come across Martha Beck’s TEDx talk and was immediately captivated, not only because of her animated story telling, but because she spoke from her own experience and also described some concepts that intuitively made complete sense to me.  She has been able to give structure to ideas that one ‘knows’ but is sometimes unable to spell out with clarity.  So I had a look at her website and read the sample chapter of her book, “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World“.  

Some of the first lines to touch my heart were: “Londolozi is a Zulu word meaning “protector of all living things. The people who gave that  name to this wilderness have spent their lives doing something they call “restoring Eden. The land under my feet was once a bankrupt cattle farm, almost devoid of life. This ecosystem was restored to its original state by just a few people, including Alex, my friend Boyd Varty and his family, and Shangaan trackers like Solly. These folks have already helped restore an area of the Earth larger than Switzerland, and they have no intention of stopping.

This instantly reminded me of my own suggestions in my book, “SOUL- Student of Universal Law‘.  While SOUL was a fictionalized version of actual tools and means for what I see as a conscious, healthy way forward for earth and all it’s inhabitants, here was mention of a real life case with real people doing some very real work.  It was extremely encouraging and heart warming.  Martha Beck goes on to describe her idea of the ‘Healing Team’ and ‘Wayfinders’ or ‘Menders’. If you have felt called to discover and express your true nature, feel deep compassion and connection with all of nature, have artistic interests, high sensitivity and empathy, are drawn to healing work and so on… you will fit her description.

I went ahead and ordered the book from Flipkart.com and completed it in two days.  Why do I recommend this book to all the healers, therapists, visionaries, thought pioneers and other leaders desirous of being the change they wish to see in the world? For many reasons. Martha Beck has covered an enormous amount of material in this book.  She shares anecdotes from her own severe life challenges and interesting interactions with people from around the world.  She shares information and data from a wide variety of subjects.   She provides real, simple and doable exercises for all her Four Technologies of Magic, namely, Wordlessness, Oneness, Imagination and Forming.  She describes her own experiments and real life encounters with nature, animals and people in ways that will renew your hopes of a more connected world.

What I particularly liked is that instead of teaching ‘manifestation’ laws, what she shares is how to tune into what wants to emerge.  That appeals greatly to me.  I have often felt that the current emphasis on attempting to manipulate things to meet our limited ideas of ‘what should be’ are actually misguided.  Her constant reminders to return to Wordlessness and Oneness are a welcome change.

So if you, like me, have been moved to tears by John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and have often wondered if you are a misfit in today’s sometimes cynical world, do have a read.  I am delighted to be able to repeat my sentiments from Everyday Revelations, that I am grateful to authors like Martha Beck (and Rachel Naomi Remen), for their ability to acknowledge the miraculous and to share it openly.

It is good to know that you are not alone.

Related Link:  Against The Grain