Following Darren’s advice, a few months ago I read Don Miguel Ruiz’s
It’s a short book that I’d highly recommend, but it wasn’t an easy read for me. The highly spiritual context in which it is set constantly conflicted with my extremely rational worldview and required a very deliberate process of parsing out the highly insightful pieces, instead of just writing it all of as “spiritual mumbo-jumbo”. The effort was well worth it.
In a nutshell, the four agreements are:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
Certainly good ideals to aspire to even though they’d always be just a little out-of-reach. But the thing that stuck with me most from the book was not the agreements themselves, but an underlying metaphor that Ruiz constantly uses. The metaphor of the Dream:
And he came to the conclusion that human perception is merely light perceiving light. He also saw that matter is a mirror — everything is a mirror that reflects light and creates images of that light — and the world of illusion, the Dream, is just like smoke which doesn’t allow us to see what we really are.
He had discovered that he was a mirror for the rest of the people, a mirror in which he could see himself. “Everyone is a mirror,” he said. He saw himself in everyone, but nobody saw him as themselves. And he realized that everyone was dreaming, but without awareness, without knowing what they really are. They couldn’t see him as themselves because there was a wall of fog or smoke between the mirrors. And that wall of fog was made by the interpretation of images of light — the Dream of humans.
The Dream metaphor is a beautiful one-word summary of the fact that we all experience reality in our own subjective way, and our actions are the result of the way we subjectively interpret that reality.
Not taking things personally is still a big area of growth for me. Here’s how the Dream metaphor can help in that context:
Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.
When you take things personally, then you feel offended, and your reaction is to defend your beliefs and create conflicts. You make something big out of something so little, because you have the need to be right and make everybody else wrong. You also try hard to be right by giving them your own opinions. In the same way, whatever you feel and do is just a projection of your own personal dream, a reflection of your own agreements. What you say, what you do, and the opinions you have are according to the agreements you have made — and these opinions have nothing to do with me.
I found the Dream to be a powerful mnemonic that helps me catch myself when I impulsively take things too personally, defuse from that perception, and create the capacity take more deliberate action instead.