Monday, August 24, 2015

The First Agreement

The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is a tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream or your word can destroy everything around you. -- don Miguel Ruiz, "The Four Agreements"
Recently my husband and my father in law tackled a big messy project in our back yard. An invasive species of bamboo, not the tall pretty Crouching Tiger-y type, but the bunchy, ugly, yard overcoming sort that can grow before your eyes on a rainy day. It formed a giant bush that nearly bisected our yard. They spent the better part of the day hacking out this mess and loading it onto the back of my father in law's truck to take it to the borough yard waste dump. It wasn't fun, but it was necessary.

I feel like I'm undertaking a similar project in my life. We are in a season of chaos-before-order, uprooting clutter, uprooting habits that threatened to take over, uprooting thought patterns that are invasive and unpretty. It is hard work, but it is necessary. I recently read don Miguel Ruiz' the Four Agreements and have found it enormously helpful in addressing some of the 'soul clutter' that needs clearing.

The first agreement, be impeccable with your word, is something I misunderstood on the surface. I always took that to mean 'do what you say you are going to do', which, while noble and always a good policy, is not what he's talking about. Being impeccable with your word means not filling the air with opinions that don't do anyone any good. It means not bringing negativity to a space and sharing it when it does no actual good.  He talks about ideas that 'poison' other people, impressions of others that we share that others may accept as truth and act on accordingly. It is a tough thing to think about. I find myself reviewing unkind words or acidic assessments of other people I've spoken that were likely taken as truth (or humor) just as I have taken others' opinions as truth, when in fact, I am only speaking out of my own reality, as they are speaking out of theirs. I think about how bad it would be if I was characterized forever by my worst day, or my most erroneous belief, or my unkindest comment.

I have a really good memory. This is helpful in many contexts but it is a bit of a torment when I can remember mean or stupid things I said fifteen years ago with absolute clarity. And I do remember. So one of the tasks before me as I indulge in the order-before-chaos of being who I really want to be is to uproot this habit of saying more than I should and not imposing my dream as reality on other people. My mother in law is fond of quoting a Bible verse which says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. This First Agreement is very much about using that power for life.

Monday, August 03, 2015


        Repetition makes the master. - Don Miguel Ruiz, 'The Four Agreements'

Let me tell you how it happens sometimes.

You start in a place of desperation. You know something has to change. You get inspired. You make decisions. You make changes. You get results. You have success. You get noticed and praised. You get cocky. You get careless. You think you can get away with stuff you can't actually get away with without concrete consequences.  You start going backwards. You panic, but not enough to stop old habits. You get distracted. You flame out for a while. And while you do, you stoke embers of really useful things, like regret and self loathing. It does not feel awesome.

And one day, sometimes, you hear something simple that makes sense. And you realize that you can pick up where you left off with a minimum of drama. In my case, it was simply this: "Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it, Establish your priorities, and go to work" . A friend put this up as a Facebook status a few days ago. And I realized something. I have wasted SO much energy wrapping my personal goals in a thick blanket of emotion. I've indulged in morose contemplation of past failures, of backtracking and time wasted, all the while wasting more time and making everything much, much harder than it needs to be. 

In the end, there is one useful course of action, and it is simply this. Plan and execute. Decide what I want, decide what the steps are to get what I want, take the steps. Find people who will kick you in the right direction if you get off course. Listen to them. I consider myself lucky because I found a community in DDP Yoga that is wall to wall with people who have overcome limitations I can't even imagine to improve their lives and health. This is a no BS no excuses community. I'm thankful to be a part of it. 

In the spirit of that community, without apology or excuse, I am back on track, back on task, and doing what needs to be done one day at a time.