Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements is one of my favorite books. My friend Tree recommended it to me several years ago and I was amazed. If we follow these four agreements with ourselves, our perspectives and attitudes about life and human interactions will measurably improve. So simple, yet so hard to always remember.
panicked meltdown graceful musing yesterday, I decided to post a summary of The Four Agreements, in a blogging context, as a personal reminder and to share. (Words in italics, unless otherwise noted, are excerpts from the book.)
Be Impeccable With Your Word. "The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, you word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you." In the blogging context, this means recognizing how powerful our words are and not using them against ourselves or others. It means not taking credit for the words of another, and not using our words to divide, spread hatred or chaos. Instead, we can use our words to increase understanding, love and compassion.
When we write about how ugly, stupid or unlovable we (or others) are, these words cast a powerful spell and create those things in our lives. When someone tells us their opinion and it is hateful or cruel and we believe it, we have just made an agreement that shapes the way we see the world and ourselves.
For example, if we submit our blog to some other people to "critique" and those other people take delight in sharing a destructive, petty, cruel opinion about our blog, we can agree with the opinion and internalize that poison, making it define for ourselves who we are at the core. Or we can refuse to let it in, saying instead: "that is your opinion and I will not let it define me. I love myself more than that." And move on.
Also, when we gossip, we are spreading poison, similar to a computer virus.
Don't Take Anything Personally. "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. Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you."
I have seen this in blogging too much. I write my opinion, then someone comes on my blog, takes my opinion in, reacts, feels offended, personally insulted, storms off in a huff. While nothing I wrote had anything to do with that person. I try to be clear that what I write stems from my perspective, experiences and reality. And that when I read something I disagree with, I don't take it personally. I might initiate a dialog to see if we can share our perspectives to reach a greater understanding, but I know that what they are writing has NOTHING to do with me.
Even if a blogger were to write "that bitch, Jayne, [with a link to my site] is an ugly, arrogant, know-it-all fool" -- even at this extreme, do you see how this has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the author and her own opinions, formed through her values, perspectives, filters and assumptions?
If someone tells me I am beautiful, I do not take it personally; I am being viewed through the filters of someone else's reality and values. Similarly, if someone tells me I am ugly, how can I take this personally, for the same reasons? Someone else's opinion has nothing to do with me or my identity, unless I choose to agree with it. But we always have that choice.
For example, if a blogger writes a strong opinion such as "blondes are prettier than brunettes" or "people who don't eat red meat are annoying" or "Californians are flaky" then I have a choice - to think "I am brunette /vegetarian/Californian so I must be ugly/annoying/flaky" OR I can think that blogger has expressed his opinion but I won't let it in because it has nothing to do with me.
This not taking it in is especially difficult when we "look up" to that blogger--and why "look up" when this results in you placing yourself dynamically "beneath" them when we are all equal? When we hand to someone power over us, very often they will take the opportunity to abuse us. We are sticking our necks underneath their heels; the "looked-up to" person thinks "Wow, she must want to be stepped on. Okay." Just because one person is arrogant and states a strong opinion peripherally having to do with a way we define ourselves does not mean it has ANYTHING to do with who we are.
People are always trying to "hook" our attention with their words and opinions. When we realize that what these people say and write has NOTHING to do with us and EVERYTHING to do with the writer, we can be immeasurably happier.
Don't Make Assumptions. This is the most important one for me, and the most liberating one once I started dropping many of the assumptions I had previously automatically made. "We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking--we take it personally--then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why whenever we make assumptions, we're asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing. . . All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally."
How many times have you automatically made assumptions in blogging, then acted on those assumptions, not realizing you are completely making up the entire situation and drama in your mind? (Inner deluded, destructive chatter: I commented on Jayne's post. She did not comment on mine the same day. That must mean she saw my comment, and either disregarded the fact I have a blog, or worse, visited my blog, hated it and declined to comment . . .and, because I AM my blog, she hates me. . . and because she hates me, it must be true, and I am a LOSER, just like she and everyone else thinks I am, and nobody is commenting so nobody loves me because comments = love and reactions to my blog = defining my worth as a person. . .)
If I write "who the fuck are you people?" this can be interpreted so many ways, based on whatever assumption you want to make about what my intentions are. I hope you know that for me, most of my communications are geared towards greater understanding, with loads of tongue-in-cheek humor (that many may not find the least bit funny).
Snap out of it! If you are going to make assumptions and acknowledge the fact that you create your own reality, why not make outrageously positive assumptions instead? At least that way, you will not spiral down into a depressive state. (Inner equally deluded but more self-loving chatter: Jayne didn't comment back. It must be because she was rendered speechless by the Awesome that is my blog. She will need days, nay, weeks, to recover. Poor Jayne, I should have warned her . . .)
People are busy, bloggers generally enjoy reading other blogs even if they don't always have something to say, there is no need to read anything into any action or lack of action when you do not have all of the information. If you must know why someone did or did not do something, just ask for clarification. I have done this a few times and have always been gratified for having a greater understanding based on facts, not assumptions.
Always Do Your Best. "Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good." If we live our lives and enjoy living, don't overstress ourselves, yet do the best we can under the circumstances, we will not feel guilty.
Feeling sick and tired? Uninspired? Reading other blogs and wishing you could come up with something half as clever or insightful? Welcome to my world. Just do your best. Write what you can, or don't write at all if you are just not up for it. I have my "on" days and my "off" days. I try not to beat myself up too much on my "off" days. I give others the same slack.
Anyway, I hope these ideas are as comforting to you as they are for me. You are smart, powerful, worthy, beautiful and insightful and you possess inherent, unchangeable perfection . . . and don't let anyone (ESPECIALLY yourself) tell you any differently.