I recently introduced a new routine to the start of my day – listening to podcasts. I begin the “listen” while getting ready in the morning, and on most days, complete the podcast during my morning commute in the car. A couple weeks ago, I came across one of Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations (that I love to follow!), titled Find Freedom, Happiness and Love, where she interviews author Don Miguel Ruiz. I was particularly excited to learn the interview was regarding Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements.
The Four Agreements was published in 1997, and I was introduced to it in 1999. I have since read and re-read it a number of times and it sits in the all time favourites section of my bookshelf. It’s one I have recommended time and time again.
During Oprah’s introduction of the conversation, she recalls being introduced to the book in 2001 by Ellen DeGeneres, and loved it so much that she featured it in the premier issue of O Magazine. When she opened her school in South Africa, it was the first book she gave to her girls as a gift.
The Four Agreements is based on ancient Toltec wisdom (Ruiz’s mother introduced him to as a child), which is a powerful code of conduct, teaching us:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
Be impeccable with your word is the most important agreement and the most difficult one to practice and honour. The other three agreements; don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions and always do your best are born from being impeccable with your word. It relates not only to what you say to others, but also what you say to yourself. How often do we go through our day with our “inner critic” chirping (…we’re our own worst enemy), or have witnessed the amount of hurt one word can create? Ruiz goes on to integrate the act of forgiveness into this first agreement. He states that forgiveness is the most important thing you can do, and that it’s in the context of letting go: it does not mean accepting what was done to you as okay, but instead, freeing yourself of what stands in the way of your relationships.
Much sadness and drama in our lives is rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally. My goodness, how often do we catch ourselves doing this (as our life partners are quick to remind us)?! We make all kinds of assumptions, because sometimes we don’t have the courage to ask questions we need to ask to get the clarification we need. We cannot assume all people think like us or see the world as we see it. This is where being middle aged can provide wisdom – wisdom from our experiences. We have experiential knowledge, and in a lot of cases (by now), have created the coping mechanisms we did not have in early adult years to see through challenges and either self correct or come to an understanding of the situation at hand. We have found our voice on many occasions whether in the workplace, with family members, or with friends.
As women we can be hard on ourselves and also be hard on others (…remember the school playground?). We’ve been known to create our own drama, even as adults, and we witness it again in our children as they grow into understanding their roles and relationships.
Always do your best. Ruiz says this agreement is his favourite because the first three exist only in our mind, but it is with the action that we make the agreements come alive. We have so many ideas, but without action, the ideas dissipate. If we take the action, we create intention and ultimately share the experience with others.
Think about it: if you practiced just one of these agreements this week, how would your life change? If you practiced all four, imagine the freedom, happiness, and true love that could be experienced! So do the work, take time to consider the agreements, and free yourself from judgment and assumption, and embrace courage and forgiveness. Why? Because being middle aged is an impeccable stage of life, and it should be lived with enlightenment (yes, we can be peaceful warriors). And…because we can.
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