The Four Agreements

Last Friday the day I had been working toward for a month came. My in-person fidelity review happened.

“How’d we do?” I asked when the leader had come out to follow up with us.”We’ll let you know at the end of the fiscal year”. Our fiscal year ends on the last day of June. That’s a month and a half from now. That’s a month and a half of waiting. A month and a half of wondering whether or not I could’ve or should’ve done something different or better. A month and a half of wondering whether my reputation would continue to precede me as an excellent model of an Employment Specialist in the waning months of my time here at this facility, or whether I’d be considered a fraud on the lookout for another job. 

Speaking of that, my facility is closing. I’ll be losing my dream job and my dream boss and I’ll have to contend with a new role. One that I am not particularly interested in but that will pay the bills and offer me a higher wage. I’m secure, but my whole team is not. We are seeing the exodus much quicker than I would have liked amid the uncertainty. One team member has already left and another is drafting their notice. We are already a light crew and this just makes the burden heavier on us who are still here, especially since we haven’t informed anyone about what will occur.

While I grappled with these thoughts, my transportation company failed to negotiate a suitable contract and is now on strike. It took me thirty dollars just to make it to work on Monday. They called me with very little lead time to find another option and I don’t know what my plans are going forward, because even the larger buses are affected. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think there was a lesson in all this.

Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I began to look for a lesson, there it was. There are many pieces of doctrine that exhort us to maintain a clear mind, to live in the now, to act from the present, and to not try to precipitate events around us. While those are valuable teachings, how to live those teachings is the subject of this sermon. Undoubtedly, we have all had times where anxiety was high and things were out of our control, so I’d like to introduce us all to the Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. In the midst of anxiety producing situations, let us remember what Ruiz suggests we agree to. 

Agree to be impeccable with your word

It can be too easy in the midst of an anxiety producing situation to stumble into pessimistic thoughts and words about the situation. But this does not serve us and can sap our energy and can produce greater amounts of anxiety. Without meaning to, we can spiral into a negative vortex with negative thoughts producing negative things producing negative thoughts and negative things. In that sense it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Not because more negative things are happening, but because we are more focused on the negative occurrences and therefore we see them more often. “Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-wan. Keep your concentration on the here and now where it belongs.”

Agree not to take anything personally

When things seem to be outside of our control and aren’t going our way, we can sometimes begin to take things personally. Things are happening to us. Well that is certainly one way to perceive it. Another way is that things are happening that can sometimes affect us. The strike, the fidelity review waiting period and the facility closure are all happening and are affecting me. But they are also affecting others as well. I’m not the only one who will have to negotiate a new role. I am not the only one affected by the strike. I’m not the only one affected by having to wait for the fidelity score to come back. None of those situations are about me. Those situations are much easier to navigate than something that may have really been personal, but even so, the same truism applies. Expanding my awareness to remind myself that I do not exist in a silo, also allows me to navigate things that others may have meant to personally affect me. I cannot presume what may have brought the hurtful thing on, but I can do the thing that grants me the greatest amount of agency and that is to not take things personally. How people act, react, or speak says more about them. 

Now, does this mean to live in denial? Or to not receive the message? No. In fact, this agreement also allows us to receive criticism in the most objective way possible, without allowing it to impact our self-esteem or self concept. For example, suppose there are ways I need to improve. If I don’t allow anyone to speak with me about those things without immediately taking it personally, how shall I improve? Maybe no one will allow themselves to speak with me without fearing how I shall react. Then how shall I grow? There’s only so much growing to be done when relying on myself to be aware of weaknesses.

Agree to not make assumptions

 This agreement follows from the previous one. Just like we cannot take anything personally, we cannot make assumptions. We cannot make assumptions about the outcome of an event or the motives of a person. Like the mind reading from last week, assumptions (whether good or bad) can lead to suffering. Our base instinct is to make assumptions, so much so that it happens unconsciously. Once we make an agreement based on that assumption, then we begin to act as if it were true, and we know from last week that there are times, if we ask questions and ask for help, that we will find that they are not true. Obi-wan says the following “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” / “The truth is often what we make of it; you heard what you wanted to hear, believed what you wanted to believe.” How much of what we experience is based on what we want to hear and want to believe? 

Agree to do our best

This last one is particularly important in anxiety producing situations. To assuage some of that anxiety I ask myself “Did I do what I could do in that moment?” “Did I handle the things that were in my sphere of control?” If I did, then that was all I could have done and this worry is also not helping me to do what is available to me at this moment. If we do our best on every step of the path, then there is nothing to fear, nothing to be anxious about and nothing else to do. Even though those thoughts will still creep up and hijack our mind, and those base instincts will creep up and hijack what we think we should do, these simple, but not easy, four agreements should be able to steer us in the right direction. 

May the Force be with you all


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Thank you Rosalyn! May The Force guide you to whatever journey is next!

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