Timely Reminder

When is it not a good time for a refresher course in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements?

Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally: 
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions: 
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best: 
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Photo ©2018, Jen Payne. Text from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz.

On the Agreement of Miguel Ángel Ruiz

respite2

He tells me not to take anything personally.

It is so important that he carved it into stone using only the pinpoint precision of poetry.

At least it reads like poetry:

Do not take anything personally.
Nothing anyone does is because of you.
What others say and do is a projection of dreams.
Their own dreams.
Be immune – to opinions and actions.
To suffering.

I fold his prescription into origami and hang it from golden thread around my neck so it taps gently against my heart when I walk.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?

Do not take anything personally.

Why is this so hard to remember?
Why do we suffer the slings and arrows?
The sticks and stones that hurt — and they do hurt.

If you take them personally.

If you let them pierce your skin,
punctuate your heart with too many commas,
deflate your voice to a whisper.

Your heart deserves exclamations points!
And your voice should be a thundering
that shouts the message from rooftops:

Do not take anything personally.


WORDS ©2014, Jen Payne, with gratitude to Miguel Ángel Ruiz and The Four Agreements.

Friday Gratitude

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Today I am grateful for the refresher course in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. These simple statements create a ripple effect of understanding, compassion and grace, both internally and externally, as we lead by example.

Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally: 
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions: 
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best: 
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

• • •

Text from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Photo by Swiftblue. Please click here to see more of his stunning photography, including this one: a small Buddhist statute of a monk in prayer. This photo was taken at Hase-dera, a temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan.

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Yoga Week One: It Will Come

yo-ga noun /ˈyōgə/

A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation

rule

On Friday, I attended week one of a six-week Gentle Yoga class being offered at a local women’s center.

I was apprehensive — the morning had already proven itself to be daunting, and it wasn’t even 9:00! “Maybe yoga is exactly what you need,” a friend emailed in response to my reservations.

On the drive to class, I reminded myself:

this is your first attempt at yoga, you’re not supposed to know how to do it yet

you have six weeks to learn this, don’t be too hard on yourself

just breathe

I am too hard on myself. Ask anyone who has witnessed me in the throes of learning something new. There are moments I swear my head spins all the way around—my alter-ego at her worst!

So I’m practicing not. Not worrying. Not being too hard on myself. Not taking on or taking in things I cannot change. Actually, there are a lot of new things I am practicing lately, and they remind me a lot of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.

Perhaps my friend is right — yoga is exactly what I need.

Our instructor has been teaching us about breathing—breathing in fully through the throat, rib cage, belly, pelvic bone. I get half way and wonder: breathe through my pelvic bone?

Breathe out, she tells us — exhale from the pelvic bone to the belly to the rib cage to the throat. I get half way again, thinking: I can’t even feel my pelvic bone.

We, this class of 15 fascinating women and I, do this several times.

B
r
e
a
t
h
e

I
n

B
r
e
a
t
h
e

O
u
t

I don’t know if I am doing it right: throat, rib cage, belly, pelvic bone.

I’m pretty sure I’m not.

I might not even be breathing at all, really.

The pelvic bone thing throws me.

But it’s OK.

this is your first attempt at yoga, you’re not supposed to know how to do it yet

you have six weeks to learn this, don’t be too hard on yourself

just breathe

The instructor asks “How does that feel, is everyone getting it?”

I make eye contact and let her know “kind of but not really.”

So, she teaches us again. Breathe in one two three four. Breathe out one two three four.

“How does that feel now?” she asks, looking at me.

“I’m still not sure I get it” I shrug.

“It’s OK, it will come,” she tells the class while her eyes reassure me.

“I know,” I nod. “I know.”

just breathe

• • •

Image courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Library. Ruth St. Denis in The Yogi. (1906-1907). Ruth St. Denis (January 20, 1879 – July 21, 1968) was an early modern dance pioneer.

SEE ALSO:
Yoga Week One: It Will Come
Yoga Week Two: When Yoga is Only Part of the Big Picture
Yoga Week Three: Applying Stillness
Yoga Week Four: Still There is Joy
Yoga Week Five: Loving Kindness
Yoga Week Six: In Your Bones

The Unread Book Project: A Death in the Family

James Agee + Family

It has taken me three weeks to crawl my way through James Agee’s A Death in the Family. Crawl as in slowly, gradually pulling myself through and over the dense landscape of words and pregnant prose.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning book is set in Knoxville, Tennessee in the early twentieth century. Woven with themes of loss, religion and memory, it is an autobiographical account of the death of Agee’s father and its effect on his family when he was a young boy.

That may explain the excruciating detail of the book—I felt, often, as if I were a fly on the wall, pacing back and forth while the characters interact and respond to what is happening around them. Each breath, each movement, each thought becomes a mountain of words as heavy as the grief. The story is Agee’s memory, and the slow-motion of its tragedy is as weighted in his heart as it is on the pages of this book. “The mere attempt to examine my own confusion would consume volumes,” Agee once admitted himself.

That is not to say that the story is not delicious in its detail—it is just a little too rich for my taste.

Photo: James Agee as a boy, pictured in 1915 with, from left, his grandfather Joel Tyler, his grandmother Emma Tyler, his sister Emma Agee, his uncle Hugh Tyler, and his mother Laura Agee. The photograph is from an album that belonged to Hugh Tyler, which is now in the East Tennessee History Center’s McClung Collection, found online at the Knoxville News Sentinel.

• • •

The Four Agreements

The Unread Book Project
Book #3: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Click here to purchase a copy of A Death in the Family or The Four Agreements.

• • •

Related Posts:
The Unread Book Project
The Unread Book Project: It Took 20 Inches of Snow
The Unread Book Project: Things Fall Apart
The Unread Book Project: Finding the Poetry