Let’s review what was in my last blog.
We, as individuals, live in the collective dream of a family, of a community, of a nation. We, as individuals, live in the collective dream of humanity itself.
And every time a new soul enters this experience of earthly life, its people rush in to hook its attention and to indoctrinate him or her in the ways of this collective dream. Every time a new soul enters this experience of earthly life, Moms and Dads and siblings and friends and teachers and ministers and, dear God, the media and social media, rush in to hook its attention and to indoctrinate him or her in the ways of this collective dream.
And because that child quite simply doesn’t know any better, the child agrees with the ways of the outer dream, for better or worse. And in so doing, the outer dream, for better or worse, becomes the inner dream or what the author calls, a personal Book of Law.
And this process, a process driven by rewards and punishments, by which the outer dream, for better or worse, becomes a personal Book of Law, is called the domestication of humans.
And it’s through such a process that this outer dream, for better or worse, gets passed from generation to generation to generation.
Now, I say for better or worse because, because, as I quoted last week, entire lives have been constructed on Books of Law which are largely false. Entire lives have been constructed from the accepted fiction of generations of fearful humans.
And so it is that when a human stumbles upon such a lie – when an untruth found in one’s Book of Law conflicts with the wisdom found in one’s heart, one arrives at choice.
Will he abandon the lie? Or will she retreat to the safety of the lie, no matter how false, how limiting, how mediocre, how destructive it might be?
And the author answers, “If you want to live a life of joy and fulfillment, you have to find the courage to break those agreements.”
So Don Miguel Ruiz sets forth four agreements which are designed to do just that: to wave away what he terms the mitote - the hell of these false agreements - that we might reveal a new dream called heaven.
In my last blog we explored the first – what the author calls the most difficult, the most important of our four agreements - “Be Impeccable with Your Word.” And I suggested that to be impeccable with your word, or to “Be without sin in your speech,” is not only to turn from words which cast “dark spells,” through gossip, negativity, condemnation, but also to turn toward words which allow your truth to come forth.
That’s our review.
Now, in approaching Blog Two, let me tell you what a Sunday is like for me.
On the one hand I hear, "Less Bible talk, please,” followed moments later by, “More Bible talk, please.” Or I hear, “A minister really shouldn’t drive a red car,” followed moments later by, “A minister really shouldn’t drive a silver car.”
Or I hear, “A minister really shouldn't wear shoes like those,” followed by, “A Minister shouldn't have hair like that,” followed by... well, you fill in the blank. This is made wildly more complicated by the fact that people hear things I didn’t say. Any minister listening to me today will be able to affirm this weird dynamic in the chat window: people hear things I don’t say. We don’t so much perceive the world the way it is as we perceive the world the way we are, you see. And yes, so strong is this quirk that you can even hear something that wasn’t said. Ouch.
There’s your relationship advice for the day.
To my point, it’s clear to me, that in any given week, I’m surrounded by those who believe me to be destined for an eternity of pearly gates and soaring violins, and by those who believe me to be destined for an eternity of fabric stores and bad sopranos.
I suppose it’s reasonable to conclude, that in any given week, I’m surrounded by those who like me, and by those who dislike me.
And so it is that I find relief in the charge of the second agreement, “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”
I find relief in the charge of this second agreement because I live in an outer world brimming with disparate opinions about me – about what I teach, about what I drive, about what I wear. I find relief in the charge of this second agreement because I live in an outer brimming with disparate opinions about who I am.
And I suspect you can relate. And if you can’t, just open the road-rage-superhighway that we call Facebook for a healthy dose of disparate opinions about who you are.
So, here’s the problem according to the author: as part of the domestication of humans, which is an experience common to each of us, we all developed the erroneous assumption that everything is about us.
And here’s the solution according to the author: It’s not.
In fact, this agreement offers that nothing other people do or say is about you so much as it’s about them. Their opinions aren’t about you so much as they are reflections of their own inner dreams, reflections of their own Books of Law. Other people live in worlds completely apart from the world you know.
To quote the author again, “When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world. Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have. Their point of view comes from all the programming they received during their domestication.”
And he continues - see if this speaks to you, “When you take things personally, you feel offended, and your reaction is to defend your beliefs which creates conflicts. You make something big because you have the need to be right and [to] make everybody else wrong. [So] you try to be right by giving them your opinions. [But] in the same way, whatever you feel and do is just a projection of your personal dream, a reflection of your agreements. What you say, what you do, and the opinions you have are according to the agreements you have made.”
And so it is that I find relief in the charge of this second agreement. For if I allow that outer world so brimming with disparate opinions to be the standard by which I determine my success or my failure, to be the standard by which I experience peace or angst, to be the standard by which I assign my value, I can never know success, peace or value. I could say that if I take it personally, I will spend all of my time desperately trying to be all things to all people. And, in so doing, I will become very little to very few.
So, while it’s tempting to interpret this agreement as one that would have us deflect all negative opinions and saturate our egos with every positive thing the world utters, I would suggest this agreement to be broader than that. I would suggest that this agreement isn’t so much about avoiding negative opinions and saturating our egos as it is about assigning our authority wisely. It’s to assign our authority – not to that outer world - but toward Jung’s “wise elder within” in all manner of choosing, seeking and living.
It’s a charge found on the pages of virtually every faith tradition. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, it was the psalmist who said "the Lord is our shepherd who leads us into green pastures and beside the still waters."
This is why Rev. Nina Clark and I have had many conversations about the importance of answering to a higher standard than this world of human opinion. We’ve discussed the importance of answering to something beyond those voices which would reduce us, and those voices which would elevate us alike. For both are merely opposite sides of the same coin – the same coin of outer opinion that would, in either case, purchase the integrity of one’s very soul.
Don’t take anything personally.
Mr. Ruiz concludes, “If you keep this agreement, you can be in the middle of hell and still experience inner peace and happiness.”
Don’t take anything personally. Don’t assign your authority to that fickle outer world. Rather, let us assign our authority to that Lord of each of us, trusting it to be ample to the human journey.
And there’s your affirmation for the day.
In the world’s criticism: The Lord is my shepherd.
In the world’s applause: The Lord is my shepherd.
From the hilltops to that infamous valley of the shadow of death: The Lord is my shepherd.