Archives for posts with tag: the four agreements

This morning is a good one for reminders to the woman in the mirror.

Still, and again. The very best practices work that way.

I’m inclined to do some re-reading and additional study this week. There are a handful of “maps” in my reading list that seem to lead me along my path very skillfully, and “The Four Agreements” is definitely one of those. The basics are so… basic. Seriously. This morning, I’m resting my practices on #2 “Don’t take anything personally” and numbers 3 & 4 seem wise, as well. Handy. I mean seriously, life, love, and even moments of apparent conflict are not “about me”, probably mostly at all. This morning has felt very much like the sort of morning on which I could so easily take shit personally that isn’t personal, follow that up with a few incorrect assumptions, and end up having a shit day, end-to-end. Not interested.

My sleep was interrupted by restlessness and physical pain. I woke once and stood out on the deck looking at the moon for a few minutes before returning to bed, and to sleep. The nearly full moon shined down on the forest beyond the deck so brightly, I thought there was a flood light on somewhere. lol

Moonlight and solitude in the wee hours.

I spent some moments in the darkness, looking at the stars, and reflecting on my life. Nothing much came of it, other than eventual sleepiness, which was sort of the point in the first place.

I finish my now-cold coffee, and look over the work day ahead of me. I consider how I can be my best self, right now, and also steadily become that woman I want most to be… sometimes it feels like a tall ask. I remind myself to narrow my focus, and be mindful that what others want, need, or expect of me isn’t a firm foundation on which to build my best self. I take a breath, and exhale slowly, and again after that. I rather like (and appreciate) the woman I am, right now, in this moment, on this day. Could I “do more/better”? Quite likely, yes, sure. That’s part of the point, too. I remind myself to be kind in difficult moments – not because it is expected or demanded of me, but rather because it is a quality I value, myself. I remind myself to listen deeply, because I very much want people speaking with me to feel heard – as I want from others, when I am myself speaking. I remind myself to be compassionate, because I value compassion. I remind myself to live up to my word, and to speak gently; there are too many harsh words out there in the world, already. Who I am, myself, is one thing that really is “about me” – and belongs to me, entirely. There are a lot of choices, and verbs, and opportunities to embrace qualities I value, personally, myself – because that is how I see myself. I know my results will vary, and even that isn’t something to take personally. It’s a journey. There are steps, and forward momentum, and incremental change over time. I become what I practice – so clearly, practicing those qualities that matter most to me, is the way forward to becoming the woman (and human being) I most want to be. 🙂

…And, yeah, it’s time to begin again.

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes predictably so, sometimes unexpectedly. It’s going to happen. That, by itself, is pretty certain. Life can get messy, complicated, painful, and unpleasant, sometimes.

…Still worth living…

Begin again. Take a breath. Cut yourself some slack. Take a step back and look at the situation differently. Make healthy choices. Express sincere regret, and offer (and accept) an unreserved heartfelt apology. Give people (including yourself) room to be human. Listen deeply. Breathe.

No, seriously – breathe.

Eventually tears dry. Eventually angry words stop lingering in the air. Eventually there is an opportunity to reconnect. Make a point to give room for those things to happen. Beginning again sometimes requires us to let go of hurting, or at least be aware of the hurting of those we have, ourselves, inflicted hurts upon – and ideally seek to do something about that.

I definitely pay the price when my meditation practice falls apart.

No finger-pointing or blame-laying here. I’m a mess and every bit as human as I could possibly be. This is not written from the perspective of me telling you, from atop some lofty tower, these are reminders for me. The woman looking back at me from the mirror is not always the person I most want to be.

I have some things to reflect on. Things I need to grow from. Things I need to make amends for. Things I need to make right. I could do better. I know there are choices to be made. There are practices to practice. There are verbs involved.

…First I’ve got to begin again.

Not for consumption. Do not take internally.

Seriously; human beings can be mean, callous, insensitive, rude, inconsiderate, and yes, even deliberately hurtful. Don’t drink the poison just because it’s offered to you. 🙂 It can be quite difficult in the moment, when we’re feeling the emotional sting of something mean, cruel, hurtful, or just factually incorrect (based on our own also very human recollection), to remember that it isn’t actually personal at all; those hurtful words are a reflection of the thinking (and values, and intent, and practices) of the person saying them. Nothing to do with you, actually, unless you accept it, and internalize it, and make it your own. Why do that? Let it go.

We’re each human. Each having our own experience. Each writing our own narrative in our heads, cobbled together from our recollections, assumptions, expectations, values – and things we think we understand, about which we generally know far less than we assume we do. Even when we’re certain? Even when we’re “quite expert” in the field? Yep. Maybe especially then. We’re human. Thinking errors are built right in. I’m just saying, it’s very likely for any one of us that we are far less correct than we tend to assume, far more of the time than we’d ideally want to be, and waaaaaaay too willing to attempt to force our assumptions and thinking on others without even asking the simplest clarifying questions.¯\_()_/¯

…We could do better. I mean… I know I could.

recommended summer reading

I sip my coffee and let the day begin. Nothing fancy about it, although it feels very different. My workstation is in the dining room, and my fingers on the keys “feel loud”. I’m temporarily “kicked out” of my studio due to a leak my Traveling Partner spotted Friday (I’m damned glad he did!), and although we’ve gotten that fixed, there is some damage that needs repair, and some mold remediation required, too. Rather not sicken myself working in a potentially unhealthy environment, so with my partner’s help, a temporary workstation is set up. Homeowner stuff. :-\ It’s hard to grouse about it too much; it’s one of the things I signed up for, right? Taking care of everything that ever goes wrong? Yep. That’s on us now. LOL Fuuuuuuuuuuck.

Friday, when we spotted the damage being caused by the leak we later identified, was much harder. Paintings were damaged. I wept. There’s still a weight to the grief of that piece of this situation. It’s possible those paintings will have to be destroyed. 😦 The pain of it comes and goes, but seems mostly behind me, now. (I’m at the “paintings are just things” stage, this morning…) To get through it, to process the enormity of the emotional ache, I’ve spent rather a lot of time this weekend meditating on non-attachment (and how many of the things and experiences we become attached to in life serve only to cause us pain – because of the attachment, itself). I found it helpful, and rather more obvious, after all, that seems reasonable, when I do feel so much hurt. Letting go of some things is far easier than letting go others. Just being real.

I sip my coffee and contemplate all the many things I’ve let go of over a lifetime – often with considerable emotional resistance, sometimes because I’ve been literally forced to let them go by circumstances. I think about the pain of loss, and the relief involved in letting go of attachment. I consider how very many of life’s most painful disappointments feel that way because of the sudden severing of some unnoticed attachment to a thing, person, experience, or outcome. I wonder at the slow progression of healthy attachment toward unhealthy attachment that sometimes occurs in a relationship. I replay things my therapist has said about non-attachment, and practices useful for avoiding becoming “fused” with someone else’s emotional experience. The pre-dawn darkness slowly becomes morning light, and a new day. I finish my coffee. There’s a day ahead, and it’s time to begin again. 🙂

Where does this path lead?

*addendum and a wee follow-up note: I’m fully made of human. I really struggle with this one, like, nearly every day. Avoiding the pitfall of taking other people’s words, or experience, or emotions, personally – becoming attached to the feelings that causes me, and fused with someone else’s emotional experience is a shitty way to treat myself. So, I really work on this… a lot. Tons of new beginnings. Tons of self-compassionate reminders. A lot of moments to reflect on handling life more skillfully, and more comfortably. My results vary. That’s why I write about it. 😉

I’m starting this one now, late in the work day, afternoon sunshine spilling through the window onto my laptop, while I’m still irritated. I’ve been in a great mood all day… then… not. A few critical cross-sounding words, delivered in a stern parental sounding tone, in the middle of my work day – where, I promise you, I am not a child – and my mood feels wrecked. (I say “feels wrecked” instead of “is wrecked”, because it is not my intention to allow things to remain in this annoying state.) It’s time for managing the mood wrecker, and getting on with work, and the day.

To be very clear, I don’t mean to convey “mood wrecker” as an entity or person. It’s a moment, a phrase, an experience – it’s not about the who, it’s about the feeling. Shall we continue?

So, I’m setting this up for tomorrow’s writing, freeing myself up to tackle this challenge right now, while it is currently an irritant. I can write about it tomorrow, that’s plenty soon enough. 🙂 Hell, by the time morning comes, I may no longer remember the moment of nagging negative assumption-making delivered as “feedback” in any specific way, and unfortunately, whether I explicitly recall the specifics verbatim or not, the emotional change of “weather” has not ever shown itself to be dependent on detailed recollection at all. It just “is”. I’d really rather not just sit around in a shitty mood for the rest of the day, into the evening, and wake up in a crappy mood, no longer even aware of why. So. I’ll be taking steps – and practicing practices. 😉

…Wish me luck…

Still, and again. The very best practices work that way.

Here it is morning. My coffee is hot, and I feel rested and content. It’s a pleasant morning so far. The day, yesterday, finished well, and honestly, it was only minutes later that I was over my moment of aggravation. Here’s the thing; the content of the feedback/reminder I was given wasn’t an issue or any sort of problem. It was legitimate, reasonable, and valued. The person giving me the feedback wasn’t the “problem” – I value them and appreciate their insights. When I got past taking the tone personally, I could “just hear the words”. Once I was able to simply let go of my annoyance with the (implicit) assumption that the negative experience being discussed is “always” something I am personally and exclusively responsible for, I was able to hear the feedback itself as feedback and value it for what it was – an expression of importance and value, and a request to do some small thing differently to meet a need. Funny thing is, it was a request to do something I already see myself as doing, generally, make a point of doing (usually) and had been specifically doing for a couple days un-reminded, for the person who later reminded me to do it on an occasion when it hadn’t been getting done! I totally took their feedback personally, which is silly since I’d happily been picking up some slack for them for a few days, after being asked to do so.

I definitely took it way personally, and resented the reminder in the moment I heard it, as a result. Was it the tone? Doesn’t matter. Was it the phrasing? Doesn’t matter. Was it “true”? Even that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the task itself getting done is important to both the person reminding me and to me, and we do both want to see it done, reliably. That’s really the point of delivering the reminder in the first place.

The steps and practices for getting past it were pretty basic:

  1. Breathe
  2. Don’t take things personally
  3. Practice non-attachment
  4. Find the value in the message
  5. Show compassion
  6. Pause for gratitude

That probably seems like “a lot”, but the time involved was minutes, and begin with meditation (most of those steps fit into the time I spent meditating). The gratitude? I literally took a moment to reflect on how grateful I am to be surrounded by people who do care enough to remind each of what matters to them, and to give honest feedback when things go wrong. Doesn’t work at all if it’s not sincere, and that’s why that step is last. Takes me a minute and a bit of work to get there. lol Step 2 is the “hard one”. It requires me to work on me.

Finding peace and balance is a very personal journey.

These things happen at work, they happen at home, and they are not experiences unique to my life and my relationships. 🙂 Letting it go took some effort, because emotions are not about what is reasonable, what is true, or what is comfortable. They are what they are. Same for the person griping at me about the concern in the first place; it had become an emotional issue. Their emotions were audible, and that colored my experience, too. I’m glad non-attachment is a tool in my toolkit of everyday practices. I’m glad I know to practice not taking things personally. Those two practices let me move past the moment of aggravation and resentment, to a place where I could understand and embrace where the speaker was coming from. Will any two individuals ever see things “the same way”? Probably only by coincidence, honestly. We’re more likely to think we have the same point of view, than we are to truly share an identical perspective with any one other person. Differences in experience (we are each having our own experience). Differences in values (which change how we evaluate what goes on in the world around us). Differences in “personal dictionary” (the words we use have nuanced meanings, and it’s rare that we take time to verify a shared understanding of meaning). Differences in practices (what we do or don’t do, generally, change how we view the world, too).

It’s a lot to take in. Practices require practice. Sometimes growth isn’t easy. I’m “over it” – I’m not mad or annoyed. I get the point. Hell, I even agree that the task we were discussing is needful, and that everyone needs to “pull their weight”. (And, being real, I often do need reminders to get new tasks down reliably, at least at first.) The hardest part for me was letting go the persistent desire to come back with “Yeah, for sure, but how about you, too, though?” Unnecessary, I think, and likely less satisfying that I’d want it to be. The person delivering the reminder already sees the task as needful, so much so that they were willing to explicitly request my help getting it done on days when they were frankly very busy with something else, and kept forgetting to do it, themselves. So… yeah. That just leaves “did I?” competing with “didn’t I?”, and taking something personally that wasn’t personal at all… Letting it go just ends up being the easier thing, entirely. 🙂

I woke this morning having forgotten the reminder, the moment, the irritation, and my temporarily wrecked mood (which bounced back pretty quickly, given a chance). It was just another morning, another cup of coffee, another day to begin again. The draft I started yesterday reminded me. Reminders are emotionally neutral, and serve a clear purpose. 🙂 It’s not necessary to take them personally, at all. It’s only necessary to begin again. 😉

Once we choose our path, we’ve still got to walk it. The journey is the destination. 🙂

I’m sipping my coffee, watching the dawn become day. I can’t honestly say the morning is “routine”; the move into this house is still quite recent, and a great many of my routines are altered, or broken. The “new normal” is still developing, and I don’t really know what that will look like, in days or weeks, or months, or two years from now. I breathe, exhale, relax, and let that go. The new normal does not need my help, it’ll be what it is once it becomes so. 🙂

…This coffee is fairly terrible…

There is a work day ahead of me. I’m struggling to fully embrace that. I’m tired, as a result of sleeping… poorly? That’s not wholly accurate. The sleep I got was deep and restful. It was just interrupted, a lot, and it takes a lot of 90 minute to 2 hour naps to achieve a restful night’s sleep. lol I feel distracted by tiredness. (I also feel acutely aware there is another, more appropriate word for “tiredness” that I can’t quite recall…) I’d very much like the day to be over, so I can go back to sleep. LOL It’s not quite 6:00 am. So unlike me.

This morning I am lost in thought, contemplating “fairness” and “unfairness”, and what it means to have a “level playing field” in life (or love). I am giving thought to how easily I take things personally – even knowing that generally speaking, “it isn’t personal” applies to most situations. Even those few that are direct, targeted, willful acts (or words) of aggression between human beings aren’t really “personal” – they have ever so much more to do with the person doing the thing than they are ever about the person against whom the words or acts are directed. I mull that over awhile, and drink my coffee.

recommended summer reading

I sit quietly with this moment, and this fairly terrible cup of coffee. I feel fortunate in life (and in love, if I’m being real). I feel grateful for what I have, how far I’ve come, and how much chaos has been transformed into order, and yes, even how much healing has occurred, over time. I sit quietly, and let the scales gently balance, metaphorically speaking. It’s so easy to become entangled with a partner’s experience, or to internalize world drama or conflict. It’s easy to take small things personally, or to make much of something small. It’s easy to wreck the experience of a singularly pleasant moment with a harsh word, a misunderstanding, an erroneous assumption, then place the blame on the circumstances, or some other human being… I sip my coffee aware of the quizzical look on my face. No answers, just questions, and a handful of useful practices. It is, at least, a starting point.

The minutes tick by. The blue morning sky hints at a hot summer day ahead. I wonder what I’ll do with it? Will I be my best self, from moment to moment, or create an emotional inferno of small shit to apologize for, instead? Something in between? (There’s very nearly always “something in between” any two extremes, just saying, “don’t succumb to false dichotomies” is very good advice.) I remind myself that life (and love, and emotion) are very nuanced, filled with subtleties and hidden information. I remind myself to slow down, to be present, to stay centered in my own experience, and in this moment, here. I’m tired… which puts me at risk of drama and bullshit and chaos, but none of that demands that I be a shitty human being – it’s a new opportunity to practice doing a bit more/better at being the woman I most want to be. So… there’s that. 🙂

I notice the time… time to begin again. Again. 😉