“The greatest progress in life is when you know your limitations, and then you have the courage to drop them.” –Yogi Bhajan
After many weeks of attempting to implement the Third Agreement, paired with the knowledge gained through awareness and practice of the previous two agreements, I am not sure that I have progressed very far on this one. The practice of not making assumptions is by far the most challenging of the Four Agreements for me, thus I have struggled with what I have to offer as far as insight gained over the past several weeks. Agreement #1: Be Impeccable with Your Word has been fairly simple – but maybe that is because I find it easier to tell the truth than to backtrack and try to remember what lies I may have told someone and when – I did way too many drugs when I was younger and obliterated my short term memory. Thus, honesty (for many other reasons, as well) is the best policy.
However, the other two agreements are not as easy to remember, especially when you are in the midst of having a knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s behavior that is out of line with your pre-conditioned expectations. Whenever someone begins to express opinions, or act in a manner, that differs from our own idea of acceptable and normal, it creates a certain level of conflict. Sometimes the conflict we feel is minor – like when they may have a habit of leaving the towel on the floor (big f**king deal). It is when that behavior strays past the boundaries of our personal core values that the conflict we feel becomes major – they sold all of your Grandmother’s china for 3 hits of crack (that IS a big f**king deal).
Thankfully, one gorgeous, fall afternoon in Florence, I had an epiphany. The more time I spend thinking about people who piss me off, the less time I have to ponder how my friends and family are, or to check in with my own state of mind. At that point, I began to implement an exercise in awareness (that I concocted over a glass of wine on the Piazza that evening……oh Lord, help us all). It seemed simple enough – when my thoughts start to meander towards the dark side of the street, I will gently guide them back to a brighter thought of a beautiful dear friend, my awe-inspiring Mother, my overly dependent, incredibly sweet cat, or my dopey ass, adorable dog. Those things are real to me, there is nothing to assume and everything to trust. It is hard to have faith in conversations that have never taken place and most likely, never will.
As I continue to face my discomfort and avoidance of conflict more and more, I start to find less and less conflict in my own mind. Rather, I feel I have less reaction to conflict and more time to cultivate awareness of the moment – which is the whole point of meditation, or so I have been told. Switching into an observative state, rather than a reactive one, gives me the ability to notice if someone’s actions are not in line with their words, or if I am not being impeccable with my word (to honor my core values). It also helps to see most of these actions by others are not personally directed at me, but habits centered around their karma, then I am freed from feeling hurt. When I attach myself to these actions from a story told within another’s personal lies, I don’t have to create my own tale as to why on earth someone would behave that way in the first place.
The more practice and work I dedicate to training myself to add quality to my imagination and sweetness of mind, instead of quantity, the easier it becomes to identify when it has strayed off like a wayward puppy and piddled on the rug. When I resolved to be my own best friend, I began to gently guide that little puppy back to the newspaper instead of kicking the shit out of it for being forgetful.