In the book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz, the author offers four "rules" of life to live by that will provide a lasting sense of freedom and happiness. The second of these agreements is not to take anything that anyone says or does personally. When I consider this agreement, what I think about is how everything, yes absolutely everything, that a person says and does is a reflection of his/herself. Many people who I speak with about adopting this agreement find great difficulty in seeing this as a high truth. Recently I have been challenged by this agreement even though I integrated this agreement into my living many years ago. Most of the time it is simple and clear to me that what others say and do is a reflection of their inner worlds. What challenged me is when I saw disrespect and passive aggressiveness directed towards those I love and care about. Suddenly, my defenses sprang into action within me and I was off and running in my mind with a stream of judgment about the people who were directing this seemingly cruel behavior towards "my" loved ones.
In my mind I wanted to walk over and say exactly what I thought about that behavior. I wanted to tell them they were wrong in acting that way. I wanted to tell them that how dare they treat others, who are so generous and kind with them, so poorly. I wanted to be indignant and show my obvious disgust of their actions. Because I was on the defense train I had a hard time stepping back and remembering my agreement, don't take anything personally. Remember Laurel, that all that they are doing is a reflection of their inner worlds, it is not a truth about who "my" loved ones are. These two aspects are separate and not necessarily related in any way.
My lofty desire to remain calm and loving no matter what went flying out the window for a time. I had to do some fast inner talking to myself to think about my values and that what I choose to do and say is a reflection of my inner world. And thankfully I had some kind and loving people surrounding me, with steady and stable hearts who also wanted the best for everyone involved. Their presence near me was a reminder of who I choose to surround myself with and why. I regained my calm and carried on in the manner in which I wanted, behaving in ways that I feel good about and will not regret when I look back on that day.
As is my way, I spent a great deal of time post this experience, reflecting about my feelings, about how the desire to behave harshly arose within me. And I was reminded that I have that same capacity within me that the "others" demonstrated outwardly that made me feel so defensive. Suddenly, their thoughtless behavior was driving the part of me that can be harsh and judging. That I chose not to exhibit the behavior is a right and good thing for me. I care deeply about how I treat others and what my actions create in the world. But the truth is - I am really no different from they are in essence. I too can think judgmental thoughts, can want to behave defensively, lash out when I feel hurt by life.
The wise person I talk with when these challenging circumstances present themselves seems to be saying the same thing lately. He asks "how is this you?" He reminds me that it is all me. So I ponder this. My mind creates the reality in front of me. Hmmmm. How is my mind creating the reality in front of me? Well, when I look at what is happening in front of me and see cruelty, and I remember that this stems from how others have experienced the world, then I find patience and tolerance within me. I recognize that if they could do better, they would do better. And how I respond suddenly is based on this thinking. If I am stuck in defensive feelings and I begin a train of judgmental thinking in my mind, then I begin to operate in a paradigm of right/wrong and my actions follow from that. The view before me is how my mind perceives the circumstances and interprets it all. The view before me, and me, are one and the same.
I am glad I am living with moment-to-moment consciousness about my life and my world. I am pleased that I can put distance between my internal reactions and outer actions. I am grateful that I am graced with a deep and relentless desire to be compassionate. And I am fortunate to have the strength to create flexible and healthy boundaries with people in my life. This way I am able to shift my boundaries both internally and externally to develop the healthiest interactions that I can with all those I live with and around. And I am profoundly grateful to be keeping a commitment to myself, to look deeply within and see the truth of my feelings, my wants and my needs. My desire to understand myself and others transcends the immediate response to defend my value system; it transcends my imagining the people I love "need" my defending them, rather than them creating their own personally chosen boundaries. My responding to the seemingly disrespectful behavior would have said that I do not believe that others can take care of themselves by speaking up and creating the boundary of their choosing. I am reminded that those I love and care for can make their own choices whether I agree with them or not. It does not mean that I condone the behavior or support it in any way. My behavior of not reacting reflects that I choose not to be a part of it in any way, other than a steady presence of acceptance and observance. I can look inwardly and choose to heal and grow the part of me that has the urge to judge and hurt, not allowing those aspects of myself to "rule" my world. I can pray that others will eventually choose the same as their awareness expands.
Yet again, my learning through life experience tells me to pause, to look inwardly to resolve the discourse. In my pausing and allowing I learn so much more about who we are ultimately, about how we all begin with a deep desire to be loved and understood, to be cared for well and to delight in the world around us. That when we remember this desire and find our path to its fulfillment, we live in harmony with one another, treating one another in the kind and compassionate ways each of us wants in our hearts. With this consciousness and inner belief, my actions lead me into self-acceptance, to seeking the restoration of harmony within, remembering that I defend all life when I defend a loving heart first and foremost.