Monday, August 20, 2018

Book Challenge Day #2: The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements
There is something dangerous about gaining awareness: it can bite you when you forget.

Recently I met a woman who pushed ALL my buttons. Within minutes of meeting her, I had several valid reasons for not liking her. I won’t bother listing them as they don't pertain to this insight and probably aren't even true.

Yesterday morning, sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops, a vendedora came in with load of bags and other bright, colorful items, as well as her two, very cute, children. I’ve bought several things from her in the past, but this morning I didn’t need anything. 
We exchanged pleasantries as much as two people can without a shared language. Then, she pulled out a piece of paper, handwritten in English, obviously by someone else, describing her situation and why she needed money. The note encouraged the reader to be generous. It was a touching note and at the bottom, it was signed by the woman I recently met, whom I had written off and talked unkindly about to others.

I contributed some pesos to the mother, but it didn’t wipe away the guilt I felt about judging someone so harshly AND indulging in unkind conversation about her.

As I sat there, I thought of the Four Agreements, principles I have worked on for years, and obviously still need to continue working on. After reviewing them again, it was clear I was out of sync on at least three, and maybe all, of them:
  1. I wasn’t impeccable with my word. It was bad enough that I judged her so harshly but I spoke to others about my feelings as if they were the reality of who she is.
  2. I took things personally. The woman and I had a small exchange that I definitely took personally and felt offended.
  3. I made assumptions. I assumed many things about this woman and judged her harshly.
  4. I didn't do my best to be kind, and fell far short on one of my core values.
    How fortunate I was to have this interaction that held up a mirror that helped me see an unflattering view of myself. A Facebook friend shared a quote from John O’Donohue that likens us to a tower of windows. Moving to a different window shifts our perspective.

    Today I am choosing to move to a window that reminds me that what I see in others is not who they are, but rather a projection of who I am.

    Thankfully, today is another day.

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    1. What a powerful post Joyce. Filled with humility and a whole bunch of our shared human condition. Much love.

    2. Thanks for reminding us, Joyce.

      I think it may have been an Alicia Ostriker poem, that quote about the windows you were thinking of.

      August Morning, Upper Broadway
      by Alicia Ostriker

      As the body of the beloved is a window
      through which we behold the blackness and vastness of space
      pulsing with stars, and as the man

      on the corner with his fruit stand is a window,
      and the cherries, blackberries, raspberries
      avocados and carrots are a rose window

      like the one in Chartres, yes, or the one in Paris
      through which light floods from the other world, the pure one
      stabbing tourists with malicious abundant joy

      though the man is tired in the summer heat
      and reads his newspaper listlessly, without passion
      and people pass his stand buying nothing

      let us call this scene a window looking out
      not at a paradise but as a paradise
      might be, if we had eyes to see

      the women in their swaying dresses, the season’s fruit
      the babies in their strollers infinitely soft: clear window
      after clear window

    3. Thank you for the reminder about our human frailties as well as our ability to reflect and shift. You continue to enlighten and inspire...