By Steve Clayton
Here we are in the middle of February and, although winter has yet to relinquish its hold upon us, it is comforting to know spring is roughly five weeks away. Before I launch into my diatribe I would like to take a moment to say thanks to everyone who has signed up for our newsletter and for all the positive responses we are receiving via e-mail or in person. For those persons I have not responded to, I apologize and will do better in the future.
Kim gave me a deck of Toltec Wisdom cards based on the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This is an incredible read and I highly recommend it to anyone who is on a spiritual journey or who is interested in starting down that path. I decided to use these cards for a change and the card that came to me as I shuffled was from the second of the Four Agreements: ‘Don’t take anything personally’. The card reads as follows:
“You gain a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally. No spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be. And if you live without fear, if you love, you will be happy with your life.”
It is the first line that really grabs me. We have all heard it said that when a person says there is something about you they don’t like, they are really talking about the trait in themselves that they do not like. Ruiz sums it up another way: “Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system so whatever they think about you is not about you but IT is about them.”’ Easy to say, easy to read, not so easy to remember when someone is informing you of one, or more, of your short comings. Normally my hackles go up the moment I feel I am being criticized as I have yet to master not taking things personally. At such times I have taken to saying silently in my head that rhyme from childhood, “I am rubber you are glue…” This seems to defuse the situation in my head, and it helps me avoid some petty incident, as much of my own making as of the other person’s. If that fails, I plan to utter the whole rhyme aloud and study the effects of the words and which I hope will lead to a good-natured truce. If THAT fails, well, I guess I’ll just have to try harder at not having an egoic reaction to criticism. “Good luck with that!” I hear somewhere inside my head, and I chuckle. As I laugh softly, my eyes fall upon the phrase, “And if you live without fear”.
“And if you live without fear.” Again, I hear “Good luck with that!”, only this time I do not chuckle. In fact, I feel a little unsettled, disconcerted. I hear the phrase, “You have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Fear, I remind myself, is a manifestation of the ego meant to protect us from troubles of all sorts. Unfortunately, as the ego has spiraled out of control and become malignant, so too has the fear it manifests. I am compelled to shuffle the deck again and another card from the Second Agreement jumps out at me: “Release self-judgement”.
“Even the opinions you have of yourself are not necessarily true. Therefore you don’t need to take whatever you hear in your own mind personally.”
How does one do that? Firstly, you have to realize a lot of the information in your head relating to yourself is derived from the thousands of interactions you have had with people over the course of your lifetime. Interactions with family, friends, loved ones, and not so loved ones, have painted a picture of yourself in your own mind. Since not every interaction we have with others is always positive, we can develop a skewed view of ourselves. Couple that with a very human propensity to be harder on ourselves than we are on others, and we can end up seeing ourselves in a more negative light than we would have thought possible. This occurs in varying degrees in people, but it does occur.
The trick here is precisely the message on both cards: “Don’t take things personally”. Often when we encounter negativity in others, we do not know what is happening in their personal life, yet our ego will automatically assume that we are the cause of their unhappiness. (And we all know what assuming does.) How many times have we heard people say first impressions mean everything? What an egoic assumption that is! Did this person just lose a loved one, a family pet or perhaps a lifelong friend? Maybe they or someone close to them discovered they have a serious illness. These are just some events that may be affecting a person when we meet them, and although these events have nothing to do with us, we still judge them anyway, or, in the reverse, are judged ourselves. Hardly seems fair when you think about it.
What does seem more than fair at this time of the year, when we are supposed to be expressing our love to those around us (something we should be doing every day of the year), is to turn some of that love inwards. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. You’re human, you’re not supposed to be perfect. As I like to say, “Cut yourself some slack”. Love yourself, imperfections and all. This does not mean you cannot try to improve things about yourself nor does it mean you have to become someone you are not. It means you don’t have to do it all at once. You can literally just love yourself for who you are and you will find it is not as hard as you may think. When you can do that, you will find it much easier and more rewarding to love the people in your world; and, as the first card stated, you will be happy with your life.