We still haven’t met on the mat, but my Yoga Teacher Training chugs along, as my excitement continues to steam. Last post, I shared the beginnings of my yoga journal. Now, I have the next assignment wrapped up: read Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements and respond to the provided prompt. This is our first dive into the vast ocean of yoga philosophy.
I have to admit, that while I love yoga, I do it for the way it makes my body feel. I move with new fluidity and breath with simplistic ease. I am not as concerned with the suppleness it promises the spirit. So, reading Don Miguel’s book of Toltec Wisdom felt a little too hippy dippy, but the teachings did inspire some introspective thought.
The prompt asked us to comment on the four agreements presented in the work and comment how they have affected or could affect our lives.
According to Don Miguel and the ancient Toltec teachings, all of life is an illusion, a dream state which man unknowingly floats through day in and day out. However, our dream is not sweet. Instead, we confine ourselves to a nightmare, a hell which society only works to perpetuate. Don Miguel instructs that only through practice of the Four Agreements can we transcend from Hell to Heaven.
The four agreements are (1) be impeccable with your word, (2) don’t take anything personally, (3) don’t make assumptions, and (4) always do your best. Throughout my life, I have failed to follow these agreements, leading to the mentioned hell like state at times. Specifically as I child, I allowed the exact instances the agreements prevent to darken my days. Growing up, I was always the chubby kid. Although I played sports and never stepped foot in a McDonald’s, I fell victim to overindulgence. This habit turned me into another victim, the victim of ridicule from other children. By allowing their words and actions to affect my very core, I ventured far from the four agreements.
Words. Words are how we communicate with others and ourselves. Words are so mundane that we often forget the power they possess. I remember an instance where simple words did serious damage on my young self. It was in the first grade. I was a plump dumpling of a child, sitting among others of ages ranging from pre- K to fifth grade. An older boy decided my size offended him. He began to ridicule me for being overweight. He even drew a picture of me, excessively round with wild hair spiking out. I was so embarrassed and shaken by his words and actions that I begged my parents to never make endure that bus ride again.
Why did this boy’s words have such a strong power over me? Because, I took it personally. As Don Miguel teaches, we cannot take other’s actions as a personal attack, because they are most likely displaying their own resentments. Who knows what the bully’s home life was like. While I was able to run home to the open arms of my parents for comfort, he may not have had that option. If I had been able to see that back then, his words certainly would not have affected me the way they did.
Once the ridicule started, I began to live with the itching assumption that everyone saw me as fat and dumb. I became guarded in even seemingly friendly encounters. I remember an instance eating pizza by the pool at a friends birthday party. I heard my friend mumble something under her breath, and I assumed she was calling me a pig. I confronted her about it, which led to an entire argument. I’m still not sure if what I heard was true, or if I let my assumptions get the best of me.
In high school, I still carried a little weight with me. Luckily I stretched out and the baby fat melted away. However, I still held up my defenses. When I entered college, I decided this needed to change. I didn’t want to be chubby, and I especially didn’t want to gain the freshman fifteen. So what did I do? I did my best. I worked out every day and made healthy choices in the school cafeteria. Through all of my efforts, I didn’t gain any weight, but I didn’t lose much either. Then, I found Crossfit. After the first class, I was hooked. I felt so empowered and energized after surviving each workout. I discovered that this is where I could truly be my best self. Two years later, I am certainly not the chubby one, but I’m still not the happiest one. Now instead of being called fat, I’m constantly told I’m too skinny. Everyone seems to want to “fatten me up”. I try not to let their words get to me, but it’s hard when you’ve been faced with derision your whole life. For some reason, society can’t let women be happy in their bodies. If there exists an ideal image of the female body, I’m not sure anyone really agrees on it. This can create the societal Hell that Don Miguel mentions. However, I see that through practice of the four agreements, not letting their words affect me, or taking it personally, or assuming they wish to harm me, and doing my absolute best for myself, I can rise above this Hell into my personal Heaven.
So, what do you think of Don Miguel? Is our entire world an illusion? Are we trapped in an infinite Hell? I can’t answer any of these deep philosophical questions, but I think there is some merit to the Four Agreements. Especially the one to do your best. That’s all any of us can ever do, whether it be in relationships, careers, the gym, or the yoga mat, if we do our best, we are being true to ourselves and allowing ourselves to reach our highest potential.