This is a profound way to live our lives, yet we all live counter to it, at least sometimes. We take another’s words and actions as personal and in doing so cause great harm to our relationships and to our selves.
My greatest teacher in this has been my dog, Bella. She takes care of herself. In doing so, sometimes she is open to my affection and other times not. When she is not she simply walks away. It is NOT personal. She is simply following what Mary Oliver has so eloquently said in her poem “Wild Geese” said is her nature…“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
My first encounter with taking things as impersonal was through the Buddhist teaching of equanimity. Soon after, I came upon Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. In this teaching lies the heart of equanimity, of not getting disturbed inwardly by the outer world…accepting and allowing what is both inside and outside.
The Four Agreements are:
- Be Impeccable with your Word:
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean from a place of mental and emotional clarity. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream, and their own world. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t suffering or cause others suffering needlessly.
- Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what your desires. Communicate with others as clearly as you can from your heart and see if misunderstandings, sadness and drama leave your life.
- Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you.
Out of the four agreements, taking life as impersonal, which is a practice of engaged observation, has made the most impact on my life. If one of the four agreements speaks to you, make it a daily exploration for the next 21 days and see how your life changes. Most of all have fun! And remember the words of Mary Oliver:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.