Posts Tagged ‘being’

Self-help vs. Ways of Being

June 7, 2010

In a recent conversation about don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, a friend described the book as being in the “self-help” category and claimed that if self-help books worked, we would need only one. This person’s argument was that because there are endless self-help books being written and published, that is evidence that they don’t work and never will.

I never thought of The Four Agreements as a self-help book. I think of the book Heal Your Headache as a self-help book. (If you suffer from migraines, fibromyalgia, constant headaches, neuralgia, or any other chronic illness that is ill-defined and for which you cannot find relief, read that book. It will save your sanity.)

But I digress.

I view The Four Agreements more as a ways of being in the world than self-help. Similar to Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, Ruiz writes with a stream of consciousness style that sounds as if it comes directly from his experience. The four agreements are: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. On the surface, they sound like advice your parents would give you. To live them honestly, though, one must translate that advice to a way of personal being in the world.

That’s the tricky part.

Exactly how can I be impeccable with my word? What does that mean? Does that mean I have to tell the truth ALL the time? How can I not take what happens to me personally? Don’t make assumptions about anything? Really? Anything? And that part about doing my best, well, at least Ruiz makes some allowance for the fact that there are different levels of “best” depending on how my life is going at the moment.

Even if it were a “self-help” book, the application would be the same which is why I think the more books that are written, the more information that is shared, the more we know of the experience of others, the more common ground we can find and the less alone we are. Everyone writes their book from their own personal experience and way of being in the world. They are telling us “this worked for me; it might work for you, but you have to make it yours.”

And that is about as impeccable as I can be in this moment.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

A heady experience

May 11, 2010

I have a tendency to live life from my head.

When I feel an emotion in my body, I listen to my brain tell me what emotion it is and what it means. I let my brain tell me what I should or should not do about the emotion or the situation that I am responding to.

I am not so different from about 99.9% of other humans. We all ascribe meaning to our lives, using what our brains know about us, our individual histories, and what we have been taught. It is a useful mechanism. Our brains are always working to take care of us in some way. They save us from certain death. We feel fear when threatened by people with guns or knives or a mother bear protecting her cubs. The primordial response to flee is programmed into us and our brains need only issue one command: get us out of here.

How we might flee, however, and surviving the flight requires every resource within us. So, we may not stop at that moment and consider what the threat means to us. Later . . . later when we talk about how we survived and live that moment over and over in our heads, there will be all sorts of meaning and judgments. We will have more feelings about the situation. Our heads will label each feeling and give them definition and meaning.

On a more subtle level, our brains assess, label, define, and give meaning to nearly every feeling. Our hearts, our souls, our spirits experience a sensation that we always believe we must interpret somehow. We cannot ignore the advice our brains give us. A lot of it is very useful. As my friend, Laurie, at Speaking from the Heart, says the key would be to connect our thoughts and our judgment with our bodies and with our souls and then do just do the best we can. She uses much prettier words than I do, but that is the simple message I have received from her wisdom.

Since I have been following that wisdom along with all of the other intents I set to bring my true presence to life, I have had the wondrous experience of not living in my head at all for small moments at a time. I have felt my presence just be in my body and felt only wonder at the feeling of being present without thought. Incredibly, my head does not fight back for attention. In that moment, thought is suspended and all is quiet. And there is a particular awareness that this way of being is absolutely perfect.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass