By : Nikki Savage
In his book, The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz gives us four sacred practices that, when used, can help us to live our lives authentically. The ideas, and the presentation of the ideas, are simple. They make perfect sense. The practice, however, is a little more complex. I lent my copy out years ago and hope it is still circulating throughout the community but for anyone who has not yet heard, or anyone that is struggling with the implementation, I would like to take a look at each of the four agreements and my experience of trying to keep to them. I would love for this to spark others to add their own experiences with the agreements so we can help each other in this community stay true. So let’s start with the first agreement.
BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORDS.
What does that mean? The word “impeccable” is from the Latin word for “faultless”. To be impeccable with your words is to speak with a full mindfulness. It is having integrity in your speech. Simple. Seems almost obvious. Something we all, just in being good humans, would naturally try to do, right? I mean I always to this. So long as we aren’t counting when I’m in really bad traffic, in a bottleneck shopping cart jam up in the dairy section, when I’m putting together Ikea furniture, or when anyone or anything gets on my last nerve. Okay, impeccable speech, it’s simple but not easy.
I wrote in a previous post (“Speech and Breathwork and Why Kindness Matters”) about how I view our speech as audible prana. Prana is Sanskrit for “life-force”. Its flow is linked with our breath and yogic breathwork is designed to stimulate and direct that flow for different purposes. Our speech is really just our breath made perceptible to others. It is our life force being expressed using the precious element of air. With this view, it is much easier for me to be a careful steward of my words.
I realize that may sound extreme and I don’t want to give the false impression that during every conversation I have I pause and dissect every word I am about to say. I don’t. But when I feel angry, hurt or defensive, I know that is a good time to pause and check myself. If I’m able to catch these moments in time (I’m an Aries so this takes some quickness), I like to use the three gates of speech. Though I cannot find a direct origin of these gates (Buddhist/Vedic/Contemporary), it is an effective way to keep my tongue from getting away from me. The gates of speech are three questions to ask myself before I speak. Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? I find, if my words can pass through those gates, I feel I am keeping to the first agreement.
If my words are untrue, they lack integrity from the start. I would be creating a foundation for future lies and, knowing they are untrue, setting myself up for future feelings of shame and guilt. If my words are untrue, I am far from being impeccable. That’s a given. If my words are unnecessary, which I’m finding a lot of times they are, then why say them? It is a deliberate waste of breath. What’s more, they can also cause unnecessary drama if they escalate or agitate the situation. More often than not, if I say something unnecessary, it is with some ulterior subtle motive that feeds my pride and ego in some unhealthy way. Read: being that girl chiming in with “Actually…” in my most intellectually superior sounding voice. Or it is to nervously fill the silence because I’m feeling overly self-conscious. A habit I am consciously working on breaking. If I’m only saying something to serve my own ego or saying something completely meaningless to cover my awkwardness, then I am, again, not being impeccable with my words. To speak unnecessarily anymore feels disingenuous so I try not to do it.
Once they pass those two gates, there is one more. This is the gate that usually checks my anger. When I’m mad, I get a little more liberal on what I let pass through the “necessary gate”. So if I do happen to find it necessary to let someone know exactly what I’m thinking of them in a heated moment, the kindness gate usually shuts that down. If my words are unkind, I am not speaking with integrity. As delicious as unkind words can taste on an angry tongue, I know most often their only purpose is to hurt. Even if these words are to hurt back they aren’t right. In these cases, I look at my words as an energetic exchange. Do I want to invest my energy, my breath, my audible prana in generating more ugliness in the world? This one can be a little trickier as sometimes the truth needs to be told and sometimes the truth is unkind. So with this gate, it is more about the place I am speaking from. Sometimes the words can pass through this gate even if I know they won’t be perceived as nice. When I find myself in that position, where the truth is just going to have to hurt, I see the gate as being a bit smaller. I have to drop the big ego attitude, the spiteful anger, the bitter resentment or whatever else may surround the less than kind words. And I need to surround these words instead with love so they can slip through.
I don’t always get this right. I’m a work in progress and I’m finding I always will be. Each new moment presents new experiences to navigate. Honestly, old moments don’t hit me the same way as I keep changing either. But I know as I evolve, I want to grow towards my source. I don’t want my speech to be a drag on my growth. So I agree to speak without blame, judgment, hate, or deceit. I agree to not be wasteful with my words. I agree to allow my words to reflect my life. And I strive to live with full integrity.
How do understand this agreement? How do/will you incorporate this principle in your life? If you already have agreed to be impeccable with your speech, what techniques have helped you stay true to this agreement?
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