The past few days have been an interesting foray in self reflection. First, I was left with a bad feeling after a pot luck gathering at my house. I felt like I had done something wrong that made a couple of people leave early. I dwelled on that for days—I still am, as a matter of fact, 6 days later, although the feelings aren’t as intense today as they were the day after. Then I felt sad, hurt, and left out from an event that I clearly wasn’t invited to but knew was occurring at a neighbor’s house. Of course, I thought I had done something wrong and am still wondering why I wasn’t included.
Then a flicker of realization occurred yesterday. I was introducing myself to a new acupuncturist, and I told her that I had published Innerchange magazine many years ago. She indicated that the name sounded a little familiar, but that was all she said about it. Initially, I wondered why it didn’t seem MORE familiar to her—where were the raves about it and exclamation of missing it— and then it hit me that it has been 11 years since I stopped publishing it, and the actual magazine itself hasn’t been in print for over 8 years. It is obviously still VERY REAL to me because it absorbed so much of my time and energy for over a decade, but how many of us truly remember magazines we picked up and perused 8-10 years ago? The magazine was personal to me on so many levels—a passion, a purpose, a success, a failure, etc. But it is clearer to me now, more than before, that it is time for me to let Innerchange go and move on.
Also, during the past several days, it was suggested to me that I reread The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, so I pulled it out and began reading it. It has been many years since the book first came out (1997), and I am appreciating the refresher as well as the synchronicity of the suggestion to reread it. I will probably make a small placard of the four agreements to remember them, but I know I can pass the book on when I finish it.
It is in the second agreement that the past several days are coalescing: Don’t Take Anything Personally. And, boy, have I. Why don’t you remember the magazine? It was of great importance to me and this community for many years! Why didn’t you invite me to your party? You’ve invited me to others! What did I do? Why did you leave early? Did I say or do something wrong?
Me. Me. Me. It is all about me. Selfish, I know. Ruiz writes, “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me’” (p. 48). Well, if I’m going to do something, I might as well do it right; hence, the “maximum expression” of me, me, me.
We want to have our voices heard, we want to be liked and accepted, and we want to do things that matter and leave a good, lasting impression. Me, me, me. But we forget that everyone – each individual – has his and her own way of moving through this world. Their daily experiences, interpretations, work, play, and influences are all different from everyone else’s, so how they show up in the world and face others will be as unique and personal to them as mine is to me. When I respond to something, it is from MY point of view, MY frame of reference. And others do the same—we are no different in that respect.
This selfishness is born out of fear—fear of the unknown, fear of being marginalized, fear of being hurt, fear of being different, fear of being the same, fear of being judged, fear of being punished, fear of dying, fear of living, fear of being who we truly want to be or who we truly are (one with universal flow of consciousness). We feel safe in our selfishness. It gives us boundaries. It feeds a full range of emotions. It defines our personal importance.
Not taking things personally means letting go of our fears, allowing others to be exactly who they are, and allowing ourselves to be exactly who we are. It levels the playing field. Not taking things personally is the maximum expression of self-acceptance.
The Four Agreements is about rewriting the agreements we have made with ourselves to move around and through this world we’ve created, and the four Ruiz proposes help us gain more personal power to direct our lives. Although “Don’t Take Anything Personally” is one of the four he offers, I suggest that it be rewritten in a way that is more positive and can serve as an affirmation. It is easier, I think, to embrace and embody something that sounds positive, more than something that starts with a negative. Some ideas:
Be immune to the words, opinions, and actions of others. I am immune to the words, opinions, and actions of others.
Be immune to what others say and do. I am immune to what others say and do.
Be liberated from the words and actions of others. I am liberated from the words and actions of others.
Be free and clear of the words and actions of others. I am free and clear of the words and actions of others.
Take nothing personally. I take nothing personally.
Other ideas are welcome. What are yours?
© Karen W. Newton. Karen has a Masters of Transpersonal Psychology from Atlantic University, Virginia Beach, VA.