A friend of mine gave me a copy of a book called The Four Agreements for Christmas this year--it was very kind of him to think of me, let alone share with me something that is very much a part of his own philosophy of life. The basic premise of these four agreements is not only to raise personal awareness, but to raise awareness for those around you and what that means. At this time of year, I have to say that I was most struck with the "second agreement," which discusses the reasons why people do certain things.
Simply stated, the author (Don Miguel Ruiz) says:
Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world. (page 48)
I think most people can agree that this is an important point. However, I find that agreement may come easily while practice does not.
Say you're sitting in a park on a bench on a nice day by yourself. You're watching the world around you, and you focus in on one or two people in particular that you see either walking by or talking to someone or playing a game, perhaps. For one minute, do you ever wonder what kind of a life that person has had--what brings them from black and white to color or from the two to the three dimensional?
Yes, it's true, we all get wrapped up in our own little worlds at times--especially if something goes wrong or if we are nervous about something potentially going wrong. However, in those moments especially, it is essential to step outside and see the "big picture" to regain perspective.
Case in point--the "Christmas rush."
I hate it, and I'll be the first to admit it. I have to wait in line everywhere. What I want has to be completely out of stock when I get there. The guy in front of me is taking absolutely forever to pay with that credit card. I am in a line of ten cars to park in the garage, and in a line of triple that to get out. No matter where I am walking, there are people I have to walk around to keep my own pace up. I am constantly thinking of the next task I have to accomplish and how I can get that done as painlessly as possible.
And that is completely wrong. Absolutely none of that applies one fleeting thought to anyone else other than myself. I forgot to consider the fact that everyone else who is a part of that "Christmas rush" is on his or her own mission and is subsequently in his or her own world. Since this is the case, the so called "Christmas spirit" may be an extension of the second agreement--not just that we have to buy the "perfect gift" for Uncle Joe and Sister Janet, but that we have to remember that everyone around us is doing the same thing. Instead of tapping the toe of our boot on the linoleum while a thirty extra seconds are taken by the guy at the head of the line to complete his purchase or whizzing by the "slower drivers" who are just "in our way," we should take a deep breath, realize what is going on in the minds of the people around us. Why worry--for countless Christmases past, we were all able to get everything done we wanted to. And, since the point of the season is to think about someone other than ourselves, perhaps the challenge isn't to donate money to the "faceless needy," which most of us do without thinking about why that is important, but it is to see beyond our own little worlds when the tasks on our list seem to close us into our own minds.