Thursday, April 17, 2014

Global Chaos and the Freedom of the Toltecs

Toltec-style vessel/Wikimedia
These are chaotic times we live in: Russian Ukrainians want to be free from the Ukrainian government and other Ukrainians want to be free from their former President and his crony oligarchs. In Syria, the Sunni-Muslim majority wants to be free from the minority Alawite regime of Bashar al Assad. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to be free from the secular Mubarak regime, but also from the obligations of a democratic society. In the U.S. and elsewhere where income and wealth disparity has been growing strongly, the 1% wants to be free from taxes, government, and "restrictive" regulations while the 99% wants to be free from want and poverty. In the European Union, the established voices want to be free from a real debate with opponents of further European integration, while those same opponents and populists want to be free from European rules and regulations. This list can go on and on from our communities in our own neighborhoods to places in South America, Africa and Asia.  

While thinking of this unbridled quest for freedom, this reminded me of the popular book The Four Agreements, a Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz, based on traditional Toltec wisdom beliefs. I'm paraphrasing here some parts of that book:

"Everyone is talking about freedom, but are we really free to be who we are? ....We're ruled by "victim-hood" and by the 'judge" from our upbringings, education and society.......There is no need to blame others for this lack of freedom and victim-hood, such as parents, siblings, teachers, governments, the others, the enemy, nor oneself......It's time to stop the abuse and be free from the role of the victim......The freedom we're looking for is the freedom to be ourselves, to express ourselves, rather than what we currently do, which is either blaming or pleasing the others.....Being Toltec is a way of life, where there are no leaders and no followers, where you have your own truth and live your own truth. A Toltec becomes wise, wild and free."

The Four Agreements

I. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. 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.

II. 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. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

III. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

IV. 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 will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

I don't expect that following the four agreements suddenly would resolve every quest for freedom around the world, but I do think if just a few more people in Russia, in the Ukraine, in Syria, in Egypt, in the U.S., in Europe, and everywhere else would apply the lessons from the Toltecs - being impeccable with their word, not taking anything personally, not making assumptions and actually doing their best - would increase their personal freedom and thus result in more freedom in the world.

It's as President Obama once said: "Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

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