Don't take it personally
I think it was 10 or 12 years ago, maybe longer, when I was listening to a presentation at Omega Institute that a stranger seated himself beside me. I recognized him from the catalog as Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. Although we exchanged pleasantries, had I know more about him at the time I would certainly have expressed my appreciation and regard for the Toltec wisdom that he shared. The teachings can apply to both our ordinary dualistic perspective as it pertains to everyday relationships with others, but can also be instrumental pointers for own spiritual journey.
In abbreviated form The Four Agreements he expounds upon are:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
Here I am focusing on the 2nd agreement: "Don’t Take Anything Personally." One result of childhood conditioning is a belief that happiness, rather than being our natural state, is somehow dependent on the separate, material world, outside of ourselves. We are programmed to take our past personally and thus become attached to identifying as an “I” including its sense of limitation. Based on memory we cling to this ego-personality in an effort to maintain the feeling of being supported and loved. This familiar perspective, with its coincident anxieties and tensions, often finds us looking the approval of others. Through deep understanding we can free ourselves from the opinions and judgments of others, including self-judgments learned as children. The actions of others is not about you, and you are not responsible for others. This brings about experiences of freedom - the freedom from caring what others think or say about you - and greater happiness.
There’s also a spiritual dimension to the words “Don’t take anything personally.” This is revealed by the questions “Does anything personal exist?’ or “What do we mean by personal?” or “Is there any separate individual to experience personal?” or “Who am I?” and similar queries. These are questions that nondual teachers attempt to address on a regular basis, and that underlie the following quotes.
We have to learn to love people even if they are not giving you what you want... and then not take it personally. If you feel hurt, you have to recognize that they are not hurting you because you are you, but because they are them. You have to try not to be so hard on yourself.
~ Krishna Das
Even with our deepest desire to live as the timeless unfolding of life, we find ourselves stuck in patterns rooted in our past such as addictions, chronic anxiety and depression, and difficulties in relationships. We struggle with fear and feelings of lack and inadequacy. Holding onto stories from the past and repeating them in our minds keeps the sense of the personal, broken self in place—and veils the infinite aliveness of our true nature. Understanding this human suffering is the gateway to being free of it. . . . The truth of who you are is already free of the past. And it’s right here, right now, to be known and experienced. Now available to explore beyond the old, familiar ways of being, you’re primed to discover what’s always been here…reality: silent, still, and radically free.
~ Gail Brenner, Ph.D.
The impressions that formed in mind, heart and nervous system as children when our ego was forming into a personality, need to be metabolized in an atmosphere of deep love and understanding in order for higher spiritual states to land. More than anything, this blocks the landing of grace.
~ Miranda Macpherson
Being in observer mode replaces the habit of buying into the "me" story. It needs to become really clear when the observer is active so that there is an awareness of watching the character without any comment. And when that softness towards the character arises naturally, you can know that the observing position is becoming more familiar. This is really key as it trains your system to not plug into the "me" story. The personal story is seen with softness and this causes it to lose its potency as a story."
~ Jac O'Keeffe
Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not 'yours,' not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you.
~ Eckhart Tolle
All suffering is caused by the ego, which is personal identification with the body, mind and conditioning. Realizing this and consequently dropping the false identity, one is immediately and permanently freed from the wheel of all sorrows.
If the body-mind is an object, a personal and limited collection of mentations, there must be a witness to which it appears. This witness is usually referred to as consciousness or awareness. If we investigate what we are, it becomes clear that it is this awareness that is precisely what we call "I." Most people identify this witnessing consciousness with the witnessed mind, and in doing so they superimpose the personal limitations of that mind onto consciousness, conceptualizing it as a personal entity. When we make a deliberate attempt to observe this, we find an unusual situation: Our attempt seems to fail, due to the subjective nature of consciousness, and the inability of the mind to recognize something that is not objective; but mental activity, made up of the current train of thoughts and sensations, seems to stop for a moment. Although this "stop" doesn't leave any memories at the level of the mind, this non-experience generates a strong feeling of identity and an ineffable certitude of being that we describe using the words, "I" or "I am." After a while, the ego resurfaces with the thought, "I am this body-mind," projecting once again the space-time limitations of the personal entity onto the limitless "I am." The limitlessness of the "I am" can't be asserted from the level of the mind, but remains with us as an "aftertaste" when the objective world reappears.
~ Francis Lucille
Thoughts are just what is. They appear. They're innocent. They're not personal. They're like the breeze or the leaves on the trees or the raindrops falling. Thoughts arise like that, and we can make friends with them. Would you argue with a raindrop?
~ Byron Katie
The biggest challenge for most spiritual seekers is
to surrender their self importance, and
see the emptiness of their own personal story.
It is your personal story that you need to awaken from in order to be free.
At present, you are moved by the pleasure-pain principle which is the ego. You are going along with the ego, you are not fighting it. You are not even aware how totally you are swayed by personal considerations. A man should be always in revolt against himself, for the ego, like a crooked mirror, narrows down and distorts. It is the worst of all the tyrants, it dominates you absolutely.
To live the spiritual life means to give up personal sense and
come into the understanding that we have no life of our own,
but that that life which is ours is really God’s life
expressed as our individual life or experience.
~ Joel Goldsmith
The shift is from personal to impersonal. Instead of events happening to you and taking everything personally, they simply happen.
~ Jac O'Keeffe
You simply have to ask yourself
“Who is this personal self?
Where did it come from?
How did it arise?
How did it get a hold of me and make me believe I'm human?
That makes me feel I was born, and I have to die?
What is this personal self?
Where did it come from?"
And as you follow the personal self, the I-thought,
you'll begin to see it never existed.
It was never born.
It is absolute nothingness.
And you'll become radiantly happy, full of love, full of peace.
~ Robert Adams
Satsang is not an invitation to get more for "me." There are many opportunities in the world for that. Satsang is about the ending of the preoccupation with "me-ness." Mysteriously, in the ending of the personal story, you experience completion and fulfillment.
Be empty. Be light.
Drop the luggage of a personal self along with its self-centered projections, so that you can feel again the simplicity and Holiness of your original Being. When the mind becomes light again, all the angels, all the heavenly Beings are rejoicing. You can feel the presence of them inside.
All are singing hallelujah to the Truth.
The arising of any thought, Feeling or emotion, is Independent of the person. It is only when involvement By a person occurs, that The thought, feeling, or emotion Becomes personal.
~ Wu Hsin
The ego is the defense against enlightenment. I'm not saying that ego is bad or evil because it's not. I'm saying that ego is a social and personal construct and therefore an illusion. But there's nothing wrong with an illusion. A painting is an illusion; a movie is an illusion; a good novel is an illusion. The problem isn't with illusion; the problem is with the emotional attachments and addictions of ego.
When you realize it's not personal, there is no longer a compulsion to act as though it were.
~ Eckhart Tolle
It is only when without ego, and there is no individual, that the act of absolute compassion takes place through your form. From emptiness, selfless giving takes place. It is then that there is nothing personal in such actions and it is impossible not to act without love.
~ Jac O'Keeffe