Fear, Perfectionism & the Four Agreements | Omega

Toltec wisdom teachers don Miguel Ruiz Sr. and his son don Miguel Ruiz Jr. talk about coming to peace with fear and understanding perfectionism from the perspective of the Four Agreements.


Omega: What’s the best action to take when we notice fear popping up, especially when it comes to making decisions?

don Miguel Jr.: I work with the idea of coming to peace with fear. We need to respect fear for what it is. The easiest way to respect fear is to see its function in our life. Fear keeps us safe. Real fear is based on seeing a rattlesnake or someone with a gun, and it alerts us to danger. Our body secretes hormones like adrenaline, which allows us to survive that moment. That’s real fear and it's meant to protect us.

Now, our mind is so powerful that we can abuse it, like when watching a scary movie for the first time. We are not in real danger, but the mind is more powerful than a projected screen. It can think of all these potential dangers around the corner or in the future, and we fight, freeze, or flee because of that. Part of fear is that we freeze. We no longer live. We are afraid of making a choice. From that point of view, it's false fear. 

To come to peace with fear is to come to see the truth and remember fear is only there to protect us. Then, we go through the process and heal the damage we've done to ourselves from that fear and forgive ourselves. The real work comes when we re-learn how to trust ourselves again.

For me, fear is something natural that happens to all of us, but false fear—the kind that lives in our mind—is something we get addicted to having in our life, and the way we let go of it is to accept the truth. 

don Miguel Sr.: We can see fear like a hurricane. It creates so many different emotions—anxiety, anger, jealousy—all these emotions. If we believe it, then we become part of the hurricane. The fear can just grow and grow.

We may not be able to stop it, but in the center of a hurricane, there’s always peace. If we live in the center of the hurricane, then all that fear that's around us, will not affect us. If we react with whatever is happening now, we will stir up those emotions and become part of the big hurricane. We want to stay in the center all the time, and not be part of everyone else's fears and emotions.

don Miguel Jr.: My father has been teaching that lesson for a long time and one of the things I’ve learned is that the hurricane is my creation. I can make it strong—all the way to Category 5 or take it down to Category 1. I’ve become aware that I am the creator of the hurricane.

Omega: The fourth agreement is, “Always do your best.” How can perfectionists work with this agreement without getting carried away or overdoing it?

don Miguel Jr: To me, always doing your best is an expression of unconditional love and the willingness to see yourself where you are at this very moment.

For example, I run marathons and half marathons. I recently ran 26.2 miles and I did it in 5 hours and 42 minutes. It was fun and I enjoyed it.

The next day, my body told me a different story. I was in pain. I was tired. I was only able to walk—not run—one mile, and that’s the truth. 

Always doing your best is always being where you are at, at that very moment. Loving yourself unconditionally and having the willingness to see yourself as you are, that’s what makes this agreement so powerful.

For someone who is a perfectionist, there’s a difference between passion and obsession. In passion, you can hear unconditional love say, “I do it because I want to.”

Obsession is, “I do it because I have to.” I have to live up to this image. If I'm worthy of this image than I'm worthy of love. This idea is what usually drives a perfectionist. It has to be perfect for me to accept life and accept myself.

Perfection is something that is completely free of any flaw. Guess what? We define what a flaw is with our agreements. There’s no such thing as a flaw in the world. It only exists in our mind and only by agreement, which means everything is perfect just the way it is.

don Miguel Sr: There was a man who asked his master, “If I meditate five hours a day, how long will it take for me to transcend?”

The master said, “Well, if you meditate for five hours a day, maybe in 10 days you will transcend.”  

And then the man asked, “Master, if I meditate for 10 hours a day, how long will it take for me to transcend?”

The master said, “Well if you meditate for 10 hours a day, you will transcend in 20 years.”

“How is that possible? Why is that?” the man asked.

The master said, “Well, because you are wasting all your time, and you are no longer meditating really. Your best will be with less meditation than you can do.”   

© 2018 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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