"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust
Imagine you have new eyes. From this new point of perception you see human beings not as skin, hair and flesh, but as energy.
Physically, we have two hands. But in an energetic sense we each have thousands of hands, which grasp at different agreements and beliefs. Each agreement is an energetic handshake. The hand at the other end may be attached to another human's energetic hand, or even to an imaginary force.
People make agreements together, both consciously and unconsciously. Two people agree they will be monogamous. A woman getting a new job agrees she will follow company policy. A man stops at a red light. These are all agreements, individual and societal. They give our lives structure and form.
Many more agreements are unconscious and cause us great suffering. We compare ourselves to our siblings, to magazine and television images, to our parents. We agree with ourselves, "When I become a lawyer, I will be happy. If I never get divorced I will be okay. If I could just look like that person, or have her personality, or afford that car, I will be fulfilled, loved, an adult." These agreements go beyond beneficial structure and form, to create invisible prisons that trap our creative spirits.
Some of these agreements are passed on to us from our parents: "Young ladies do not run. Never talk back to your elders. Boys do not cry." Some are passed on from society: "If you have money you will be happy. Being single means being unhappy. Only doctors can heal illness." Sometimes we consciously agree with our parents or our teachers or our priest, but the sponge of our unconscious minds soaks up many more agreements.
We may not see the agreements themselves, but we can see the results in the way we live our lives. To see the invisible agreements that orchestrate our every reaction, we must use new eyes to pierce the veil of physical manifestation. We must see underneath the created to the creative force.
Our greatest tool is focused imagination. When we give energy form in our imagination, our mind becomes a tool to transform any belief or agreement. Once the transformation (re-visioning) is complete, the energy follows new pathways, and our perceptions and reactions shift accordingly.
Imagine yourself again as an energetic being. Your thousands of arms stretch out to grasp the strings of thousands of balloons. Each balloon represents an agreement, and contains an energetic picture of the agreement. Some of these balloons you can see. Some you catch glimpses of when you turn your head. Others are behind you, or below the range of your gaze. Some you simply refuse to see. Whether known or hidden, your agreement balloons orchestrate how you will react to your surroundings and experiences. Every perception you have is through one of these balloon filters. They create your experience of the world. They give you a sense of safety from the unknown.
Now imagine what it would feel like to open every hand and release all of your balloons. For many people there is a feeling of immediate panic, and a frantic grabbing at their balloons. Other people feel a deep sense of freedom when they imagine opening their hands, but then unless the root cause is healed, they will soon be unconsciously grasping at balloons again.
These energetic hands exist because we believe we are not enough exactly as we are. We look outside of ourselves and say, "If I dress like Sally people will like me, too. If I never make a mistake, my parents will love me. Mistakes are bad." When you make an agreement, you hand yourself a balloon and say "Here, hold this, it will keep you safe. Here, hold this because Daddy said to. Here, hold this because that person over there is holding one just like it."
So tightly do we grasp our new balloons, that we soon forget why we are holding them. We begin to identify ourselves with them. It soon appears that our very personality is woven in with the strings of our agreements. When we begin to untangle the web of our self-image and beliefs, we see many sources.
The source of some agreements is common sense and important domestication: "I will share the food at dinner. I will not touch people's genitals unless invited to. I will not harm animals or humans. I will not push peas up my nose." This type of agreement helps us to live comfortably with others, and with ourselves.
The sources of many other agreements are unconscious signals between us and our parents, teachers, caretakers, or elders. We may carry beliefs that our parents carried, which we inherited energetically and unconsciously. You see that your mother is angry with men, and so you also take on that balloon. Your great, great grandparents were traumatized when forced to leave their community and homeland, and you unknowingly carry this trauma.
No matter where the core of an agreement stems from, once you agree to hold it, it becomes yours. Many of our most cherished agreements are not based on what mom and dad really wanted us to become or believe, but what we thought they wanted us to become or believe. Some agreements are made spontaneously from little incidents in our lives. You watch your older sister cry when she does not get invited to the prom, and, depending on your personality, you promise yourself, "I never want to go to the prom," or, "My sister is stupid for being so emotional," or, "I am going to make sure I get a date to my prom."
The agreements we make up spontaneously can be incredibly creative, and also nonsensical. Sense or no, they drive our future choices. Even simple agreements can create pain, because all agreements are connected to primary agreements that say, "I am bad," "I am unlovable," "I am going to be abandoned." Every little agreement we make can be twisted through one of our core filters, and reinforce our self-punishment and suffering. If one day you take the last of the mashed potatoes when someone else was waiting for them, suddenly your simple agreement, "I will share food at dinner" is dragged out and used as punishment: "See, you did not share. You are going to be abandoned."
Rationally, we may laugh and say this does not make any sense. But at a deep level our victim self believes it. When it comes to core agreements, humans are not very creative. We all feed off of the same deep-seated fears. These are the collective neurosis of the modern human, which stems from a scarcity model of the universe. The Toltec call this neurosis the parasite, because it saps our energy.
If we believed there is an abundance of love, money, health, and beauty, and that we deserved to delight in this abundance, our secondary agreements would look different. Instead, our fear-based domestication limits us to two main filters of the victim or the judge (parasite). These two characters play their roles so seamlessly we have ceased to hear them distinctly. If we listen closely beneath all of our agreements, we can hear the twin seeds of our self-betrayal:
"You are not enough," the voice of the judge says. "You are not as smart as your brother. You will never be good at that."
"I am not enough," the victim agrees. "I am too shy. I am too sensitive."
"You are too much," the voice of the judge announces. "You are too beautiful. You should not be smarter than your father."
"I am too much," the voice of the victim cries. "I am too loud. I am too happy. I am too big."
The victim and judge use stories and endless comparisons to justify their position. The judge does not play fair. If it loses ammunition on one front, it switches sides.
A man struggles to overcome his shyness. "You are so timid," someone told him long ago, and now his judge repeats this mantra over and over again. Desperate to quiet this critical voice, he stretches himself and goes to a theater class. There he discovers he actually likes to interact with people. In a moment of bravery, he introduces himself to a stranger in the grocery line. She glares at him, and then ignores him. "See," the judge whispers, "You are too bold." The next time he has the urge to speak to a stranger and hesitates, the judge will whisper (or berate) again, "You are too timid."
When we believe this parasite, we sustain a whole forest of false beliefs about ourselves and other people. Even though our forest of balloons is made up of illusions, they become a very real prison, trapping our perceptions through channels of fear and lack. Our attention is hooked by false images, instead of being firmly anchored in the glory of our individual light.
If we make a mistake or come across an obstacle on our path, instead of asking ourselves, "How can this serve me?" We scan through our agreements and justify our core fears: "I am bad. I am unlovable. I am going to be abandoned. I am too much. I am not enough." To escape from this pain, we strengthen our secondary agreements: "In order to be loved, I need to stronger. I must try harder to be stronger." ("Yeah, you are not strong enough," the judge growls. "I'm so weak, just like my mother," the victim whimpers.) Energetically we hook our attention to, "I must be strong." But this attention is a way to divert our awareness away from our main suffering. The energetic message is, "I must be strong so I will not feel unlovable." This cycle is doomed to failure in the hands of the parasite.
The wisdom of the Toltec offers three masteries to guide you to unweave this tangled web of agreements and tame the chaotic tango of the victim and judge. The Mastery of Awareness, the Mastery of Transformation, and the Mastery of Love can be simplified into three words: Awake. Transform. Live. (Witness. Act. Be.)
In order to become free of the parasite and our limiting beliefs, we must first awaken to the dream we have created for ourselves. Only when we take responsibility for our dream, as messy and uncomfortable as it might be, can we then make new choices. Practicing a new choice leads to integration, and truly living instead of simply surviving. As we continue to practice new agreements based in love, we gradually let go of the beliefs that go against us and grab onto the balloons of new agreements.
Eventually these new ways of being in the world become automatic. We begin to not just practice new agreements, but to become them. This becoming frees us from the tyranny of our root fears, and the clutches of the parasite. We then become the bright light, shining a new way of being out into the world.
Heather Ash Amara weaves powerful practices of shamanic traditions to help people reach their potential. She apprenticed and taught extensively with Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements. She wrote Four Elements of Change and Toltec Tarot. She co-authored Spiritual Integrity and runs Spiritual Integrity Coaching with Raven Smith. Read more Toltec wisdom from Heather Ash.