Peace and clarity are easy to find during a sunset meditation or an evening yoga class. But tomorrow morning when the world rushes in with its latest headline news, not to mention the daily pressures of our “to-do” lists, we can be easily thrown off center. What matters to us in these moments is that we are inherently connected to something good.

The answer to nurturing that connection lies within, in our agreement with ourselves to live principled lives.

Navigating difficult times requires a change in our perspective and our spiritual practice. We must aim higher, both in our personal goals and in our beliefs.

When we aim higher in consciousness, we connect with natural laws, that body of unchanging ethical principles that form the basis for all human conduct. We find these universal truths in all teachings—no matter the culture or the religion—because we are all one.

I’ve always felt that the powerful self-mastery teachings of don Miguel Ruiz, a nagual (shaman) from a pre- Colombian Toltec lineage, walks hand in hand with Unity principles. The language in his best-selling books— including The Four Agreements (Amber-Allen, 1997) and The Fifth Agreement (Amber-Allen, 2010; coauthored with his son don José Ruiz)—is so clear and user-friendly that I sometimes quote from it in my talks. To me, the parallels between the five Unity principles and the five Toltec agreements are readily apparent.

First Principle/Fifth Agreement

The first Unity principle (God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere) ties in with the fifth agreement: Be skeptical while listening.

No condition, no place or thing, ever exceeds the presence and power of goodness. Yet so many of us were brought up to “watch out” because someone or something “out there” was going to do things to us or not do things for us. These concepts develop early in our lives, and we soon start looking for this someone or something that is against us to show up. As a result, we often aim low instead of high. We find enduring powers happening in our lives like debt, relationship challenges, addiction, or an inability to find love. We’re the ones who have made those enduring powers so—God doesn’t have anything to do with it. God is an energy. It’s an electrifying presence. It’s a principle that is for us, and there simply is no one “out there” who is not an integral part of that principle. That’s why we have free will and free choice.

The Toltec fifth agreement says we can choose what we want to believe. If we do that, we won’t need to tell others they are wrong because we will understand that we aren’t responsible for what they create—only for what we create.

If we believe there is only one power, we must claim it all the time, not just when things are going well. We are fully responsible for creating both our joy and our suffering.

Second Principle/Third Agreement

The second Unity principle (We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good) goes along with the third agreement: Don’t make assumptions.

We don’t come into a faith community and say, “I think I’ll get on a spiritual path.” We are spiritual. We have always been spiritual. As Religious Science movement founder Ernest Holmes said, there is nothing more spiritual than a ham sandwich. Everything is spiritual, and we are spiritual beings immersed by spiritual law that is always in effect. We will never be separate.

Because we are connected to this infinite power, we get what we bring. If we come from a spirit of giving, we get that back. If we come from a spirit of taking, we get that back. If we come from a spirit of doubt or a space of being overly cautious, we will attract overly cautious, doubtful people into our lives.

So often we think that we don’t make assumptions, but in reality we do. When we believe that those assumptions are true, we create what Ruiz calls “emotional poison.” This poison is especially potent when we make assumptions about what God is or isn’t going to do for us.

For example, a woman once told me she was going to have eye problems because her mother had eye problems. I asked her if she had problems now. No, she told me, she didn’t but she was sure she would. We all make assumptions about what is or what is not possible for us. We need to examine those assumptions or we limit what’s possible.

I’ve been sober for more than 30 years. During this time, I’ve heard a lot of assumptions from people struggling with addiction—almost always about how hard the struggle is. However, there is no struggle when you are in harmony with the laws of nature and with the truth of what you believe.

Struggle is an assumption, while freedom is an action.

When I wanted to be free, I let go of struggle. I attended every one of my Unity church’s events for two years. I came every Sunday, and I came to everything else they had because I knew an idea for me existed that could be greater than any assumption I had ever held in my life.

Third Principle/Second Agreement

This walks us into the third Unity principle (I create my experiences by what I choose to think and what I feel and believe) and the second agreement: Don’t take anything personally.

We create our lives by the way we think, but too often, we spend time trying to set something right instead of seeing it right. When we take something someone else says or does personally, Ruiz says, “We make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”

Think about it. If someone can upset you to the point that you’re still stewing over it later, you are the one who chose to stay in a bad mood. When we take it personally, it becomes personal only because we made it so. This is true whether you are downsized from your job, get evicted from your apartment, or break up with a partner. The truth is that you can’t remain in whatever tiny box doesn’t fit anymore. This is not a time to hold on to the wrong kind of energy and turn God off. It’s time to be filled with the right energy because you’ve turned God on. Let go and let God.

Step into the energy field of who you really are and see your situation in a new way. Don’t cling when you can sing.

Fourth Principle/First Agreement

The fourth Unity principle (Through affirmative prayer and meditation, I connect with God and bring out the good in my life) aligns perfectly with the first agreement: Be impeccable with your word.

We use affirmative prayer and meditation to raise our awareness of Spirit in our lives. We go inward for this connection with God.

As we make that journey from our heads to our hearts, we are in the power of the impeccable word. The word is truth and the word is love.

Impeccable means “without flaw or error; incapable of sin.” In Unity, sin is often referred to as error and described as doing the same thing over and over. Ruiz defines it as rejection as well as anything you do that goes against yourself. If you blame and shame yourself over and over again, you are not connecting with affirmative prayer. You are not being impeccable with your word.

We’re not talking about little white lies you might have told other people, like “I’m sorry, I can’t come tonight” when you really meant, “I don’t want to come tonight.” We are talking about a flawless, impeccable Truth in which you stay grounded, face whatever you see before you, and affirm: A few months from now, I will not have this situation in my life. I will not struggle. I will be living in harmony with vibration.

Fifth Principle/Fourth Agreement

The fifth Unity principle (I do and give my best by living the Truth that I know. I make a difference!) is the same as the fourth agreement: Always do your best.

As James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” This means we have to take action first.

Life is not a waiting room. Whatever we affirm that we have, we must be and become.

My teacher in ministerial school always implored us to do our best. “Average is the best of the worst and the worst of the best,” she’d say. “Strive not only to do your best, but also to give each moment your full attention.” Whether I’m speaking in public, visiting friends, or connecting with a loved one, I give my full attention as much as possible. That enables me to do my best. 

As a minister and teacher, I learned years ago not to go back and question my talk after I had spoken. This is also the way to be in the practice of your daily life, knowing that at the moment you gave the best of you. If you continue to question what you said in any situation, then you’re in the past, which means you’re missing the greatest moment you have ever lived to do your best—the amazing power of right now.

This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.

This article, designed by Mark Szymanski, was a 2018 Folio: Ozzie Award finalist.