The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The basic message of the book – these four agreements will make your life easier.
Ruiz explains that he comes from a long line of teachers in the Toltec tradition and it is from here that he draws the teaching in his book. He begins his teaching by telling us how we have been domesticated, like a pet, to behave in a way that is acceptable to society. We are trained in this way by punishment from an early age. We become afraid to behave in any other way. Our reward is attention and praise. Our punishment? The attention we have learned to love is withheld.
By the time we are adult we have compiled a big book of rules (he calls them agreements) to follow – how to live, what behaviour is acceptable, what is inappropriate. There’s lots of agreements and some of them are contradictory. But the biggest problem is you never agreed to them, so they don’t align with your values. That makes following them uncomfortable and it goes against your integrity. You follow them anyway because you are still afraid of the punishment.
When I read this book first I found it to be true for my life and I couldn’t wait to discover Ruiz’s solution to the problem. Ruiz tells us what we need to do, “you have to find the courage to break those agreements that are fear-based and claim your personal power.” He says personal power is replenished each day with rest, but upholding agreements that are not our own, expends personal power very quickly so that each day we end up feeling powerless. Using his four agreements can help us to break the old rules that do not align with our values.
Ruiz’s four agreements are: 1.Be Impeccable with your word, only speak the truth. This doesn’t mean that you must tell everyone what you think of them! Instead, everything that you say is your truth. Gossip is a big no-no! 2. Don’t take anything personally. He says someone else’s negative words can only become poison to you if you take it personally, otherwise it’s just their words. And if someone is saying something good about you, don’t take that personally either, it is still only their words. 3. Don’t make assumptions. “The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth”, and then we react by sending our own words and creating a big drama. Asking honest questions like, Do you want me to help? or Have I offended you? helps stop us making assumptions. 4. Always do your best. Of course do your best but he says to remember it’s never going to be the same from one day to the next. Give yourself a break and do the best you can do in this moment.
Finally, he says we talk a lot about freedom but we are the only ones who can grant ourselves freedom and the first step is awareness.
“…we have a choice: to suffer our destiny or to enjoy our destiny….”, “… to live in hell or to live in heaven. My choice is to live in heaven. What is yours?”
– From The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz