The Four Agreements


a book by Don Miguel Ruiz – Recommended

Ruiz uses an interesting model to put forth fairly standard ideas regarding our development as children and the learned core beliefs we are left with as we mature into adulthood. Domestication and the dream of the planet are loaded terms that immediately increased my interest and awareness about what he was saying. As a result, I enjoyed viewing this well studied landscape from a different perspective.

”Your mind is a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time, and nobody understands each other.” The resulting fog, or mitote, correlated to the feeling I had about all of the bits and pieces of information, the collected mores, I viewed as being the dictates of society. These formed the foundation of my feelings about myself in comparison to the standard they represented; a constant litmus test of results. Not being perfect, I failed this comparison repeatedly. M. Scott Peck referred to this process of growing up with ingrained beliefs as our road map for life. Ruiz calls these beliefs that are made with ourselves and others agreements. These are the core beliefs that I must unlearn, break or replace with new agreements.

The first agreement Be Impeccable with Your Word.

Expressing myself impeccably requires discipline, personal insight, awareness and vast quantities of love. In order to practice this agreement I have to maintain awareness and direct my attention to my word. It is much more natural for me to direct my attention to my feelings and emotions, rather than my words. Instead of turning my attention away from my feelings I need to broaden my attention to include my words.

I also need to by precise with my words. The world of spirituality and internal grace has its own language as does psychology. I need to learn to use the correct language correctly because language is simply the words I use to express an inner belief, or agreement. I have found that when the correct language is used in the correct context the words become much more powerful and the exchange of ideas is much more reliable. Therefore, precision can increase the impeccability of my words. It can also increase the damage and hurtfulness of my words. Discipline, personal insight awareness and love help mitigate the risk of the improper use of my words.

The second agreement Don’t Take Anything Personally

I liked the term personal importance used by Ruiz. I felt it fit perfectly with the self-centeredness which this agreement challenges. This is a subject every spiritual author, therapist, psychiatrist and 12-step practitioner has addressed. It has been presented in a wide variety of ways. Yet it is still something that I am constantly catching myself doing: taking things personally. Even though I repeatedly remind myself that the words out of someone else’s mouth say more about them than about me they can still hurt. They can still cause me to defend myself or my beliefs as though life itself was at stake.  Don’t Take Anything Personally is a psychological tenet and a spiritual principal I understand but still find difficult to practice consistently.

The third agreement Don’t Make Assumptions

How can I control the people around me if I don’t make assumptions about what they are thinking; what they hold most closely to their heart. Being a manipulator of people, I felt I had to read minds and motivations. I have not been able to fully remove the filters through which I view the world around me and which color the assumptions I make on what I see. I can imagine being fully open, vulnerable and unassuming allowing life to pass through me without modification or judgment but only after years of Zen study in an isolated monastery in a country I’ve probably never heard of. So, in the mean time I will try to maintain my awareness, not take things personally and not make assumptions.

The fourth agreement Always Do Your Best

It sounds simple enough. Ruiz, however, further simplifies it by saying “…no more, no less.”  And that makes the Fourth Agreement more challenging than it may at first appear. I tend to think along the lines of good, better, best. Therefore, I am apt to reason that if it is possible to try even a little harder then I am not doing my best. I have often sacrificed one area of my life trying to “do my best” in another area not realizing that my true best requires a balancing of my efforts. My best shouldn’t be harmful to myself or others.

Ruiz has brought some simple concepts together in a powerful way. Looking at my transformation through his model provides an interesting and different viewpoint of familiar ground.

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