The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Like many books, I first ran into this one in audio form. Since I had always been intrigued by the Carlos Castaneda books, I was interested in a self-development book which claimed to be based on Toltec principles. The book turned out to be both simple and profound at the same time. The four agreements it mentions are very basic, but understanding them makes them very powerful.
The basic theme of The Four Agreements is that each of us is conditioned from birth to be slaves to a system of thought and behavior – a series of unspoken agreements that taken together are almost like a supernatural being. The Toltecs refer to this spiritual and emotional energy as a parasite – something that attaches itself to us and drains our will and energy. This concept is not unlike the concept of the “pain-body” taught by Eckhart Tolle.
Don Miguel goes on to outline four new agreements – commitments we make with ourselves – that can free us from this unconscious slavery and bring us freedom to grow and act independently. The four agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Ruiz is very emphatic about the power of words to capture attention and influence us and those around us. Words are magic – either white magic or black magic, whether we know it or not. To be impeccable with our word is to speak only the truth, only what we mean, and only what builds, helps and uplifts.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
This is a reminder that people often act unconsciously. They are immersed in their own world-dream. Their actions, the ones that might hurt or offend you – are not directed at you, but at their own projections and fears.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Ask questions. Communicate clearly. Ask for what you want and make sure you are understood. Do not jump to conclusions.
4. Always Do Your Best
This one was a little harder to understand. Don Miguel spends some time explaining that our “best” varies from moment to moment and situation to situation. If we are tired or upset, our best may be different than on our better days. To make the effort to do our best also carries the qualification that we must be kind to ourselves in acknowledging that our best is a moving target. Always do your best, giving the circumstances and your personal resources.
Ruiz believes that with these four agreements you can completely break free of the “world dream” that holds you in slavery. For someone who has an affinity for a shamanistic path or native American spirituality, this book is an excellent approach to self-development.