I just finished the book The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz, and came away impressed with a desire to share the book with my friends and family. It’s a powerful, spiritual call to reforming your life with a very simplistic, difficult approach – the best kind. I love actionable approaches beyond the mere theory so many spiritual self-improvement books discuss.
I myself will put the four agreements up in a visible place as a reminder for centered thinking.
For me, the biggest message in the book is not explicit until the end. Ruiz calls for you to be a warrior, a magician, and a mystic – he calls for you to take ultimate responsibility for your own suffering and happiness.
The Four Agreements
Ruiz’s explanation of the Toltec way encompasses four points of understanding:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word: Do not speak ill of others or gossip. Do not accept (internalize/believe) what others say about you, or your thoughts about yourself.
- Don’t Take Anything Personally: Any reaction implies that you have accepted – that you agree in at least a small way with what was said. Everything people say or do comes from their own understanding of the world, and has nothing to do with you.
- Don’t Make Assumptions: Don’t operate from a preconceived understanding of the world or your relationships. All assumptions are limitations and failures to communicate.
- Always Do Your Best: Make your efforts all about what you can best accomplish in your current situation, so that you’re always satisfied and happy with yourself. Don’t overwork, but don’t work merely for reward.
More on these points can be easily found on the Internet; you might want to quickly check out MindBodyGreen’s summary. Of course, the book itself has a chapter for each point and is much more in-depth.
The big difference between a warrior and a victim is that the victim represses, and the warrior refrains.
We’re easily caught up in reactivity. Instead of coming at life as a proactive choosing, we’re reacting constantly. That’s when we’re healthy – when we’re choosing to at least engage life.
When we become consumed by our thoughts (by giving them undue attention), we can get to suppressing the parts of ourselves that we think are unacceptable. We start masquerading, pretending so that other people will like us or otherwise reward us, and that means allowing the passage of life to become blocked in our hearts. We resist change and we fault ourselves for weakness, internalizing all that negativity until we are immobilized with its weight.
Ruiz’s call for warrior-hood is childishly powerful; we don’t want to be passive or domesticated in self-conception. If we think of the warrior as being one without reactive response but also without mute consumption of negativity, instead being a seeker of healthy and appropriate outlets for all that… where the power of will and choice is the mark by which we engage the world, we can see the freedom of that warrior. The power of the warrior is intention and refusal to consumption.
A white magician uses the word for creation, giving, sharing, and loving. By making this one agreement a habit, your whole life will be completely transformed.
When you transform your whole dream, magic just happens in your life. What you need comes to you easily because spirit moves freely through you. This is the mastery of intent, the mastery of the spirit, the mastery of love, the mastery of gratitude, and the mastery of life. This is the goal of the Toltec. This is the path to personal freedom.
What else is the work of programming our lives but the transformation of the dreams we live? Aren’t both spirituality and self-improvement oriented toward such transformation? The power of positivity is bound up in these promises.
The “word” that Ruiz is talking about are both our spoken words and our thoughts. How do we orient our talk? Do we orient it toward the acceptance of negativity and the opinions of others, thereby giving power to those things and bringing them about in manifestation? I have thoughts of writing a rant against acceptance, because Ruiz is completely accurate in saying that our reactivity in taking things personally implies such acceptance. When we lose our detachment, we have given acceptance to the “black magic” of others- we’ve become spellbound.
Ruiz’s call for magician-hood is just as childishly powerful as his call to be a warrior. Most of the book boils down to the choice to use one’s word versus giving power to other peoples’ words. Thinking of them as magic gives the appropriate impression of their power, although the term is laden with misinterpretation – this is no occult approach to mastery of the world, but rather just a concept of mastery given in a way that we can absorb into our personal mythologies.
Don’t resist life passing through you, because that is God passing through you.
This is a profound expression; this alone is worth ongoing deep contemplation. All of the trials and tribulations of life are just false convictions based on ego. If we can work our way to proper understanding – bliss, enlightenment, or whatever – we can perceive all these things as the movement of God.
That’s deeper than the movement of the universe. Most times I use God and the universe as interchangeable terms, but not so here. Ruiz’s declaration evokes the feeling of the all-encompassing divine moving through you with sentience and with purpose.
In resisting – in fighting the tide of life, in internalizing negativity and having attachment to things and relationships inevitably consumed by the river of time – we are resisting God. How many of the faithful run to pray against the tide of life? How many of the faithful pray that God doesn’t move?
This one sentence is sufficient to reframe one’s entire perception.
The Four Agreements: Book Review
My biggest and immediate reaction to The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) is that this is a book that I need to share with my friends and family because of its simplicity.
There’s no call to regularly meditate, attend church, do exhaustive affirmations, or anything like that. This is a daily practice of understanding life in a four-pointed way – nothing more, nothing less. Difficult, but simple. The ways of the warrior, of the magician, and of the mystic arise from proper understanding and mode of approach.
Ruiz’s language sometimes branches to the eloquent, but his writing is somewhat stilted. It’s terse and awkward, becoming less so toward the end of the book. This book is a lot less poetic than The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, for example. But there’s power in that – brevity and the awkward phrasing make it more accessible, I think. When he’s freed of the attempt to structure the book as a plan, though, Ruiz flows. By the end, with the prayers – he either became completely fluid or I completely adapted to his style.
The deepest truth is given exactly toward the end. Ruiz ultimately makes this proclamation – that all your suffering, my friends, is your responsibility:
But there really is no reason to suffer. The only reason you suffer is because you choose to suffer. If you look at your life you will find many excuses to suffer, but a good reason to suffer you will not find. The only reason you are happy is because you choose to be happy. Happiness is a choice, and so is suffering.
The warrior, the magician, the mystic – these are all proactive roles of empowerment, roles of responsibility. Spirituality and happiness do not come by themselves, but rather arise from pointed action. You must choose to pursue these roles… you must choose to be happy.
I hope you make that choice.