Monday, August 22, 2011

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

My sweet friend Hilary from book club mentioned this book recently and said we just had to read it.  I picked it up at the library, but now I'm looking for my own copy.  Of course you can purchase it on Amazon here, but I think I'll look at the used bookstore in town first.  Not that it isn't worth the $12- it totally is.  And since I'm not worried about spoiling anything for you, I hope you won't mind if I share a few of the wonderful things I learned. 

The Four Agreements are four changes we should make in our lives to make ourselves happier. 
  • Be impeccable with your word.
  • Don't take anything personally.
  • Don't make assumptions.
  • Always do your best.
They sound like common sense suggestions, but the way Ruiz presents them makes them sound almost new.  The first, Be Impeccable with Your Word, means that we should use our words to share love.  He says we should begin with ourselves.  We can tell ourselves how much we love ourselves.  We can let go of all the judgements we bring upon ourselves.  When we stop judging ourselves, we will also stop judging the people around us.

Don't Take Anything Personally is the agreement that my friend was telling us about.  If someone says something ugly to you, it says more about that person than it does about you.  Ruiz says, "If someone gives you an opinion and says, 'Hey, you look so fat,' don't take it personally, because the truth is that this person is dealing with his or her own feelings, beliefs and opinions.  That person tried to send poison to you and if you take it personally, then you take that poison and it becomes yours.  Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators."  I LOVE that!  He also says, "You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you."  If someone doesn't like me and is ugly to me, it is that person's poison.  I don't have to accept it.  I don't have to blame myself for it and constantly try to fix it.  I can let it go.  How great does that feel!

The third, Don't Make Assumptions, makes so much sense.  "All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally.  Take a moment to consider the truth of this statement."  If I assume that someone ignored me or was acting hurtfully, I might take that personally.  Then I have begun an entire drama in my head that never even really existed.  If I assume I know how someone will react to something, I may act defensively and for no reason at all.  And I love this:

"We make the assumption that everyone sees life the was we do.  We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse.  This is the biggest assumption that humans make.  And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others.  Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves.  So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves."

The fourth is Always Do Your Best.  "Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less."  The best way to live your life is to always do your best.

The book goes on to offer so much good advice, so many valuable points. 

"We have the need to be accepted and to be loved by others, but we cannot accept and love ourselves.  Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves; it is why we don't accept ourselves the way we are, and why we don't accept others the way they are."

"We must forgive those we feel have wronged us, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much we don't want to keep paying for the injustice.  Forgiveness is the only way to heal.  We can choose to forgive because we feel compassion for ourselves."

"Imagine living your life without judging others.  You can easily forgive others and let go of any judgements that you have.  You don't have the need to be right, and you don't need to make anyone else wrong.  Imagine living without fear of loving and not being loved.  You are no longer afraid to be rejected, and you don't have the need to be accepted.  You can say, 'I love you,' with no shame or justification.  You can walk in the world with your heart completely open, and not be afraid to be hurt."

"Let go of the need to defend your opinions and always be right.  Your opinion is nothing but your point of view.  It is not necessarily true. 

I love the concept of "Zoom in, Zoom out."  It is when you imagine seeing your life through a camera lens.  You can zoom in and see the details of your life, of your problems or conflicts.  You can also zoom out and see the entire city, the state, the country, the whole world as if you are looking down from space.  From that distance, suddenly our problems seem so insignificant, so short-lived.  It's like the old question, "In a hundred years will this matter?"  With this in mind, it becomes easier to let go. 

I really learned from this book.  I'm sure it's something I will want to read again and again.  Of course making the four agreements a part of my life will take practice, but I think it is already helping me.  Have you read this?  Have you tried these concepts?  I'd love to hear what you think.


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