Don Miguel Ruiz was born into a family of healers and raised in rural Mexico. The family anticipated that Miguel would embrace their centuries-old legacy of healing and teaching and carry forward the esoteric Toltec knowledge. Instead, distracted by modern life, Miguel chose to attend medical school and become a surgeon. A near-death experience changed his life. Stunned by this experience, he began an intensive practice of self-inquiry. He devoted himself to the mastery of the ancient ancestral wisdom, studying earnestly with his mother.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s popular book is “The Four Agreement”, which was published in 1997. “The Four Agreement” is a short and captivating read, peppered with stories, anecdotes and examples that are combined with modern insights to provide a guide to freedom and wellbeing.
Human beings live in a perpetual state of dreaming. They dream when the brain is asleep, but also when it is awake. They have been able to create a great outer dream, the ‘society dream,’ consisting of countless personal, family and community dreams. This outer dream possesses a large number of rules that have been inculcated in us from birth. We have thus learned how to behave in a given society, what to believe, what is good and what is bad, good or bad, right or wrong.We did not choose these beliefs and rules; we were born into them and learned them according to a process of ‘domestication’ in which information passed from the outer dream to the inner dream, going on to form our personal belief system. At this point there is no longer any need for external ‘instructors,’ since we become our own judges. Everything we believe about ourselves, and the world is part of that inner dream, which nevertheless came to us from the outside and prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are.
We learn to wear a mask to please others.
Based on this, Ruiz believes our biggest fear in life is not death, but being who we truly are and showing our real selves.
By recognizing the ways we’re conditioned, we can live in a more fulfilling way, free from the expectations of society and our inner voice.
Ruiz says that to find the personal joy you have to break all those society-imposed, fear-based agreements which are currently tying you down.
It is possible to wake up from the dream we’re living in. It is possible to re-engineer your reality without endlessly striving to be better. It is possible to live without suffering. To achieve this, you will need to master three skills in order:
- Awareness– You must be aware that you are living in a dream-like state full of illusions; you must see these illusions for what they are.
- Forgiveness– You must accept the consequences of these illusions—how the illusions impact you and those around you.
- Action– You need to dissolve this dream and shape it into something more reflective of reality.
If you master all three skills, you will have reached enlightenment. This is a state of no suffering and can also be described as the second awakening.
And he proposes four agreements that will help you do just that:
In “The Four Agreements”, don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. “The Four Agreements” offers a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.
The First Agreement Is “Be Impeccable with Your Word”
“Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them.” – Don Miguel Ruiz
This first agreement is the most important but is often the most difficult to adhere to. The word ‘impeccable’ comes from the Latin word for ‘sin’ and a Latin prefix for ‘without.’
Sin is anything that goes against who you are. So, being impeccable with your word means being responsible for your actions and not judging others and yourself.
Ruiz describes words as being more powerful than we realize. They are the building blocks of labels, concepts, and beliefs. We must be cautious before using words, as we might create new, harmful illusions. The easiest way to do this is to get into the habit of only saying what you mean and meaning only what you say. If in doubt, say nothing.
“Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself.” – Don Miguel Ruiz
The Second Agreement Is “Don’t Take Anything Personally”
Not taking things personally allows you to avoid harm as it prevents you from taking others’ words to heart. Because what others say is not a reality, it’s a projection of who they are, says Ruiz. Absolutely nothing people say or do to you is about you; all their actions are about them. And if it hurts you, it’s not them who hurt you, it’s you who has a wound. We must learn to become less reactive and more detached from other people’s actions. If we stop taking things personally, anger, jealousy, envy, and sadness can disappear.
Ruiz suggests we don’t seek information from others, as their views are never relevant. Instead, focus on accepting and improving yourself.
The Third Agreement Is “Don’t Make Assumptions”
Making assumptions leads to suffering. Ruiz says we make assumptions when we believe we know what others are thinking.
But we don’t and we only project our own beliefs onto others. Assumptions often have minimal basis in reality and only exist in our imaginations. Thinking about others’ thoughts has the potential to produce stress or conflict. People often perceive their assumptions as the truth, so they often lead to negative consequences.
To overcome this habit, we need to ask questions and clearly communicate with others. Transparent communication prevents assumptions from taking hold. Keeping to this agreement will help you avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. The simplest way to live by this agreement is to notice when someone does or says something that is different from what you thought. In these instances, remember the misunderstanding isn’t theirs but yours.
Out-of-control assumptions can harm our relationships. For example, people often assume their partners know what they’re thinking. This can lead to them believing their partners will do what they want. When this isn’t the case, they’re often disappointed or angry with their partner. We should stop assuming and ask more questions.
“It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering.” – Don Miguel Ruiz
The Fourth Agreement Is “Always Do Your Best”
Doing your best does not mean doing the best that is physically possible. It means doing the best you can individually manage, which can vary by situation and your current circumstances.
Ruiz says doing your best, regardless of quality, is the only thing you must ask of yourself.
When you demand your best with full outcome independence, you will also avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. Moreover, you accept that people do their best at every moment.
One way to do your best is to adopt the first three agreements into your daily life. In this way, the final agreement—to always do your best—will increase the power of the other three agreements while helping you free yourself.
Essentially the book is a guide that will help readers change their outlooks on life.