Before I get started with this review, I feel the need to get one important caveat out of the way: I am not one of those navel-gazing, crystal-wearing, pipe-smoking, new-age freaks. There, I feel much better.
That said, let’s get to my review of one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2005, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. For such a tiny little book, clocking in at just over 100 pages, it really packs a punch. The pages are short, the text layout is light (as opposed to a densely packed page), and Ruiz’s voice is conversational. Though you could get through this book in a day or two, its powerful message will resonate for years to come. Good things really do come in small packages.
Ruiz begins with an introduction to the Toltec people, tribal men and women of immense knowledge. He speaks of his Mexican ancestors passing their beliefs down through the Naguals, or masters, one generation to the next. In The Four Agreements, Ruiz is our Nagual, leading us on a spiritual journey through our Dream of the Planet, which is the Toltec theory that each of us is dreaming our own dream, or version, of the world within which we exist.
According to Ruiz, we have been domesticated since the moment of our birth to understand and accept all that surrounds us and embodies us. He calls the beliefs borne of this process of domestication, Agreements. He goes on to explain that the overwhelming majority of these agreements are detrimental to us and to our journey towards spiritual transcendence. Acknowledgment and acceptance of this idea sets the stage for the transformation that we must undertake by switching out those harmful agreements for the following four beneficial agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
The agreements are fully explained, each in their own chapters. It’s amazing that these pearls of wisdom are often hidden in plain sight. Contemplating what each of these agreements meant to me, I was amazed at how difficult I realized it would be to fully implement these ideas in my life. Yet they are simple enough that you can begin to put them into action long before finishing the book. Like tiny seeds planted in cold, dark soil, I suddenly felt the faint stirrings of promise sprouting in some of the darkest places of my mind. While these simple concepts might be rather obvious to some, for me they were wonderful reminders of the importance of stopping, taking a step back, and reevaluating habits and priorities.
The Four Agreements offers a wealth of useful guidelines for living your dream, but the job of implementing them and breaking free of the old agreements is where the real work lies. This book has the potential to change your life – if you’ll let it. But it takes a willingness to dedicate yourself to the principles Ruiz espouses. Fortunately, he has added a companion book, The Four Agreements Companion Book, to aid in the process of adopting these habits into your lifestyle.
Don Miguel Ruiz has made a cottage industry out of the shamanistic Toltec teachings of his ancestors. New Age crap? Maybe. But for me, this book makes a lot of sense. Sometimes the most elegant solutions grow from the simplest of ideas. I enjoyed Ruiz’s voice and his ideas and I am looking forward to reading more of his treatises on the subject of Toltec wisdom. Make an agreement with yourself to add this one to your reading list.
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