Book Review: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: A Powerful Life-Changing Little Book

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by Candace Liccione & Tiffany Windsor

We’ve been using the wisdom in this small book for decades and tell everyone we can that this is a book that you need to add to your library! The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz was originally published in 1997 and as it is explained on the back cover of the book, Don Miguel reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, this book offers a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness and love. So many think this is not possible, but the wisdom shared in this book can be truly life changing once you understand the premise of Agreements.

First, a little bit about Don Miguel Ruiz. He was born into a family of healers and raised in rural Mexico by a healer mother and a shaman grandfather. His family anticipated that Miguel would embrace their centuries-old legacy of healing and teachings, 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 in the 1970’s when he awoken suddenly having fallen asleep at the wheel of his car. At that instant the car careened into a wall of concrete. He remembers that he was not in his physical body as he pulled his two friends to safety. 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, and completing an apprenticeship with a powerful shaman in the Mexican desert.

As Don Miguel shares in Chapter One, what you are seeing and hearing right now is nothing but a dream. We are living in a dream – dreaming 24 hours a day. Our mind dreams when the brain is awake, and it also dreams when the brain is asleep. The outside dream has so many rules, that when a new human is born, we hook the child’s attention and introduce these rules into his or her mind. We learned “their” rules i.e government, family, school and church. All of these influences hook your attention. We also learn to hook the attention of other humans, and we develop a need for attention which can become very competitive. Children compete for the attention of their parents, their teachers, their friends. “Look at what I’m doing”. “Hey, I’m here”.

The need for attention becomes very strong and continues into adulthood. This so-called outside dream hooks our attention and teaches us what to believe, beginning with the language we speak. Language is the code for understanding and communicating between us and other people. As children we didn’t have a choice to choose our beliefs, we just agreed with them. Children believe what they are told, and become domesticated. It is a punishment vs. reward system. The fear of being punished and not getting a reward makes us start pretending to be what we aren’t. After a while we are so domesticated that no one has to tell us how to behave to believe. When we went against the rules we were punished, when we went along with the rules we got a reward. This first chapter in The Four Agreements book goes into awesome detail as to how this dream works. There are thousands of agreements you have made with yourself, with other people, with your dream of life, with God, with society, with your parents, with your spouse, with your children. But the most important agreements are the ones you made with yourself. The result is what is called your personality. Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they believe they should be. They become self-abusive and use other people to abuse them also. We are the most abusive to ourselves. Do you believe you deserve abuse if you don’t feel worthy? Your agreements rule your life. So what can you do? Change your agreements!!

The First Agreement.  Be impeccable with your word.

Your word is the power that you have to create. Your word is the gift that comes from God. Through words you manifest everything. The word is a force, a magic tool. Your word is pure magic. Misuse of your word is like black magic. One word is like a spell. We cast spells with our opinions. One word is so powerful it changes a life or destroys millions of people. You can break a spell with one word. We have learned to lie. But you must change that to be impeccable with your words. Misuse of the word is how we pull each other down. When you hear an opinion and believe it, you make an agreement and it becomes part of your belief system. So make a new agreement based on truth.  We cast spells on people with words. Black magic is gossip which is pure poison.

Gossip is the main form of communication. Gossip is like a computer virus. Gossip is emotional poison. Understand what the word is and what the word does. You only receive a negative idea if your mind is a fertile ground for that idea. Just imagine what you can create with impeccability of the word. With the impeccability of the word you can transcend the dream of fear and live a different life. You can live in heaven in the middle of thousands of people living in hell because you are immune. You can attain the kingdom of heaven from this one agreement: Be impeccable with your word.

The Second Agreement  - Don’t Take Anything Personally.

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally. If someone gives you an opinion and says something like, “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. We love how Don Miguel explains that a person tried to send a poisonous thought to you and if you take it personally, then you take in that poison and it becomes yours. You take things personally because you agree with whatever was said. As soon as you agree, the poison goes through you. Nothing other people do is because of us. It is because of them. It comes from their programming.

Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them and their belief system. Know who and what you are, and you don’t need to be accepted by others. Whatever people do, feel, think, or say, don’t take it personally. If they tell you how wonderful you are, they are not necessarily saying that because of you. You know you are wonderful. It is not necessary to believe other people who tell you that you are wonderful. As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. Don’t Take Anything Personally was a life changer for us and we find ourselves using the explanation of this agreement to help a lot of other women .

The Third Agreement – Don’t Make Assumptions.

Don’t make assumptions about anything, it causes problems as we believe our assumptions to be true. Because you are afraid to ask for clarification, you make assumptions. Ask questions if you don’t understand – Ask! That way you don’t misinterpret or misunderstand things. We only see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear. We don’t perceive things the way they are. We make assumptions that our partners know what we think so we don’t have to say what we want. You say “you should have known as you know me so well.” Your partner can’t read your mind. We make assumptions that everyone sees life as we see it. With clear communication, all of your relationships will change, not only with your partner, but with everyone else. You won’t need to make assumptions because everything becomes so clear. If all humans could communicate with impeccability of the word, there would be no wars, no violence, no misunderstandings.

The Fourth Agreement – Always Do Your Best.

Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good. Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely. You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community, to everything.

Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite: They only take action when they expect a reward, and they don’t enjoy the action. And that’s the reason why they don’t do their best. Action is about living full. Inaction is how we deny life. Also, do not be concerned about the future; keep your attention on today, and stay in the present moment. Just live one day at a time. ALWAYS do your best to keep these agreements, and soon it will be easy for you. Today is the beginning of a new dream.

Breaking Old Agreements

Everyone talks about freedom. All around the world different people, different races, different countries are fighting for freedom. But what really is freedom? True freedom has to do with the human spirit - it is the freedom to be who we really are. Who stops us from being free? We blame the government, we blame the weather, we blame our parents, we blame religion, we blame God. Who really stops us from being free? We stop ourselves. The first step toward personal freedom is awareness. We need to be aware that we are not free, in order to be free. We need to be aware of what the problem is in order to solve the problem.  

The New Dream - Heaven on Earth

Don Miguel writes in chapter 7, “I want you to forget everything you have learned in your whole life. This is the beginning of a new understanding, a new dream. The dream you are living is your creation. It is your perception of reality that you can change at any time. Why not use your mind, your imagination and your emotions to dream heaven? Imagine living your life without fear of expressing your dreams. Imagine living your life without the fear of being judged by others. Imagine living your life without judging others. Imagine living without the fear of loving and not being loved. Imagine living your life without being afraid to take a risk and to explore life. Imagine that you love yourself just the way you are.”

You can make the change today by reading this powerful little book The Four Agreements.

Purchase The Four Agreements Book at (affiliate link)