The Four Agreements
A few readers have asked where my sense of spirituality comes from. What, exactly, do I believe?
Obviously, I believe in the Divine Feminine. I do not share the view of a masculine creator. I call her the Universe but just as often refer to her as God or a number of other names. I will address this as well as my belief in Divine archetypes (i.e. Selene) in later articles.
But what else? A lot. Too much to define in any single reply. So I’ve decided to start sharing some of that, starting with The Four Agreements.
The Four Agreements are a Toltec philosophy written by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is one of the pillars of my beliefs and practices and has been instrumental in my personal growth and change.
Before I describe them and their effect in my life I want to point out that there are no Toltec. Not for a very long time. Most of what we know about the Toltec civilization comes from a scattering of Aztec history which is most often discounted as mythology. The rest comes from the writer Carlos Castaneda who describes them as sorcerers who just happen to share the name “Toltec” with that ancient civilization.
It is upon the back of Castaneda’s work that Ruiz built his name. I guess he saw an opportunity and took it but the truth is that Don Miguel’s work, his philosophy, stands on its own and connecting it to modern mythology detracts from it’s true potential. A potential that has led others, like Heather Ash Amara, to build off it and for me to consider it worth sharing.
So here they are, the Four Agreements:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”
I can’t tell you how much trouble I have with this one. I understand that our words carry power. Magick, if you will. I try to be impeccable but in the end I have no control over how people interpret what I say.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
This works both ways. What I do and say is a projection of my reality.
At the core of my beliefs stands the Tree of Life which is represented by the deceptively simple phrase, “As above, so below.”
What I allow into my core shapes me. What is at my core shapes my words and actions.
With that in mind I disagree with Don Miguel on this one point: He suggests we take nothing personally. Not even positive words and actions. I say if it’s good let it in. Just don’t let it go to your head.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”
The rule here is simple: Assume nothing. Not even that tomorrow will arrive.
This includes making assumptions about myself (“I can’t do this“, “there’s no way I can make this work“, etc).
It doesn’t matter if you fail at something if you…
4. Always Do Your Best
“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”
I can not do any better than my best. Sometimes that means asking for help. I’m not very good at that.
The Four Agreements work together. Support each other.
Let’s say that I need to replace the intake gasket on my car:
Before I can say “I can do that” I need to know that I’m capable of it. I can’t just assume I can do it. So I fall back on experience. In the past I have done a good job on similar projects. I have done my best and it worked. Not taking that personal, not allowing it to go to my head because I am aware that changing spark plugs is not at all like changing an intake gasket, I can admit to myself that if I do my best it will get done. Even if I have to enlist the help of my mechanic buddy.
These Four Agreements can apply to everything from fixing leaky plumbing to committing myself to a loving relationship.
I have found that the most profound processes are often the most simple and straight forward. This is one of the most direct approaches to change I have ever used and with just a little practice it becomes second nature.
Our words – they can seem so inconsequential. Yet, they are so very powerful. I have tried your method of writing words of what I want as if I am living them in the present. Wow! They are a powerful spell.
I would have to agree with your interpretation of ‘don’t take anything personally’. In social situations how can one assess effectiveness of words or actions without hearing what others are saying? No we do not need to accept things that pull us down into the murky depths of despair, but if someone can lift you up as on wings of an eagle why not accept that? On the other hand pedestals are dangerous, and it can be a very long and hard fall if you get knocked off.
Assumptions – whew, this one gets in my way more than I would like to admit. It is so natural to assume something will happen a certain way, yet with faith, the belief in things not seen, it doesn’t have to work out that way. If we can set up the chemical process within ourselves in a way that is not overwhelming we can use that to change outcomes in our personal worlds…
I always think I am doing my best. Some days my best isn’t as good as other days. I am learning to respect this about myself. To realize that my best and my gifts are different from others and this is good. I am done with comparison. Comparison negates all of these agreements and spirals into an uncomfortable place where words become lethal darts, everything is taken personally and assumptions lurk behind every curve in the path.
The Four Agreements really are a great method to keep my life in order and keep track of my intentions. I don’t think anyone, including Ruiz, has them completely mastered. That’s what number four is mostly about. Give myself room to fail and be okay with it. If I go around saying I can do something that I really can’t, even when doing my best, then the whole system fails. That’s why it’s important to know what my best is and to never commit to more than it.
I think there is a difference between “doing your best” and lying. It is one thing to say I play chess vs. I am a brain surgeon. I know the basic rules about chess and how the pieces move, I am not sure my best would ever really win the game. I am definitely not a brain surgeon. You really don’t want me wielding a scalpel with intention of being inside your skull. That said, I wouldn’t play chess in a life or death situation either, even if I can stay within the rules. 😉
Doing our best doesn’t mean being The Best. It requires that we know our limitations and accepting that they are the best we can do and then being okay with it.