Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements was life altering for me. I discovered it about 15 years ago and it remains a central core component of my internal tool box. Ruiz transmutes Toltec wisdom from the esoteric to the practical. The Four Agreements is exceptional within the traditional “self-help” pedagogy in that it is active. And simple. And true. The proof is in the pudding. It works, but only if one agrees and practices.
Ruiz’s basic premise is this: humans make agreements, within and without, all the time. What we agree with determines our world view and therefore determines what we choose to manifest: within and without. And we have the ability to change our map of reality. And if we do, life transforms from “Hell on Earth to Heaven on Earth”. The Four Agreements is about total responsibility of our selves no matter what the World throws at us.
Simple, right? Maybe even, at first glance, rather simplistic. Give them a try, and see. Here is the first one.
Agreement 1: “Be impeccable with your word.”
Ruiz likens humans as being magicians: our “word” has the power to curse or to cure. He uses the example of Hitler and how his word had the power to influence people to do bad things. The Nazis did bad things because they agreed with Hitler’s Word. This is self-evident, of course. But being impeccable with our word, “to be without sin”, applies to our mundane lives as well. Gossip, rumor mongering, even harsh words to a child or a loved one can have devastating effects. Life lasting effects. Especially if the recipient agrees with these harmful words. When I was a kid, I was told, and made to feel, stupid and worthless. And I agreed. As a result, I lived most of my adult life as a “stupid and worthless” human being. I chose to marry the wrong person and believed I deserved no better. I agreed with the poison of my father’s words and what manifested in my life reflected this agreement. I now know, and agree, that I am not a “stupid and worthless” human being and my life has spontaneously manifested in a way that reflects my new agreement. I gained my MFAW, I teach college, I write, and I am in a relationship with the right person. It is truly like magic. Painful, hard magic.
On writing: Being impeccable with one’s word is obviously specific to writers. This agreement reminds us to tell the truth in a way that is without “sin”. There is no intention to harm or manipulate others. The story, characters, and content should be impeccable no matter what we write about: main stream fiction, literature, or scholarly works. What matters is to take great care that we write the medicinal rather than the poisonous. Because once we say it, we can’t retract it. It also reminds us to avoid the gratuitous, especially in the area of genre and popular fiction. Will we send out nutritious soul food or sickening junk food? To be impeccable with the word means we must write from our own place of honesty and integrity. What we say, and how we say it, matters a great deal.
This does not mean we need to be nice, or write only about nice things. Nice is false. Nice often covers up ill-intent and can become passive-aggressive. Being impeccable does not mean avoiding anger, or power. It simply means being mindful and accountable. The idea is to write with the utmost care and awareness of our intention. And it is easy to fall of the wagon. I do it all the time. In fact, it is one of the reasons I took off a couple of my earlier posts and was left to wrestle with the “did I really write that?” guilt complex.
It is a process of practice, not perfection. When in doubt, listen to your gut. Your gut will tell you. When we are being impeccable with out word it just feels right. And, we we feel good.
Next post, Agreement #2.
Thanks for reading.
Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements. Amber-Allen Publishing: California. 1997.