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The Four Agreements: a Roadmap to Freedom of Mind

Communication is the key to a pain-free life. The more we engage in conversation, the deeper we can understand each other. Alas, optimal communication with the outside world is only achievable through superb communication with ourselves. Many of us don't practice positive self-talk and self-exploration. Some explore their minds too little; others talk down on themselves or fail to take the time to process daily stress and practice emotional hygiene. 

What is the four agreements book about?

"The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz is a book that aims to help us better communicate with our internal and external world. It does so by offering four agreements you can make with yourself for a pain-free life. It offers insight and guidance as well as some advice to live by. It promises an easier life based on the wisdom of the Toltec tribe.

But know this - the four agreements aren't easy to implement in your life, and if you choose to embrace them, this will be a lifelong journey. It will take willpower and dedication to overcome obstacles and break out of old patterns. Once you grow through the challenges, you will reap the fruits of your labor, one day at a time. 

The first agreement

the 4 agreements - Be impeccable with your word
The most important and most difficult one. The word impeccable comes from the Latin word pecatos - sin. The prefix 'im' - without. Hence, impeccable is without sin. Sin, for the matter of our discussion, is anything that goes against yourself; anything you do, feel, believe, or say that berates you. Blaming and judging yourself is sinful. Ruiz encourages the reader to transform guilt and shame into responsibility, giving us our power back. This is a much more productive approach than living paralyzed by shame. 
The power of the word in the context of the book is one of magical magnitude. To say something is to cast a spell. Ruiz defines the word as your power, a God-given gift; what other creature can speak on this earth? Words are expressions, creations, and tools for manifesting thought and intention into reality. They are a force of communication. The misuse of this force can bring suffering while the impeccable use of it - a life of love and beauty. 
A word can set you free or enslave you. It is pure magic. Think of a time someone insulted you - these memories are etched onto us like magical marks. According to Don Miguel Ruiz, the human mind is like fertile soil. Words are like seeds. Opinions, ideas, and concepts - these are all seeds. When someone shares their opinion with you, and you believe or agree with it, this metaphorical seed grows in your mind. This happens both with good and harmful concepts. 
Being impeccable with your words will clean your life of emotional poison and immunize you against negative seeds. You can measure your impeccability by the amount of self-love you practice. Start using your words right - beginning with yourself. 

The second agreement

the 4 agreements
To rephrase - nothing is about me. Personal importance, as Ruiz calls it, is a measure of selfishness. If everything is personal, then everything is about you, and you're responsible for everything. Allow yourself to let go of that kind of responsibility. In truth, absolutely nothing of what other people do is because of us; it is exclusively because of them. After all, in a free world, everyone is both entitled to and responsible for their actions.  You are never responsible for the actions of others. 
People live in their own worlds. Even if they insult you directly, it is still about them. It is their pain, and if you take it personally, it becomes your pain. It is not that someone has the power to hurt you, it's that you experience pain because you have been touched by the outside world. Clear your emotional wounds, and you will find that words truly cannot hurt you. 
This may be difficult to grasp. It may even feel merciless but think of it this way - this gives you back your power over your feelings and releases you from responsibility over other people's feelings. To cleanse yourself of emotional pain, make an inventory of all the old agreements you have with yourself. Start writing them down with a pen and paper. This will help you navigate your inner world and resolve internal conflicts. 

The third agreement

the 4 agreements
We could swear they're real, but our assumptions about other people's actions are far from fact. We make assumptions and jump to conclusions because we're afraid to ask for clarification. We block communication. This gives room for fear and speculation to grow and makes us miserable. It all happens inside the mind.
Making assumptions is asking for problems instead of answers. There is an innate human need for explanations to feel safe. We like certainty and need to have all the answers in order to feel safe. That is why we invented myths. When we don't get the answers, we make up our own in the form of assumptions. But these often lead to more suffering than stability. 
Once we made an emotion-based assumption, our logic-based mind starts building a case and justifying our feelings. This creates a cascade of pain, misunderstanding, and taking things personally when, in reality, nothing terrible happened. We trap ourselves in a cycle of pain because it may be all we know - it is familiar. But no one can read our minds, and when we expect our partners to do so (and naturally, they fail), we tell ourselves they hurt us. In reality, we hurt ourselves by expecting others to understand us without communication. 
Many of us mistakenly assume everyone thinks the way we do, feel the way we do, and judge the way we do. This is far from true, and that's why constant communication with one another and oneself is crucial to a happy life. Ask questions, courageously. When you don't make assumptions, your word becomes impeccable. 

The fourth agreement

the 4 agreements

This last agreement is the result of the first three agreements. It will help you execute the other agreements. Always doing your finest will save you from negative self-talk, but mastering it is no easy task. In essence, living by this agreement is to always do your best - nothing less and nothing more. This is possible only if you realize that your optimal state changes constantly.

When you're tired, your performance won't be in the same capacity as when you're energized. This agreement requires you to constantly check in with yourself to see how you feel, physically and mentally, and to act accordingly. It requires constant compassion, respect, and loyalty toward yourself.

If you act on his agreement properly, without straining yourself, you will be relieved of guilt. If you do less than your best, you might feel vulnerable to judgment and blame. If you give more or less than your subjective best, it might be that you do something for the wrong reasons. Maybe you expect a reward, and perhaps you feel like you must serve and satisfy. Both of these motives are wrong. A much better motive is love - love of the other or self-love. More often than not, we confuse love with service. Be sure to check in with yourself to see how you feel to prevent that. 

Summarizing and FAQs

What are the four agreements, and what do they mean?

the 4 agreementsThe four agreements are: 

1. Be impeccable with your words.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

What do they mean?

1. The first agreement provides a practical tool for self-love and kindness. It establishes the power of communication.
2. The second agreement allows you to let go of responsibility for other people's actions. Practice humility and be humble - remember that nothing other people do is about you. 
3. The third agreement opens a window to optimal communication in every relationship. It encourages you to let go of shame and replace it with curiosity - ask questions until everything is clear. 
4. The fourth agreement urges you to pay attention to your mind and body and observe the changes they undergo. It provides a tool that's difficult to master, but it will release you of guilt and teach you the meaning of consistency.


What religion are the four agreements about?

The book uses religious terms like God and sin. However, it strips these terms of their usual connotation and widens their meaning to a broad spiritual context. The four agreements are based on ancient wisdom rooted in Toltec roots. This is an ancient tribal society that lived in modern-day central Mexico between the 10th and 12th centuries AD. Toltec practitioners later gave rise to Mayan culture, indicating its profound influence on culture at large. 

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