Book Review: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Just use your imagination and a tremendous thing will happen. Imagine you have the ability to see the world with different eyes whenever you choose. Each time you open your eyes, you see the world around you in a different way.

The Four Agreements is rich with life lesson. It challenges the most basic constructs of one’s world view, pushing us to reconsider matters long considered truths. However powerful, some of the book’s flaws were difficult to overcome.

Ruiz’s tenets are grounded in “ancient Toltec wisdom”, but little context is provided beyond that. Who, what, when and where were the Toltec practitioners? Where do these four agreements come from, specifically? Without any cultural or historical context, Ruiz effectively obscures ancient tradition, and then tacitly takes credit for its genius as his own. Despite this being an impactful read, full credit doesn’t seem to be given where credit is due.

While The Four Agreements themselves are straightforward and to the point (be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, always do your best) the broader text is less so. It feels more like transcribed dictation than edited publication. And perhaps that’s purposeful, in recognition of oral tradition, but it also lends itself to a preachy quality that can be tiresome.

“Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life."

The Four Agreements is wrought with pointed observation, but some proclamations verge on preposterous (If I say to a friend “I see the kind of color in your face in people who are going to get cancer.” If he listens to the word, and if he agrees, he will have cancer in less than one year.”) and others, the offensive (persistent references to the triumph of “white magic” over “black magic”). This swing between rational and ridiculous made this read challenging in parts, but on balance, the former outweighed the latter.

Where The Four Agreements wins is its ability to hone in on the fallacy of the status quo and bring to light the ways in which we limit ourselves—mentally, physically and emotionally, several tenets of which I’ve integrated into my own personal canon.

Quote. Unquote.

Your word is power you have to create. Through the word you express creative power. It is through the word that you express everything. What you dream, what you feel, and what you really are, will be all manifested through the word.

When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace.

A sin is anything that you do that goes against yourself...Self-rejection is the biggest sin that you can commit.

Nothing other people do is because of you. It's because of themselves.

Taking action over and over again strengthens your will, nurtures the seed, and establishes the foundation for a new habit to grow.

The agreements that come from fear require us to expend a lot of energy, but the agreements that come from love help us to conserve energy and even gain extra energy.

Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best—no more no less than your best. If you try too hard to do more than your best you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end, your best will not be enough.

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