“The Four Agreements,” written by Don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills, uses concepts from Toltec Wisdom as a tool for self-help and spiritual guidance. The book is written in the second person, simulating a direct conversation between the authors and the reader.
Although it was published in 1997, it continues to impact people and hold relevance today. The book has sold around 10 million copies and was on New York Times’ best-selling list for more than a decade. Since its publication, it has been translated into many languages worldwide.
The four agreements that Ruiz and Mills discuss are:
— Be impeccable with your word.
— Don’t take anything personally.
— Don’t make assumptions.
— Always do your best.
Don Miguel Ruiz draws from the Toltec, an ancient civilization of Mexico that flourished from the 10th to 12th centuries CE. The people of this civilization followed the knowledge passed down to them from the earlier Olmec civilization and other civilizations. According to Ruiz, the Toltecs were scientists and artists who formed a society to explore and conserve the spiritual practices of their ancestors. This knowledge has been handed down to generations of indigenous communities — and now to readers worldwide.
A reoccurring theme in the text is that we are all one with the universe. This is explained through the story of an indigenous person trying to become a medicine man. One night while looking up at the stars, the man had an epiphany that “(e)verything in existence is a manifestation of the one living being we call God. Everything is God.” While thinking about this idea of existence, he also came to the conclusion that “everything is a mirror that reflects light and creates images of that light.” Here, the reader is introduced to the “Smoking Mirror,” or the concept that the “(w)orld of the illusion, the dream, is just like the smoke that doesn’t allow us to see who we really are.” Who we truly are, the man said, is “pure love, pure light.”
This ideology differs from many modern worldviews; many societies practice individualism and perceive everyone in the world to be different, leaving room for judgment that can be harmful to ourselves and others.
Many celebrities have praised Ruiz’s and Mills’ work. According to CNBC, professional football player Tom Brady stated that this book has become “kind of a mantra for (his) life,” highlighting the second agreement: “Don’t take things personally.” Talk show host Oprah Winfrey calls the book “simple yet so powerful” and emphasizes that the book “has made a tremendous difference in how (she) think(s) and act(s) in every encounter.”
As a reader, the agreement that spoke to me the most was the first agreement: “Be impeccable with your word.” This agreement is foundational to understanding the rest of the agreements. It involves thinking before you speak and critically analyzing your own thoughts when you agree or disagree with another person. This agreement helps practice integrity and honesty with yourself and others.
Here are some ways that you can be impeccable with your word:
— Never use your word against yourself or others.
— Be intentional (think and speak with purpose).
— (Self)-Reflect (think of previous conversations with others and with yourself, and see how you can improve).
— Pause and breathe before speaking.
— Treat people how you would like to be treated (choosing words wisely).
— Practice all of the above.
Ruiz says our words can be magic, and this magic can bring about positive or negative consequences. This book makes its readers question their impact on others and guides them in figuring out their communication style. Your mind formulates words before you speak them, and it is important to reflect before we communicate. This takes practice and patience; it will not happen overnight, and that’s okay. Each person is on their own journey, and it is okay to go at your own pace.