Corvus and I (right before we stopped commuting to work together because somebody started working from home…) had the opportunity to reread The Four Agreements. Every couple years or so, I pick it up again–usually when I feel that my metaphoric walls have gotten a little thin and the world is wearing me out more than is strictly necessary. It provides a good reminder that interacting with the world does not have to be an exhausting resource drain. Every time I read this, I get something new out of it, and this time was no exception.
Let me just preface the following discussion with a disclaimer: I know this is not a particularly deep or well-written book. Corvus frequently refers to it as a “pamphlet” (not in a judgemental way, just by way of observation–it doesn’t really contain a books worth of information) and I am inclined to agree with him. It is repetitive, simplistic, and repetitive. Did I mention repetitive? However, this works in the context. Especially if you need a paradigm shift in the way you are approaching the world, because maybe whatever you are doing just doesn’t seem to be working. I can see that some people might be turned off by the strongly spiritual approach and language. However, for me, it provides a relevant metaphor (no need for a literal interpretation).
The basic premise of the book is really quite simple. From the time we are born, we are essentially being domesticated–a lot like the way we domesticate dogs or cats. We tell them what is good and what is bad. Based on this input, we make agreements with ourselves, our families, our friends, the social circles to which we belong, etc. These agreements frequently contradict one another and are based on the rules established by our respective societies. Yet we agree to them, often without knowing why.
Don Miguel Ruiz claims that keeping these endless and conflicting agreements robs us of all our energy. Furthermore, he promises that making just four new agreements will free up enough personal power to deal with all our other individual agreements. They are as follows:
1.) Be impeccable with your word–in other words, don’t lie.
2.) Don’t take anything personally–in other words, anything and everything people say is all about them. Everything. Really. Everything. So you don’t need to take anything personally. (This was a big time life changer for me).
3.) Don’t make assumptions–well, we all know what happens when we assume…
4.) Do your best–after all, it is all you can really do, and your best may be different every day.
The first time I read it, it was really all about not taking things personally. This was the beginning of my understanding that I had to become my own source of validation. So, good stuf.
This time through, what kept coming up for me over and over and over again was the idea that much of our modern lives are lived based on fear. More specifically, fear of (Perhaps Corvus will be so lovely as to expound upon his “Fear of” vs. “Fear for” theory at some point in the comments?). As I go through my daily routine, I find myself more concious of the presence of fear in my life. I see more clearly the ways in which I let it hold me back. How it affects my course, disrupts my journey, creates stress and suffering.
So lately I am toying with the idea that you could live a life based on love rather than fear. I’m thinking about what it would like like to make decisions out of love. How it would feel to live without fear (at least most of the time). That’s what I want. It’s really just that simple. The rest of it is just details.