I recently finished a fantastic read of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide on Personal Freedom, by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book presented an ancient Toltec perspective on our lives and how the hidden “agreements” we make with ourselves and others have a huge impact on the world and reality we see around us. I strongly encourage everyone to read it as it is only 140 Pages and very well written. Without giving too much of the book away, I wanted to discuss each of The Four agreements in relation to our elemental philosophy.
It is probably because I spend a lot of time contemplating the elements and how they are present in all things in our life, but anything with four parts almost always lends itself well to a further, deeper understanding through this elemental perspective of thought. Ruiz listed the agreements as are:
The Four Agreements
- Be Impeccable with your Word
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
- Do Not Make Assumptions
- Always do your best
Though Ruiz only made allusion to elemental ideas, we will analyze them based on which element fits best to the idea presented with each agreement in his book.
“Be Impeccable With Your Word”
The Four Agreements begin with “be impeccable with your word.” To summarize Ruiz on this, he explains that man must live by their word. Honesty, Integrity, Gossip, and Slander all affect our reality in some way. He compares the latter to Toxins that spread across our being from the first peccable word we speak. In this way we must live by the words we say, and only say the words we mean, but more than this we have to embody the person we speak into being. In this way the aspects of fire are almost screaming to be recognized and alluded to. The book of John begins with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This example was also made in the book, and drives home the fact that our word is more than simply what we speak. If John’s God can be boiled down to his Word, so much so that it is the first thing written by him, then a man’s word is clearly much more than the words he speaks, but our very being. We must realize that though we have an understanding and a perspective of ourselves, others know us only by their perspective. This perspective is made of our word, which constitutes our character, our disciplines, even our actions.
By making our agreement to “Be Impeccable with [y]our Word” we embark on the practice of being everything we claim to be, and everything we desire to be. We hold ourselves accountable for every word and action we speak and begin to do so with the truest vision of ourselves. Not only will we become more honorable and just, but we will also have a clear direction begin to unfold in our lives.
“Don’t take anything personally”
The second of the Four Agreements brought to us by Ruiz is “Don’t take anything personally”, which he explains is the source of almost all forms of insults. Ruiz brings to mind the concept that only we can truly insult ourselves. An analogy is made that if someone walking down the street were to stop and call you stupid, that says nothing about you as a person, but only of that stranger. However if you allow that remark to enter you, if you take it personally, then you begin to embody the insult, and wonder how this person could know you are stupid, how could they have seen your stupidity. Ruiz also explains that by living in the first agreement, you will find the vindication to embody the second agreement. Once you are living impeccably with your word, you will know you are not stupid, and a remark light that will roll off of you without injury because it truly cannot apply to you. You will know this in your being, and be unfazed by such an attempt to insult you. However I can say that this agreement and the next are far more difficult to enact than you might initially think.
Most people have some kind of belief that they are relatively unbothered by a stranger’s mean remark. Truly most people probably could go on about their day without being too affected by some stranger in a bad mood, however, this is not true for those that we hold closer to us, yet the agreement is even more important for those people. If someone you love insults you, possibly calling you stupid, you would agree that carries more weight to you. The opinion of that person will be more important to you, so how could you simply bounce off of you? This was what I was thinking before Ruiz began to explain that not taking anything personally meant ANYTHING. Not only insults, but also compliments. This reshaped my perspective on the agreement, and demonstrated clearly to me its association with the aspects of Water. The element of our emotion shows influence in the way we flow with insults and compliments. It is the element that relates to our relationships, family, friends, and loved-ones.
“Do Not Make Assumptions”
Of The Four Agreements, the third is “do not make assumptions.” The nature of assuming is clearly evident as an exercise of our intellect. We weigh peoples actions against patterns we have seen in them and others, and decide what that means we might see them do in the future, or how they may be feeling. This clearly links itself to the element of air. We allow our brain to formulate incredible futures based on small, almost insignificant details that would have passed in the blink of an eye if we’d have allowed it. We meet a beautiful, attractive person and begin to plan our future with them before we even know their name. We are rubbed the wrong way by a customer and begin imagining the life they must live outside of that single interaction. In doing this we create what Ruiz explains as a toxin that spreads from that assumption, and infects our reality. It brings us suffering because our assumptions are quite often not the way our reality truly happens, and it causes a disharmony in us. Our air element is rebutted and thrashed by our singular closed-mindedness.
“Always Do Your Best”
The last of The Four Agreements is a deceivingly simple one. “Do your best.” No matter what I write here, you already have an idea of what this phrase means. We have heard it our entire lives. I personally have written a multitude of poems with the phrase as either the focus or a recurring theme. Somehow still, it escapes us. This is because the idea of our best has been given to us, and often comes from outside sources. Most of us actually strive to do more than our best, and in doing so do not accomplish what we are capable of. We try too hard to push ourselves past our limits and produce, or capitalize, on our lives, that we forget what our best truly is. We misunderstand our innate capability and purpose, and push ourselves to be something we are not. Our best is who we are, the being that exists. With this being said, we can see that, not only is Earth the last remaining element, but it is also the element that fits perfectly with this, almost cliche phrase. We have heard it so frequently, and just as frequently we have misinterpreted its truest meaning. Just as earth is stable, unmoving, nurturing and formidable, the planet itself is always moving at a consistent speed. The cycles of the world move consistently through the seasons of the year without missing a beat. The many aspects of life around us that would fall apart if one of them were missing, continue because that is their nature. That is the state of being. The earth remains stable and consistent at the speed that maintains everything, just as we will maintain each of these agreements if we remember to do our best, not more, not less.
I tried hard not to summarize every single point made in The Four Agreements By Don Miguel Ruiz, but there was so much incredible information that I wanted to be able to bring at least some of the powerful analogies and imagery to this post, in hopes that we could more clearly see the relation to our own elemental philosophy.