If you have read any of Carlos Castaneda’s books and wondered what the heck he was on about, then maybe Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” is for you. Subtitled “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” it covers some of Castaneda’s ground, but in plain English. While Castaneda’s books are fascinating, he rambles a lot because he was learning at the time he wrote them. Ruiz instead gets right to the point and he clearly understands what he is talking about. In a nutshell, the book is about how to free your mind of negative, self-limiting thoughts and habits, using the ostensibly straightforward method of making four simple agreements with yourself. He says that what he is teaching is Toltec wisdom, that is, native American shamanism (Ruiz claims to be a nagual), but wherever it comes from, it makes a lot of sense to me. Indeed, I was gratified on reading it to discover that I already apply much of what he teaches: maybe I understood more of Castaneda’s books than I realized! Of course, I’m not rich yet, but I am much happier than I used to be, most of the time.

The four agreements, in summary, are these:

1. Be impeccable with your word: i.e., be honest with yourself and others and do not talk yourself or other people down;
2. Don’t take anything personally: when people ‘insult’ you or behave selfishly or foist their opinions on you, remember that it is not to do with you, it is to do with them: they have their own issues and viewpoints, which are not your problem. You do not need to worry about what they say or think;
3. Don’t make assumptions: before jumping to conclusions about what people mean by what they do or say, ask them. Go to great lengths to avoid any misunderstanding.
4. Always do your best: you can avoid much self-criticism when you can reply to yourself, “I did my best,” as long as you remember that your best will vary from time-to-time and you are prepared to forgive yourself for your weaknesses.

He also explains some of Casteneda’s other terminology, such as the dream of the second attention. But whether you have read Castaneda or not, read this book. It is one of those books that everybody should read and I am quite sure that it can change lives – for the better.

The Four Agreements: Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (Toltec Wisdom)

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