I Don't Care What Happens Next
on the spiritual state of the world, the implications and utility of love, the definition and methodology of enlightenment
Don Miguel Ruiz paints a rather clean and well-organized picture of enlightenment and the spiritual state of the world. In a nutshell, his four agreements provide an escape from "the dream of the planet” by offering us an alternative to the endless agreements we already—and perhaps unknowingly—maintain. His methods involve the sacrifice of our current agreements to make room for the titular four.
The above puddle of seeming mumbo-jumbo can be significantly clarified by explaining how Ruiz uses the word “agreement”. You may imagine a sort of amalgam of a belief, a promise, and an expectation, and that would bring you about as close as can be achieved in one short sentence. More specifically, we form an agreement when we concede to a belief, a rule, or a virtue. Whenever we see a word on a page, Ruiz explains, we tap into the agreement that is that word’s meaning to us; we agree that the symbols we see refer to the concepts we were told they symbolize. We refer to agreements when we feel shame for an action we have been taught is wrong. Perhaps the most deeply rooted agreements are the ones concerning our own identities; I agree that I am me and all that this word entails, be it my age, gender, perceived strengths, or sense of individuality, including an unquestioned separateness from others. These agreements I have made with myself form what I think of as my personality
Every time we make an agreement, we expend some of our personal power to maintain it, analogous to the formation of a covalent bond in chemical reactions. Ruiz insists that only if we break these agreements—particularly those based on fear, which are especially exhausting—can we begin to change the patterns of our lives and regain our natural power. But how do we break these long-held and multitudinous agreements? According to Ruiz, we must make four new agreements:
1. Be Impeccable with Your Word
The first agreement states that we must not go against ourselves. It goes beyond the implied honesty of communication with others, requiring that we do not harm ourselves with our thoughts or actions toward ourselves as well as others. When we use our freedom of will to create hate, we are sign against ourselves. That means no critical thoughts about your appearance and no harsh evaluations of another person’s worth.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
The next agreement seems built to work in tandem with the first. If someone tries to use their word to hurt you, be it with an insult or through the creation of doubt or fears regarding your life, the second agreement urges us not to take this to heart. Even the immutable circumstances of your life can hurt you if taken personally, so keep this agreement in mind always.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
We can augment the first agreement by avoiding assumptions. When we look for clarification and ask questions, we can easily avoid the potential suffering and uncertainty that comes with taking blind leaps. We needn’t make it harder to enact the second agreement by surmising a personal attack where none may be.
4. Always Do Your Best
Ultimately, the only way to create a habit of the first three is by use of the final agreement. By expecting ourselves to perform as well as we are capable of performing, and no more, we will not go against ourselves when we fail. We don’t have to take it personally when we cannot achieve some goal. But we do need to push ourselves to reach our peak, because making these new agreements with ourselves is not effortless, so we mustn’t expect ourselves to do any less than our best, either.
By utilizing these four agreements, it is Ruiz’s belief that we may discover true freedom and happiness. I definitely recommend a deeper delving into each of the four, as well as Ruiz’s relevant theories of enlightenment, as found in The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book.
The people of today’s society may claim to be fatalistic, but only when it suits their ends. Fate has come to be used, much like religion, science, or morality in general, as a tool by both the well-meaning and the ill-intentioned. We may say that a certain outcome is simply “fate” when we do not wish to take responsibility for the consequences of our decisions. We may, however, claim a good result to be the product of our accomplishments, ignoring fate when it so suits us. We may, still, claim that something was “mere chance” if we do not know whether to pride ourselves or discredit ourselves; this is our safe middle-ground. In every case, though, we have denied ourselves the consistency of beliefs.
Overall, what we really do when we flip-flop between blaming fate and crediting our own efforts is deprive ourselves of the consistency that originally gave the concept of fate its power. If we remain steadfast in our belief or dismissal of fate, then we force ourselves to heed our own senses, accepting both the good and the bad or honoring neither. When we blame ourselves for our wrongdoings, we also commend ourselves in our acts of altruism and benevolence; ignoring fate, we are forced to acknowledge our own behaviors and their consequences, and are thereby persuaded to effect, through more positive actions, more positive results.
It is my strong belief that we should not play it safe, so to speak, by removing ourselves from the effects we have on others and on ourselves. If we own up to the end results of our decisions, saving claims of “fate” for only those circumstances in which our minds can see no clear causes whatsoever, then we make ourselves not only vulnerable to our own failures but open to our own successes. We must drop the pretense of chance, accept the inevitability of our own right to choose, and let that right empower us to influence our society for the better.