The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
Ruiz, Don Miguel
In your whole life nobody has ever abused you more than you have abused yourself. And the limit of your self-abuse is exactly the limit that you will tolerate from someone else.
Impeccability means “without sin.” Impeccable comes from the Latin pecatus, which means “sin.” The im in impeccable means “without,” so impeccable means “without sin”
A sin is anything that you do which goes against yourself.
Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself.
Gossip is black magic at its very worst because it is pure poison. We learned how to gossip by agreement. When we were children, we heard the adults around us gossiping all the time, openly giving their opinions about other people. They even had opinions about people they didn’t know.
Do you see how we use the word against ourselves? We must begin to understand what the word is and what the word does. If you understand the first agreement, be impeccable with your word, you begin to see all the changes that can happen in your life. Changes first in the way you deal with yourself, and later in the way you deal with other people, especially those you love the most.
When you become impeccable with your word, your mind is no longer fertile ground for words that come from black magic. Instead, it is fertile for the words that come from love. You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word. When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace.
Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.
You may even tell me, “Miguel, what you are saying is hurting me.” But it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself.
There is no way that I can take this personally.
The way you see that movie is according to the agreements you have made with life. Your point of view is something personal to you. It is no one’s truth but yours. Then, if you get mad at me, I know you are dealing with yourself. I am the excuse for you to get mad. And you get mad because you are afraid, because you are dealing with fear. If you are not afraid, there is no way you will get mad at me. If you are not afraid, there is no way you will hate me. If you are not afraid, there is no way you will be jealous or sad.
Humans agree to help each other suffer. If you have the need to be abused, you will find it easy to be abused by others. Likewise, if you are with people who need to suffer, something in you makes you abuse them. It is as if they have a note on their back that says, “Please kick me.” They are asking for justification for their suffering. Their addiction to suffering is nothing but an agreement that is reinforced every day.
Wherever you go you will find people lying to you, and as your awareness grows, you will notice that you also lie to yourself. Do not expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you.
When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid. They are afraid you will discover that they are not perfect. It is painful to take that social mask off. If others say one thing, but do another, you are lying to yourself if you don’t listen to their actions. But if you are truthful with yourself, you will save yourself a lot of emotional pain. Telling yourself the truth about it may hurt, but you don’t need to be attached to the pain. Healing is on the way, and it’s just a matter of time before things will be better for you.
If you can make this second agreement a habit, you will find that nothing can put you back into hell. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. You become immune to black magicians, and no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be. The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune. Someone can intentionally send emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it. When you don’t take the emotional poison, it becomes even worse in the sender, but not in you.
As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.
If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you. You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. You can ask for what you need. You can say yes, or you can say no — whatever you choose — without guilt or self-judgment. You can choose to follow your heart always. Then you can be in the middle of hell and still experience inner peace and happiness. You can stay in your state of bliss, and hell will not affect you at all.
Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong.
It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering.
It is very interesting how the human mind works. We have the need to justify everything, to explain and understand everything, in order to feel safe. We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe. This is why we make assumptions.
We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works.
Your love will not change anybody. If others change, it’s because they want to change, not because you can change them.
We don’t need to justify love; it is there or not there. Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them. If we try to change them, this means we don’t really like them.
Of course, if you decide to live with someone, if you make that agreement, it is always better to make that agreement with someone who is exactly the way you want him or her to be. Find someone whom you don’t have to change at all. It is much easier to find someone who is already the way you want him or her to be, instead of trying to change that person. Also, that person must love you just the way you are, so he or she doesn’t have to change you at all. If others feel they have to change you, that means they really don’t love you just the way you are. So why be with someone if you’re not the way he or she wants you to be?
The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation.
Also, find your voice to ask for what you want. Everybody has the right to tell you no or yes, but you always have the right to ask. Likewise, everybody has the right to ask you, and you have the right to say yes or no.
If you don’t understand something, it is better for you to ask and be clear, instead of making an assumption. The day you stop making assumptions you will communicate cleanly and clearly, free of emotional poison. Without making assumptions your word becomes impeccable.
With clear communication, all of your relationships will change, not only with your partner, but with everyone else. You won’t need to make assumptions because everything becomes so clear. This is what I want; this is what you want. If we communicate in this way, our word becomes impeccable. If all humans could communicate in this way, with impeccability of the word, there would be no wars, no violence, no misunderstandings. All human problems would be resolved if we could just have good, clear communication.
Information or an idea is merely the seed in your mind. What will really make the difference is action. Taking the action over and over again strengthens your will, nurtures the seed, and establishes a solid foundation for the new habit to grow. After many repetitions these new agreements will become second nature, and you will see how the magic of your word transforms you from a black magician into a white magician.
Just do your best — in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment. By always doing your best, you will break a big spell that you have been under.
When you always do your best, you take action. Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite: They only take action when they expect a reward, and they don’t enjoy the action. And that’s the reason why they don’t do their best.
There are many ways that we hurt ourselves when we don’t like who we are.
If we like what we do, if we always do our best, then we are really enjoying life. We are having fun, we don’t get bored, we don’t have frustrations.
When you do your best you learn to accept yourself. But you have to be aware and learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes means you practice, look honestly at the results, and keep practicing. This increases your awareness.
Doing your best really doesn’t feel like work because you enjoy whatever you are doing. You know you’re doing your best when you are enjoying the action or doing it in a way that will not have negative repercussions for you. You do your best because you want to do it, not because you have to do it, not because you are trying to please the Judge, and not because you are trying to please other people.
No, you do your best because doing your best all the time makes you so happy. When you are doing your best just for the pleasure of doing it, you are taking action because you enjoy the action.
Taking action is being alive. It’s taking the risk to go out and express your dream. This is different than imposing your dream on someone else, because everyone has the right to express his or her dream.
God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say, “I love you, God,” is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, “Thank you, God,” is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now. Whatever life takes away from you, let it go. When you surrender and let go of the past, you allow yourself to be fully alive in the moment. Letting go of the past means you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now.
You can only be you when you do your best. When you don’t do your best you are denying yourself the right to be you. That’s a seed that you should really nurture in your mind.
You express your own divinity by being alive and by loving yourself and others. It is an expression of God to say, “Hey, I love you.”
By doing your best, the habits of misusing your word, taking things personally, and making assumptions will become weaker and less frequent with time.
If you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation. Practice makes the master. By doing your best you become a master. Everything you have ever learned, you learned through repetition. You learned to write, to drive, and even to walk by repetition. You are a master of speaking your language because you practiced. Action is what makes the difference.
You have to honor the man or woman that you are. Respect your body, enjoy your body, love your body, feed, clean, and heal your body. Exercise and do what makes your body feel good. This is a puja to your body, and that is a communion between you and God.
Your own body is a manifestation of God, and if you honor your body everything will change for you. When you practice giving love to every part of your body, you plant seeds of love in your mind, and when they grow, you will love, honor, and respect your body immensely.
Every action then becomes a ritual in which you are honoring God. After that, the next step is honoring God with every thought, every emotion, every belief, even what is “right” or “wrong.” Every thought becomes a communion with God, and you will live a dream without judgments, victimization, and free of the need to gossip and abuse yourself.
That’s why you need to be a great hunter, a great warrior, who can defend these Four Agreements with your life. Your happiness, your freedom, your entire way of living depends on it. The warrior’s goal is to transcend this world, to escape from this hell, and never come back. As the Toltecs teach us, the reward is to transcend the human experience of suffering, to become the embodiment of God. That is the reward.
victim. No, be tough with yourself. Stand up and make the agreement again. “Okay, I broke my agreement to be impeccable with my word. I will start all over again. I am going to keep The Four Agreements just for today. Today I will be impeccable with my word, I will not take anything personally, I will not make any assumptions, and I am going to do my best.”
Do not be concerned about the future; keep your attention on today, and stay in the present moment. Just live one day at a time. Always do your best to keep these agreements, and soon it will be easy for you. Today is the beginning of a new dream.
We have memories of long ago, when we used to be free and we loved being free, but we have forgotten what freedom really means. If we see a child who is two or three, perhaps four years old, we find a free human. Why is this human free? Because this human does whatever he or she wants to do. The human is completely wild.
Very young children are not afraid to express what they feel. They are so loving that if they perceive love, they melt into love. They are not afraid to love at all. That is the description of a normal human being. As children we are not afraid of the future or ashamed of the past. Our normal human tendency is to enjoy life, to play, to explore, to be happy, and to love.
The real you is still a little child who never grew up. Sometimes that little child comes out when you are having fun or playing, when you feel happy, when you are painting, or writing poetry, or playing the piano, or expressing yourself in some way. These are the happiest moments of your life — when the real you comes out, when you don’t care about the past and you don’t worry about the future. You are childlike.
But if we look at our lives we will see that most of the time we do things just to please others, just to be accepted by others, rather than living our lives to please ourselves.
Your life is the manifestation of your dream; it is an art. And you can change your life anytime if you aren’t enjoying the dream. Dream masters create a masterpiece of life; they control the dream by making choices. Everything has consequences and a dream master is aware of the consequences.
A Toltec becomes wise, becomes wild, and becomes free again.
There are three masteries that lead people to become Toltecs. First is the Mastery of Awareness. This is to be aware of who we really are, with all the possibilities. The second is the Mastery of Transformation — how to change, how to be free of domestication. The third is the Mastery of Intent. Intent from the Toltec point of view is that part of life that makes transformation of energy possible; it is the one living being that seamlessly encompasses all energy, or what we call “God.” Intent is life itself; it is unconditional love. The Mastery of Intent is therefore the Mastery of Love.
One way to change your beliefs is to focus your attention on all those agreements and beliefs, and change the agreements with yourself. In doing this you are using your attention for the second time, thus creating the dream of the second attention or the new dream. The difference is that you are no longer innocent. When you were a child this was not true; you didn’t have a choice. But you are no longer a child. Now it’s up to you to choose what to believe and what not to believe. You can choose to believe in anything, and that includes believing in yourself.
Only with awareness do you have the possibility of transforming your dream. If you have the awareness that the whole drama of your life is the result of what you believe, and what you believe is not real, then you can begin to change it.
However, to really change your beliefs you need to focus your attention on what it is that you want to change. You have to know which agreements you want to change before you can change them.
So the next step is to develop awareness of all the self-limiting, fear-based beliefs that make you unhappy. You take an inventory of all that you believe, all your agreements, and through this process you begin the transformation. The Toltecs called this the Art of Transformation, and it’s a whole mastery. You achieve the Mastery of Transformation by changing the fear-based agreements that make you suffer, and reprogramming your own mind, in your own way. One of the ways to do this is to explore and adopt alternative beliefs such as the Four Agreements.
The Four Agreements were created to assist you in the Art of Transformation, to help you break the limiting agreements, gain more personal power, and become stronger. The stronger you get, the more agreements you can break until the moment comes when you make it to the core of all of those agreements.
Going to the core of those agreements is what I call going into the desert. When you go into the desert you meet your demons face-to-face. After coming out of the desert, all those demons become angels.
For example, the little girl who was told not to sing is now twenty years old and she still does not sing. One way she can overcome the belief that her voice is ugly is to say, “Okay, I will try to sing, even if I do sing badly.” Then she can pretend that someone is clapping and telling her, “Oh! That was beautiful.” This may break the agreement a teeny, tiny bit, but it will still be there. However, now she has a little more power and courage to try again and again until finally she breaks the agreement. That’s one way out of the dream of hell. But for every agreement you break that makes you suffer, you will need to replace it with a new agreement that makes you happy.
This will keep the old agreement from coming back. If you occupy the same space with a new agreement, then the old agreement is gone forever and in its place is the new agreement.
We need the same amount of power to change an agreement. We cannot change an agreement with less power than we used to make the agreement, and almost all our personal power is invested in keeping the agreements we have with ourselves.
Every day we awake with a certain amount of mental, emotional, and physical energy that we spend throughout the day. If we allow our emotions to deplete our energy, we have no energy to change our lives or to give to others.
The way you see the world will depend upon the emotions you are feeling. When you are angry, everything around you is wrong, nothing is right. You blame everything including the weather; whether it’s raining or the sun is shining, nothing pleases you. When you are sad, everything around you is sad and makes you cry. You see the trees and you feel sad; you see the rain and everything looks so sad.
Perhaps you feel vulnerable and have a need to protect yourself because you don’t know in what moment someone will attack you. You do not trust anything or anyone around you. This is because you see the world with the eyes of fear!
Imagine that the human mind is the same as your skin. You can touch healthy skin and it feels wonderful. Your skin is made for perception and the sensation of touch is wonderful. Now imagine you have an injury and the skin gets cut and infected. If you touch the infected skin, it is going to hurt, so you try to cover and protect the skin. You will not enjoy being touched because it hurts. Now imagine that all humans have this skin disease. Nobody can touch each other because it is going to hurt. Everyone has wounds on their skin, so the infection is seen as normal, the pain is also considered normal; we believe we are supposed to be that way. Can you imagine how we would behave with each other if all the humans in the world had this skin disease? Of course we would hardly ever hug each other because it would be too painful. So we would need to create a lot of distance between us. The human mind is exactly like this description of infected skin. Every human has an emotional body completely covered with infected wounds. Each wound is infected with emotional poison — the poison of all the emotions that makes us suffer, such as hate, anger, envy, and sadness. An action of injustice opens a wound in the mind and we react with emotional poison because of the concepts and beliefs we have about injustice and what is fair. The mind is so wounded and full of poison by the process of domestication, that everyone describes the wounded mind as normal. This is considered normal, but I can tell you it is not normal. We have a dysfunctional dream of the planet, and humans are mentally sick with a disease called fear. The symptoms of the disease are all the emotions that make humans suffer: anger, hate, sadness, envy, and betrayal. When the fear is too great, the reasoning mind begins to fail, and we call this mental illness. Psychotic behavior occurs when the mind is so frightened and the wounds so painful, that it seems better to break contact with the outside world.
If we can see our state of mind as a disease, we find there is a cure. We don’t have to suffer any longer. First we need the truth to open the emotional wounds, take the poison out, and heal the wounds completely. How do we do this? We must forgive those we feel have wronged us, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much we don’t want to keep paying for the injustice. Forgiveness is the only way to heal. We can choose to forgive because we feel compassion for ourselves. We can let go of the resentment and declare, “That’s enough! I will no longer be the big Judge that goes against myself. I will no longer beat myself up and abuse myself. I will no longer be the Victim.”
You will know you have forgiven someone when you see them and you no longer have an emotional reaction. You will hear the name of the person and you will have no emotional reaction. When someone can touch what used to be a wound and it no longer hurts you, then you know you have truly forgiven.
The warrior has awareness. That’s very important. We are aware that we are at war, and the war in our minds requires discipline.
Not the discipline from the outside to tell us what to do and what not to do, but the discipline to be ourselves, no matter what.
The warrior has control. Not control over another human, but control over one’s own emotions, control over one’s own self. It is when we lose control that we repress the emotions, not when we are in control. The big difference between a warrior and a victim is that the victim represses, and the warrior refrains. Victims repress because they are afraid to show the emotions, afraid to say what they want to say. To refrain is not the same thing as repression. To refrain is to hold the emotions and to express them in the right moment, not before, not later. That is why warriors are impeccable. They have complete control over their own emotions and therefore over their own behavior.
That is the way I see life, that is what the angel of death taught me — to be completely open, to know that there is nothing to be afraid of. And of course I treat the people I love with love because this may be the last day that I can tell you how much I love you. I don’t know if I am going to see you again, so I don’t want to fight with you.
What if I had a big fight with you and I told you all those emotional poisons that I have against you and you die tomorrow? Oops! Oh my God, the Judge will get me so bad, and I will feel so guilty for everything that I told you. I will even feel guilty for not telling you how much I love you. The love that makes me happy is the love that I can share with you. Why do I need to deny that I love you? It is not important if you love me back. I may die tomorrow or you may die tomorrow. What makes me happy now is to let you know how much I love you.
You can live your life this way. By doing so, you prepare yourself for the initiation of death. What is going to happen in the initiation of death is that the old dream that you have in your mind is going to die forever.
When we live in the dream of the planet, it is as if we are dead. Whoever survives the initiation of the dead receives the most wonderful gift: the resurrection. To receive the resurrection is to arise from the dead, to be alive, to be ourselves again. The resurrection is to be like a child — to be wild and free, but with a difference. The difference is that we have freedom with wisdom instead of innocence. We are able to break our domestication, become free again, and heal our mind. We surrender to the angel of death, knowing that the parasite will die and we will still be alive with a healthy mind and perfect reason. Then we are free to use our own mind and run our own life.
The dream you are living is your creation. It is your perception of reality that you can change at any time. You have the power to create hell, and you have the power to create heaven. Why not dream a different dream? Why not use your mind, your imagination, and your emotions to dream heaven?