I’ve been thinking about how much chaos was stirred inside me when I read The Four Agreements (Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc. 1997) by Don Miguel Ruiz, a Mexican man born into a family of healers. It was no accident that I read this book. Author Janalee Card Chmel gave me a copy when we worked together in 1990-91 at a New Jersey daily newspaper and often discussed topics like anxiety, depression and bereavement. In 2001, she wrote Grant Me Serenity, an incredibly poignant memoir about her mother’s last seven months of life with advanced liver cancer. So, whenever this insightful writer and dear friend suggested a book, I was sure to read it. She never steered me wrong.
After reading The Four Agreements a second time and certain parts of it many more times over the years, I now consider it my “inner peace treaty.” I tend to reach for it when I’m feeling baffled, that my mental health is in question and I need to start from ground zero. The agreements are embellished by stories shared from Ruiz’s rich life and experiences during his process of what I understand to be true enlightenment.
- Be impeccable with your word. This is the urge to be authentic with your voice, as well as truthful and loving. The importance of this is obvious. Honesty is a lonely word. We lie to protect ourselves. We lie to protect others. We lie because we believe the truth will hurt worse than a lie. But mostly we lie when we want things to be different and don’t know how to make them authentically happen. A lot of it starts with words you say to yourself. We can only be truthful with others if we can be brutally honest with ourselves. Not easy sometimes!
- Don’t take anything personally. I believe this is one of the hardest things to accomplish in life. Our egos are huge and we have a difficult time not personalizing absolutely everything. I can only imagine how much happier the world would be if we could manage not to take things personally and understand that nothing anyone does has anything to do with you. For this agreement alone, the book is worth reading. Ruiz writes, “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
- Don’t make assumptions. Imagine all of your relationships without misunderstanding. I have a hard time with it, but I’m going to try for just a moment. If we collectively decided to always ask questions and avoid assuming anything at all, the problems of the world would cease because people would have almost nothing to argue about. The trick here is having the patience and confidence to ask questions and once again to be impeccable with your word and say exactly what you mean at all times. If we could do that being human would have new meaning.
- Always do your best. Of course, your best is relative and subject to great change from moment to moment. But the point is to work with what talent and abilities you have and infuse every waking moment with positive energy and truth for your own sake to avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and especially, to avoid regret. Never mind judgment or abuse or criticism from anyone else because no one should ever take anything personally, according to the second agreement.
Just now, my intuition prompted me to Google “inner peace treaty.” The result is yet another affirmative example for how intuition actually works. Number one on the search list was a book by Chelsea Wakefield, LCSW called Negotiating the Inner Peace Treaty---Becoming the Person You Were Born to Be about Jungian archetypes and living authentically, both fascinating topics, if you ask me. So, it’s obvious that I must now read this book. But the kicker is when I looked up the publisher so I could include it here; it turns out to be Balboa Press, a division of Hay House (as in Louise Hay, the author of You Can Heal Your Life, 1984). Later this year, my first book Chilangos in the House (about the life of a Mexican restaurateur) will be published by Balboa Press.
If there were to be a fifth agreement, it should be to always follow your intuition because it leads you everywhere you need to go.