I have lost count of how many times I have reread this book. But despite my efforts to downsize and live a minimalist lifestyle, which includes owning fewer books, The Four Agreements stays on my shelf because I know that need to continue rereading it—over and over again.
The Four Agreements (1997), written by Don Miguel Ruiz, is a powerful little book. I received my copy of this book several years ago from a friend and fellow graduate student. Before giving me the book, my friend wrote a note on the title page, “Enjoy & Breathe.” I image that in my early 20s, I probably really needed to hear that advice! And that’s exactly what Ruiz teaches in this book: how to live in a way that allows us to breathe and enjoy life.
I reread this book because I need to be reminded of the lessons that Ruiz offers: 1) Be impeccable with your word, 2) Don’t take anything personally, 3) Don’t make assumptions, and 4) Always do your best (and your best is going to change from moment to moment). Ruiz carefully begins the book by helping the reader to think critically of society and culture, and then introduces new agreements that we can make with ourselves to live differently, without suffering and sadness.
There are moments where a reader might be uncomfortable with some of the more spiritual language that is used throughout the text. If you are unsure of how this language might make you feel, then skim a few pages before purchasing the book; or, checkout the book from your local library so you can just return it.
I think the lessons offered in this book, however, speak to spiritual and non-spiritual audiences alike. Have you ever struggled with taking things personally? How many times have you found yourself making assumptions about what other people might be thinking about you? Do you adjust your expectations when you are not healthy, and allow yourself the time you need to heal? Ruiz’s book serves as a reminder to be kind to yourself, to avoid self-judgement, and to spend less time dwelling on the thoughts of others, which you can’t know or control anyway.
I may wait another few years or so before I reread this book, but I doubt I will ever sell or donate it. My copy of The Four Agreements reminds me of the ways in which I want to live my life, and the note in the cover reminds me that a true friend will tell you when you need to slow down, enjoy life, and just breathe.