Saturday, July 20, 2024

Find joy in life with simple guidelines from Toltec philosophy

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz is one of my favorite books. Each chapter has a relatable situation, followed by a fresh perspective on how to see the world. These powerful guidelines reduce everyday stress by encouraging a shift in focus, giving clear and practical advice that helps us navigate our lives with more calm and clarity.

Written by Miguel Ruiz in 1997, quickly became a best-seller available in 52 languages. Tijuana born Ruiz grew up in rural Mexico and worked as a neurosurgeon until 1986, when a near-fatal car crash made him question his path. He quit his medical practice and moved to San Diego, California.

Portrait of Miguel Ruiz
Author Miguel Ruiz was inspired to write the book after a near-death experience. (

His family of Toltec healers helped him heal from the accident and inspired him to share their philosophy. In The Four Agreements, and many of his later books, Ruiz combines old wisdom with new insights to create a code that is easy to understand and use in everyday life.

The Toltecs were an ancient civilization that flourished in central Mexico around the 10th century. Their teachings emphasize personal freedom and living in harmony. The Spanish conquest and misuse led to the need to protect this knowledge and so various lineages of naguals preserved and transmitted this wisdom. Ruiz himself is a nagual from the Eagle Knight lineage. He has brought these powerful teachings to the modern world, brining guidance to those seeking a better life in the modern era.

The Four Agreements teaches us that we shape our lives through a series of agreements we make with others, with God, and with life itself. However, the most crucial agreements are those we make with ourselves. Our agreements can limit our potential and create unnecessary suffering or lead us to joy and fulfillment.

In this book, we learn about the “domestication” of humans. We adopted our family’s rules and values through a punishment and reward system and as a result, learned to judge everything, including ourselves. We reward or punish in return. True freedom is in the human spirit, where you are free to trust yourself instead of external opinions. When you see that your struggles come from your beliefs, you are free to choose differently.

Cover of The Four Agreements
The book is also available in English for non-Spanish speaking audiences. (Audible)

I (of course) recommend you read the whole book, but here’s a summary:

The First Agreement

Be impeccable with your words. Words are your power to communicate, to think, and to create your life. Words are the most powerful tool you have as a human being. Words are your magic wand. Words are a double-edged sword used to create the most beautiful dream or destroy everything around you. Depending on how you use them, words can either free or enslave you. All your magic is based on your words. Use your words appropriately. Use them to share love, starting with yourself.

The Second Agreement

Do not take anything personally. You expose yourself to needless suffering when you think everything is about you. Nothing others do is because of you. They do it because of themselves. We all live in our own mind. Even when a situation seems very personal, as when someone insults you, it’s unrelated to you. What they say, what they do, and their opinions are based on the agreements in their mind. Their point of view comes from all the programming they received during their domestication.

The Third Agreement

Do not make assumptions. The problem comes when we believe that what we assume is true. We make assumptions about what others do or think, take it personally, blame them, react, and create a drama over nothing. This agreement calls us to break away from our imagination and get in touch with reality.

By following these four agreements, the Toltecs believed it would be easier to achieve inner peace. (Jared Rice/Unsplash)

The Fourth Agreement

Always do your best, no more and no less. Your best will vary depending on your daily moods and from one day to another. Regardless of the outcome, always do your best, no more and no less. If you try too hard to do more than you can, your performance will be insufficient. If you do less than you can, you subject yourself to guilt and regrets. The best way to appreciate life is to let go of the past and not worry about the future; keep your attention on today and stay in the present moment. When you allow yourself to be fully present, you don’t miss anything because you are truly alive.

When we’ve realized that social programming controls our minds, we can declare our war of independence. Choosing this path gives us, at the least, the dignity of rebellion. It also ensures we will not be helpless victims of toxic emotions. “The Four Agreements” teaches us a way to transform our perspective on life, guiding us to create a more heavenly existence. By adopting these principles, we can break free from limiting beliefs and live with greater freedom, joy, and authenticity.

Sandra Gancz Kahan is a Mexican writer and translator based in San Miguel de Allende who specializes in mental health and humanitarian aid. She believes in the power of language to foster compassion and understanding across cultures. She can be reached at: [email protected]


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