The first day I walked into therapy I was a hot mess! I felt gloomy, unhappy and in great agony and despair. Depression and anxiety will do that to a weary soul. And I was one tired and weary soul.
On that first day, my therapist asked, “If you spill milk what do you do?” My answer, “I clean it up.” “Yes,” she continued, “but what do you say to yourself when you’re cleaning it up?” It only took a second to share my self-talk; “Look at this mess you’ve made. You’re so clumsy. You can’t do anything right!” That was an eye-opener for me, as I didn’t consciously realize how negatively I felt about myself.
As our session continued, my therapist shared a book with me and recommended I read it at least three times stating “it changed her life.” The book was small and titled The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
At that point in my life, I was open to doing anything and everything to feel better, so I went home and ordered the book from Amazon.
When it arrived, I began reading and couldn’t stop. It felt as if the book were written just for me. I finished it in no time and read it again and again.
The Four Agreements is a wisdom book based on the beliefs and teachings of the Toltec people of southern Mexico. The Toltec were “scientists and artists who formed a society to explore and conserve spiritual knowledge and practices of the ancient ones,” the book explains.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s writing is exceptional and reader friendly. In The Four Agreements, he writes about the Toltec traditions and beliefs and sets forth four teachings…a way of life for those who practice…meant to bring about happiness, peace and love in one’s life. While the four teachings sound simple, they require a lot of work.
The four agreements are:
- Be impeccable with your word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t take anything personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
- Don’t make assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
- Always do your best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
(Text from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom ©1997 Miguel Angel Ruiz, MD. Published by Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc.)
After reading this powerful little book, I began to practice the four agreements, even posting them on my refrigerator door as a reminder. I am by no means a master of these teachings, but I do my best (#4) every day to remember them and put them into action. I can tell you honestly and sincerely this book has changed my life for the better.
If you’re struggling with negative self-talk, worried about everyone liking you or get upset when you assume without asking questions or just want a good read, I highly recommend you get a copy of The Four Agreements.