An ancient canonization of Native South American precepts, The Four Agreements juxtaposes contemporary Western ideologies with largely Eastern fundamentals.
Written by Don Miguel Ruiz, it introduces a simple, yet interminable set of instructions for how one should approach life. The Agreements maintain that in order to be happy, feel full, accept accomplishment, ponder purity, or engage in enlightenment, you must first grasp these four precepts:
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.
By following these terse, yet codified instructions, Ruiz posits, “then you are going to have a beautiful life” (Ruiz, 88).
In life, it is important to distinguish between the dark and the white, the good and evil, love and hate. In order to learn of spiritual purity, inner peace, physical awareness—which is truly the essence of yoga—we must first purify our inner selves.
Ruiz’s Four Agreements play into internally cleansing this aspect of “dirtiness,” “darkness,” “poison” and “evil.”
As yogis, we must first capture the essence of The Four Agreements, understand the words and put them into practice in order to even conceive of following the path to spiritual, mental and physical enlightenment.
But how do the Agreements apply to you as a yoga practitioner?
Yoga, a commonly spoken word of Sanskrit etymology, literally functions as a discipline for spiritual training and insight into one’s self, otherwise known as atman. Similar to yoga—a daily and perpetual work towards spiritual purity and tranquility—The Four Agreements speaks to something deep inside anyone who sets their mind to reading it; however, both yoga and The Four Agreements delve deeper than merely reading a book or pushing through a physical exercise. Instead, they each work towards a betterment of atman, the improvement of self.
Such practices are not achieved overnight, within a year or even several years; nor are such practices merely temporary, there exists no on and off switch.
Once you decide to set down the road, it is inconceivable to turn back; a veil has been lifted, so to speak, and you find yourself on the threshold of an enormous, yet wonderful and beautiful world, filled with awe, power, grace and, dare I say, enlightenment.
Of all those who set along the path, many do not even reach the final goal, but this is not bad; it does not suggest a squandered life—the aspiration for a better self. In fact, experience suggests that these practices actually yield better results without a final goal in mind.
Often with a final goal or prize in mind, you poise yourself against others.
In a yoga practice, the last thing you ever want to do is compare yourself—flexibility, power, grace—with that of another practitioner. Such is the way with The Four Agreements. Each individual, Ruiz stresses, derives individual experiences from their own background, from particular events specified to their own history. Each trial, every encounter, then, suggests a new and potential direction.
Once we set out to rid ourselves of spiritual negativity, we find ourselves on the edge of vast and awesome arena that utterly dwarfs—in time, in space, and in potential—the tidy proscenium of our social structure.
Yoga and The Four Agreements, though different in little ways, each draws upon the improvement of atman, the self.
While Ruiz’s book encourages humankind to act with selfless humility, practicing yoga teaches us about our bodies, our strengths and weaknesses. In our personal lives also, we journey from ignorance to knowledge, from selfishness to self discovery.
This book, coupled with yoga, not only pulls us closer to individual, but also a global conscious growth. If one were to read The Four Agreements, and were to fully comprehend its words, then I believe that the individual prosperity attained might immediately begin to outwardly reflect the advancement of atman and, ultimately, the human race.
Drew Cauthorn: I am a History and Religion of East Asia Major. I am also a Yoga instructor in the Virgin Islands.
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Ed: Sara Crolick
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