Top 3 Tools to Implement the Four Agreements in Your Daily Life.
Millions of people have read the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and many of the comments I hear from people is that they loved the book because it pointed out something to them that they instinctively knew but had not had put into such simple words. Reading the book allowed them to stop and focus on the ideas presented and consciously recognize that, yes, I know these things that I am reading are true and If I can follow these practices my relationships with others and myself will be better.
The Four Agreements are simple but they are not always easy to implement, why is this?
There are two primary reasons for this. The Four Agreements makes us challenge our habitual way we have learned to do and react to things in our life by automatically following our agreements or in other words our belief system. This belief system operates automatically, as soon as we perceive anything our automatic belief system is triggered and takes over how to respond to the situation. This is a fast shortcut that the mind uses developed very early in life in order to quickly respond to situations in order to keep us safe. The problem is this system gets applied to any interaction in our life from that point forward if it looks similar to the original situation, even though the circumstances do not apply. This is why we can see people we know who we would consider intelligent and rational do things that we can see from observing them that are detrimental or harmful to them and are even giving them the exact opposite outcome to what they say they want to have happen.
The second reason is that while this automatic reaction is happening and we are applying the old inappropriate automatic reactions and behaviors to the situation our mind starts to tell us the story that fits with our reaction. This story seems completely true to us while it is happening. One of the major reasons the story seems so true is the emotions that are triggered while the story is being told completely support the story we are telling ourselves. When a story and a supporting emotion occur at the same time it is a extremely compelling false reality that we have created with our own mind and body that is hard to challenge or stop.
The 3 tools we need in order to break this illusion are
The first is active self-awareness, the ability to watch or observe our own mind, emotions and behaviors without judgment. This is also commonly called mindfulness.
The second tool is active attention. Active attention is the active conscious control of what your mind is focusing on. The use of the mind to focus on and observe oneself is what allows you to break your old agreements and belief system.
The third tool is acceptance. The automatic mind is habituated to compare and judge everything and keeps the attention trapped in this process when you do not take active control of the attention. The constant cycle of judgment, of self and others, is what keeps alive the old belief system and reinforces it. Acceptance practice with the active mind counteracts the habit of judgment and will break down the system of agreements that take over so automatically.
Applying these 3 tools with the four agreements with persistence will over a relatively short period of time enable you to break down old agreements. The good news is that you do not have to do it perfectly all the time in order for these tools to work. Just keep throwing the wrench of Self-Awareness, Active Attention and Acceptance into the mechanism of your automatic reactions and the stories that you are telling yourself and the hold they have over you will break.
The Top 10 Way to Practice The Four Agreements
And how it improved my life.
From my personal journey.
I started out as a complete novice to the concepts in The Four Agreements nearly 20 years ago. I started practicing the concepts and started to have very small personal changes happen for me at first. In addition, I had glimpses of clarity to things I had been in the dark, basically, things in my life that had always been there but I had not been able to perceive. These small things are what kept me interested in trying to understand the concepts and practicing. Now 20 years later these practices are automatic for me.
When people ask me how long it will take to see a difference in the quality of their life if they start incorporating The Four Agreements and the supporting self-awareness practices, I give them two answers. The first is, it depends, on how long you drag it out by not practicing. The second answer is that I consider myself a very lazy person and was not very diligent about practicing and even I was able to notice marked improvements in the overall level of my happiness every 6 months.
These 10 exercises are what I experienced as being the most important and effective practices and areas of focus in incorporating the four agreements in my life.
10 Four Agreements Practices
- Become aware of the watcher point of view. You are now practicing active self-awareness also known as mindfulness. Awareness consciously watching itself without judgment.
- Become aware of the two states of attention, Active directed attention and automatic attention. The automatic attention will keep trying to take over when the active self-awareness is not engaged
- Stop judging. Practice not judging anyone else and especially not judging yourself. You will do this with your active attention. The automatic mind will default to judging and comparing everything. This is a key practice in learning to Be Impeccable With Your Word.
- Watch out for the fact that you will fall into the trap of judging yourself because you cannot stop your automatic thoughts from judging. This process takes practice and effort. Use the fourth agreement here…. Just Do Your Best.
- When you are practicing Not Taking Anything Personally and you find that you actually cannot stop your reaction do not resist the energy and emotion you are feeling, instead refrain from acting on it with speaking or behavior that you would normally do in this situation. We call this acting with refrain, we allow what his happening to us but we do not repress it or act on it. This is the way you break the force of the automatic reaction.
- When you are in a neutral emotional state practice watching other people being in their head and not using their active attention. Can you see that their attention is focused inward and is watching their movie and story of what they are telling themselves is happening instead of using their active attention to be present with what is actually happening? This practice will help you recognize when you lose control of your active attention and are doing the same thing.
- When you are taking something personally or when someone you are interacting with is having a strong reaction consciously acknowledge to yourself that you are creating the whole event. You probably do not know how yet but it is the truth. Something in your automatic belief system setup and created the whole scenario. Now you just have to use mapping your belief system to uncover what it is. This is the epitome of Not Making Assumptions.
- Use other people as a Mirror in order to see your agreements and belief system.
- When you are not actively engaged in an activity or social interaction practice taking control of your active attention and intentionally put yourself in an expansive emotional state. Practice being in the emotions of gratitude, joy and love as fully and often as possible until these states become the new habit.
- Practice acceptance of self, others and situations. Acceptance is the antidote to judgment, which is the main manifestation of how the mind creates individual suffering.