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Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Time Event
2:03a
Another decent one ...
I'm always so happy when I launch into a "newage" book (for whatever reason) and find it not "silly", and this is another of those pleasantly-surprising volumes!

I ended up ordering this from Amazon the same time as The Secret as they both were about a wash on the discount rate vs. the new/used rate plus shipping, and together I could get them new and with free shipping, so they're sort of linked in my mind because of that. I actually got turned on to this via a gal at my Toastmasters club, who had done a speech about it a month or so back.

Frankly, don Miguel Ruiz' The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book could hardly be more different, especially in that it doesn't demand belief, just personal effort, which, while difficult is certainly within the grasp of anybody. Likewise, it does not depend on any supernatural agencies, just what one as a normal person can muster on a daily basis.

Now, as I have mentioned previously, I have read pretty much all of the "Castaneda material", but very little of the post-Castaneda "Toltec" teachings. If this is a solid representation of the latter, I'm quite impressed. According to his bio, don Miguel Ruiz, is a "hereditary" shaman (both his mother and grandfather were practitioners of the local Mexican traditions), but evidently a "hesitant" one. Rather than immerse himself in his family's healing traditions, he went off to medical school and became a surgeon ... however, a near-death experience in a car crash in his 20's drew his attention back to the traditional knowledge.

While not appearing to have worked at all with Castaneda, The Four Agreements shares the occasional "technical" term, but almost in passing in most instances (his definition of "allies", for instance). However, the concept of "dreaming" is central to this book, although it's not specifically like in the "dreaming/stalking" dichotomy of Castaneda, and is almost more akin to Gurdjieff's sense of "sleep". In this, he posits that all humans are "domesticated" into "the dream of the planet" which is the combination of the billions of individual "dreams", and is, ultimately, very much like Hell. The purpose of working with the Four Agreements is to gradually extricate oneself from the specific "agreements" which are part of that "dream" and forge a new "dream" which represents personal freedom, and ultimately "heaven on earth".

Now, the use of "agreements" is a bit confusing, as every point of acceding to the reality of the common dream is an "agreement", the Four of the title are more "rules of conduct" that will lead one to systematically address these various smaller agreements. These four steps, or Four Agreements are:

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
2. Don't Take Anything Personally.
3. Don't Make Assumptions.
4. Always Do Your Best.
The last of these is very key, because making all these "little changes" provides one with a whole bunch of opportunities for short-term failure, and it's set up this way so that one is not constantly beating oneself up for imperfection (as opposed to the "perfect belief" needed in The Secret!).

As one moves through one's "agreements" with the common dream, changing them over to "agreements" in line with one's personal dream, one will encounter "the parasite", a sort of extraneous consciousness which expresses itself as "The Judge" and "The Victim", alternatingly repeatedly punishing us for long-past failures ("I should not have yelled at that person", I'm bad, I'm bad, I'm bad, etc.) way past any "just" punishment, and causing us to cling to old wounds and not allow them to heal. Interestingly, the concept of our being "domesticated" into the dream, and having "the parasite" to deal with seems very close to Castaneda's "the fliers" as described in The Active Side of Infinity!

There are other "technical" terms which appear in Castaneda's books, like "attention", "warriors", and approaches to "death", and these, along with different sorts of "dreaming" lead one away from the Hell of the common dream and into the "heaven" of freely living, but the concepts are a bit too specific for me to get into at length here.

Suffice it to say that I really liked The Four Agreements, and, frankly, wished it was more in-depth than allowed by its brief 150 pages! This is still in print in both hardcover and paperback, and can be had for as little as $2.45 (plus shipping) for a "very good" used copy of the latter. However, Amazon has the hardcover for only a bit over $11.00, so I'd say splurge on this one, as you'll very likely find yourself wanting to re-read this, so the fancier format (with a nice silk ribbon bookmark sewn in) is worth the extra bucks (especially if you get free shipping). It should, of course, also be available via your local brick-and-mortar store. However, do go pick up a copy, as this is a real gem!


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