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Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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8:00p
not quite there ...
As readers of my reviews may recall, I was very impressed with Don Miguel Ruiz' The Four Agreements, and found it both very useful, and by far the best of a whole slew of "intention" books that I read a year or so back. When I found this "companion" book at a used book sale some months ago, I was quite excited to have some more "Toltec Wisdom" material.

Unfortunately, The Four Agreements Companion Book : Using the Four Agreements to Master the Dream of Your Life (by Don Miguel Ruiz & Janet Mills) is not the book its predecessor was. Follow-up books are, like movie sequels, a mixed bag. Some take the material from an original statement and frame it in a whole new context, providing access and insights where they might not have been initially. Some are purely "product" churned out because a first book "started a franchise" and there are suckers born every minute. This is at neither of these extremes, but exists in a "why did they put this out?" limbo, lending little new perspective on the Four Agreements, but not being a cynical re-hash either.

My suspicion is that, with the popularity of the initial book, there arose a demand (or an opportunity) for running workshops on the "Toltec" material for those who were unable to utilize the Four Agreements material on their own and needed the hand-holding (and "experience") of a workshop structure in order to "feel" that they were "getting it". I come to this conclusion due to the perception that much of what is in this book sounds like lecture notes (with accompanying "exercises"), and it makes sense that if there was a lot of "workshop material" sitting around somebody (either attendees or Ruiz's publisher) would suggest making a book out of them. Unfortunately, this is not structured like a "manual", so presents its content in a standard book format, creating a bit of a muddle.

This is not to say that there isn't some interesting/useful information in the book ... taking an original concept such as The Four Agreements and presenting them from another angle always reveals something new, it's just that there's not much here for those who "got" the original book, and there's no functional "entry point" for somebody who hadn't read the first book. Frankly, there were many passages in this which reminded me of the later Castaneda material (and I mean that in a good way) ...

My suggestion is to keep focusing your attention through your integrity, and make choices that don't go against yourself. By focusing your attention and following your integrity, you can measure your choices by your action-reaction. This choice comes from love; that choice comes from fear. This choice makes me happy; that choice makes me suffer

The difficult part is to be aware. Everything we learn from the outside dream goes against awareness; we practice every agreement we create, and our agreements go against our awareness. But we can also practice awareness until we recover awareness.
Again, there is "good stuff" in here, but it is largely tucked in between "instructions", as though to lend weight to what could be just seen as "busy work" for those that need it.

Just like hell, heaven is a place that exists within our mind. It is a place of joy, a place where we are happy, where we are free to love and to be who we really are. We can reach heaven while we are alive; we don't have to wait until we die.
Unfortunately, this would likely to be a very confusing book for somebody who hadn't read the first one, as the key concepts of The Four Agreements, while being outlined here, are more juggled around, so the terminology of the "Toltec" tradition (as per Ruiz's exposition) could be hard to follow.

Once we understand that we are dreaming, we know that everybody around us is also dreaming, with or without awareness. Then we realize that the point of view other people use to see the world has nothing to do with us. At this point we no longer even try not to take anything personally. We don't take anything personally because we know others are dreaming, and it is only their point of view.
Of course, there is a whole question of the legitimacy of the "Toltec tradition", be it in Ruiz's or Castaneda's permutations, but I'm always fascinated when I find "gems" of things that I recognize from other sources in books like these, and it makes me hungry for more.

The dream is ongoing everywhere, not just in humans, but in plants, in rocks, in everything because light puts all the information that comes from Life inside each form of matter. Light is the messenger of Life; it contains all information, all power, all possibilities, and all potential of Life. Light comes from everywhere, and fills everything. Different frequencies of light act as a mold or blueprint for all the different forms of Life. There is only one living being manifesting in billions of forms.
When I look at the good things that can be extracted from this "companion book", it makes me more disappointed that a follow-up to the original wasn't a "deeper" look at the material!

Anyway, this is still (of course) in print ... so you could find it at your local "brick & mortar" book source. Amazon has it at 20% off of cover, and their new/used vendors have "new" versions under four bucks (before shipping). Once more, I would not recommend this for folks who have not read the original Four Agreements book (which I do strongly recommend!), but it could be useful if you had been through that, but still felt a need for a more "structured" approach.


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