I don't expect to actually review books here, but I thought I would write a little bit periodically about books that I've read and what I've taken from them. Don Miguel Ruiz's THE FOUR AGREEMENTS is the third instalment.
I'll be honest: I found a few parts of this book a little bit hokey. There's an assertion, for instance, that if only we loved more, war wouldn't exist, and while I suppose that's an okay argument in theory, to me it doesn't hold water in a world of, say, resource scarcity and hunger.
But with that said, I took a lot from this book and I refer to the agreements often since reading it.
I picked it up after two friends whose commitment to self improvement I admire recommended it. It's a quick read, and deceptively simple, and I think that's the root of its power.
The four agreements are:
Be impeccable (without sin) with your word.
Don't take it personally.
Don't make assumptions.
Always do your best.
Simple stuff, but definitely not easy to put into practice all the time. I am unkind to myself and gossip about others, for instance.
I definitely take things personally; whether it's the way my partner handled our breakup or a not-so-nice book review or even being turned down when I apply for an apartment.
I've found little setbacks and perceived slights can ruin my day, and if I remind myself that an insult, say, reveals more about the speaker than the recipient, or that I'm not defined by the critical response to my work, or that it would be impossible for a prospective landlord to be insulting me based on the email I sent--they don't even know me and they're likely swamped with applications and had to be brusque--it usually puts me in a better headspace almost immediately.
I read this book just before my dad came back to the farm after taking a work placement in Alberta. I love my dad very much and think the world of him, but I tend to get stressed when we're living in the same space.
I think this is largely because I feel guilty that I don't see the world quite the same way he does (he's a walking dynamo who never slows down; I'm more than happy to waste an afternoon reading a book, for instance), and I feel obligated to bend my way of life to meet the way I think he wants me to live.
Guilt leads to stress leads to defensiveness leads to anger and conflict and unhappiness. What I took from this book was the motivation to:
1) Maintain a solid foundation of kindness toward myself, security in my own personhood, and compassion, patience and tolerance of my dad's own unique personality.
2) Don't take it personally when my dad's world view or expectations conflict with my own.
3) Rely on that security in my own personhood and my right to agency to communicate clearly with my dad and establish explicitly both what he expects from me and what I am willing to provide.
4) Do my best to meet my dad, adult to adult, by taking an active role in household management at the farm and by being a loving, supportive and cheerful family member; and to keep my stress in check by remembering the above.
As I write this, there have been a few speed bumps on the farm, but nothing serious, and I feel the dynamic here has improved considerably over previous occasions we've been together.
I definitely credit the book with inspiring me to change my approach, and I'm looking forward to implementing the four agreements more as I enter Phase 2 of #ProjectNomad and set back out into the world.