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Simple rules simply change you

Simple rules simply change you

By Elizabeth Clarke, Palm Beach Post Religion Writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Oprah Winfrey calls this book life-changing. So does Ellen DeGeneres. Spiritual guru Deepak Chopra calls it "a road map to enlightenment and freedom."

The Four Agreements, a little inspirational paperback by a man named Don Miguel Ruiz, has sold 1.8 million copies and spent most of the past two years on the New York Times bestseller list.

But Ruiz, who will speak Sunday at Unity of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, isn't fazed by the celebrity endorsements, the bestseller list, the 27 translations available or the nonstop speaking he's done since the book was published five years ago.

"I gave myself to this book," Ruiz says. "It's an expression of what I really am and I expected it would go all over the world."

That's because it has such a simple, universal message, he says.

The book explains our "domestication" as children -- when we learn what we should do and who we should be -- and then offers four simple pacts to help us change faulty beliefs and live in a way that is more true to ourselves.

Ruiz, 49, learned these agreements from his family in rural Mexico. As a descendant of ancient Toltec masters (scientists and artists in southern Mexico who preserved the area's ancient spiritual knowledge), his family had expected he would embrace the teachings of his mother, a healer, and grandfather, a shaman. Instead, he chose to attend medical school in Mexico City.

It took nearly dying in a car accident there to bring him back to the Toltecs. Ruiz devoted himself to mastering his ancestors' wisdom and then spent a decade traveling and teaching what he learned. Finally, he distilled much of that into The Four Agreements.

Incorporating the pacts into his own life was difficult, but with work, they came naturally to him.

"When you learn to ride a bicycle, you focus all your attention until it becomes a habit," he says. "This is the same thing."

The first agreement -- be impeccable with your word -- sounds a lot like your mother's old admonishment: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

But it goes deeper than that, Ruiz says. "Your word" includes your thoughts about yourself and others. This agreement urges you to change these, too -- by speaking only with love and speaking only the truth.

"What you believe about yourself and what you tell to yourself, that's what rules your life," he says. "This agreement means don't use the word against yourself, and just like magic your life becomes so beautiful."

The second agreement -- don't take anything personally -- might be the most difficult of the four because we've been taking everything anyone says about us personally all of our lives.

But Ruiz says those things really have nothing to do with us. They're based on other people's hang-ups and experiences.

"You make so many mistakes when you take things personally," he says. "If we don't take things personally, our decisions are better and our actions are impeccable."

The third agreement -- don't make assumptions -- can save us years of anxiety and grief, Ruiz says. It encourages us to ask questions and use clear communication to quiet the voice in our heads that's always talking -- and almost always wrong. This helps us live in the moment rather than worrying about what we could or should do.

"We create the biggest dramas in our lives based on nothing," he says. "If we just stop making assumptions, we save at least 60 to 80 percent of the dramas."

The fourth agreement -- always do your best -- lets us work on the other three without condemning ourselves. Your best changes from day to day, but it's always your best, Ruiz says. And always doing your best frees you from regret.

These four pacts changed Ruiz's life when he finally made them a habit, he said. He stopped gossiping, became sure of his identity and stopped drinking and driving, which had caused his accident years before. Now, he says, he's happy and at peace.

And he believes anyone can be.

"You have complete control of yourself," he says. "Your life becomes full of joy and kindness. Your life becomes very simple and very easy."

elizabeth_clarke@pbpost.com

THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

by Don Miguel Ruiz

Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.

Don't take anything personally. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

Don't make assumptions. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.

Always do your best. Under all circumstances, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

If you go

What: Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, discusses his book and attaining personal power and freedom.

When: 2 p.m., Sunday

Where: Unity of the Palm Beaches, 1957 S. Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach

Tickets: $20-$50

Information: Call Unity, 833-6483.

Copyright © 2001, The Palm Beach Post. All rights reserved.
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