Tag Archives: spirituality

Review: The Four Agreements

Recap: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. These are the four agreements, the four promises that Toltec master Don Miguel Ruiz says will change your life, offer you personal freedom and make you a happier person with less suffering in this highly recommended self-help book. The agreements are simultaneously simple and difficult: simple in the sense that they appear to be common sense. Of course, if we always do our best, we will be happy. Of course, if we are impeccable with our words or stop assuming or don’t take things personally, we’ll be happy. DUH! But life isn’t quite so easy, and neither is making these changes. It’s one thing to promise to make these agreements; it’s another to actually follow through with them.

Analysis: Before Ruiz can make the case for the four agreements, he first must make the case for why we all have an often insatiable desire to be happy. He does this well, by explaining that we spend our lives raised by our parents, taught their lessons, experiencing the world and society around us and essentially accepting everything that’s thrown our way to be “true.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to follow societal norms. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to fit in with the crowd or stand out in our own greatness. He explains that if we opt to not care what other people think. to do what makes us happy and to keep a positive outlook, we can be and remain happy. He explains that most of the suffering we each experience in life is self-induced.

For example, maybe someone cuts you off in traffic and you become enraged. You honk at them and start waving your arms and yelling in the car. The other driver sees you and starts yelling back or gives you the finger. The rest of the drive, you spend gripping your wheel, fuming. We’ve all been there. But what if, when that person cuts us off, we don’t take it personally? What if we realize that person is probably in a massive rush for some reason? What if we realize that their actions had everything to do with them and absolutely nothing to do with us? Then we’d just merrily continue driving to our destination, completely at ease. So why do we so often go down the first path? It’s because we’re causing our own suffering. We have the power to change this. We have the power to recognize that what other people do has nothing to do with us. We have the power to take a positive approach and fill the world with joy instead of anger. It will make you feel better and the others around you feel better too.

The concepts are easy. The actions are hard. But they are also worth it. Because we all want ease and joy. Ruiz’s book is at times a little heady and very spiritual, so it might be a bit much for some. But if you really want to improve your life and yourself, this is a book that will single-handedly get you there.

Get The Four Agreements in paperback for $7.49.

Or on your Kindle for $4.02.

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Review: And Then I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau

61deu6ntxslRecap: A move to the Southern countryside is not cause for Mathias B. Freese to begin thinking about the end of his life — he’s been doing that for years — but it does trigger it. After all, he’s in his seventies, and this will likely be the place where he dies. Freese reflects on how he got to this moment —  where he succeeded and where he stumbled — in his latest memoir. But he also asks the age-old question: What is the point? What is the true meaning of life? His latest book is an experimental dive into the question to which there is no answer. But he continues to ask it anyway. At times he writes of self-awareness. In other moments, he writes just to write, to pass time.

He reflects on the works of literary gods and philosophers to help answer the question. He takes long walks in the woods. He goes to the doctor to try and improve his health — or at least maintain it. He spends time with his new wife decorating and fixing up their new house. In this book he writes about not only a physical journey — his move to Alabama — but also his philosophical, emotional and spiritual journey.

Analysis: To sit and think for long periods about death, life and the meaning of it is beyond undesirable to most — it is sad, worrying and maybe even nauseating. That’s the way it is for Freese too. He does not pretend to be above the rest of us. That said, he still pursues it head-on in a way many wouldn’t have the guts to do. I certainly don’t.

There were moments, in fact, upon reading his memoir when I had to stop because the panicky thoughts of my own mortality were too much to bear. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a recent significant death in my family that has zapped a lot of joy out of me and injected me with a heavy dose of irritability and grief. But mostly, I think anyone would find these topics difficult. What is there but life, right? It is all we have. As Freese points out frequently, we spend so much time thinking about other things — mostly trivial — that we never sit and think about our life on a grander scale.  I identified with Freese and his anxieties, which made his memoir feel all the more moving and important, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

Get And Then I Am Gone in paperback for $8.95. 

Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

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