The book I’m reviewing today is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. But first I’m going to talk about my mental state over the last month or so, and what lead up to my reading this book. Then I’ll discuss my experiences thus far with homeopathy, the book review, and my progress with both of these items in tandem.
It’s hard to keep things straight in modern life. Sometimes I just feel like I can’t get all of it done – I’m sure there are many of you who can relate. I’m so worried about getting it all done, my stress level rises, and then I beat myself up because it’s not all accomplished.
I spend so much time worrying and getting down on myself it has a negative impact on my overall productivity, rather than a positive one (ironically). The Type A person in me wants to get it all done – write a new post for this site each day, keep the house clean, and cook all three meals a day from scratch for my family (and look impeccable with a smile on my face while wearing a super cute apron).
As is evident by my lack of posts, however, lately it just hasn’t been happening.
Over the last few weeks there has been so much going on, I can’t even think straight. My mother who has advanced emphysema from being a life-long smoker has been in the hospital twice and could have easily died (from pneumonia), a long-time friend has also been very ill and in the hospital with a life-threatening illness, I’ve been helping to run our family business, trying to keep my blog afloat and remain connected to the online community of which I am a part, and take care of my home and family.
And in the midst of everything, I suddenly began to realize that I can’t possibly accomplish all the things I want every day – and that I can’t have a positive impact on other people through my actions and activities if I am so stressed out and spread thin that it affects my sanity and my health.
My intent is to be able to educate and provide information to people about sustainable living and all that goes with it. But can I be effective when I have so many things going on at once that I can’t do any of them well – but only halfway?
In life, there are so many forces pulling us this way and that, and sometimes it is necessary to just take a breath, sit back, and don’t get anything done.
Yes, you read that correctly. You know what I’m talking about .
You have all these tasks and obligations staring you in the face, and you can’t imagine how on earth you will accomplish it all in the amount of time available in any given day. But the reality is, we can’t get it all done…and there is always tomorrow. And if there isn’t, it really doesn’t matter anyway.
We all have responsibilities and obligations to others on an almost continual basis. But what about the responsibility we have to ourselves? When I say this, I don’t mean perfect. Just honest. I believe we cannot truly serve others unless we also take that time to meet our own needs as well. Now, this doesn’t mean go blow $500 on a shopping spree or eat an entire box of cookies. I’m talking about doing something productive for yourself that will make you a better person and enable you to do the things you need to do everyday better. Here are some ideas:
- Some type of exercise you enjoy and benefit from
- A hot cup of tea and a good book
- A nap, just because you need it
- Sitting down and writing in a journal – just to release stress, jot down ideas, or write poetry
- A visit to a massage therapist, colon hydro-therapist, chiropractor, or other practitioner you have been putting off that you need
- A hot bath
- An lunch date or evening out with an old friend or your spouse
- A picnic lunch with your family
- Meditation or prayer
- A quiet walk
Anything on this list (or add your own) is necessary to help you unwind, let go, and get away from daily obligations. But it’s more than that. It’s a way to force yourself to stop doing the have-to’s and include in your obligations a time to get recharged so you can be you, only better. And if you don’t pick a time and stick to it to do one of the things on this list, chances are, it will never happen.
Sustainable choices and stress
Many of us are concerned with sustainability, feeding our families good, healthy foods, and living a low-impact lifestyle that embraces the values we want our children to learn – to be respectful, kind, helpful, grateful, to honor God and to serve Him by serving others in the best way we know how, to be examples and leaders in our communities and show people how living sustainably and simply can improve the lives of others.
But it is also true that stress can actually compound health problems, much in the same way poor diet and lifestyle can. When we are in constant on-the-go mode with no end in sight to obligations and pressure, it takes its toll on us and our bodies and minds pay the price. Although everyone experiences stress, I would be willing to say that most people don’t know how to adequately manage their stress levels or even know how to say “no” when adding one more thing onto a task list that is already too long. I’m one of these people.
The response our bodies have to stress is there to help us maintain ourselves, meet challenges, and keep going when things become difficult. But sometimes that response is not what it should be, or we’ve just had too much stress and our bodies are no longer capable of eliciting this response. When our adrenals give out, when we’ve had too little sleep, not enough food, and one more thing happens that we just can’t handle, that can spell trouble.
The way we react to stressful situations, too, has a profound impact on our mental, physical, and spiritual health. It can cause disease to progress or dissipate, become chronic or heal a condition completely. It’s true our lifestyle affects our health – diet and environment too, but stress – both external and internal, is a major factor in our abilities to cope with everything that comes our way.
How I’m coping with stress
One of the ways I’ve been accomplishing the not-so-simple task of handling stress is that I happened to run across a classical homeopathic practitioner on Facebook a few weeks back. We started a discussion about detoxification, as this is a subject I feel really strongly about for health maintenance. Detoxification is important because if you are eating healthy food, it can only do so much good in your body if your body is healthy enough to receive it and absorb it (digestive system first, then other organ and body systems second).
I’ve been so busy worrying about these components of health that I have been largely neglecting another very important aspect of health – the mental/emotional and spiritual side – which is intrinsically attached to the physical side. And this was something to which the homeopath alerted me.
It’s true, I spend some time each day in prayer and contemplation (although less it seems, lately); being grateful and thankful for my blessings and all the good things in my life, and I try to treat others as I would be treated and I tend to often put others first in front of myself, as I feel that all good things we do in this life pave the way for good things to happen for ourselves and in the future. But have I really been focusing myself into that place where I was truly able to let go of all my burdens, or was I still drowning in my worries and problems? Honestly, I could not say yes to this question.
From talking to the practitioner, I learned that Homeopathy is more than just taking the medicine and just sitting back and waiting for a result. It involves looking at your life and the things that have happened in it to understand why and how you think the way you do about the world, and how you view yourself in relationship to others.
She asked if I had ever taken homeopathic treatment in the past. I replied that I had, and that I really didn’t know whether the remedies I had taken had brought the results I wanted. I had taken homeopathic remedies from the health food store of my own accord, as well as various preparations from various health care practitioners – an M.D. who was also a trained homeopath, a chiropractor, and a nutritional therapist.
I also learned that a practitioner can give a client homeopathic medicines, but unless he or she truly understands the application of the medicines and how they apply to the person’s individual health, past, way of looking at and dealing with life, the treatment may fall short or not even be successful. That’s probably why I never experienced noticeable change in the past with homeopathics. She said I needed to be willing to look at past behaviors and reactions and really look at how they got me where I was today – because everything in our past affects our current condition. I needed to go back and think about how I typically respond to stress, situations, people, and events in my life and decide how those outcomes served me in the future.
How my thinking processes work
I have always told myself and others I don’t care what other people think – and when I say this, I mean that I don’t base my actions in life always worrying about whether others will accept me or approve of what I am doing. But again, I realized I am actually very concerned about what others think – so much that I often compromise my own health and well-being just to achieve this end. And this started to bother me, as I’m a very literal person and I take things as they are stated- which is why I felt compelled to write this post about making your actions deliberately connected to your intentions.
When we say something to ourselves or to others, there is often an intention either implied or directly stated in that utterance. An intention describes what we mean to do or not do in a given situation. The power of suggestion is very potent, especially when it comes from your own mind. As a rule, we are far more concerned with what we think others think of us, which comes from our own minds, than anything else in the world.
A friend said to me some months ago, and then again recently that for whatever reason, I have this need to prove myself to people or to be able to be right in a given situation. She said she once had this problem, and that it was holding her back in life. As soon as she recognized it and decided it was time to discard the “need to prove”, she started to become successful in the things she wanted and the things she was interested in. I am just now beginning to “get” this, and it makes more sense to me than it used to.
The Four Agreements
A few years ago another friend suggested The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The description of it sounded intriguing and seemed really interesting; I really wanted to read it. I always held back from buying or checking it out from the library because I had piles of half-read books sitting on my shelf (and still have). I’m also not really into self-help books. Self-help books are everywhere and they all promise to fix all your problems. and make your life better. This has always seemed too simplistic to me, and I figured that if fixing your problems was as simple as just reading a book, everyone’s problems would be fixed.
Sometimes, though, a certain book just begs to be read, right now. This often is the case when a significant book comes along and is particularly pertinent and meaningful in your life at that time, for whatever reason. One day when I went to see my colon hydro-therapist friend, I saw it sitting on the shelf in her office and decided today was the day I would buy it and start reading it. This book has had a significant impact on my way of thinking, and I believe it’s an important book that anyone could benefit from reading. After reading the book, I don’t so much put it in the category of self-help as much as I do self-discovery and truth.
What you can expect
The premise of the book is that most human beings produce a certain amount of self-limiting beliefs in our lives that deplete our joy, happiness, and love. Not only do these false ideas take away our happiness but they also inflict suffering and misery on our psyche that is damaging to ourselves and our relationships with others. What produces these ways of thinking is the fact that we are all to one degree or another domesticated to the way of life in which we are living. Domestication is practiced by authority figures in our lives who issue control through a system of punishment and rewards. Through the domestication process, we learn to be affected by judgments made on ourselves, and as a result come to judge everything around us, including ourselves – usually in negative ways.
When we are born we are impetuous and curious, innocent and non-judgmental. Through domestication our beliefs and attitudes are shaped about the world around us. Our abilities to make judgment and decisions about virtually every aspect of our lives are directly affected by those fundamental ways we learned to view the world when we were children.
Although the book never directly comes out and says this, I believe that also equates to damage of our physical body and health. Because the mind and soul are inextricably tied to the phyical body, there is no way to separate these fundamental components. If one is damaged, the other is certain to experience this same fate.
Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, here are the four agreements that can change your life, enabling you release yourself from a great deal of burden you may carry around ,and to achieve happiness, love, and freedom you desire:
Be impeccable with your word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Don’t take anything personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Don’t make assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
Always do your best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self abuse, and regret.
I really love these four agreements. They have worked so well with the homeopathic treatment I am performing. They are so simple and best of all, they are doable and make sense. They are easy enough for someone like me to do, who is scatter-brained, disorganized, capricious, and impetuous.
I can’t say I’ve accomplished all four agreements yet in every aspect of my life, but I’m working on it. But I can say without a doubt that since I started taking the homeopathics that I’ve been recommended by the practitioner, I am much more calm, deliberate, and peaceful. And I do feel happier. I’ve noticed that little things that used to irritate me to no end all day long are often just afterthoughts. I’m much more able to use the power of my intentions, or things I want to do…and instead of making excuses, I am using those thoughts to get things done. If I don’t get things done, I am content to say to myself, “it’s okay to put this off until tomorrow.” I’ve found that when you give yourself permission to do something, instead of living with endless guilt and what ifs, stress levels magically disappear. I’m also using my quiet time much more productively by using prayer and contemplation to put powerful and positive thoughts into my head (with God’s help, of course!).
Most importantly, I feel like I am slowly learning not to apply too much importance to what others might or might not think. Because I finally understand that much of what we think in our heads about other people is entirely fabricated by our own minds and is meaningless. That has been so freeing for me!
Has anyone read this book and what are your thoughts?
Has anyone used homeopathy successfully – or unsuccessfully? What were your experiences? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
How are your stress management skills? Are they in line with and do they support your sustainable habits?