Above: Chicks Toozie and Speckles dirt bathing, January, 2012
I re-read The Four Agreements, (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) over the weekend. This is one of many spiritual/self-help/philosophy books that I enjoy reading from time to time. They remind me that all is not what it seems.
The Four Agreements is short and seemingly simple, yet it reinforces concepts I’ve read in other places, albeit in different words. Ruiz begins by claiming we all live in dream worlds, both individual and planetary dreams. He relates this to the Indian (Hindu, Buddhist, and others) concept of “maya,” or “illusion.” He says our planetary dream is a nightmare based on fear.
The remainder of the book describes “four agreements” a person can make to break the grip of fear and create a heaven instead of hell on earth. These are, “Be impeccable in your word; Don’t take anything personally; Don’t make assumptions; and Always do your best.”
Ruiz cites the “nagual,” which is defined as a person in MesoAmerican culture who is a ‘sorcerer,” who can change shapes. It also refers to the great unknown, beyond words or description. Carlos Castaneda also made reference to the “nagual” in the person of his Yaqui Indian mentor in his series of books about don Juan and his teachings. (
Having read widely and extensively about spiritual teachings over the centuries and across cultures, I find a commonality that affirms we are all spiritual beings, although the paths to understanding may be different. The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975) relates Oriental mystical tradition to modern quantum physics. Here, time and space are perceived as relative and subservient to the cosmic “qi,” or essence of everything. Seth, in the Jane Roberts series of channeled books, corroborates this idea and goes beyond it, saying we are limited only by our beliefs. He emphasizes we create our own realities and that “the point of power is in the present.”
All seem to agree that we change the world by changing ourselves and our personal beliefs.
Ruiz’ claim that the world is ruled by fear struck home. As I grow older and experience personal health problems, I’ve had to confront head-on a belief system that humbles and challenges me. It tempts me to give in to fear. It comes from outside but it also results from beliefs I took on, maybe by osmosis, or by conditioning, as Ruiz asserts. Everything from advertising, which exploits fear and insecurity to sell products, to media, which uses fear to promote sensationalist agendas, to religion, which uses fear to subdue believers, is based on the notion that this is, and always will be, a world of suffering.
Is it, and must it be that way, I ask myself. The answer from my inner core and from all the spiritual guidance books I read, is an emphatic “no.” We can choose to be happy, as Ruiz most recently affirmed.
I watched a red-winged blackbird bathing in the watering dish outside my window yesterday. As he splashed around, flinging sparkling droplets in a wide arc, I had to smile and admire him for his ability to find such ecstasy in this simple act. It’s easy for a technologically-gifted human to provide that opportunity, and it makes me happy to see him enjoy it.
I get similar gratification from watching my chickens take their dirt baths. They roll and loll in the dirt, creating little nest-shaped holes in the ground.
How hard can happiness be, I wondered, when we have no fear?
I’ve heard it said that “Where there is love, there is no fear.” Google attributes this to John 4:18 in the Bible, specifically “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment . . . .” I suspect this is not solely a Christian insight, as Ruiz also relates fear to punishment.
Then, I decided, once again, that it all comes down to love. Even hate and fear are love turned upside down.
How to apply this understanding in a practical way remains a challenge for the “warrior” in the spiritual realm.