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Adaptation of the story,“The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz.
Adapted by S. Hein

Ruiz's story starts with a tribe in Mexico. I will call it the “ancient tribe”. According to Ruiz, this ancient tribe had a lot of wisdom but it was kept secret for hundreds of years. The book says that Ruiz was somehow selected to share this ancient wisdom. I guess this is supposed to try to make the reader believe that there was some "higher power" or something behind Ruiz's writing, and thus help book sales, sort of like the book "Conversations with God" and a lot of others like it - books which I generally put into the "new age" category.

But anyhow, rather than having come from some god or mysterious, divine source, it is a lot more likely that these are just Ruiz's ideas and he is trying to make them seem like more than that. Thus, I won't say things like "this ancient wisdom teaches us...". Instead I will say "Ruiz believes" or "Ruiz writes" etc. Now having said that, I want to add that Ruiz has some pretty good ideas. Good enough I think, to stand on their own merits and not need the extra support of something mysteriously powerful.

So, let's begin.

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In the first part of the book, Ruiz says that when we are young, we are all socialized or “domesticated” by our parents, teachers, governments, etc. He means that we are all taught a set of beliefs that most of us never question. Instead we just accept them or “agree” to them.

We are not even aware that these beliefs are only things which other people started to believe long before we were born. Most of us simply never stop to think for ourselves about these beliefs and where they came from or how long ago.

These old, even ancient, beliefs were developed by many people, for many various reasons, some which don’t make any sense anymore. When we are young we also accept these beliefs without considering that they may be false just as easily as they may be true. Then most of us continue to accept them as truths throughout the rest of our lives, again never deeply or even superficially questioning whether they are in fact true.

By the way, in the first part of the book Ruiz also says all living beings are connected because we all have certain basic needs which are required for life. Plants need water, air, dirt, and sun; humans need food, air, sleep, and love. All living beings share the common goal of life.

Continuing with his message about how we are domesticated, Ruiz says that before we were born, others -- who are now long dead -- created what we now call our society or culture. This society or culture is made up of all society's rules, its beliefs, its laws, its religions, its different cultures, its governments, schools, social events, traditions, and holidays. Each culture has many, many rules and beliefs which are taught to every child born into that culture. The culture uses Mom and Dad, the schools, the government, the media, and religion to teach us how to behave and even how to feel if we want to be accepted as a member of the culture. As children we actually have no choice but to go along with all of the existing rules and beliefs because it would be impossible to live alone. We also can't just pack up and move to another, more sane and healthy culture when we are young, both because of practical reasons and also legal restrictions which prevent our freedom of movement and freedom of association (This is true even in cultures such as that in the USA where these things are supposedly guaranteed to us as human rights. Such human "rights" as freedom of movement and freedom of association don't apply to those under 18 years of age in the USA. Similarly most young people are denied the same basic human "rights", or perhaps better called legal permissions, as those given to labeled as "adults." To understand this discrepancy, it helps to remember that it is the "adults" who decide these things, not the children and teens.)
So in any case, the way things currently work we must be accepted by others who our lives depend upon. If we are rejected or abandoned by them, we will simply die. Therefore we have an instinctive fear of rejection and abandonment.

Ruiz writes that the adults around us, in whatever culture we were born into, taught us to "focus our attention" on what they wanted us to believe. They put information into our minds through repetition. That is the way we learned most of what we "know".

Ruiz says attention is the ability we have to discriminate and to focus only on that which we want to perceive, be aware of or think about. We can perceive many things simultaneously, but using our attention, we can hold whatever we want to concentrate on in the foreground of our mind.

Because the adults directed our attention, often through fear, we learned a whole set of rules and beliefs. We learned how to behave in society: what to believe and what not to believe; what is acceptable and what is not acceptable; what is good and what is bad, or maybe what is what is "evil" or "sinful"; what is beautiful and what is ugly; what is right and what is wrong; what is moral and what is immoral; what is "appropriate" and what is "inappropriate". Notice how many of these words are subjective. In other words, they depend on one's point of view, not some objective measure which could be used across all cultures or even by all individuals within one culture. What is "good" to highly religious, conservative, insecure parent might be "bad" to someone else. What is "inappropriate" might actually be healthy, objectively speaking. Yet it was all set up before we were born and we are usually not encouraged to question the commonly accepted definitions. (And that is putting it mildly.)

When you were in school, you sat in a little chair and were repeatedly told to "pay attention." This meant to focus your developing brain cells on whatever the teacher was saying. It did not mean pay attention to that which interested you naturally. You were disapproved of or punished if you were not "paying attention." Perhaps the teacher ridiculed and embarrassed or shamed you by making the class laugh at you for "day dreaming,"

Everyone around you constantly gave you and reinforced the idea that whatever the people called teachers said must be true, simply because they were the “teachers.” Also, if you went to a place where they filled your mind with spiritual or religious beliefs, you were also trained to put your attention on what the religious or spiritual teacher/leader was telling you. (We might also call teachers and spiritual leaders etc. "recruiters", "agents" or "authorized domesticators.")

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Like with the teachers/domesticators at school, you were told by many others around you that these "spiritual" teachers/domesticators also spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In fact, you may have been taught that this kind of truth was somehow even more "true" than the mathematical or scientific truths you were taught at school. These truths may have been called “divine” or “sacred” truths, and you learned that this meant you should never question or doubt them. (Of course, it was never explained to you why you shouldn’t.) In any case, chances are good that you accepted all these “truths” and they became part of your “agreement” with the things you were being taught.

Your parents and probably your brothers and sisters, as well as other relatives - aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. - were probably all trying to direct your attention. From their modeling, each of us also learns how to direct or as Ruiz calls it, “hook” the attention of other humans, and we develop a need for attention which Ruiz says can become very competitive.

During our childhood, when our brains were forming, we never had the opportunity to choose what to believe or what not to believe, just like a baby isn’t asked what language it would like to learn to speak. It isn't given a choice. It must speak the language used by the parents. Most children who are subjected to a religion are also never given a choice about what religion they would like to follow, if any. Or they may be convinced they had a choice in which religion they would "agree" to, when in fact, they were not really free to choose. They were subtly or not so subtly pressured into "choosing" what was expected of them to "choose." The pressure might have been so subtle, in fact, that it never even felt like pressure at all.

Nor are children given a choice which country they would like to live in and which rules they would like to follow. All of this was set up for all of us long, long before we were ever born. And of course you didn't even have the chance to choose your own name. You can "legally" change it of course, with someone else's permission, but how many people ever go to the trouble or make the effort, or even think about it? It is probably fair to say that about the same percentage of people change their name as who seriously question and eventually disagree with the vast majority of the commonly held beliefs of any culture, or "cult" for that matter. We might ask ourselves, what is a culture really, if not a very large scale cult?

As children, we didn't have the opportunity to choose our beliefs, but one way or another we let the information into our minds anyhow, and then we stored it there. Ruiz says that the only way to store information is by accepting it or “agreeing” to it. He says others may try to hook or capture our attention, but if we don't agree, we don't store that information. That is why it is so important to question everything.

As soon as we agree, we believe it, and this is similar to what is called faith. To have faith is to believe unconditionally and, usually, without question.

That's basically how we learn as children. Children believe nearly everything adults say. Children agree with the adults of their culture most of the time when it comes to some of the most important things. If they happened to be born into another culture they would agree with those beliefs - not because they are true, but because they are repeated and "agreed to" by so many people, so often. We then develop a belief system which controls our whole concept of life. Ruiz says even if we rebelled against the adult beliefs, we probably were not strong enough to win against the rebellion.

The result is surrender to the beliefs with our agreement. This process, according to Ruiz, can be called the domestication of humans. And through this domestication we learn how to live and relate to each other.

Day by day, at home, at school, at churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and from television, music and movies, we are told how to live, what kind of behavior is acceptable and what it means to be “successful.” The adults teach us through repetition and modeling how to be a human and how to survive in their culture. We are also taught to judge: We judge ourselves, judge other people, judge the neighbors.

Children are domesticated the same way that we domesticate a dog, a cat, or any other animal. In order to teach a dog we punish the dog and we give it rewards. We train our children, whom we say we love so much, the same way that we train any domesticated animal: with a system of punishment and reward.

We are told, "You're a good boy," or "You're a good girl," when we do what Mom and Dad or the authorized domesticator wants us to do. When we don't, we are "a bad girl" or "a bad boy."

When we went against the rules we were punished; when we went along with the rules we got a reward or at least we got acceptance. We were punished or threatened with punishment many times a day, and we were also rewarded many times a day. Soon we became afraid of being punished and also afraid of not receiving the reward.

The reward feels good, and we keep doing what others want us to do in order to get the reward. With that fear of being punished and that fear of not getting the reward, we start pretending to be what we are not, just to please others, just to be "good enough" for someone else.

We try to please Mom, Dad and the other domesticators, so we start acting. We pretend to be what we are not because we are afraid of disappointing them, or being punished or rejected by them, all because we are not “good enough” according to them. Eventually we become someone that we are not. We become a copy of Mamma's beliefs, Daddy's beliefs, society's beliefs, and religion's beliefs.

It has been said, by the way, that the purpose of education is to reproduce society, and this is a thought worth really spending some time on.

Ruiz says that our natural tendencies are lost in the process of domestication. And when we are old enough for our mind to understand, we learn the word no. The adults say, "Don't do this and don't do that." We rebel and say, "No!" We rebel because we are defending our freedom. We want to be ourselves, but we are very little, and the adults are big and strong. After a certain time we are afraid because we know that every time we do something wrong we are going to be punished or disapproved of.

The domestication is so strong that at a certain point in our life we no longer need anyone to domesticate us. We don't need Mom or Dad, the school, the government or the spiritual leaders to domesticate us. We are so well trained that we are our own domesticator. And this is what the leaders at the very top of the power pyramid want. They want us to be self-controlled, self-regulated, self-domesticated. When we are it saves them a lot of time, energy and resources. We serve their needs, their system - all with very little control since we are on auto-pilot now. But what is auto-pilot except the process of following someone else's programmed instructions?

So this is basically the system of domestication according to Ruiz, with a bit of my own touches here and there. :)

Maybe I will continue with my adaptation/summary later but for me this is one of Ruiz's main contributions - his well thought-out explanation of domestication.

S. Hein