Example Of Essay On ‘symbols’
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Reflection on The Fifth Agreement
When having the opportunity to read The Fifth Agreement, I was very excited because I enjoyed The Four Agreements and learned some valuable life lessons. In the second book The Fifth Agreement, which I will discuss in the following essay, the ideas from the first book are expanded on with an introduction of another important element in life. The Fifth Agreement is “Be Skeptical, but Learn to Listen,” a concept that is explained and taught in the book. The overall message keeps the foundational tools of The Four Agreements further revealing the core of human suffering and a path to escape this cycle of pain through the ancient teachings of the Toltec.
In the first chapter of the book, the conversation of symbols is introduced. Symbols are what the book refers to as the words or language we use to identify things in life. Along with labeling through a name, we also attach a meaning to each symbol in our lives. There are tangible items that groups of people will name and agree on, such as a bed. In English, when we mention ‘a bed' everyone knows we are referring to the large cushiony square object we use to sleep on. However, in another country, the word bed may not mean anything to the people whose native language is not English. These examples display the use of words as symbols for actual physical matters, but there is also the intangible side of life that symbols become a complicated issue for the majority of people throughout the world.
These symbols I am referring to are the perceptions, the meaning we all put into life. They include the stories we make up about ourselves and the environment around us based on our upbringing. When we are children we are free-spirited without any issues holding us back, but with each year that passes, impressions of the world around us begin to create limitations. We begin judging ourselves and life as ‘right and wrong’ or ‘good and bad’, this process is called domestication. According to the authors, there is no such thing as right and wrong, good and bad; these are labels placed on us by the process of domestication. “After domestication, we try to be good enough for everybody else, but we are no longer good enough for ourselves, because we can never live up to our image of perfection” (Ruiz, M., Ruiz, J., and Mills, 2010, p.31). The difficulties in our lives may very well be a condition of this disempowering reality that each of us has taken on throughout our lives. In order to attain freedom and an ability to choose happiness, suggestions in The Four Agreements and now The Fifth Agreement may help conquer these unpleasant perceptions causing strife in people’s daily lives.
A silly example of the use of symbols in my life includes the made up terminology among friends or family that no one else outside our circle would understand. Often if something funny has happened we will have a word or phrase that we begin to use that represents some action or behavior that is in reference to the scenario. Other people that over-hear us would look at us funny because they would not understand the context. I have had so many awkward situations where I am with my friends and we are laughing about something and onlookers just question what in the world we are talking about.
Once society and our parents provide meanings for these symbols, we then develop agreements. The agreements that we make have to do with the meanings we decide to adopt about the various parts of life. For example, since my parents are doctors, my assumption that becoming a doctor is the only career worthy of respect and enough income to provide a good life lingers in my conscience. This set of beliefs or agreements are not only impressed upon me by my parents, but could also be self-imposed. Most people form agreements with themselves too that are often limiting them from a fulfilling life. The key point made in The Fifth Element regarding many of these agreements are in realizing that none are right, they are all lies we have been told or made up by ourselves. The book suggests that most people are not aware of reality and are living in a virtual reality where their distorted perception of life interrupts their full potential to discover their true self.
An example of this in my life is my perception of what happiness and success look like. My standards of these aspects of life are very similar to that of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles; basically the representation of how my family has associated to life circumstances. This symbol is very different for my very good friend, who associates his idea of happiness and success in conjunction with his family’s ideas.
The solution is found in a set of Toltec agreements that are said to be based on truth. These agreements are what both books explore and teach, making the ancient knowledge available to the masses. Before continuing, a review of the four agreements is helpful. The first agreement states that one should be impeccable with their word; the second agreement teaches that nothing should be taken personally; the third agreement indicates that one should avoid making assumptions; the fourth agreement commands that one should do their personal best (Ruiz, M., Ruiz, J., and Mills, 2010). I will assume that these brief reminders of the agreements are sufficient as we move on to the main topic of the fifth agreement, which is, be skeptical, but learn to listen.
Applying the Fifth Agreement
With the clarity of realizing the truth about how most of us have been living, in a virtual reality of lies, we can now move toward following the agreements to change our lives. The fifth agreement is crucial in giving us the ability to critically analyze what we experience so that we no longer continue to adopt faulty disempowering ideas about life. Remaining skeptical about what we are exposed to is important, but learning to listen is the second part of this agreement. What that means is to learn to listen to others beyond the words, but actually the essence of their true message, to connect more deeply where misinterpretations are minimized during communication. According to the book, when a person learns to actually listen, he or she can see another's perception of reality. The information listening delivers us does not require any action, just that we honor someone by acknowledging them by giving them our best through a willingness to understand their perspective. I can see that this exercise in skepticism and listening could help minimize a lot of grief that occurs through misunderstandings and letting oneself believe anything he or she hears.
The Fifth Agreements explains that there is a process that one goes through as the awareness develops, and the individual begins to gain control through practicing the habits of the agreements. Initially, people are in what the authors call, The Dream of the First Attention, where most of us live life in our self-centered bubble that we believe as the truth (Ruiz, M., Ruiz, J., and Mills, 2010, p.144). Once awareness enters the psyche, people enter The Dream of the Second Attention, where we can see that the choice is in our hands. This is when we begin to see that we do not have to be a victim of our circumstances, but that we are the creators of our fate (Ruiz, M., Ruiz, J., and Mills, 2010, p.161). When a person gains enough awareness, judgment no longer exists. The individual is not critical of himself or others. The end of this judgmental phase allows one to enter The Dream of the Third Attention, also referred to as the dream of masters (Ruiz, M., Ruiz, J., and Mills, 2010, p.186). “The dream of the masters is a dream of truth, a dream of respect, a dream full of love and joy. It’s the playground of life; it’s what we are meant to live, and only awareness can take us to that place” (Ruiz, M., Ruiz, J., and Mills, 2010, p.186).
The final point in the evolution towards total freedom arrives when one can change their point of view. This is when true freedom exists because you can see that all those symbols and meanings were not real. The power to direct your life by creating it as your real self is possible. You no longer are obligated to be the person you created based on lies fed to you by your life circumstances (Ruiz, M., Ruiz, J., and Mills, 2010, p.215). From here each of us has to ask ourselves why we are here on this planet and what our purpose is. Reaching this state without the interference from the past that was full of lies and illusions opens up a powerful possibility to lead a life that is satisfying to yourself and inspirational to those around you (Ruiz, M., Ruiz, J., and Mills, 2010, p.251).
As I was reading the book, I began to think of how I could improve my life through the use of the fifth agreement. I started to realize how much of my interactions with people throughout my day are missing a genuine sense of listening. Not only am I not really hearing the people in what they truly mean, but I know that they are rarely receiving the message I am trying to deliver to them either. I know that many misunderstandings in my life have occurred for this lack of true listening.
Questioning the Agreements
Now that we understand the agreements and understand the purpose they are to serve in our lives, it is time to examine the concepts from another angle. Many of the ideas and the focus of the topic of The Fifth Agreement can easily be connected to psychological theories. For example, in the book we are told that when we are children we are like a blank canvas, but it is through the influences of our parents that we begin to close in on ideas they impose. This notion is very similar to Carl Roger's theory of conditions of worth, a standard of behavior children learn in order receive love versus criticism (Bono, 2010). Another concept in psychology by Eric Berne called a life script is an example of what happens after children are taught their “conditions of worth” (Bono, 2010). Lastly in an article on the Psychology Today website, Bono concludes that the concepts from The Four Agreements could be an excellent primer for cognitive-behavioral therapy (Bono, 2010).
Although the ideas were not examined through multiple sources, it is easy to see the teachings could be used as a tool by therapists for their patients. It could become a homework assignment for individuals as part of their treatment plan.
After reviewing The Fifth Agreement, and examining all the various tools and suggestions that come up throughout the book I have to say that it was another helpful piece of literature in the self-help genre. I did think that the original four agreements were more impactful than the concepts taught in the fifth agreement, but I was still able to take away valuable ideas from this book as well.
The emphasis on the fifth agreement of skepticism and better listening was particularly insightful. Practicing questioning life, in a balanced manner could be very helpful to reduce complication and frustration. Especially in a world full of abundant information on the Internet, it is easy to adopt false beliefs. But if I remind myself to observe the information, critically evaluate what I see based on my true beliefs, then I may come out better off than if I just accept whatever I am exposed to.
The most important thing that I want to incorporate into my life from this book is the suggestion to listen the way that the book describes. I am guilty of being the type of individual who barely hears others because I am so immersed in my thoughts and perception that I distort what I hear because it is always goes through my filter. It is easy for me to see and admit that I am guilty of being a rather terrible listener. After I read this book, I appreciate the importance of listening differently than I had prior to reading The Fifth Agreement. Both of Miguel Ruiz's books are excellent self-help books that I would share with the people in my life because of the beneficial lessons delivered in the form of ancient Toltec ‘agreements.’
Bono, Cuo. "Agreeing With the Four Agreements." Psychology Today. 2010. 2015. <
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cui-bono/2010 12/agreeing-the-four-agreements >
Ruiz, Miguel, Ruiz, Jose, and Mills, Janet. The Fifth Agreement. San Rafael, California: Amber
Allen Publishing. 2010.
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