The Four Agreements: A Review

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Don Miguel Ruiz, is a wonderful book for stress management and personal growth. It’s written in simple language but deals with complex themes that can help you bring sweeping changes to your life.

One drawback to the book is that some of the agreements are too extreme and, if you take them literally, they may cause additional problems in your life if taken without a proverbial grain of salt.

However, with a bit of balance and a sense of openness, these agreements can each be transformative and stress-relieving. Here’s an explanation of each of the four agreements review.

Top-Down and Bottom-Up Processing

When an interpretation emerges from the data, this is called data-driven or bottom-up processing. Perception must be largely data-driven because it must accurately reflect events in the outside world. You want the interpretation of a scene to be determined mostly by information from the senses, not by your expectations.

What is data-driven or bottom-up processing? What is schema-driven or top-down processing?

In many situations, however, your knowledge or expectations will influence perception. This is called schema-driven or top-down processing. A schema is a pattern formed earlier in your experience.

Larger scale or more abstract concepts are referred to as higher level, while concrete details (such as the input from the senses) are referred to as lower level. Examples of top down processing in everyday life occurs any time a higher-level concept influences your interpretation of lower level sensory data.

What is set or expectancy?

Top-down processing is shown by the phenomena of set or expectancy. A classic example is the Rat Man of Bugelski and Alampay (1961).

When is the best time to meditate?

If you have ever wondered whether the time of day matters for your meditation practice, the answer is ‘Yes, it matters, but…’

It is definitely worth trying out meditation first thing in the morning soon after you get out of bed.  This is the time of day when your brain is already calmer, so it is much easier to get into a nice meditative state.  If you are already thinking “but I don’t have best time to meditate”, all it really takes is five minutes of meditation per day to make a noticeable impact on your life.  I have countless stories from people who have found great benefit from just five minutes per day such as decreased anxiety, decreased depression, more focus and intention for the day and more joy in life.  If you need to set the alarm five minutes earlier, that’s a small lifestyle change for a potentially big benefit.

However, some people prefer to meditate in the evening, after dinner and after the kids have gone to bed.  This is their ‘me’ time and they enjoy settling down into meditation, which helps them calm their minds after a busy day.  This creates a nice transition to bedtime rather than being on the computer, checking their cell phones or watching TV. Many report much better sleep once they make meditation a habit in their lives.