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In the best-selling book The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz, Mexican author of Toltec spiritualistic texts, delivers principles to transform our lives into an expression of unconditional love. Ruiz's sons continue his legacy through their own teaching and writing.
Don Jose Ruiz is the international best-selling author of The Fifth Agreement, written in partnership with his father. Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. is an internationally celebrated author and Toltec master of transformation who apprenticed to his father and grandmother. We caught up with them recently to talk about faith, self-mastery, and unconditional love.
1440: Jose, you talk a lot about faith in your teaching. What does faith mean to you?
Jose: Faith for me is when we get out of our own way. When we have a connection to source and the source is not outside us. When I was young and I used to hear people say they channel Merlin or they channel Moses, I said, "Why doesn't anyone ever channel themselves? Who has respect for their own word?" It was almost nobody!
I began to see my grandmother having faith, just opening the channel and letting the waterfall come.
When we get out of the way, the words just come out of us and we begin to see the divine everywhere.
I see the divine everywhere, from a tree to a statue to a church to a house. I've witnessed so many miracles that there is no doubt. And I've witnessed many people try to break my faith, to make me doubt. For a while I gave my power away, and it shut me down. But I have faith in myself now.
1440: One of the ways you both talk about finding faith is through self-mastery. What is self-mastery, and how is it different from control?
Miguel: The funny thing about control is that you become a master when you let go of control, when you listen and interact with your environment and, like Jose says, have faith and confidence in yourself. Then you have the ability to live life, to enjoy life, to enjoy being you.
The moment we become the master of self is the moment we stop pretending to be something we are not and accept ourselves just the way we are.
Right now I am the sum of every decision that I have ever made.
Every choice, every yes or no I've ever given, every consequence—both good or bad, right or wrong—has led me here. At the same time, I'm the youngest I will ever be. I have my whole life ahead of me.
The moment I become a master of myself is the moment when I choose clarity and enjoy being me. Do I choose to let go of the illusion or lie to myself?
Do I make a choice from illusion or accept the truth and make a decision from there?
That's faith in action—having faith in myself that I can do it and enjoying where I'm at.
Here's an example. There are days where I am a man who doesn't take things personally. And then there are days where I am a man who does take things personally. I am free to say yes to taking things personally and free to say yes to not taking things personally, and I know what will happen if I do one or the other.
If I do take things personally, it will come with a hangover that I don't want to experience, and that awareness is what guides me to make my choice.
It's not about controlling myself or my emotions, it's about respecting them and accepting them.
Then instead of letting my emotions dictate my actions, I'm actually free to choose how I want to channel that emotion. When I'm triggered and take something personally, I'm going to learn from that. This is what allows me to bring unconditional love and healing to my life.
1440: How do you define unconditional love?
Miguel: Let's define love as energy that allows us to create a bond with other beings and within ourselves. In the Toltec tradition, the mind and body exist because life exists in it, and my love exists because I'm here to manifest it, along with every other emotion that I experience.
So I'm the source of my love and all the love I've ever experienced in my life comes from me.
Now let's imagine love flows like water in a river. I live in Reno, so I get to see the Truckee River flow from up in the Sierra Nevadas into the desert. It flows out of Lake Tahoe, through Little Canyon, and eventually into Pyramid Lake. Imagine unconditional love flowing as freely as those waters do. It flows with the seasons, going up and going down as it needs to.
Conditional love sees love from a place of scarcity.
It says you must meet certain expectations to be worthy of love. If you don't, you're rejected. When we meet those expectations, we are accepted, and we confuse that acceptance with love. But what's really happened, to return to our metaphor of water, is we're afraid we're going to run out of water. So we build dams and reservoirs. Each of these is a conditioned belief, and it's only when all those conditions are met that the floodgates open and we let love through because in that moment it's safe.
Conditional love sees only what it wants to see.
Unconditional love is the willingness to see life as it is.
Life teaches us through consequences, which is fine. That's the way we've learned, but we've corrupted those consequences and turned them into, "If you want to be worthy of my love, you need to live up to my expectation of what I think you should be."
Jose has a great quote about this, don't you, Jose?
Jose: I have so many of them, I don't know which one you mean! Maybe it's the one that says conditional love creates wounds and unconditional love heals wounds because it helps us to let go of the things that are really hurting us.
I remember when I found unconditional love for myself. I had all the theories and I was teaching and everything, but I wasn't applying them to myself. I was overeating. I didn't love my body because it showed how I was escaping. I was more than a hundred pounds overweight, and my body was about to give up on me. My father had a heart attack at 52. I was around my midthirties and I was ready to have one myself, and one day I had an epiphany.
I was in the hospital because food I had eaten couldn't process. They put a hose in my nose and took all the food out. They told me later I could continue eating what I'm eating if I got this operation. And I said no, because I was very aware that I was pushing my body.
In the Toltec tradition, we say there is nothing to learn, that we are unlearning.
Unlearning is the act of unconditional love. I knew that I had to unlearn everything I thought Jose loved. That was the price to pay to have a new life. I had to unconditionally love myself.
So I began to love myself bit by bit—everything that happened.
And I realized I am the love of my life.
This unlearning is never going to be over, but that's okay, because I want the best for the love of my life. And you are the love of your life, and you deserve to create your own life without judgment.
1440: Why is unlearning so crucial when it comes to love?
Miguel: Like Jose said, in the Toltec tradition there's nothing to learn, there's only to unlearn. We are unlearning all those dams and floodgates we put in the river. Moments of clarity like the one Jose had are an opportunity to see the truth. We have a choice to keep believing the illusion or to let it go and remove those dams we've built on the river.
As we slowly remove all those barriers, we begin to lose the fear of getting hurt and the fear that we are not worthy of love.
We slowly begin to love and respect ourselves. Since we can't give what we do not have, when we begin to heal our own wounds, it allows us to heal the wounds that exist between us and other people.
This interview was conducted on behalf of 1440 Multiversity by Jenn Brown—a freelance writer, editor, producer, and educator.