Mastering the Dream
Don Miguel Ruiz talks to Tasha K. TaylorDon Miguel Ruiz was born into a family of healers in rural Mexico. His curandera (healer) mother and a nagual (shaman) grandfather raised him. Instead of following in their traditions, don Miguel chose to attend medical school and become a surgeon. A near-death experience in the early 1970s changed his life, and he began an intensive practice of self-inquiry. He devoted himself to the mastery of the ancient ancestral wisdom. Since that time, don Miguel Ruiz has dedicated his life to sharing his knowledge of the teachings of the ancient Toltec. Blending new insights with old wisdom, he is gifted in simplifying the esoteric, shamanic knowledge of his ancestors and applying it to modern-day issues.
I had the privilege of meeting don Miguel Ruiz for the first time in June 1998. I had traveled with my friends Michelle and Sharri to the Conscious Living Expo in Spokane. We were specifically there to hear him speak. Michelle had studied with him for many years, and she introduced Sharri and me to his work. After his first lecture (on his book The Four Agreements), Sharri and I were waiting quietly on the sidelines while Michelle greeted friends she had not seen in some time. Don Miguel saw us and came over and hugged both Sharri and me at the same time. We were both so touched by this unsolicited incident that we ended up with tears in our eyes. I remember telling him that I had read his book and thought he was wonderful.
At that moment, I can honestly say that I had never felt so much loving acceptance from someone I had never met before. Although he did not know who we were, he radiated love to us. This man knows what love is. In his new book, The Mastery of Love, he teaches the Toltec perspective on love and tackles some tough issues, including whether to stay in a dying relationship and the role of sexuality on the spiritual path. I wanted to see how practical his approach to spirituality is in todays world.
Tasha: What is a spiritual warrior in the Toltec tradition?
Don Miguel: Most of us live from a place of victim and judge always judging ourselves and others, and feeling victimized by the world around us. To become a warrior, we must begin to change the habits and patterns that create fear, jealousy, and insecurity. The Toltecs are artists, and our art is creating the most beautiful dream for ourselves, based in happiness and joy. To do this, we need awareness of our thoughts and habits that lead us to suffer. We must be aware that we are at war with our mind, and to win this war requires discipline not the discipline from the outside world telling us what to do and how to be, but discipline to be ourselves, no matter what.
As warriors, we learn to control our emotions, rather than letting our emotions control us. The big difference between a warrior and a victim is that a victim represses, and the warrior refrains. When you refrain, you hold the emotions and express them at the right moment. This is why warriors are impeccable. They have complete control over their own emotions and therefore over their own behavior.
Tasha: How can we become spiritual warriors in modern times?
Don Miguel: Becoming a warrior is a choice. The best way to support yourself is to use the Four Agreements: Be Impeccable with Your Word, Don't Take Anything Personally, Don't Make Assumptions, and Always Do Your Best. I created the Four Agreements for my apprentices, to help them to gain control of their lives. If you practice even one of the Four Agreements, your life will begin to transform.
Tasha: In your newest book, The Mastery of Love, you talk about how we can improve all of our relationships and end drama. What is the mastery of love?
Don Miguel: Each one of us is a master in our own way. We practice all of our lives to master fear, anger, jealousy, competitiveness, uncertainty, and doubt. The Toltecs know that we are domesticated as humans into a larger dream, which we call the dream of the planet. The dream of the planet is the way all humans dream together, and you can open any newspaper to see that our human dream is based in fear.
Because of this domestication process, your thoughts and beliefs are not your own. They were handed down to you by your parents, who learned them from their parents. In order to break from these old belief systems which are really just habits we need to begin to practice a new way of being. The mastery of love is a way to live your life and a way of being, in your own way and with your integrity, just as you are. It is a dream that is completely love.
But you need to do your work to change your beliefs and your ways. You need to become a dream artist. It is the supreme art that all human beings have. When you have the awareness and power, you are definitely going to make different choices. Having that power is what we call free will. If you can make a choice, you are never going to choose anger, jealousy, emotional pain, or suffering. You choose that way of dreaming because you have no choice. If you have a choice, you are always going to be happy, always in love. This is the mastery of love.
Tasha: What do you recommend that couples do to heal their personal relationships?
Don Miguel: Each person in a relationship needs to take responsibility for his or her own dream. Every relationship is between two people and only two people. You are responsible for your half, and the other person is responsible for his or her half. If you think you are responsible for others, you try to control them. You can never know what the other half thinks or believes. This is the truth, but we try to be responsible for the other half, and this is why most relationship are based on fear and drama.
To heal a relationship, each person can use the Four Agreements to end drama in their own lives, and focus on healing their own wounds through using the truth, forgiveness, and love. This is a commitment to yourself. Through learning to love the self, you can heal all of your relationships. Imagine your relationship as a game rather than a war of control. Then, relationships become a choice, because you are choosing to play with someone. The game is based on respect, unconditional love, and responsibility.
Tasha: Do you feel that couples should stay together and save a failing relationship? Under what circumstances should couples end a relationship?
Don Miguel: Almost any relationship can be healed, but only if both people are willing and want the relationship to work out. You have to agree with yourself about what you want. Be completely honest. Are your dreams compatible? Do you like the way your partner dreams?
If you are with someone you don't want just because you feel sorry for that person or need to protect them, do them a favor. If you don't want them, be kind and leave the relationship. Perhaps the person you don't want will find someone who does want them.
"When your body wants to be sexual, what does your mind say?"
Remember that each relationship is a mirror. Any issues that are not resolved in your current relationship will be carried over into the next one. That doesn't mean you should stay with someone who is abusive, but you should pay close attention to why you are in an abusive relationship and change that agreement. Whether or not you stay in the relationship is secondary to your healing your own wounds. Ask yourself what you want, and act on it.
Tasha: In a lot of spiritual practices, sexuality is to be avoided or downplayed. What is the role of sexuality in the Toltec teachings?
Don Miguel: The Toltecs work with the truth. The truth is that we are animals, and everything about us is made for sexuality and reproduction. Humans have made sexuality a big demon. Our body has certain needs, and our mind has different needs.
The body needs food, water, shelter, and sex. All of these needs are so normal and easy to satisfy. The mind thinks it needs these things, but what the mind really needs is love. When you eat, your body might be satisfied, but your mind still says, "I'm hungry." When your body wants to be sexual, what does your mind say? Do you go into old habits of guilt or self-rejection, or is your mind never satisfied?
If we listen to our bodies' needs, it is so easy to satisfy the body. When two people are sexually compatible in their needs, it can be such a wonderful dance, a blending of the animal with the divine.
Tasha: What steps can people take to master love?
Don Miguel: There are three masteries of the Toltecs. The first is the mastery of awareness. Here we begin to cultivate a place of witness, so we can step out of and begin to see what exactly we have mastered what our belief systems and habits are. Once we see the truth of who we are, we begin to change them through the mastery of transformation. This involves the destruction of an old dream or belief system, and the re-creation of a new dream. The key is choosing what you want to believe: choosing which beliefs make you happy and throwing out the ones that make you suffer.
The mastery of love begins when we live our lives from a place of true, unconditional love rather than from fear. From the Toltec tradition, everything is made of love. Love is life itself. Mastering love means becoming a dream master. By being a dream master, we change as fast as the dream changes; we adapt to the dream instead of resisting it, and guide it in whatever direction we want to.
Don Miguel Ruiz will be in Seattle July 15 and 16 doing lectures and book signings, and a workshop on The Mastery of Love on July 17. For more information call Michelle at (206) 366-1318.
Tasha works at the University of Washington and is a Reiki Master and a minister in the Living in Truth Institute.