By Kary Vannice
Don Miguel Ruiz was born in Guadalajara in 1952 into a long line of Toltec healers and shamans. He is most famous for his book The Four Agreements, originally published in 1997. Today, it still holds the #34 spot on Amazon’s best-seller list and appears at #3 in Mental Health, #3 in Success/Self-Help, and #4 in Personal Transformation.
Since his first publication, don Miguel has added ten other titles to his Toltec Wisdom series of writings.
The Toltecs were a culture of Mesoamerican people who preceded the Aztecs and inhabited the region of Mexico from 700 to 1100 CE. Often asked about his Toltec roots, in an interview Ruiz once explained, “They were artists and spiritual seekers who thrived in Mexico hundreds of years ago before they were forced to hide their ancestral wisdom from European conquerors.”
Despite having to hide these traditions for centuries at the risk of persecution or even death, Ruiz’s family passed down ancient spiritual knowledge and healing generation after generation. His grandfather and mother both practiced Toltec healing and teaching when he was a child. As a young man, however, don Miguel favored modern healing over ancient wisdom and decided his path to helping others would be through becoming a doctor.
In his final year at medical school, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and drove himself and two of his friends into a concrete wall. When retelling the story, Ruiz reports feeling his consciousness leave his physical body. He says he looked down to see his body pulling his two friends out of the vehicle just before everything went black. When he woke up in a nearby hospital, he was astonished to learn that none of the young men were seriously injured. That was the day he started to truly believe in the spiritual teaching of his mother and grandfather.
Don Miguel went on to complete medical school and become a practicing surgeon, and at the same time, he dove deeply into Toltec spiritual tradition. After six years of practicing medicine, he decided to leave the field and begin teaching Toltec wisdom with his mother in Southern California.
Ten years later, he wrote The Four Agreements, which outlines four simple principles to live by steeped in Toltec wisdom. Don Miguel says if you can master these four agreements, you can set yourself free of anxiety, fear, and worry.
The four agreements are:
1) Be impeccable with your word
2) Don’t take anything personally
3) Don’t make assumptions
4) Always do your best
Ruiz admits to the simplicity of these statements and yet speaks of the subtle power they hold, acknowledging that, while these may be simple, they are not always easy words to live by. One of the main reasons is one’s own internal dialog. Most minds are dominated by the inner critic, which, ironically, Ruiz refers to as “the voice of knowledge.” He says, “Most of the time, the voice of the spirit is silent, and the voice of the internal storyteller is very loud.”
Talking about his book The Voice of Knowledge (2004) in an interview, don Miguel explained it this way…
“The voice of knowledge is the voice in our mind that is always talking — the voice that comes from all that we know. But that voice is usually lying because we have learned so many lies, mainly about ourselves. Every time we judge ourselves, find ourselves guilty and punish ourselves, it’s because the voice in our head is telling us lies. Every time we have a conflict with our parents, our children, or our beloved, it’s because we believe in these lies, and they believe in them, too. So much of the knowledge in our minds is based on lies and superstitions that come from thousands of years ago. Humans create stories long before we are born, and we inherit those stories, we adopt them, and we live in those stories.”
Don Miguel Ruiz’s books help his readers navigate the sometimes-tricky waters of self-awareness in a world that tries to tell you who you are instead of encouraging you to listen to your own inner wisdom and discover your true self.
His message is simple…
“I can tell you that we have only one mission, and that is to make ourselves happy. The only way we can be happy is by being who we are. We create our own story, but society also creates its own story, and it has the right to create whatever story it wants. If you know that, whatever they say will not stop you from being what you are. Just by being what you are, other people will change—but you don’t do it because you want to change them. You do it to make your heart free.”