Tag Archives: wisdom

Don Miguel Ruiz Writes of Toltec Wisdom

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.”

Mothers and Grandmothers

By Randy Jackson

As far as I know, in all cultures of the world, motherhood is revered. Pretty well every female I’ve ever known has become a mother. At the same time, every female I’ve ever known has a radically different personality from every other one. Any behavior one might associate with motherhood is not always present before a woman actually becomes a mother. So if I had to explain the human cultural concept of reverence of motherhood to an alien, for example, I would have to say the emotional bond between a mother and her offspring causes certain universal behaviors of mothers towards their offspring, and it’s those universal behaviors we associate with motherhood that are so revered in all human cultures.

All this seems so basic and is such commonly held knowledge that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Except this is just one perspective, the Adult Perspective. There are other perspectives at other (younger) life stages that can take very different views on motherhood.

Think about what reponse you might get about mothers and motherhood if you interviewed a group of young teenage girls out in the winter without a jacket, smoking, and wearing black lipstick. I don’t know what their response would be, but I’d bet motherhood would be seen as something less than universally warm and cuddly. We all know of normal non-goth kids who at a certain age when out in public with their parents, hide when they see someone from their class, no doubt not wanting to be mistaken as offspring of such creatures as they have for parents.

I’m more familiar with the perspective of motherhood from my years of boyhood. Take, for example, a group of 8-year-old boys who, say, accidentally started a forest fire or borrowed Mr. Gibson’s fishing boat to use as a toboggan. The idea of going home to some universal motherhood reaction was incomprehensible. Mothers were authority figures plain and simple. An authority somehow understood, even to these boys at that time, to be uniquely shaped by the personality of the individual mother. Each one of those hypothetical boys knew exactly what he and his friends faced at home from their mothers.

At the same time, each one of those boys would also know that things would be different if their grandmother happened to be visiting. Grandmothers, in their age-acquired wisdom, know their grandchildren are always completely innocent. “It’s not his fault, it’s those other boys,” they might say to bring the true facts to the table. This brings me to my point: Motherhood isn’t universally loved by all, but grandmotherhood is.

A universal defining characteristic of grandmotherhood is that of “amused tolerance.” They see their grandchildren for who they are, not what they want them to be. Grandmothers are at least mildly amused by almost any behavior, even behavior not condoned by the mother. Mothers can too easily conflate any minor misbehavior as the road to dropping out of school and doing meth. Grandmothers believe in the lyric of John Prine’s song “Dear Abby”: “You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t.”

Grandmothers have lots of sayings. My grandma used to have some of her own sayings that seemed a bit weird, like, “What’s good for the goose is good for grandad,” which I always thought meant whatever a goose would eat, grandpa would like. Although I guess it made some sense, as grandpa ate head cheese, which I thought was gross, but believed a goose would probably eat it too.

Even the authority mothers have over just about anyone doesn’t extend to grandmothers. Rules like “Don’t feed them ice cream and cake at four in the afternoon, they won’t eat supper and are hyper crazy for hours,” are blatantly disregarded, without even the slightest fear of consequences, by grandmothers.

In evolutionary science, there is something called the Grandmother Effect Hypothesis. This theory posits that human longevity can be attributed at least in part to grandmothers. It comes from the idea that post-menopausal women continue to help their family gather food and care for their children. This has made, over evolutionary time, a genetic lineage of families with helpful grandmothers which makes them more able to survive. I have often wondered why grandmothers are always trying to overfeed their grandchildren. Who knew it was genetic?

Motherhood is of course a biological precondition of grandmotherhood, but it takes years of living, experience, not to mention learning to bake, that slowly transforms an individual mother into a universally loved grandmother.