In 1998, don Miguel Ruiz visited Bodhi Tree to discuss the concepts in his best-selling book The Four Agreements. Drawing from ancient Toltec teachings, this renowned spiritual teacher explains how we learn to live within a distorted, self-limiting belief-vision that rules our relationships with others, society and ourselves, creating frustration, unhappiness and an inability to love. Ruiz characterizes these beliefs as dreams that have the power to rule our lives, and in this talk, he describes how understanding the delusions of those dreams and applying the “four agreements” can lead to total self-transformation.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s Story
Don Miguel Ruiz was born into a family of healers and raised in rural Mexico by a curandera (healer) mother and a nagual (shaman) grandfather. He initially embraced a secular life, choosing to become a surgeon, until a near-death experience pulled him back to his heritage. He devoted himself to mastering his ancient ancestral wisdom, studying with his mother and a powerful shaman in the Mexican desert. His grandfather, who has passed on, continues to teach him in his dreams. In the tradition of the Toltec, a nagual guides an individual to personal freedom. Ruiz is a nagual from the Eagle Knight lineage, and is dedicated to sharing his knowledge of the esoteric teachings. Ruiz has an exceptional ability to explain the shamanistic way of life, and his teachings can lead to dramatic personal growth, love and a greater sense of wellbeing.
Ruiz’s most recent book, The Toltec Art of Life and Death: A Story of Self Discovery, written with Barbara Emrys, accounts for his near-fatal heart attack and subsequent coma as a catalyst for his spiritual journey. He has stayed on Watkins’ “Spiritual 100 List” since its inception in 2011 and all of his books are international best-sellers. His other works include The Mastery of Love, The Voice of Knowledge, Prayers [Editor’s Note: This book is now out of print], and The New York Times best-seller, The Fifth Agreement, a collaboration with his son, don José Ruiz. Don Miguel Ruiz currently resides in San Diego and continues to host retreats, attend spiritual gatherings and give interviews. —Perrin Brown
“The Four Agreements: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.” —don Miguel Ruiz
The following is an edited version of Ruiz’s Bodhi Tree Bookstore presentation from 1998.
Don Miguel Ruiz: I always begin with a prayer. Please close your eyes and be as comfortable as possible. I want you to use your imagination so we can dream together. I want you to imagine that everything that exists is the result of magic, and about magic, and that you have the power to control the magic. I want you to imagine that your power has no limits and that everything is possible for you. I want you to imagine that you have power over the dreams and that everything is a beautiful dream—a dream of love, a dream of life. I want you to imagine that you can fulfill any dream that you want and make it come true. I want you to imagine that you have the courage to speak your truth wherever you go, and share yourself with no fear. I want you to imagine that you no longer have the need to live your life by pleasing other people’s point of view or that you are afraid of rejection. I want you to imagine that your life can be so wonderful and so beautiful. I want you to imagine that you live your life in love, with self-respect and honor, and that you will be appreciated wherever you go. I want you to imagine that you are no longer searching for perfection because everything is perfect. I want you to imagine that you're not searching for God anymore because you know that He is with you all the time. I want you to imagine that you are not afraid to die anymore. I want you to imagine that you can walk around the world with the heart completely open—and that you’re not afraid to love anymore—that you love yourself so much that you no longer need to go begging for love, because you’re not afraid to be alone. I want you to imagine that life is perfect just the way it is.
Our Father, Mother, God, we are here with you once again to show our gratitude, our love, and respect for all your creations. To let you know that we really enjoy our lives that are passing for us and that we love and respect you. That from now on, we are going to live our life in a completely different way. Thank you, God, for helping us to manifest a beautiful life and to share a love with each other.
Making the Choice to Dream
Now I want you to open your eyes. All the work I do is based on imagination. What I did in this meditation with your imagination is to share with you the way I dream my own life. It is my choice to dream, not because it’s real or not real, but because it’s what makes my heart sing and be happy. I choose to build the dream of my life with love and to share my dream. What is important for me is to be that way because that’s the way I really am. All the drama in your life, all the comedy in your life, all the love in your life, all those disappointments, the good parts, the bad parts—all of that is nothing but a dream. And it’s wonderful to know that since it is a dream, you can start taking charge of how to dream your life. It’s not about believing or not believing. It’s about what it is. You dream your life according to what you believe. We can say that we perceive the same things, but we analyze everything completely different. We take it in a different point of view, but it’s just a dream. The way you dream your life, you create all those images about yourself and about everything—all those images about how everything should be: how the government should be, how religion should be. You create a whole mythology—heroes and villains. That mythology is just your belief and it’s not even real or true. But it’s what rules your life and the whole society—the whole humanity. But it’s just a dream. And by being a dream master, we change as fast as the dream changes. And we adapt to the dream instead of resisting the dream, and guide the dream in whatever direction we want to.
Ruiz’s Three Rules for Accepting an Apprentice
I want to share with you the three rules that I have in order to accept an apprentice. Rule Number One: Don’t believe me. I don’t want you to believe me, but I want you to listen and make choices—your choices. If what I say doesn’t work for you, leave it. But if it works for you and that’s what you want, then make it yours. Rule Number Two: Don’t believe yourself. Why? Because most of your belief system is a lie—it’s not true. And by believing yourself, you create all the limitations that don’t allow you to be what you really are. Don’t believe yourself. Listen to what you say, listen to what you think, listen to what you believe. And when you listen, open your ears, open your mind, open your intelligence and make choices. Rule Number Three: Don’t believe anybody else. Don’t believe them at all. Open your ears and your mind; listen and make choices.
If you just follow these three simple rules, you can go anywhere in the world and still protect the dream of heaven in your mind. You have to be aware of what it is that you believe. You have to listen to that voice and make choices. But just because you hear an inner voice, does that means it’s true? No. Don’t believe it. Follow your heart. You can understand. And you can make choices.
The Mastery of Transformation
What I’m giving to you right now is the first half of the mastery of transformation, which is the destruction of an old dream or belief system—a whole belief system that creates a nightmare in every person’s life. It is a nightmare that makes humans into slaves and puppets of that dream. It is a dream that makes you believe that you’re just a human and that you’re not perfect. But you’re much more than a human. There’s all that possibility—all that world of magic and power that is limited by your own beliefs, by your own life, by the way you lie to yourself. If we change that, there’s nothing else that can limit us. Everything is possible, including to be always happy and always in love.
Once you break all those beliefs—you don’t believe me, you don’t believe yourself, you don’t believe anybody else—it begins to look like chaos. Why? Because the reason we need to believe is in order to feel faith. You feel that your whole system is cracking, so you no longer are safe. Well, that’s when the mastery of transformation comes in. The second half of the mastery of transformation is the re-creation of a dream.
The Four Agreements
And that’s what the Four Agreements are about. My next book is going to be about the first half of mastery of transformation; it’s already on the way. But the Four Agreements are the way to re-create the dream. And the result is what we call “the mastery of love,” which is the way to live your life. It’s what I was describing to you in the opening meditation and a way of being, in your own way, with your integrity, just the way you are. You’ll learn the “power journey.”
You’re living in my dream when we’re on power journeys—in a dream that is completely love. And you see the possibility to live your life always in that way. You want another possibility by knowing your own way. But you need to do your work to change your beliefs and your ways. You need to become the dream artist. It’s the supreme art that all humans have. Your whole life is just a masterpiece of art, good or bad—it doesn’t matter. But 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 make a choice—really, free will—you’re never going to choose anger, jealousy, emotional pain, suffering. You choose that way of dreaming because you have no choice. If you have a choice, you are going to be always happy, always in love. Do we have any questions?
Not Believing in Yourself
Audience: What do you mean by “not believing in yourself”?
Don Miguel Ruiz: Don’t believe yourself. Let’s see why you don’t believe yourself. You know, all the lies need your attention. They need you to believe in them in order to survive. If you don’t believe yourself, guess what’s going to survive? The truth. Only the truth survives. Because the truth doesn’t need you to believe it. It is lies that need to be believed. You don’t need to believe in God.
All humans become the slaves of knowledge. But when you no longer believe, knowledge is a tool for communication. You have the power over knowledge; you know it’s not true, but you use it to communicate. It’s part of your magic and power. For example, I’m using language or concepts, which is knowledge, to communicate with you. Believe it or not, we can really communicate. But if knowledge enslaves you, I will speak what I know, and you will speak what you know, but we will hardly communicate at all. You will try to impose your truth; I will try to impose my truth, and it’s no longer fun.
All that is knowledge playing with us. But don’t believe it. You know what you want. And you trust more and more and more in what you want. You will say no when you want to say no, or yes when you want to say yes. And you take complete responsibility for that. Isn’t that wonderful? Yes.
What Are the Four Agreements?
Audience: What are the Four Agreements?
Ruiz: Number One is impeccability of the word, which means that you never are going to use the word against yourself. You never go against yourself. [Number Two is] don’t make assumptions, because the way we learn to dream the dream is based on assumptions. That’s how we create all those big dramas. By not creating assumptions, we avoid all those lies, we uncover part of our integrity. Another one is: Don’t take anything personally. If you don’t take anything personally, you will not be offended wherever you go. Because the truth is that whatever people do or don’t do, it’s not because of you. And the most important one is: Always do your best. For sure, you always can do your best. And your best changes all the time. It’s not your best when you’re sleepy, tired, sick—it’s when you are awake or fresh. But by always doing your best, you’re always going to be content with yourself.
What Does It Mean to Do Your Best?
Audience: When I do something, no matter how well I do it, I never feel that I do my best. What does it mean to do your best?
Ruiz: OK. You never feel that you do your best because you have an image of yourself concerning what needs to be perfect. And that image that you have about being perfect is not true. It’s one of the biggest lies that you have in your life. Then, in that way of judgment or point of view, you can never do your best. But it’s only your point of view; it’s not true that you didn’t do your best.
You need to see that perhaps the belief about being perfect is not real. That fear of imperfection comes from the fear of not being good enough, because of not being accepted by whoever trained or taught you. But perhaps what I am saying right now could be the key for you to change your whole life. You open your mind and you listen. And if you don’t believe them when they say, “Oh, no, you’re not good enough,” perhaps you will have a new opportunity in your life. And if you made the choice to do your best and believe it, that is your best. You have the power to make the choice.
How Do I Reclaim My Free Will?
Audience: How do I reclaim my free will?
Ruiz: That’s a good question. You rebel. That means war, but it’s an inner war, and that’s why we call ourselves warriors. The war is to recall your free will. You reclaim it by challenging fear, anger, jealousy—whatever makes you suffer. It’s a complete rebellion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win or lose—who knows? But you try. Many people don’t even try. But at least you try and want to be a warrior.
I just deliver a message. That’s all I do. And that message is that you can control your dreams. The only truth is that you can be happy. You can have a wonderful life. You can be free to make your own choices. You can live in harmony with God right now.
I choose my own beliefs and I live my life by choosing those beliefs. And if at a certain moment my life is not working well, I change the belief and my whole life changes again. And if it doesn’t work, I can change again and again and again. Hey, what else are we going to do here? We have a mind, we can learn to dream. Why not dream the best way possible? And life is so wonderful if you have the courage to live your life, to be yourself. Hey, why not? Why not?
What Is Rebelling?
Audience: What is rebelling?
Ruiz: It’s not accepting. You don’t give up. You say, “I don’t have to suffer.” It doesn’t mean that you deny that you’re suffering. What it means is that you find another way of being, another way of believing. After rebellion, when you change your life, the last step is surrendering. You surrender to the fact that everything is perfect, that everything is wonderful, and this is when you’ll really change your beliefs. It’s a great question. Thank you, all of you, for giving me the opportunity to share my love with you once again.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
By don Miguel Ruiz (138 pp.) Amber-Allen Publishing
Drawing from ancient Toltec teachings, don Miguel Ruiz explains how we learn to live within a distorted, self-limiting belief-vision that rules our relationships with others, society and ourselves, creating frustration, unhappiness and an inability to love. Ruiz, who has a persuasive ability to untangle complex concepts, characterizes these beliefs as dreams that have the power to rule our lives. Ruiz shows how we can change our lives by understanding the untruthfulness of our dreams and learning to change them by applying the “four agreements,” leading to a total self-transformation. The book’s clear and powerful concepts are stepping stones that can both open one’s awareness and provide a well-grounded pathway toward freedom, true happiness and love.
Also, please see Beyond Fear by Mary Carrol Nelson. This book represents the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz as recorded by Mary Carrol Nelson.