From modest beginnings in a rustic town in Mexico to the world stage, Don Miguel Ruiz remains humble, even after sharing words that have changed the lives of millions. His classic book, “The Four Agreements,” remained on the New York Times bestseller list for more than seven years after it was published in 1997. It’s a guide to a life of fullness of heart and depth of integrity.
Ruiz’s lyrical way of speaking makes it easy to understand how he holds audiences’ attention. The practical knowledge comes in a poetic package.
A Family Of Ancient Healers
He grew up in a spiritually focused family. His parents and grandparents are part of a lineage of ancient healers known as Toltecs, and he was expected to follow in their footsteps. He eventually did, but spent time in the mainstream medical world before joining his ancestors, extending the teachings to his children, then to apprentices.
Ruiz credits his mother, Dona Sarita, with teaching him that “everything’s possible, and I can make my dreams come true.” He says these dreams have manifested, and he expresses gratitude for each day. He particularly treasures that he was given a second chance at life after a 2002 heart attack left him close to death, with only 16 percent cardiac functioning. He held fast to the belief that he’d not only survive, but thrive. In 2010, he had a heart transplant, which allowed him to return to teaching and some of the other activities he loves.
About The Four Agreements
His book, “The Four Agreements,” was inspired by the winding path his took. He explains, “Before, I used to be a surgeon with my brothers. One day I decided not to practice medicine because I wanted to focus my attention into the human mind, to understand it. I wanted to finish my training with my mother. I then took on apprentices and went to Teotihuacan in Mexico. I saw the map of the human mind and how to change the way we live our lives.
I wanted to simplify everything and make it so easy to understand. That’s how I wrote ‘The Four Agreements.’” They are:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Always do your best.
“This little book is really a guide to see ourselves, to see the creation that we live,” he says. “Everyone’s an artist. The art everyone creates is a story. It’s the story of our lives. We live in that personal dream. We accumulate all the knowledge we have … If you could see what someone did before, you could predict what’s going to happen. Every action leads to a reaction.”
He shares this insight: “There’s something common in every human. We learn to love the way society loves. We learn to love others with conditions. We say, ‘I love you if you let me control you. I love you if you do whatever I want you to do. Then we can be so happy.’ We love ourselves with conditions. That creates all the traumas, conflicts, violence, and war. We lose respect. If we can see this is the main reason of our trauma, it all becomes easy. Unconditional love is always there, but we haven’t focused on it. You can see unconditional love when you have your first child in your hands. You just love that baby. You don’t expect anything from that baby.”
On Addiction And Loving Yourself
Addiction has touched his family powerfully. His son Jose has been clean of crystal methamphetamine for 16 years. Jose describes his recovery in the book, “My Good Friend the Rattlesnake.”
The elder Ruiz shares his perspective on addiction: “The reason we have addictions is we love ourselves with conditions. That’s the problem. I love myself if I perform a certain way, if I believe a certain way. That way, I can be accepted by everybody else. We don’t accept ourselves for the same reason. We’re not the way we are supposed to be. I tell my apprentices, ‘If you don’t like a certain person, walk away. If you don’t like a group of people, the answer’s also easy. Just walk away from those people.’ The problem is if you don’t like yourself, wherever you go, you’re left with yourself. If we have to do something to forget, this is the reason we start to drink, overeat and use drugs.”
He said his unconditional love for his son kept him steadfast in his support, adding “I never lost faith in him to do the right thing. Because I respect him so much, I can’t impose my beliefs on him. If I put all that pressure for him to stop whatever addictions he had, he’d just use even more. If I love him just the way he is, at a certain point, he’ll start loving himself.
“When he found that he needed help, he came to me and said, ‘Father, please help me.’ Then I said to him, ‘Welcome back home.’ He wanted to be helped. I can’t help him if he doesn’t want to. It’s compared to lack of respect. I sent him to India to be with his stepmother right away, and he started changing. In a few months, he was clean.”
Jose now teaches with his father and brother, Miguel Ruiz, Jr., as well as on his own using his experience to help others.
The core messages in Don Miguel Ruiz’ work are about personal freedom, the ability to change our lives by altering our thoughts and the unconditional love that exists if we’re willing to embrace it.