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Letting Go of Perfection
My father said to me, "Miguel, when you understand that you are perfect just the way you are, you will see that everything is perfect just the way it is."
But it's not easy to just wake up one day, say you're perfect, and actually believe it. Making such a dramatic change in perspective requires desire and commitment. First, you leave behind any false ideals of perfection: You release your attachment to what you believe it means to be the perfect you, and you stop judging yourself for not meeting your own expectations, accepting yourself for who you are at this very moment. You begin by learning to love yourself and giving gratitude every morning for being alive.
Stop whatever you are doing right now and take this moment to love and honor yourself. You are perfect just the way you are, because you are alive in this moment.
Quieting the Mind
In the Toltec tradition we have a concept we call mitote, which represents the thousand voices that occupy the mind, all of which are vying for our attention.
Some narrators may speak from distortion, while others may speak from truth. The loudest ones usually manifest in the form of an attachment. Reason helps us tell the difference between the two, but if we become attached, it can be difficult to distinguish the truthful voices from the distorted ones. Depending on which narrators we are attracted to, we will perceive the world through their narration, thus creating our world in their image.
With awareness, we realize there is a deep silence that exists behind all of those voices, in that space between thoughts. One way to quiet the mind is to listen to that silence. If we look at our reflection and into our eyes, we will see what lies beyond them; we will see the truth.
There is no need to chase love, because we are love. Turn off the volume on your narrators, the voice of our knowledge, and simply engage the present. Release your attachment to what you expect to see, so you can see beyond it. At that point, the true image of love will appear.
Take the next few moments to quiet your mind by listening to the silence deep within you. When the mind is quiet, see yourself and others as pure love.
Choosing Happiness for Today
You've probably heard the saying, "Life's about the journey, not the destination." Yet many of us are waiting for some goal to be reached, some status to be attained before we can begin enjoying our lives. We say things to ourselves like, "I will be happy when I get this job/accumulate this amount of money/have this relationship."
There is nothing wrong with wanting to attain or achieve certain things, but if we make our happiness conditional on reaching certain destination points, our life will become a series of goals to obtain, with each one failing to deliver the promise of happiness we envisioned. Living this way means missing out on the beauty of the journey, the one that is happening right now.
Happiness can only be found in the present moment, not at some imaginary place in the future.
With awareness, notice when you attach to the idea of happiness in the future. When this happens, say to yourself, "I won't wait for happiness. I choose to be happy now."
It's often said in spiritual circles, "Don't be attached to things." But in reality, we're often not attached to the thing itself but to the idea of that thing. We have a compulsive belief that we must acquire something outside ourselves to make us complete.
Any time you hear yourself say, "I need this" or "I need that," you know you are attached to that idea. You have made your happiness and self-love conditional on the acquisition of that thing.
With awareness today, remember that you need nothing outside yourself to be complete. You are already complete and perfect exactly the way you are at this moment.
Accepting Yourself as You Are
Society sends the message that to be somebody in the world, you need to go to the right school, get the right job, buy the right car, live in the right neighborhood, and so on. Only then will you be accepted; only then will you be somebody in the world.
This implies that right now you are nobody. Nothing could be further from the truth. The entire power of the universe resides in your very being. You are made of light and stars. There is nothing you need to do, nothing you need to acquire, as you are already perfect exactly the way you are.
Today, with awareness, notice when you're seeking fulfillment through something outside yourself. When this occurs, gently remind yourself that there is nothing outside you that can complete you, because you are already complete. At that moment, say to yourself, "I love you."
The Authentic Self
The Authentic Self is a term that describes the living being that has the capacity to engage life. Our Authentic Self is always with us; we simply have filters that can sometimes block our awareness of it.
With awareness, remember today that the Authentic Self is the living being that gives life to your body, enabling you to perceive and project life and interact with the Dream of the Planet. It is the energy that moves you. It is pure, unlimited potential. You are the Authentic Self.
The Dream of the Planet Starts with You
In the Toltec Tradition, we have the concepts of the Personal Dream and the Dream of the Planet.
The Personal Dream refers to how you see the world and how you in turn project the world. It all relates to your point of view. You are 100 percent responsible for your Personal Dream.
The Dream of the Planet is the relationship between two or more Personal Dreams. For example, if you and I were physically in the same space, and if you were to touch your fingertip to mine, I would say that 50 percent of our relationship ends at that meeting point. I am responsible for myself from my body through the ends of my fingertips—completely responsible—just are you are responsible for yourself through the tips of your fingers. When we meet, we'll experience synergy, and we all contribute our Personal Dreams to the Dream of the Planet. Ultimately, the Personal Dream is the more important one, for two reasons: that is where it all starts, and that is the dream you have ultimate control over.
Remember, if you want to change the world, the first step is accepting yourself as you are in this moment, and change, with the freedom that life gives you, if you want to. Awareness, or the practice of being in communion with this moment and my present environment, is the key.
Living Your Life as a Work of Art
The word Toltec means "artist" in English, and life is the canvas for a Toltec's art. I am aware that knowledge is an instrument by which I am able to interact with the world, and my yeses and nos are the chisels or paintbrushes with which I create. I engage in the Toltec tradition by choice, fully aware that the name Toltec refers to an action or agreement belonging to a philosophy.
Not calling myself a Toltec wouldn't lessen my agreement or the lessons I learn from this oral tradition. This means my agreement is not subjugated to an identity. I am free to choose to agree, disagree, scrutinize, and engage with the Toltec philosophy, or any other, as much as I want. I am free to relate and engage in relationships with people who have a preference for another tradition or philosophy.
This is true for every one of my beliefs: I engage it for as long as I want to, knowing full well that I am a living being with the full potential to experience life with or without that agreement. This is what gives power to my agreements; I make them because I want to. This is my art, my agreement: to allow myself to experience life in its ever-changing truth with love.
Today, remember that your beliefs exist only because you exist. Therefore, no belief is greater or more important than you are. This is true for every human being.
In the Dream of the Planet, everyone adopts a name and an identity to go along with that name.
Your identity can be based on things like the color of your skin, the nationality of your family, the religion you practice, the work you do, and the activities and hobbies you love to participate in. In this way, your name and identity give you a purpose, a sense of belonging. They are symbols that are useful tools when communicating with one another.
But remember to never confuse any of these identities you have adopted with who you really are. These identities are simply symbols you play with that allow you to participate in our collective Dream of the Planet. You lose awareness the moment you confuse these identities with who you really are, and suffering is the result as it leads to our domestication based on these symbols.
Think of the people you know and the identities either they have assumed or you have ascribed to them. What identities have you adopted for yourself? How do you portray those identities in the world? With awareness today, remember that any identity you adopt is not the real you. Who you really are is far, far greater than can be contained in any identity or role. A particular role may die or dissolve, but you will remain.
Fear and Attachment
I know that whenever the fear of change takes hold of me, it means I have created an attachment to something outside myself. In change, the world I know can disappear, forcing me to go into the uncomfortable darkness of not knowing.
But change is inevitable, and it arises time and time again throughout our lives: a relationship ends, we lose a job, leave a home, get a new wrinkle, a graying hair, or experience the death of a loved one.
If you look at all the things and ideas you have become attached to, you will find that your identity is entwined in these attachments. Fear comes when these attachments are threatened in some way, because you have interpreted these attachments as being an inherent part of yourself, when they are actually arbitrary and ephemeral.
With awareness, notice how every time you cling to an object or an idea, you are in essence defending your definition of self. Release this attachment by remembering you are far greater than any object or idea you ever encounter. Let it go with ease and grace.
Examining Your Uncomfortable Emotions
Your emotions—regardless of the triggers—are expression of yourself. Uncomfortable emotions let you know there is a problem to attend to, a wound for you to work on, thus allowing you to see your own truth. With awareness, you can observe your uncomfortable emotions, as they may be showing you a belief that you are holding which is no longer true for you.
Whenever an emotion is triggered, it is the opportune time to ask questions such as:
* What is this about?
* What agreement is at the heart of this?
* What attachment does this threaten?
* Do I really believe this?
* Is it important?
Answering these questions gives you the opportunity to examine your beliefs and determine which ones are still true for you today.
A feeling of anger, anxiety, or fear is often an indicator that something is out of line between your attached beliefs and your inner truth. Next time you're feeling stressed, take a moment to ask yourself the series of questions above. If your response is out of step with what you think you believe, you know you've uncovered an outdated belief.
Believing Your Own Stories
In the introduction, I mentioned Don Quixote, one of the greatest literary masterpieces to emerge from the Spanish Golden Age. The protagonist of the story, a retired gentleman named Alonso Quijano, becomes so caught up in books about chivalry that his perception of reality becomes gravely distorted, and he transforms into someone else: Don Quixote. Don Quixote sees the world through the filters of fantasy and adventure. Whatever reality presents itself, he redirects the story to fit his own expectations and beliefs. Maintaining the illusion becomes paramount—more important even than his sanity.
Without awareness, we all behave like Don Quixote, trying to change reality to fit what we believe to be true.
Notice when you are constantly investing in the stories you want to believe. Whenever your story does not match your beliefs, you judge it as imperfect. In addition, notice how you punish yourself for not living up to your own imaginary story. When you see this cycle for what it is, leaving it behind becomes much easier. You are perfect just the way you are, no story needed.
Freeing Yourself from Domestication
Domestication, the system of reward and punishment, works like this: Every time you get something "right," you get a reward that makes you happy. Punishment comes when you do something "wrong." While the ways we are domesticated are different based on the individual and culture, the outcome is always the same: self-judgment and conditional love.
For example, let's imagine that as a child, you were told that not eating everything on your plate was "wrong," or even "a sin." Then years later, as an adult, if you do not finish a plate of food, your internal voice of self-judgment will come back loudly, and you will eat to avoid guilt rather than to satisfy hunger.
There is no one to blame for this, it is the current human condition that has existed for generations. The point is to become free of it.
With awareness, strive to recognize the ways in which you have been domesticated. When you see the domestication, be the Toltec warrior, saying to yourself, "I am now aware of this, and I choose to be free."
Recognizing What Matters
The beautiful thing about realizing our own mortality is that it puts the relationships we have with others and ourselves into perspective. In this light, any resentment we may be carrying toward another or ourselves is a type of early death. It has often been said that "holding on to a resentment is liking taking a poison pill and waiting for the other person to die."
Don't waste time letting a wedge come between you and those you care about when you have this present moment to share with one another. Forgiveness is the key to experiencing love and joy in the present moment.
With awareness, forgive yourself and others for any wrongdoings, real or perceived. In the big picture of life and death, does any resentment you are holding on to really matter?
While we don't generally voice these statements aloud, many of us approach our intimate relationships in the following ways: "I will love you if you behave in a certain way. I will love you if you love me back. I will love you if you do what I ask and make me feel good about myself. And, of course, I will shun you if you don't."
When we bring this attitude into any relationship, what we are really attempting to do is to use conditional love to control the other person, to domesticate them to our own point of view. The eventual result of this is our own suffering, as feeling good at the expense of another is never genuine or sustainable.
Here is an example of unconditional love: I have a friend whose wife left him for another man. He loved her dearly and was very saddened. When I asked him how he was holding up, he explained to me that while he was upset, if being with another man made his wife happier than being with him, then that is what he wanted for her. As for himself, he wanted to move on with his life and enjoy a relationship with somebody who loved him as he loved himself. He was no longer living in an illusion, and he was grateful for that.
With awareness today, look for examples in the world of how unconditional love is not determined by another's behavior. In which of your relationships are you loving yourself and others unconditionally? In which relationships are you living in an illusion?
Finding the Origin of Your Agreements
Self-judgment is the punishment you give yourself when you fail to meet your own expectations, when you fall short of what you think you are supposed to be. You judge yourself for not living up to a self-imposed standard, to a belief. But any faulty belief that you have about yourself didn't originate with you; it came from someplace else, and you agreed with it.
So the next questions are: Where did you learn it? From whom? And why? The purpose of this questioning is not to place blame on anyone else, but rather to realize the moment when you said yes to this belief, so that you can discard that belief anytime you want to change your intent and be free from it.
With awareness today, hunt for your self-judgments. When they arise, examine where they came from, then discard them. Remember that you are perfect in this moment because you are alive, and you choose how you want to express your intent. Be free to love yourself.
Keeping Knowledge in Perspective
Knowledge serves an important purpose in the Dream of the Planet. It allows us to communicate with one another from a place of shared experience. It also allows us to go beyond our physical limits and use technology to live more comfortable lives.
Without awareness, knowledge can take over the mind. Everything that comes into your field of awareness could be constantly labeled and translated based on past experience. Knowledge also enables domestication, a system of reward and punishment that offers your own self-acceptance and the acceptance of others in exchange for conformity.
Excerpted from Living a Life of AWARENESS by DON MIGUEL RUIZ JR.. Copyright © 2013 don Miguel Ruiz Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Hierophant Publishing.
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Posted March 14, 2014
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