Read an Excerpt
The Toltec Path of Transformation
Embracing the Four Elements of Change
By HeatherAsh Amara
Hierophant PublishingCopyright © 2012 HeatherAsh Amara
All rights reserved.
Remodeling Your Inner House
In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself.
Imagine yourself as a house; your mind, spirit, emotions, and body are the four corners of your foundation. Is your base stable and supportive? Do your closets have clutter? Are the rooms in your house decorated exactly they way you want? Is there space and light and peace throughout?
Or is your internal house in need of a good cleaning and some major remodeling?
Actually, you have been building the house of yourself since childhood, often based on other people's designs. If you had all the resources necessary to remodel your life, how would you choose differently? What walls would you tear down? How would you want your house to feel?
The Toltec Path of Transformation shares the steps to an internal remodeling that will improve all aspects of your life—from your work to your home to your health, from your inner relationship with yourself to your outer relationships with friends, partners, and family. No matter how severe or minor the changes you want to make in your life, this book will support you in making positive, concrete shifts in the actual structure of your being. Remodeling takes tools and skill, and The Toltec Path of Transformation will guide you step by step in gaining the awareness, energy, and courage to build the life you have always wanted to live.
Remodeling begins by delving into the old structure. Parts of your current house, or self, were created unconsciously and now no longer serve you. But which walls need to come down, and what will anchor you during the renovation?
Although remodeling oneself can be exhilarating, it is also disruptive. This book offers the perspective and tools of a seasoned home-transformation guide to make your remodeling as easy as possible. As you rearrange and take down old structures, you will learn how to call on the four elements to be your scaffolding, or support, and a safe container for change. The elements will empower you to rebuild your life on a strong, balanced foundation.
Change, no matter how eagerly awaited, is unsettling and involves a loss, a sacrifice of something. Moving is the loss of an old way of living. Aging is the loss of youth. From being laid off your job to getting sick to coming home from a great vacation, all transformation creates instability and takes a period of readjustment.
What inner or outer transitions are you in right now? What are you remodeling within and without?
By learning the tools and the skills necessary to remodel yourself, you can consciously tear down the walls of limiting beliefs and clear inner blockages to create more space and beauty in all the transitions of your life. You will learn to reclaim lost or stagnant energy, step fully into your power, and feel supported and vitalized by life. Your inner house will transform from a cluttered, cramped single-wide to a light-filled, spacious reflection of your heart and soul.
Are you ready?
Whenever you begin any remodeling project, the first step is to assess the stability of the current structure. Most likely, the floors of your internal house do not solidly rest on an abiding connection to your authentic self but are precariously balanced on false beliefs, or agreements, that you created or were told as a child. It is this shaky internal foundation that causes anxiety, fear, and a feeling of scarcity.
Hand in hand with assessing the current structure of being is opening to your vision of what is possible. What is the end result you are looking for from your internal remodeling project? More love? More peace? More laughter? More stillness? You get to choose the colors, patterns, and lighting in the sacred creation of your inner home.
Let's start by looking at how these structures are created early in our life, sometimes from tiny events that have a huge impact on our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Once we understand the mechanics of how our old house was built, we have the knowledge to then roll up our sleeves and rebuild ourselves from the inside.
The Structures That Bind Us
Pretend that you are three years old, and you are playing rambunctiously with your eight-year-old brother. Feel your excitement as you laugh and gleefully run around the house, arms waving, feet barely touching the ground.
Suddenly, you hear a loud noise behind you, and you turn to see that your brother has accidentally knocked over a vase, which has shattered all over the floor.
How would you react?
Imagine that you both freeze and look at each other, wondering what to do next. Your brother shakes his head and says, "We'd better clean this up before mom gets home," but when you go into the kitchen to get the broom, you both decide to have a snack first. Before long, the two of you are laughing and playing again, forgetting all about the vase.
Your mom is on her way home and has had a rotten day. She had an argument with her boss, she's been stuck in traffic, she is running late, and the chocolate bar she's been thinking about all has day melted on the seat of her car. Mom is definitely not having a good day.
Then she checks her voicemail and hears a message from her new babysitter, who says, "I'm sorry; I tried to call you earlier. I have to leave a bit early today because Wednesdays are the day I go to cheerleading practice, but the kids should be fine ..."
Mom's not-good day just got worse.
So you can imagine Mom's state when she walks through the door and hears you and your brother laughing and running around; then sees her grandmother's vase—the only thing her grandmother had ever given her—shattered on the floor.
What is her reaction?
Let's pretend that Mom has rarely yelled or gotten upset with her kids, but today she just loses it. She starts yelling, "Who broke my vase?! Who broke my vase?!"
You and your brother come running into the front room to see what Mommy is yelling about. You are both scared when she shouts at you about the vase, demanding to know who broke it.
Your brother looks at you and says, "She did it!"
You look at your brother and then at your mother, stuttering, "I ... I ... I didn't—"
"You! Go to your room now!" Mom yells at you.
Close your eyes for a moment and really imagine that you are that child and that you have just been punished for something you didn't do.
How do you feel?
You would probably have a strong emotional reaction, a feeling in your body that fills you from head to toe. You might be angry at your brother for blaming you and upset that your mother would believe him. You may feel scared or confused that your mother has blamed you.
Can you imagine going to your room, sitting on your bed, and saying this to yourself? "Wow, Mom was in a really bad mood! I hope she's okay. And Brother, he must have been really scared when he heard Mom yelling. He must have thought he was going to get in big trouble. Well, I will talk to both of them later and straighten it out."
Would it be possible for you as a small child to have this experience, shrug your shoulders, and sit down to color in your favorite book while waiting for Mom to calm down?
Yes, it is possible, but not likely....
What is more likely (and I'll share why in a moment) is that you have an emotional response like anger, confusion, or sadness. As a young child, you might not even have a word for what you are feeling, just an overwhelming sensation in your body, such as a churning in your stomach, a tightness in your throat, or a tearing feeling in your chest.
The emotion itself is not the problem, but what we do next creates the fodder for most of our ongoing suffering as adults.
We tell ourselves a story.
As a little kid, what would you tell yourself to help you make sense of why your mom sent you to your room for something your brother did?
Over the years of sharing this make-believe scenario with my students, I have made a list of the key points from the stories that they envisioned:
Mom loves Brother more than she loves me.
If I lie, I won't get punished.
It's not safe to play; I'll get in trouble.
I can't trust Mom.
I have to be extra careful to be loved and feel safe.
Material objects are more important than people.
Life's not fair.
Each of these thoughts could be like a dandelion puff blowing in the wind and not taking root, or the puff could land on fertile soil and start growing. These tiny thoughts have immense power—not their own power but the power we give to them.
We are incredible creators, but what we often create is based on the seeds of false thoughts that, when planted, take root and blossom into agreements. As don Miguel writes in The Four Agreements Companion Book: "Imagine every agreement is like a brick. Humans create an entire structure out of bricks, and we glue it together with our faith. We believe without doubt in all the knowledge inside that structure. Our faith gets trapped inside that structure because we put our faith in each agreement. It's not important if it is or isn't true; we believe it, and for us it is true."
Let's continue to explore how the seed of a thought grows into a story that hardens into a structure that separates you from your center. Once again, imagine yourself as this little kid. Let's pretend that you have the thought, I got punished because Mom loves Brother more than me. While it might feel awful to think this thought, can you notice that there is also a sense of relief at having a reason for being punished, even if it is not true?
Imagine that Mom comes into your room and apologizes for yelling at you. She says all the "right" things: "I'm so sorry, honey. I had a rotten day, and I loved that vase, so I got upset. Your Brother just told me that he knocked over the vase by accident and that it wasn't your fault. I love you, and I'm sorry I yelled at you and sent you to your room. Come on, let's go to dinner."
But a little doubt has already been planted in your mind. As you sit down to dinner, imagine that Mom passes the mashed potatoes to Brother first. If you are still holding onto the thought that Mom loves Brother more, what would you now say to yourself?
Your oh-so-helpful brain would do what we call selective-evidence gathering. Aha! you might say to yourself, I knew it! Mom passed the mashed potatoes to Brother first. She does love him better. And later, if Mom passes you the ice cream first, what might you do with that evidence? Often when we have a seed thought and we begin to gather evidence to make sense of the thought, if there is an experience that does not support the story, we actually ignore it, or we weave it into our new story. In this way, we are ingenious! So as a child you might say, Yeah, Mom passed me the ice cream first, but it is just because she is feeling guilty that she loves Brother more.
Do you see how you can take one little seed of doubt and build a whole elaborate structure, a fortress, created by ideas and conditions and agreements of what is true and what is not?
Mom likes Brother better, but I don't care anyway. I don't need anyone. Mom likes Brother better because I am bad. Mom likes Brother better because boys are more important than girls. Maybe if I am perfect, if I try really hard, then I'll be loved like my brother is. Or maybe if I am invisible, if no one sees me and I am really quiet and nice, I won't get in trouble.
The situation with the vase is a relatively minor trauma. The child in this scenario might not even remember the incident when she grows up. But you can see what a huge impact it could have on her entire life. The seeds of this new internal structure—I am bad, I don't need anyone, boys are more important than girls—will sprout and grow as long as she is not conscious of them. She will literally create a reality that will grow from this handful of unconscious childhood agreements. These beliefs became a shaky floor for all her future actions.
Where have you mistakenly erected jail-like walls based on past stories that limit your current perception and your choices?
The good news is: You do not need to know exactly how you created your structure. All you need to do is tell yourself the truth about the current state of your internal house and remodel yourself from a new foundation.
But there is a secret, an important bridge, between releasing the old and reclaiming the new that few people understand. Here is the insight I discovered that changed everything.
Creating the Life You Want
The hammer and nail tools of this book come from the most potent and practical tools from a variety of spiritual traditions, combined with my own personal experience. I was blessed to study shamanic healing with Vicki Noble, co-creator of the MotherPeace Tarot, and to study and teach with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements. My apprenticeship with don Miguel began in 1994, when I approached him to teach me about the tarot. At that time, I did not know that my work with the Toltec community would irrevocably change my life.
From don Miguel, I learned not only the theory but also the practical steps of the Toltec path, which helped me to remodel the shaky floors of my fears and rebuild my inner house from the foundation of my true nature.
But it wasn't easy.
My own healing journey from an unconscious to a conscious structure began more than twenty years ago. Over the course of years of therapy, spiritual work, traveling, and teaching countless workshops, I noticed an interesting pattern in my life. My emotional breakthroughs or "healing—aha!—moments" were often followed by periods of depression, fear, and self-doubt.
Not long after I broke through a fear, it would grab me around the ankles and haul me back to old behaviors. The structure of my old self was still alive and unwilling to change. I wondered if most people had similar experiences and if there was a way to facilitate a lasting change in structure while remaining centered.
As the story above shows, as children we learn to behave in certain ways that often cause us to go against our very nature. It would seem that it would be effortless to release old structures and reclaim our natural, enthusiastic, joyful self.
But even when you consciously choose to change your structure and remodel your inner house, you may experience a great sense of fear and loss. The old agreements obviously no longer serve you. Your actions and behaviors clearly need to change. But when you begin to dismantle or rearrange the old structure, a force seems to stop or divert you.
Sometimes, the closer you get to making a change, the less attractive it seems. You get distracted. You are thrown into chaos and even experience a sense of helpless terror. Or you find yourself getting very sleepy and dull.
So what is the missing ingredient to deep transformation?
In 1999, I dedicated six months to intensely watching this reluctant-to-change part of myself and tracking it in my students. While much had changed for the better in my life, a few deeply rooted issues kept me out of balance. For example, even though I knew better, I clung to a relationship long after I would have been better off ending it. Even though my path was clearly taking me in another direction, I longed to go back to my old spiritual community, fearing I might miss out on something. Although my old life was shifting, I resisted the change. I continued to look outside myself for answers, and, to feel safe, I still tried to control other people's behavior.
I kept asking myself: "How do we step out of our limitations? Why do we keep going back to old behaviors, old relationships, and old ways of reacting? What is the key to lasting personal change?"
When we bring curiosity, patience, and openness to the questions in our lives, answers arrive in a multitude of forms. Mine came in a dream that crystallized years of work with many different teachers, healers, and spiritual traditions. The dream showed me a pathway to living a balanced life in the midst of great inner change. The pathway involved using the four elements to help me reclaim a sacred, possibility-centered life.
The dramatic shifts in my life and in the lives of the many people I've worked with are the direct result of working with these four simple actions based on the four elements, which accelerate and support deep, lasting change.
The Toltec path is about taking responsibility for all of your actions, disrupting routines and habitual ways of perceiving and acting to come back into choice in every moment. This means using whatever tools work the best in your quest for transformation. The Toltec Path of Transformation is a synthesis, a flower grown from the soil of much direct experience, guidance, and experimentation. These Four Elements of Change reflect a gathering of the most powerful tools from many spiritual traditions, including Toltec wisdom, European shamanism, and Buddhism. This book integrates the most direct and practical spiritual and healing practices I have found and provides a conscious structure designed to create a container for rapid growth.
In the next chapter, I offer you the vision about regaining authenticity and choice that the elders shared with me in the dreamtime. The insights from this dream form the core of The Toltec Path of Transformation and are the heart of the Four Elements of Change.
Excerpted from The Toltec Path of Transformation by HeatherAsh Amara. Copyright © 2012 HeatherAsh Amara. Excerpted by permission of Hierophant Publishing.
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