An Interview with Don Miguel Ruiz
For many years, Don Miguel witnessed people struggling to quiet their minds and sought to create tools to assist them. Through his book, The Four Agreements, as well as the follow-up book, The Fifth Agreement, he has transformed the lives of millions of people around the world with the message that we create the life we live and the stories that fill it, and only we can set ourselves free and live the life we truly want by each of us finding our authentic self. In this interview, we asked him to correlate the agreements with the yamas.
Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): How does the second agreement (Don’t take anything personally) relate to ahimsa, nonviolence?
Don Miguel Ruiz (DMR): When we take things personally, we are participating in violence against our own selves. We have violence happening all the time in the mind, through our tendency toward nonstop thinking. We make so many assumptions and take things too personally. Every person creates his or her own story. We live in our own worlds, inside our own heads. We will not be able to change the world if we don’t change our own inner world first. The change begins with us. The essence of the practice of non-violence is about going into one’s center, one’s own inner peace. If we aren’t peaceful, we cannot give what we don’t have. In order to give respect, we have to respect ourselves. When we respect ourselves, we respect all we are and we see the perfection we all have.
IYM: How do we make that change?
DMR: We will change the world by loving ourselves, by enjoying life, by making our personal world into a heaven. Respect is key. When we respect ourselves, we can respect others and everything around us. When we judge ourselves or impose guilt and shame on ourselves, we are being violent. When we respect ourselves, we find inner peace. We don’t need to be violent mentally or physically, we don’t need to make others wrong, when we know that the same way we create a story for lives, everyone else is creating their own stories and following their own truth. When we understand that, we respect that everyone has the right to believe what he or she believes. Love is unconditional and we don’t find violence in real love.
IYM: The first agreement you teach is to be impeccable with one’s word. This relates to the second yama: satya or truthfulness.
DMR: The truth is the most important thing we can find. Truth exists inside and outside, but we distort it. In that distortion, each of us creates our own personal story, which leads us to become fanatics and defending what we believe is true. And, our stories also lead us to believe that everyone else is wrong. It’s up to us to begin to see the impact of our words on everything around us. All our thinking is the result of what we know. Ask: “Do I respect myself? Do I even like myself? What kind of life am I creating for myself? Am I happy or am I suffering?” If you’re suffering, if there’s drama and injustice in your life, then you’re not being impeccable with your word. All those voices in your head are distorting your message. What kind of message will you deliver to the people you love the most if the messages that you deliver to yourself are guiding you into suffering? What kind of message do you choose to deliver? My choice is to deliver a message of truth and love. Ask yourself, “What is my choice?”
IYM: The next yama is asteya, or non-stealing.
DMR: That’s about living in generosity. That’s unconditional love. We distort love. In this distortion it becomes very conditional. I love you if . . . . If we put conditions, we lose that unconditional love and our equilibrium. When we are in balance, we eat when we’re hungry. When we lose our equilibrium, we over-eat. The needs of the body are little, but we can’t satisfy the needs of the mind, which are endless. For example, if we are cold, we need to cover the body. But if we go to our closets to put something on, the mind says, “Oh, I have nothing to wear.” Our closets may be full, still the mind tells us it has nothing to wear. That is the tendency of the mind to be covetous, to be greedy, to have insatiable wants and perceived needs.
IYM: What can we do?
Read the rest of this article in the Spring 2013 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.