At the end of October, don Miguel Ruiz, author of the well known Four Agreements released his newest book – The Toltec Art of Life and Death.

I had no idea he published a new book, but a friend heard me talk about my love of The Four Agreements and it happened that he gave a talk last night in Boulder with Naropa University.

Much of the conversation touched on the framing from his first book. If you aren’t familiar with The Four Agreements, I highly recommend it. Here are the four agreements (in the words of don Miguel himself):

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Throughout this post, I will share some of don Miguel Ruiz’s one-liners that stuck out for me from his talk. Some of them will be verbatim – marked with “” – others will be close to his delivery and I will mark those in italics. Then I will add more detail about what he shared from my own perspective in understanding what he shared.


I walked in a few minutes late, the room already hushed in silence, a muted light above the crowd and don Miguel himself alit on an elevated podium.

He was in the middle of sharing about how we all are artists. Life is art. We all create art in our own way. Inherently creative, whatever we create is art.

The wisdom he shares is from the Toltec. Toltec means artist.

This led into us into the knowledge that we are artists in our lives – we create our lives and have our own stories.

He is right and she is right and I am right and you are right. Seven billion people in the world are right.

We all have our story. We tell ourselves this story over and over again. We believe in our stories with our heart and soul. Each of us with our own life experience – it is not good or bad. It just is. It’s a reflection of our life journey. Who are we to tell someone that their story is not right? That their experience is not valid? This is why we are all right.

I create the main character of my story – what I feel and believe. Your eyes can only touch the surface of the mirror.

This is a core tenant of Don Miguel Ruiz’s teachings. Your life is your story that you create. You have total control over what the character feels, believes, the perspectives it holds, what it experiences. Your character is your responsibility. And yet, we think this story is all that there is. But that is not the case. It is only a reflection. Like our reflection when we look into a mirror, all we can do is touch the surface of it. The mirror does not reflect the depth of what is actually going on in life. And the same is true with us – we see ourselves, but it is only a reflection. Our eyes connect to our brain and we process what we think is happening. And it is only a reflection. We do not capture the depth of what is truly happening.

I learned to love the way they love – with conditions. That’s why we have the need to control. I learned to love myself with conditions – this is what caused the drama of my life. Rejection of self.

Wow. don Miguel talked about how much energy we use to conform to other people’s conditions that will lead to the love they give. That part is great, but to say “I learned to love myself with conditions, this is what caused the drama of my life.” Holy moly! He talked about self punishment, how we reject ourselves when we’re not living up to our own conditions. So much pain and suffering is caused by this – instead of loving unconditionally we have a story about ourselves – how things should be – how we should be. When we don’t live up to this, we punish ourselves for being something other than what we expect we should be.

Everything is based in what he knows or she knows. We use knowledge against ourselves – and we are possessed by it.

Poetically, don Miguel explained the light and the dark side of knowledge – how it is a demon and how it is an angel. How knowledge empowers, but that we also use it for pain. No one truly knows anything – there is only the collection of knowledge and how it’s been chosen to be interpreted by the masses. We take knowledge as truth, but it is not truth. It is someone’s perception of what is true.

“In every significant memory, there is an encounter with Truth and it changes our life completely.” Truth is movement. Truth is life. If there are words, it’s probably a lie.

There is a belief that goes something like this – as soon as you put words to something, you lose the essence of what it truly is. We cannot be told who we are. Sunset doesn’t capture the feeling of the event. Apple doesn’t hold the warmth of the sun that grew it. And there are times in life that we encounter something that breaks open the limitations of our mind – suddenly, we go in a new direction, become uninhibited in our being. Looking back, we know we were touched by Truth, but there are no words that explain this, only our experience which shows we were touched by something greater.

The Core Message

It was then we got to the core of don Miguel’s message. An audience member asked him about his heart attack in 2002 and his subsequent 9-week coma. She wanted to know if the experience changed him.

Miguel is not real, Miguel is the messenger – of life, of energy, of God.

Miguel is one reflection of many billions of reflections of life force energy. Miguel is the persona, the creator of the story that delivers this message. Energy is what creates life. Everything is made of energy. Energy is God.

As we are artists and the creators of our life story, don Miguel asked us two key questions:

“What kind of messenger are you?”

“What kind of message do you deliver to yourself?”

Deep questions. Life changing questions. I urge you to reflect on these questions as I reflect on them too.

My intended message is to share with the world how to live life from a place of self-trust, intuition and joy.

Tell me, what kind of messenger are you? Claim your message. Tell me what you carry within your Divine Blueprint.

I feel like I’m pretty good when I’m sharing this message with the world. I look inward and I feel like I have work to do; to trust more, to seek greater joy and to follow its path, to hone and honor my intuition by listening to it more, following it with greater trust. Of course there are improvements to make. The more we do something, the more we can see what can be done with it.

don Miguel then asked us to do one thing:

Please help me to change the world – the one you create – your story. You change the main character – you are not what you believe you are.

The world that we can change is our own. It is the one we have the power (and responsibility) to change. Our story can tell whatever we want it to tell. Do we want to be a victim? We’ll tell this story. Do we want to grow in trust and joy every day? We’ll tell this story. Whatever box we’ve put ourselves in – “the responsible one,” “the rebel,” “the academic” – these are just labels – words. This is not truth – this is a lens we’ve chosen to put ourselves through. We can change this whenever we want to. Want to be an artist? Great! You’re an artist. You get to decide.

“Challenge the beliefs that you use against yourself.”

To change your story, you have to change your beliefs. Many of these limitations – “I’m not enough, good enough, smart enough, wealthy enough to accomplish ___________.” These are the reasons we do not act – speak up, jump on an opportunity that we see,

“Their story is truth for them, even if not true for you.”

At the same time he asked us to challenge our beliefs, he asked us to give space for others’ stories. Not to make others right or wrong, but to honor them in their life experiences. What life has taught them brought them to a certain place – that is their truth even if it is different from your truth.

“What is awareness? The ability to see.”

Barbara Emrys, a student of don Miguel Ruiz, accompanied the teacher on stage and also answered questions from the audience.

She spoke on the true nature of awareness and called the audience to challenge virtual reality – anything from experiencing the moment from behind a camera to spending a lot of time on social media.

When you’re looking at something from behind a lens, it’s already distorted. We take these images to experience a virtual reality again and again.

As a photographer, it’s an interesting concept to reflect upon. When I see something I want to capture, it’s a feeling, a momentary reflection that I want to be able to pass onto others. Sure – it’s one myopic lens of the greater whole that is in the moment, but I don’t think I need to avoid that experience.

A reflection she had on social media is that it’s rehearsed. We can write and rewrite our posts. Curate what we think people want to hear. Be our own PR firm and share only one part of our humanness. It’s an intentional fabrication. Not to say it’s false, but we only share the parts that we want to share – a myopic lens, part of the larger whole of what is happening.

Just like a photograph.

A reminder that what is happening beneath the surface is so much more.

Your eyes can only touch the surface of the mirror.

I’d love to know – which of don Miguel Ruiz’s teachings stand out to you? What greater awareness do they call you into?

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