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A Toltec Guide to Self-Awareness (Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr)

Drawing on the Toltec wisdom learned from his father and grandmother, Don Miguel Ruiz Jr., author of “The Five Levels of Attachment” and “Living a Life of Awareness, explores self-awareness. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. explains how our attachments create our reality and distort our ability to be self aware.

What is self-awareness? What Does It Mean to be Self Aware?

What do you see when you look into the mirror? How would you describe the “self” that is reflected back? Do you see a father, an accountant, a man of Asian descent named Huan? Are our professions or defined roles and the names we’re given the only things that define us? The most common definition for self-awareness are those convenient short-cuts that define who we are based on such things as our role, preference, interest, bank account, or profession.

After you move beyond these superficial descriptions, how would you describe who you are? Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr refers to these short-cuts as masks that distort our vision.  Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr explains that once we’re able to see through these obfuscations and distortions (masks) that affect our perception, only then can we can truly see ourselves. And when we see ourselves “as is” with 100% clarity, we see ourselves as life.  This is the deepest sense of what it means to be self-aware.

“ Everything is created out of stars. And everything, the stars are around us, inside of us, and we are part of the whole thing. Awareness is the constant communion with the environment that surrounds us, as well as a communion with ourselves. Meaning that, in order to engage the environment, the place we are at and are in an to perceive information “as is” without distortion. To see a tree, and see it as a tree, not as a definition and without a meaning.  It’s just an experience.”—Don Miguel Ruiz Jr.

Video: Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. explains the Toltec story of the Smoke and Mirrors, a tale about self-awareness here: (http://youtu.be/14-b0nLbFiQ?t=43s),

Video: Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. shares the story passed down from his ancestors on the Smokey Mirror here: (http://youtu.be/MRnV8PWzJoQ?t=1m9s).

Why is Self-Awareness important?

There are 360 degrees of possibilities surrounding you. However, we often have self-imposed limitations caused by our own beliefs and attachments. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr suggests that we limit our possibilities based on what we choose to say yes and no to.  One level of awareness is being conscious of what we are saying “yes” and “no” to in any given moment.

By choosing to say “yes” we can expand our possibilities. When we say “yes” we are not only saying “YES” to seeing  beyond our own limited perspective but also saying YES to unconditional love.  By choosing to say “NO” we do the opposite.  We limit our choices, our possibilities in life, and are opting for conditional love.  Ultimately, we lose  our complete freedom of life. We move to a place of subjugation.

“The function of the mind in the Toltec traditions is to dream and to project 360 degrees around me with all my nerves, my eyes, my hearing, my emotions, my feelings. I’m constantly perceiving when I’m awake and asleep. The difference is that when I’m awake there is a material frame.  When I’m dreaming this material is free and time is not linear. My reason is my compass, the thing that allows me to tell the difference between being awake and asleep. Awareness is allowing that information that I’m perceiving through my eyes, my hearing, my senses, and my minds eye, I’m perceiving it “as is”.  And to see it with a filter is to allow the mind to interpret it, and to a meaning. If I get really attached to that meaning or belief, that filter can grow and expand and everything has to fit. When the mind is an ally (according to Toltec tradition) it is when it allows things to be seen as is because it informs how we will say our “yes” and our “no” – our free will. It’s a parasite when the mind gives us these conditions and distorts everything and we have to live up to its expectation. We have to live up to this image.”–Don Miguel Ruiz Jr.

Video: Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. explains the function of the mind here: (http://youtu.be/14-b0nLbFiQ?t=2m25s).

What blocks our self-awareness?

Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr explains the blocks to our self-awareness here: (http://youtu.be/14-b0nLbFiQ?t=10m36s).

Become aware of how you confuse “who you are” with “what you know”

There are two laws of physics, 1. Energy can never be destroyed; it can only be transformed and 2. For an object to move, there must be a force to move it. We confuse our feelings and thoughts as manifestations of “who we are” and forget that we are the energy, spirit, or soul that vitalize the body. When we forget that we are the spirit, we become blocked and lose sense of our true selves. Ultimately, we lose our self-awareness that there is something greater than what can be felt and heard on the material plane.

“ I am not this body. I am also not this mind. My mind is alive because I give it life”.

VIDEO: http://youtu.be/14-b0nLbFiQ?t=14m11s

Gain awareness of how your attachments have created your reality

We have the free will to say yes or no to decisions in life and we use this free will to manifest. In one sense, yes’s and no’s are chisels sculpting our lives and self-awareness is about gaining consciousness of what we say yes or no to.

The challenge is that we often become attached to these simple decisions we say yes or no to and start developing false masks. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr uses the example of our life roles (mother, daughter, radio host) as masks or personas that we say yes to. We must be self-aware of our choice to say yes to these masks while at the same time saying no to the attachment that comes with them, which can subjugate our will. The minute we believe that we are these masks, we start to lose self-awareness of who we truly are.

VIDEO: Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. shares the story of seeing his uncle pass and having an experiential sense that we are not our bodies here: (http://youtu.be/14-b0nLbFiQ?t=11m25s).

Let go of fear of who you are without your beliefs

We can reach a point where we start to believe in our yes and no so much that we become blinded to all other possibilities. Our vision gets clouded by these fears and from being so attached to the identity we created that we lose a sense of personal choice. We feel as if we must adhere to the image, the idea, and preferences associated with the masks we’ve created (e.g.- In order to be a good mom, I must have everything planned out for my kids at all times). When we allow these false masks to define us and block our self-awareness, we lose a sense of personal freedom.


Stop creating your identity based on the opinions and judgments of others around you

Our yes and no can become so automatic that they dictate our beliefs. We then lose our free will and begin living a life of conditional love based on someone else’s point of view. The masks we initially chose will proclaim our identity and so we begin to willingly give our power over to the judgment of others. At one point, these masks can be so glued onto our faces that we move from not only losing our vision, but also losing love for others and ourselves. We become so attached to the beliefs of these masks that we reject anyone that doesn’t adhere to them. Instead of unconditional love, we move to a place of conditional love for ourselves and others.


Steps to Self-Awareness: How does one deveolop self-awareness?

If we want to return back to our authentic self and regain self-awareness, then we need to start making new agreements. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jrbreaks down the steps to self-awareness. He mentions a point in which we will have a moment of clarity and will see the truth of what we created. This is when we can change and regain our free will, freedom, and self-love and learn to let go of these attachments.

  • Aha moment: There is a moment of clarity where we can see the distortions that have clouded our vision. By choosing to let go of our illusions, judgments, and conditions that have subjugated us, we gain the ability to see things clearly
  • Choose to let go: Effort and discipline must be applied in order to change our unconscious habits that we have agreed to over time. You become self aware of when you are defaulting to these yes and no.
  • Forgive yourself and others: We must forgive others for domesticating us and we forgive ourselves for giving over our power.

Even though it takes awhile to build new behaviors, it is about  applying effort. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. uses the analogy of training for a marathon to illustrate what it takes to condition ourselves for change here: (http://youtu.be/14-b0nLbFiQ?t=25m49s). By using this analogy, Don Miguel Ruiz, Jris suggesting that we break down our path into small steps we can achieve over a period of time. Over the long run, you will find that your effort and discipline will reap results similar to one like running a marathon.

Article:  During the interview, Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr references a discipline this wrestler used to regain his health. Check it out here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/magazine/the-rise-of-beefcake-yoga.html?_r=0.

Real world application: helping another be more self aware

What happens if we see someone that should have more self-awareness? Check out my discussion with Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr about drug addiction and how you can apply the solution to any situation that involves someone with self-destructive behavior. In the video, Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr shares his thoughts on the best way to confront a loved one or a friend with an issue you’re observing. Find out more herehttp://youtu.be/14-b0nLbFiQ?t=29m33s

  • An intervention: This involves helping the other person get to an “aha moment”.
  • Remove freedom or learning independence: When we resort to tactics that clip the wings of the person in trouble, we remove their freedom. There is a fine line between knowing how to clip someone’s wings and teaching them how to fly.
  • Make consequences clear without creating doubt: Be careful when setting consequences in a way that are not seen as conditional love. For example, saying I love you if you are a straight A student. This insinuates that the love isn’t there if they don’t receive straight A’s.
  • Have your love and respect be enduring and unconditional: If you have unconditional love, then that troubled person will come back to you once they have an aha moment.
  • Be there for the person. You are there to support your troubled person and help them recover their own faith and ability to control what they want to change. Be a quiet observer and only advise when that person asks you to.
  • Don’t assume you know what is good for another. Everyone has his or her own path. Don’t assume that your choices for them are better than their Don’t impose your will and subjugate another. Respect their choices even when they challenge your sense of what is best for their well-being.
  • Get clear with your own distortions. Truly listen to another person without the need to project meaning. Just allow the other person to share.



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