A Conversation with Don Migel Ruiz Jr.

Conscious Life Journal: I love how you and your dad and brother and grandmother were so much a part of your life. What was it like to grow up with this kind of legacy?

Migel Ruiz Jr.: People say that I’m walking in my father’s footsteps but I’m actually continuing my grandmother’s dream. She was a spitfire of a woman, a go-getter; she had this drive, this desire to share. She was the spiritual head of the family (in Mexico), the matriarch, and she had thirteen children. My father, Don Miguel Ruiz, was a medical surgeon and general surgeon. The youngest four of the thirteen became doctors. That tells you a lot about who she was.

She was very strong in her faith, in God, and in herself and life. When she set her mind to something she went all out. If she wanted to create something she created it. Her father and her great grandfather, who taught the tradition in their own unique way, taught just a few people because it was still taboo to teach outside the community. But my grandmother had this desire to share the tradition with everyone. So in her early sixties she opened a spiritual temple in San Diego where she began to teach and share the tradition with her community. She was a faith healer so she shared the tradition in that way, but on Thursdays and Sundays she would give cátedras, lectures or sermons, and she developed this whole community in contrast to her father and her grandfather. The community of San Diego inducted her into the San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame for keeping that tradition alive.

CLJ: Tell me how your life was shaped by being a part of this family.

MRJ: I was born and raised in San Diego, California but I went to school in Tijuana, Mexico, so I was one of those rare cases who crossed the border every day to go to school in Mexico even though I lived in the States. I grew up with the contrast of my grandmother’s spirituality with the academics of school (I was part of a program called International Baccalaureate), a father and uncles who are medical doctors, as well as going to school in Mexican culture and living in American culture in San Diego. Those contrasts and juxtapositions taught me to see from different points of view and I’m the result of that.

When my father began his apprenticeship with my grandmother and the Toltec traditions, he began to “clean it up.” The Four Agreements is the result of that work. He took out the superstitious stuff that people were becoming fanatical with and left the essence of the teachings, the “common sense.” That’s what makes The Four Agreements such a huge success. We can relate to it regardless of our backgrounds.

When The Four Agreements came out in 1997, I picked up the book, read three chapters, and put it down. It was my dad telling me what to do all over again. Listening to your grandmother and your father teach you about tradition is like reading a textbook. What does that have to do with my life? But I love my grandmother, I love my father, so I listened.

After college it was life, with consequences for every action you take, responsibilities, and relationships that become serious. I picked up the book again because I was going through my own process, and I began to relate with it and interpret that into my life. I began to understand the tradition not as something textbook, or something that belongs in a museum, but as something relevant to my life. I began to put it in my own words, in my own language, my own understanding. You let life become your teacher, and the teachings of my grandmother and my father taught me we’re just instruments that inform our choices. But I’m the one making the choice.

CLJ: I love that you’re creating a legacy as a family. If you could sit down with all the people who are going to read this interview, and speak to them from your heart, what would you say?

MRJ: To enjoy life. The whole point of all the work we do is to enjoy life. We enjoy life by enjoying being ourselves. I help people heal from the wounds conditional love has left in their lives. Those conditions that subjugated our love make us feel inferior. My favorite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt says, “No one can make me feel inferior without my consent.” It resonates with my father’s Agreement “don’t take anything personally.” But I see that I’ve given myself permission to make me feel inferior continuously. I’m not good enough, I’m not happy enough, I’m not whatever. Those are the things that limit my life, my happiness, my potential, and if I want to have a different life it starts with me. This is where it has affected me.

A moment of clarity without any action is just a thought that passes in the wind. But a moment of clarity followed by action becomes a pivotal moment in our lives. For me, a moment of clarity is where I’ve become aware that I use my own words against me. If I let a belief dictate who I’m supposed to be or who I’m not supposed to be or allow someone else’s point of view or prejudice, then I’m not living my life. I’m living someone else’s life through their point of view. So what do I want out of life? I want to enjoy my relationship with my wife, my relationship with my children, my father, and my family, and I do the work that allows me to have that, and part of that is to heal the wounds that have created a division between me and the people I love. And in doing that kind of work I begin to slowly enjoy my life, not as it should be, but as it is.

To enjoy life is to let go of the wounds of conditional love that subjugated our will and begin to love ourselves unconditionally, which is simply the willingness to see ourselves as we really are. Once I see myself as I really am I accept myself. I am the sum of every choice I have ever made, but at this very moment I am the youngest I will ever be. I have my whole life ahead of me. What do I want to create with that life? What do I want to enjoy? What do I want to say? The beautiful thing about that is the only person who gets to answer that is me. I get to see everyone in my life and they’re all equal, and the reason that they’re my equals is because we’re both alive at the same time, and while we’re both alive anything is possible. We’re co-creating. We can co-create the most perfect, harmonious dream or the most perfect nightmare. It’s our choice. I’m the creator of my perfect nightmare or I’m the creator of my harmonious dream. Which one do I want?

CLJ: What are some of the practices that keep you in that space?

MRJ: I run—half-marathons and marathons—so running is my meditation. On a long run, in the irst four miles I can hear my mind just jibber-jabber, all this negative, sometimes positive, stuff. Around mile four my mind surrenders, and all of a sudden the only thing that exists is the environment I’m in, my breath, my body that’s running, and a silence. Silence for a good five miles where I’m just present to be alive, I know the environment around me, I know how I feel, and it feels wonderful. Then around mile twelve the voice comes back and this time it’s not jibber-jabber but my ally helping me finish. It says, “All right, you’ve got two more miles, you can do this, Miguel.”

I love to run because it allows me to cross the thresholds that my mind says I couldn’t cross. I love the physical experience of proving myself wrong. The first time I crossed five miles I thought, “Wow, look at that. What else can I do?” and little by little I crossed little thresholds. Trusting myself, that faith that my grandmother had, I begin to translate that into other things in my life.

Now that I’ve crossed those thresholds I’m able to change the things in my life that no longer help and introduce something that does. I put that into practice with my relationship with my wife, with my children. When you allow yourself that experience to cross that threshold something amazing happens. You recover this confidence, this trust in yourself, and that strength allows you to say yes with confidence and no with confidence. It allows you to make choices. I see my grandmother’s teachings in that and my father’s teachings. It’s not something that belongs in a textbook, it’s something really tangible, and all that’s required is to start.

CLJ: Is there anything more you would like to say to our readers?

MRJ: We’re the constant in every relationship. If we have conditional love in our hearts that’s all we have to share. But if we become aware of that and decide to change and begin to love ourselves unconditionally, to heal the wounds, then we become the constant opportunity for unconditional love in all our relationships, whether those people love us back or not in that way. As long as we heal ourselves we are able to give that healing or share that love or share that personal freedom. So in that constant opportunity, which one do we choose? And how do we choose to express that? It’s up to us.

Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. is a Nagual, a Toltec Master of Transformation. He is a direct descendant of the Toltecs of the Eagle Knight lineage and is the son of don Miguel Ruiz. When he was only 14 years old, don Miguel Ruiz Jr. apprenticed to his father don Miguel Sr. and his grandmother, Madre Sarita, to learn how they manifested their intent to heal people, both physically and spiritually. By combining the wisdom of his family’s traditions with the knowledge gained from his own personal journey, he now helps others realize their own path to personal freedom.