Friday, April 19, 2013

Don Miguel Ruiz' Five Levels of Attachment and Four Agreements

Don Miguel Ruiz' The Five Levels of Attachment poses a key question: "Are you using knowledge, or is knowledge using you?" His grandmother asked him this when he struggled to translate her words and it took him a while to grasp the full import of her message: he was imposing his own meanings and preconceptions on what she said. Ruiz writes, "This is a simple example of how we narrate life--explaining it, but, more importantly, justifying and judging it. Instead of taking an experience for what it is, we create a story to make it fit our beliefs. During Madre Sarita's talks, I had to completely shut down my thoughts, because if my mind's commentary got in the way, I would miss out on her message. With this simple process, my grandmother showed me that if we only see the world through the filters of our preconceptions, we are going to miss out on actually living. After much practice, I eventually learned to close my eyes, shut out the world that existed outside my head, and translate every single word she said accurately."

Frank Herbert's Whipping Star contains an interesting quote: "If you say 'I understand,' what have you done? You made a value judgment." Assuming that you understand what another person is saying involves an act of interpretation that may not be correct. As Yoda said to Luke Skywalker, "You must unlearn what you have learned"; sometimes knowledge can be a prison if that knowledge is used to form preconceptions that prevent us from looking at the big picture.

After reading The Five Levels of Attachment, I researched some of Ruiz' earlier work and I came across his 1997 book The Four Agreements. Those agreements are:

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.

Impeccable means 'without sin' and a sin is something you do or believe that goes against yourself. It means not speaking against yourself, to yourself or to others. It means not rejecting yourself. To be impeccable means to take responsibility for yourself, to not participate in 'the blame game.'

Regarding the word, the rules of  'action-reaction' apply. What you put out energetically will return to you. Proper use of the word creates proper use of energy, putting out love and gratitude perpetuates the same in the universe. The converse is also true.

Impeccability starts at home. Be impeccable with yourself and that will reflect in your life and your relationships with others. This agreement can help change thousands of other agreements, especially ones that create fear instead of love."

Don't Take Anything Personally

"Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

We take things personally when we agree with what others have said. If we didn't agree, the things that others say would not affect us emotionally. If we did not care about what others think about us, their words or behavior could not affect us.

Even if someone yells at you, gossips about you, harms you or yours, it still is not about you! Their actions and words are based on what they believe in their personal dream.

Our personal 'Book of Law' and belief system makes us feel safe. When people have beliefs that are different from our own, we get scared, defend ourselves, and impose our point of view on others. If someone gets angry with us it is because our belief system is challenging their belief system and they get scared. They need to defend their point of view. Why become angry, create conflict, and expend energy arguing when you are aware of this?"

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.

When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling. We believe we know their point of view, their dream. We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel.

We make the assumption that everybody judges us, abuses us, victimizes us, and blames us the way we do ourselves. As a result we reject ourselves before others have the chance to reject us. When we think this way, it becomes difficult to be ourselves in the world.

Take action and be clear to others about what you want or do not want; do not gossip and make assumptions about things others tell you. Respect other points of view and avoid arguing just to be right. Respect yourself and be honest with yourself. Stop expecting the people around you to know what is in your head."

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.

Doing your best means enjoying the action without expecting a reward. The pleasure comes from doing what you like in life and having fun, not from how much you get paid. Enjoy the path traveled and the destination will take care of itself.

Living in the moment and releasing the past helps us to do the best we can in the moment. It allows us to be fully alive right now, enjoying what is present, not worrying about the past or the future.

Have patience with yourself. Take action. Practice forgiveness. If you do your best always, transformation will happen as a matter of course."


Many elements of Ruiz' Agreements are similar to the Jedi philosophy; Yoda counsels Luke Skywalker to avoid attachments and to simply feel the Force, to become one with the way that the Force binds all life forms together. The three epigraphs in my article about Garret Kramer's Stillpower also express this outlook:

Luke Skywalker: "But how am I to know the good side from the bad?"
Yoda: "You will know...when you are calm, at peace, passive."--Dialogue from "The Empire Strikes Back"

"In war, as in life, there is a wrong way and a right way to compete. Avoid danger and greed. Embrace concentration and awareness. And when it becomes inevitable--let go."--Kwai Chang Caine, "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues"

"Colors blind; Sound deafens; Beauty beguiles; the enemy of stillness is desire. Eliminate desire, and the truth will become clear."--Kwai Chang Caine, "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues"

Before Luke Skywalker made his fateful walk into the "domain of evil" cave on Dagobah, he asked Yoda what was in the cave and Yoda responded, "Only what you take with you." The world sometimes seems like a "domain of evil" but ultimately we each find what we take with us: if we take with us anger, fear and weapons then we will find strife, despair and conflict. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never attack, and that is how each of us should use our own powers and gifts; fight for what is important--be willing to die for it if necessary--but do not fight for the sake of fighting or turn every situation into a struggle when it is possible to take a less confrontational approach.

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