The Mastery of Self: A Toltec Guide to Personal Freedom (2016)
The Making of a Master
AT THE PEAK of her journey, a Toltec warrior clears her mind of beliefs, domestication, and attachments, marking the end of a war within herself for personal freedom. Surrounding her is an infinite number of possibilities, each one a choice that leads in a unique direction in life. When she makes a choice through her action, she knows that the path she follows is ultimately no different than the other paths, as they all lead to the same place. She has no demands for any outcome, as she realizes that there is nowhere she needs to go and nothing she needs to do in order to find herself. Her action is a result of the pure joy of realizing that she is alive at this moment to choose one of the many possibilities.
This living with a quiet mind creates a state of pure bliss that comes from being entirely in the moment. Truly nothing matters but the present, because it is the only place where life can express itself.
This is a state that many of you have experienced at some point in your life, when you were completely engaged in the now. Some people experience it while they are exercising, consciously creating, being in nature, making love, or, of course, meditating or praying. It's the moment when the mind and the body are in complete awareness of the experience of life. It can also be said that it is during these moments that we often reach a pure state of unconditional love for everything and everyone, including ourselves.
While living full-time in this state of pure bliss is a goal for many, most will agree it is easier said than done—especially if we don't live isolated away from the world. Surrounded by other people, we choose who we will interact and engage with, and it's often in these interactions that the trouble begins.
In the Toltec tradition, the main function of the mind is to dream, or to perceive and to project information. The Personal Dream is the unique reality created by every individual; it's their perspective, a manifestation of the relationship between mind and body, and intent is the energy that animates both. As our shared knowledge and experience mingle together, we co-create the Dream of the Planet, which is the combination of every single being in the world's Personal Dream. While we live individual dreams based on our individual perceptions, the Dream of the Planet is the manifestation of our shared intentions, where we allow our ideas and agreements to flow between us. If there is harmony in the Personal Dream, then there is a constant opportunity for harmony with the Dream of the Planet.
Since you are reading this book, it's likely that you don't live in a cloistered monastery or ashram, or all alone high atop a mountain. You have chosen to engage in the world, and you want to enjoy yourself in the process. Solitude can be a great tool for healing and communion with oneself, but it is our interactions with others that will allow us to thrive and enjoy an active life. If life is like a carnival, you have come to ride the rides.
But engaging in the Dream means you will likely develop preferences for certain potential paths—or, in other words, you will have wants and desires. When you become too attached to those desires and they aren't fulfilled, the result is that you suffer. There are also billions of others involved in co-creating the Dream of the Planet, many of whom have wants and desires that are different from yours. Without respect and understanding, drama, disagreement, and even conflict are sure to occur. This begs the question, is there a way you can engage in an active life without becoming too attached to your own personal preferences? Can you remain calm and balanced when dealing with others, seeing them and yourself through the eyes of unconditional love, and consequently not be drawn into the drama of the party? In my experience the answer to both questions is yes, and that is the subject of this book. This can be done through a process called the Mastery of Self.
You become a Master of Self when you can engage the Dream of the Planet and everyone in it without losing sight of your Authentic Self, and while maintaining the awareness that every choice you make is your own. You are no longer caught up in the drama of the party. When you engage with the Dream of the Planet with the awareness and remembrance that it's only a dream, you are able to move freely, liberated from the chains of attachment and domestication.
An attachment is the action of taking something that is not a part of you and making it a part of you through an emotional or energetic investment. When you become attached to something in the Dream of the Planet, you suffer every time the object of your attachment is threatened, and this is true regardless of if the threat is real or an illusion. Most people not only attach to their wants and desires as they relate to material things, but also to their beliefs and ideas. Although an attachment is something that can occur naturally in the moment, it becomes unhealthy when you lose the ability to detach from it when the moment ends or when the belief no longer reflects the truth. In many ways, attachments to beliefs are far more destructive than attachments to external items, because beliefs and ideas are much harder to spot and let go of.
Domestication is the system of control in the Dream of the Planet; it is the way we learn conditional love. Starting when we are very young, we are presented with either a reward or a punishment for adopting the beliefs and behaviors of others in the Dream. This system of reward and punishment, or domestication, is used to control our behavior. The result of domestication is that many of us give up who we really are in exchange for who we think we should be, and consequently we end up living a life that is not our own. Learning how to spot and release our domestication, and reclaiming who we really are in the process, is a hallmark of a Master of Self.
When you become so domesticated by or attached to a belief or idea that you can't let go of it, your choices narrow until any notion of choice is really an illusion. Your beliefs now define you, and they will dictate your choice. You are no longer the master of your own self, as your domestication and attachments are controlling you. As a result, you will engage with others and yourself in a way that does not serve your highest good. You have joined into the drama of the party, and it now shapes your Personal Dream.
The Dream of the Planet is full of traps to lure you back into the drama of the party, and falling into one of them can happen in the blink of an eye. If you choose to engage with the world, avoiding all traps is virtually impossible. However, when you become aware that you are falling into a trap, the simple act of noticing it allows you to begin to regain control. As you get better at spotting the traps and understanding your own underlying emotions and beliefs that make them traps for you in the first place, you are far less likely to take the bait. And even when you do, you can let go of whatever you are attached too as quickly as your will dictates. It may seem counterintuitive, but you choose to let go in order to be in control. Doing so is the Mastery of Self in action.
As a Master of Self, you can have relationships with others, even those who disagree with you, while still being grounded in your Authentic Self. You are able to maintain your free will and respect the free will of others. Knowing that others see you in a specific way gives you choices when you engage with them. You shape-shift only in their perception, and your awareness of that allows you to stay true to yourself and not give in to the temptation to take on others' definitions of who you are. You realize that you don't have to put on any image that others project onto you because you know it is not your reality. With this awareness, you will be better able to co-create harmoniously with others, making the relationships that matter most to you more fulfilling and rewarding.
Most importantly, when you become a Master of Self, you know how to stay grounded in your Authentic Self regardless of what's happening around you. You also have the awareness to realize quickly when you are acting in a way that isn't helpful to yourself or others and can spot those situations when you are feeding your ego, or the false sense of self, instead of living in peace. In this way, you free yourself from the drama and self-inflicted suffering created by so many people.
Without awareness of how to engage the Dream of the Planet and the beings who create it, it is too easy to internalize what is happening around you, or to forget that it is all a dream. As a result, your attachments grow until you are consumed with the drama of the party. Becoming a Master of Self is about maintaining awareness of your center while you are interacting with the Dream of the Planet, remembering that it's all a dream. Staying centered while engaging with the world is much easier said than done, and this book will be devoted to teaching you exactly how to do that.
Self-mastery is not an isolated idea within the Toltec tradition, as every form of spiritual discipline provides a map to help us live in harmony within the Dream of the Planet by freeing our mind from the tyranny of our own thinking and being affected by the projections of others. That being said, the Toltec tradition has some unique contributions to this effort, and we'll discuss these in greater detail in the pages that follow.
Before we deconstruct and rebuild the world around us, starting with ourselves, we need a greater understanding of attachments, domestication, and the difference between conditional and unconditional love. Then, and only then, can we reconstruct our Personal Dream in peace and harmony.