The Mastery of Self: A Toltec Guide to Personal Freedom (2016)
Unconditional Love for Others
AS A MASTER OF SELF, when I look into the eyes of another individual I see another Authentic Self, a beautiful expression of the Divine. No matter where this person is in the process of awakening, I respect that his or her intent is just as powerful as mine, and doing so is an act of unconditional love. If I were to try to control this person, I would be lost in the fog and place conditions on my love and acceptance of him or her.
If you see the world through the eyes of conditional love, you are by definition attempting to control others, imposing your will so that they conform to the definition of who and what you think they should be. If they don't agree to your demands, they will receive the punishment of your judgment. This is conditional love in a nutshell. But remember, every time you judge someone you are punishing that person for not following agreements they never made.
As you look back over your life, you can see that many of the relationship battles you thought were for your own personal freedom were really battles of who was going to domesticate whom. And every time you experienced a moment of anger, outrage, indignation, or any other negative emotion as the result of someone else's behavior, you created a dream of villains and victims, and you were once again caught in the drama of the party.
Perceiving yourself as a victim and another as a villain doesn't allow you to see the person who is actually standing before you: you don't see their story, their past, their heartbreaks, and how all of that has impacted their life and contributed to forming the person you're talking to. All you can see through the fog of domestication is that the person you have cast as the villain in your story isn't living up to the values you think they should.
But when you see another with the eyes of unconditional love, you are then able to clearly see who is actually in front of you, a living being who is trying to survive and thrive in a world filled with domestication and conditional love. Unconditional love allows you to disagree with the choices or beliefs of others while still respecting their right to have them.
Practicing unconditional love is the art of the Master of Self. Once you have recognized, released, and forgiven the self-judgments that have arisen from your own domestication, you can then recognize and forgive others when they act from their domestication. The person in front of you has been domesticated, and now they want to pass that on to you because it's all they know. However, they can only subjugate you with your permission.
For many people, family can present a unique challenge to seeing through the eyes of unconditional love, because it is here that the roots of domestication are deepest. Often it's the wounds that you have with your family that hurt the most, but the reason they hurt so much is because you love them. This deep love is also what will help you to forgive and heal.
Next to your family, your most influential domesticators growing up were probably your friends and classmates. These are the people you wanted to impress, or to be like, so you often tried to adjust your behavior according to what they found acceptable. And, of course, you likely asked the same of them. This doesn't mean that there wasn't also genuine love present for these friends, but because you all came from homes rooted in domestication it was all you knew, and you brought these practices into your relationships.
There comes a point in life when we wake up from the Dream and we begin to choose friends who accept us, encourage us to grow, and support us—and we are willing to do the same from them. But if we don't continue to recognize where and how domestication has affected us, and work to spot and release it when it arises, the same patterns will develop with our new friendships: we will ultimately place conditions on them to fit into our new model, however “enlightened” we think it to be. For instance, I will sometimes hear comments in Toltec circles like, “that person isn't a good Toltec,” or “she isn't impeccable with her word.” In these cases, you can hear how the tools of enlightenment have been turned into sources of judgment, control, and domestication.
In all our relationships, but especially our relationships with our friends and family, where the roots of domestication run the deepest, our job is to be aware of our potential to get hooked back into the drama of the party, to be blinded by the fog, and the key to avoiding this is to continually remind ourselves to act from a place of unconditional love. This is easier said than done, especially when the roots of domestication run deep, but there is a way.
Creating Peace in the Dream of the Planet
When you find yourself in a disagreement with someone and you can feel you're getting upset, you have a decision as to what you do or say next. Before you speak or take another action, ask yourself this question: is what I am about to say or do coming from a place of conditional love or unconditional love? In other words, is your love and acceptance of the person in front of you somehow contingent upon them agreeing with you or doing what you wish? If so, that is your cue that your domestication and attachments are in control of you, and now you are trying to domesticate someone else to your point of view. If your response is from unconditional love, by definition your response shows the other person respect, even if you ultimately disagree with their views or actions. Mutual respect is the key that allows true peace to occur in the Dream of the Planet. This respect also allows everyone to experience the benefits and consequences of their own choices and actions.
When conditional love dominates the Dream of the Planet, any semblance of peace and harmony occurs through force, when one person or persons subjugate the will of others. Governments are famous for this type of behavior, and history is littered with examples of one group controlling another through the belief that “might makes right.” But this also occurs in personal relationships, when one person uses a position of power to control the behavior of another. This, of course, is not real peace and harmony, and it never lasts. People will always rebel against subjugation and fight to reclaim their free will. Because our very nature itself is freedom we will always strive for it—even when our vision is clouded by the fog.
The problem is that if a group of people fights for freedom without clearing their own fog first, that is, their domestication and attachments, these same people who gained freedom from an oppressor will eventually replace the previous set of conditions with their own, and in turn try to subjugate the people around them in order to establish their vision of peace and harmony. This cycle of imposition and subjugation has been occurring in the Dream of the Planet for thousands of years. This is how wars begin, end, and start again, and this is true no matter if it's a brawl on the street or an international conflict, as both stem from one party's desire to subjugate the other, based on the subjugator's belief that their way is the “right” way. This is the cycle that conditional love always produces.
Peace and harmony from the point of view of unconditional love are the engagement of equals, using knowledge and awareness to co-create a dream whose diversity reflects the free will of each individual living in this moment. Much like the party where you are the only sober person, you cannot expect everyone to want to be sober, or to want to wake up. Nor can you make anyone do so. Attempting to wake someone up against their will is attempting to subjugate them to your ideas.
So how do we engage from a place of unconditional love? How do we sincerely try to help others awaken without subjugating them? Taking a moment to reflect and discern what your true motivations are is not always easy, especially when you are in the heat of the moment and the drama of the party is trying to hook you back into believing the Dream is real. Furthermore, coming from a place of unconditional rather than conditional love may still involve doing or saying something that the other person doesn't like; but speaking your truth from a place of love and respect is the Mastery of Self in action.
It's at these times that I remember something my father taught me: “I am responsible for what I say, but I am not responsible for what you hear.” I am responsible to the tips of my fingers and no further, and how someone reacts to what I say or do is out of my control. Of course, this truth is not meant to be a license to say or do something that is unkind or intentionally hurtful (to be considerate of others is also a choice we have), but we understand that when we break the chains of our domestication, this news can be hard for our domesticators and those trying to domesticate us to handle, especially at first.
What really matters is our intention. When we come from a place of unconditional love, we can have the confidence that whatever action we take is the right one, and the outcome of any situation is beyond our control. We do the best we can, and we release our attachment to the outcome. This can be difficult to do at first, and even a little scary. But committing to act from a place of unconditional love eases this anxiety, as we know that our actions, and our actions after that, are coming from a place that is true to our being.
and Forgiving Others
When you look back and review the beliefs, ideas, and conditions that you have tried to live up to, you often realize that their origin resides in the domestication you experienced in the past. This can be a very troubling realization for some of you, depending on the level of subjugation you experienced growing up. If those with power inflicted their will on you via force or manipulation, and especially if the subjugation was harsh or even extreme, it can be very difficult—and almost impossible in some cases—to see them through the eyes of unconditional love. Even for those of you who didn't have a particularly traumatic experience with domestication, there are very few people who don't have some anger or bitterness over incidents that occurred during their formative years.
Resentments that stem from past domestication are some of the biggest stumbling blocks to seeing others through the eyes of unconditional love. The word resentment is French in origin, and it literally means “to feel again.” One of the primary benefits of doing this work is that you no longer allow any conditioning or experience from the past to control you in the present. By definition, if you are holding on to resentment, then you are enslaved to the past. Something that has occurred, is already done, is actively causing you suffering now as you feel it again and again. This is what resentment is: self-inflicted suffering with the emotional poison we wish for another.
Anger, resentment, and grudges are all tools that the parasite uses to strengthen itself and take control of your mind, and here again its methods are very sneaky. Because while the parasite may accurately point out how you were mistreated at the hands of another, the solution it offers is to stir up the negative emotions of anger, sadness, bitterness, etc., and encourage you to at best withhold your love from those who hurt you, and at worst to strike back at them with revenge. The parasite always reaches for the tools of conditional love, and no ultimate good ever comes from employing them. Instead you are lost in the fog again, and your Dream is tied to a story of victims and villains.
Unconditional love and forgiveness of your domesticators is the way out. This can be some of the most difficult work you will do, so be gentle with yourself as you embark on this road, especially if you suffered greatly at the hands of others.
In addition to forgiving those who harmed you, you also need to forgive yourself. That's because many people, when they look deeply at past experiences of domestication, find that they are angry with themselves for either staying in a situation or not doing more to break free. If this applies to you, remember to forgive yourself for that too. You were doing the best you could at the time; there is no need to beat yourself up.
Respecting yourself also means being honest with yourself. If you are not ready to forgive, that is your truth. Don't subjugate yourself with “I have to.” If you are not ready, you are not ready; and the acceptance of yourself with this truth is practicing unconditional love. After all, it is about breaking the cycle of domestication. Take your time, if it's your preference, to become ready to heal. Forgiving is the final step of healing a wound.
Performing a forgiveness ritual can help you clean out old emotions that are keeping you trapped in the suffering of the past (we will do just that in the exercises that follow), and many of the world's beautiful spiritual traditions provide wonderful prayers and other practices for doing so. In the Toltec tradition we also advocate another step to see beyond the stories of villains and victims and into the healing power of forgiveness. The key to doing this is at the heart of my father's third agreement: don't take things personally.
When you practice this agreement in all its implications, you realize that nothing anyone does is because of you. It's never personal, even if someone intends it to be so, as you are simply standing in the target zone. Seeing the truth of this allows you to better let go of the past and embrace the truth of the moment: your domesticators were only doing the best they could given their level of consciousness at the time.
When you reflect on this agreement deeply, forgiveness comes much easier because you realize that the actions of others were about them and their suffering, their attachments, and their domestications, and you see that they were lost in the fog, drunk at the party, and as a result they didn't have the faculties to act in any other way. Respect them, and allow them to experience the consequence of their actions. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is the way that life teaches us. Seen in this light, we can better grasp the meaning of Jesus' statement, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
If you have clouded your Personal Dream with resentment, the first step to changing this is to become aware of it. Once you see what is really happening, the next step to moving past it is forgiveness. Doing so allows you to tap into the power of unconditional love for others. The next exercises will help you go deeper into this process.
On a sheet of paper, make a list of everyone you feel has mistreated you in the past that you have not yet forgiven. This list could include members of your family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and beyond. Review the list of names and think briefly about the incidents involved.
Next, read the following statement out loud:
“I, __________, am ready to forgive all those who inflicted pain and suffering on me in the past. I choose to forgive them so that their actions of the past can no longer affect my present. My wish is to see them through the eyes of unconditional love. I also forgive myself for anything and everything related to these events. I was doing my best at the time. I pray that these people, and myself, can experience only love and peace going forward.”
Just as you did in the preceding chapter's exercise when you forgave yourself, I want you to take the piece of paper, crumple it up, and throw it away. As you do so, visualize all the negative feelings you have about these people and the events going in the trash as well.
This simple ritual is the beginning of replacing resentment with unconditional love for those who have caused you suffering. That being said, when the pain inflicted by others is extreme, an act of forgiveness is rarely a onetime event. As a result, you will likely need to repeat the aforementioned statement every time the events of your past replay in your mind and you feel them again, as the parasite is attempting to lead you down the road of negativity and conditional love.
If there is someone on the list who you are having special trouble forgiving, say the prayer below every night before you go to bed, inserting the name of the person or persons you'd like to forgive:
“I pray that ___________ receives everything they want in life, including the experience of unconditional love, peace, and happiness.”
Some of you likely bristled as you read this, as the prospect of praying that these people receive everything they want is perhaps the opposite of what you think you want for them. I understand this sentiment, but I would encourage you to give this prayer a chance, and repeat it every night for two weeks even if the words don't feel sincere. Many people who have done this exercise consistently for two weeks have been amazed by the changes that occur inside them.
Remember, forgiving others is something you're doing for yourself, not for them. Forgiveness does not mean that you forget the events of the past, nor that you condone any actions; rather, it frees you from being controlled by them by remembering that you are only responsible to the tips of your own fingers. The final exercise in this section will help you continue on the path of forgiveness.
This exercise consists of two written parts, each about a paragraph in length. To begin, I want you to look back over your life and identify an event or situation where you experienced significant suffering at the hands of another. Think of a time when someone either tried to or did domesticate you by forcing their will onto you in a harsh or extreme way. This should be a major event that created a shift in your Personal Dream, that changed the way you viewed others, likely exposing their flaws, and ended up becoming a defining moment in your personal story. Many people have experienced something like this, most likely during their formative years, but it could also be something that occurred as an adult.
Write down the details of the event as if you were going to tell someone who had no previous knowledge of it. Take your time and replay the details in your mind, going back to that moment so you can remember what happened and how you felt. And here is the important part: write from your perspective at the time, not from where you are now. Be raw and in the moment, let your feelings flow, and do not edit yourself with knowledge of what is right and wrong or try to be forgiving. Remember, this exercise is for you, and unless you choose to share this with someone else, you will be the only person who ever sees it.
Here is an example from a dear friend of mine:
One night when I was nine years old, I was at home watching TV when I heard my parents start to argue in the other room. I had heard them fight before, but tonight seemed different. My mother came in and told me to go to my room and close the door, which was not unusual. I did as I was told, and sat quietly and fearfully in my room, listening through the thin walls as their shouts grew louder and louder. Then I heard something I will never forget: a bloodcurdling scream from my mother followed by an eerie silence. I froze in panic, wanting to leave my room but afraid of what I would find if I did.
I opened the door and went down the hall to the family room. My father was sitting alone on the couch, and when he saw me, he said, “Your mother ran out of the house. Go see if you can find her.” I remember being scared of him and angry with him at the same time, but my main concern was my mother. I went outside to look for her. It was dark and I was afraid. I looked into the darkness and called out to her, but she didn't respond. Then I noticed the neighbor's porch light was on.
As I walked over toward the porch, I could hear voices and my mother sobbing. I asked her what happened, but in my heart I already knew. “Your father hit me,” she said. “He beats me.” I was overcome with a combination of rage and sadness, and I swore to protect my mother if he ever tried to do that again. “If he ever does that again, I'll kill him,” I said. That evening was life-changing for me, as for the first time in my life the dark side of my father was in full view. He took his own life six months later.
In my friend's case, his father was attempting to domesticate his mother (and in conjunction my friend) through the use of force. Your example might not be as extreme, or it could be more so. To get the most out of this exercise, I encourage you to not read any farther until you have written down the example in your own life. Once you have, come back and continue with the exercise.
This next part involves your imagination. I want you to imagine that you are meeting the person who hurt you in their spiritual form only. In this meeting you can talk directly to the other person's Authentic Self, the part of them that is awake, not lost in the fog or drunk at the party. In this form, they are imbued with unconditional love, and you can say whatever you want without fear. Tell them how you really feel about them and the situation, and then imagine what this person would say to you from the perspective of their Authentic Self. Write that dialogue out between the two of you.
Here is my friend's example:
Dad, I am so angry and saddened by what happened. I can't believe you would hit your wife like that. You scared me so bad. We are best friends, and I looked up to you so much. I can't understand how you would do that. What is the matter with you? When you drink, you are such a different person. I feel guilty that I wasn't there to try to stop you. When you died a few months later, I was sad, but also a little relieved, because I knew I wouldn't have to worry about your violence anymore. I couldn't help but feel guilty for feeling relieved by your death too.
Son, I am so sorry for hurting your mother and you. I completely lost control of myself. I didn't know what I was doing. When I drink, I am not myself. Please know that I want only the best for you and your mother. I love you both dearly, and if I could take back that moment I would. I am so very sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness. You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I am responsible for that entire situation, so I want you to let all of that go right now. Please know that from where I am now, I have only love for you and your mother, and I am doing my best to help you from afar.
This exercise allows you to get in touch with your feelings at the time, express them, and then listen to the response from the other person, spoken from the perspective of his or her Authentic Self. The result for most people is that they are better able to see and understand that the actions of the other person weren't personal, and that at the heart of every individual is unconditional love.
Remember to be gentle with yourself as you explore and release these past events that have caused you pain. This can be difficult, but the truth is that the tougher it is, the more you stand to gain. The freedom you will experience will profoundly affect your life going forward, and it's very difficult to progress on your path without going through this important step of forgiveness. Take it slow and return to these exercises when you need to, going a little deeper each time.