The Mastery of Self: A Toltec Guide to Personal Freedom (2016)
Comparison and Competition
AS WE COME TO the final lessons of this book, let us return for a moment to the soccer analogy. But this time, instead of being a fan who is watching the game with a varying degree of attachment to the outcome, imagine that you are one of the players on the field.
As a player, it's your goal to win the game, and you have a choice on what you will use to motivate you to reach that goal. If you are motivated by the voice of your parasite, you will revert to self-deprecation and self-flagellation, where the only means by which you will love and accept yourself is if you win. If you apply the steps outlined in the last chapter, you can love yourself unconditionally throughout the process, enjoying the game for the sake of playing it, regardless of the outcome.
But there is a big difference between setting a goal that involves only you (say, running five miles) versus a goal that involves other people (winning a soccer game). In the latter, you will have an opponent who stands in the way of you achieving your goal. This is a competition, and the question becomes, how will you view your opponent throughout the process? Will you love your opponent unconditionally? Can you view your opponent as another manifestation of the Authentic Self? Or will you demonize them, see them as an enemy who must be defeated at all costs? How will you act toward your opponent if you lose?
These questions are important because in our society life is often portrayed as a competition. If you look around, a prolific message that is communicated via movies, TV, books, and especially advertising in all its forms is that all of the things you want in life are in “limited supply,” be that love, happiness, friendship, a job or career, beauty, money, or material possessions, and because of this limited supply you had better do everything in your power to acquire yours before someone else does. This idea, often referred to in economic terms as “scarcity,” creates a not so subtle atmosphere of comparison and competition between you and many of the people you know.
This idea of scarcity, and the subsequent competitive mindset, is so prevalent that it's difficult to spot in all its forms. For instance, when you first meet someone, notice if you start to compare yourself to him or her based on the things that are important to you as an individual. Do you assess the other person's physical appearance in comparison to you? Do you estimate their material wealth, education level, or social standing in comparison to yours? Or perhaps you question whether the person is “more spiritual” than you are. The modes of comparison differ depending on what's important to you, but the act of comparing almost always leads to competition, even if the competition only resides in your mind. The old cliché about keeping up with the Joneses acknowledges this comparative and competitive mindset. It's a habit, and it takes awareness and effort to break free of it.
It's noteworthy that the first four letters of the word scarcity are also the first four letters of the word scare, because fear is exactly what the idea of scarcity provokes. Fearing that there isn't enough of whatever they want, people view others in the Dream of the Planet as competitors for a limited number of resources, be that love, happiness, money, etc., and they act accordingly. As you have learned, any action that is motivated by fear cannot also be motivated by unconditional love, and it ultimately leads to suffering in one form or another. When you accept the concept of scarcity without question, the result is that you believe someone else may get something that you need instead. This is a very difficult place from which to engage others in the Dream of the Planet, as doing so turns them into opponents rather than friends.
In the Toltec tradition, we understand that the idea of scarcity, as it is most often promulgated in the Dream of the Planet, is a myth. From an early age, you are domesticated into the false belief that scarcity exists, but the truth is, there is always enough of whatever you need in this moment. When you believe the myth of scarcity, the result is that you feel afraid, you see others as competition, and in this way you get lost in the fog again.
Note that I did not say there would always be enough of whatever you want in the moment, but rather what you need. That is a big difference. You may have many wants or preferences in the world that don't arrive when you'd like them to, but a Master of Self knows that life will always provide exactly what is needed in the moment. This is not just a theory; you can actually prove it to yourself right now.
Take a moment to think about your past and identify a couple of meaningful situations where at the time you did not get what you thought you wanted. For example, did you want a promotion or a new job but didn't get it? Did you want to have an intimate relationship with someone who ultimately didn't want the same? In each situation that you identify in your own life, what happened instead?
For example, I have a friend who experienced this truth in a profound way a few years ago. He and his wife were coming up on ten years of marriage when she announced that she wasn't in love with him anymore, and she filed for divorce. My friend was heartbroken. He begged, pleaded, and did everything in his power to convince his wife to stay in the marriage, all to no avail. When she left, he sank into a deep depression, and he was convinced that this divorce was the worst thing that could happen to him.
But then he started to work on himself. As a result, he began to look within and release the idea that he knew better than life. Slowly, he opened to the idea that this divorce, although not what he wanted, was instead what he needed. After a year or so of further work on himself he was able to move on from his past, to heal the wounds that were there even before his divorce, and he started dating again. Shortly thereafter, he met the love of his life, and they soon married and now have three beautiful children. What's especially remarkable about this story is that my friend's first wife did not want children, and although my friend did, he was willing to give up that dream in order to be with her. In hindsight, he is so grateful to his first wife for leaving him, as otherwise he would not have his precious children and the fulfilling relationship he now enjoys with his current wife.
As my friend's experience demonstrates, sometimes there needs to be a certain amount of distance between you and the event before you can see the truth of this teaching, but if you look closely at the situations in your past when you didn't get what you wanted, you'll likely find that you got exactly what you needed instead. Even when the end results of a situation don't demonstrate this as clearly as they did in my friend's case, a Master of Self finds the inner strength to embrace this principle with an open heart.
When you live your life from a mindset of trust rather than a place of fear, the result is that you stop trying to force or control the people and situations that are happening around you and instead surrender to whatever life brings. This doesn't mean you don't try to change things when it's within your power to do so, but as a Master of Self you are adept at identifying the situations that are beyond your control, and in those instances you trust and surrender to whatever the moment brings because you know you will receive exactly what you need. Because you no longer believe in the concept of scarcity, you know that the place for competition and opponents exist in games only, not in daily life. You no longer compare yourself to others, nor see them as competitors. You simply do your best, and your passion will be evident in your efforts. Success is the natural consequence of doing something you love to do.
Closely related to the concept of scarcity is an idea we have already discussed at length: the notion that somehow you are flawed, broken, unworthy, or, at best, simply “not enough.” I bring it up again now because the ideas of scarcity and that you are “not enough” actually work hand in hand to keep you trapped in the fog. Think about it for a moment. If the person you are is flawed, broken, or not enough, then it is unlikely that you will be able to acquire the things that you need because they are supposedly in limited supply. The combination of these untruths creates an environment where conditional love thrives through the vehicles of comparison and competition, and the result is the fear that you will never be enough, and that you will never have enough.
The idea that you are not enough is an ancient one, as it has been postulated in myths and legends since the beginning of recorded history. (The story of the Garden of Eden and Original Sin are good examples.) I find it amazing how many people in the Dream of the Planet have been domesticated into believing that they have some sort of inherent internal deficiency, and it is this belief that the parasite uses to take over your mind.
Of all the false ideas that you have been domesticated to, the idea that you are not enough may be the most damaging, so let me be absolutely clear on this matter: You are more than enough. You are perfect and complete exactly as you are. You are not flawed, broken, damaged, or irredeemable. Much of the suffering you experience is self-inflicted, and it can be traced back to believing this untruth. This feeling of unworthiness is the primary reason you withhold unconditional love for yourself. The most effective thing you can do to bring about change in your life is to let this flawed idea go. Once this false belief is replaced with unconditional self-love and self-acceptance, the myth of scarcity crumbles, and comparison and competition with others ends in its wake.
Perfection is something that is completely free of flaws. But the thing is, we define what a flaw is with our agreement. There is no such thing as a flaw in the world, just in the agreements that we make in the Dream of the Planet, and that is an illusion. Thus, everything in life is perfect.
Comparison and Role Models
As children we all had role models, or people we looked up to and wanted to be like. In many cases our first role models were our parents or primary caregivers, and that gave way to siblings, teachers, sports figures, superheroes, and even friends. As we grew up, our role models often broadened to include artists, scholars, humanitarians, political leaders, or spiritual teachers. In all cases, we saw qualities in these people that we wanted in ourselves, and often endeavored to emulate them as a result. This is a wonderful way in which admirable qualities are passed from one Personal Dream to another.
And yet, like many other things we have discussed in this book, something that can be used in a positive way can also become a negative. In this case, you can begin to compare yourself to your role model, and use their positive example as a tool to chide or whip yourself for not being more like them. You create conditions on your self-love based on a desire to be like someone else.
For instance, let's say that one of your role models is Mother Teresa, the famous Roman Catholic nun from the twentieth century who moved from Europe to India at the age of eighteen, founded a religious order, and devoted the rest of her life to helping the sick and the poor. There are many reasons to admire and emulate this special woman: her acts of unconditional love, tolerance, charity, and selflessness, just to name a few. However, without awareness, you could also begin to use her example to judge yourself as inadequate, saying something like, “I'm not helping enough people,” or “I am not as good of a person as Mother Teresa.” The minute you do this, then instead of looking at the qualities she exhibits as inspirational, you have now started the unhealthy process of comparing yourself to her, and using that comparison as a reason to go against yourself. In this way, the parasite has slipped in the back door and regained control of your mind.
Think about the absurdity of this for a moment. This is the last thing that Mother Teresa, or any other truly positive role model, would want for you. When you catch yourself comparing your life to that of a role model and then admonishing yourself for not being more like them, that's your cue that the fog has crept back in and clouded your vision. Instead of comparing yourself to others and deciding that you are insufficient, use your role models' examples as motivation to bring the qualities you admire in them to fruition in your own everyday life.
In my own case, I have a good friend who is close to qualifying for the Boston Marathon, as he can run 26.2 miles in 3:30. I look up to him as a runner and as a great human being, but the moment I begin to compare myself to him and his results, I am once again domesticating myself with someone else's achievements, and forsaking myself in the process. Instead, I celebrate his success just as much as I celebrate my own. I ran a marathon in 5:57, and I celebrate the fact that I finished it. Instead of comparing my time with his time, I look within at all I have accomplished, of how much I enjoyed doing it all. This allows me to enjoy my own craft, to enjoy the opportunity I have to do something I love to do, and to evolve my skills with my passion. I will learn from my friend, and many other runners, and enjoy our camaraderie.
Another trap related to role models occurs when you mistakenly believe that a single role model or teacher has all of your answers. A situation like this can often occur on a spiritual path, especially when you first start to wake up and emerge from the smoke and fog. Admittedly, depending on the level of your prior domestication and attachment, it may seem like a role model or teacher does have all your answers, as you are just starting to find your own way. But as the initial bud of your awakening blossoms, you soon realize that in reality you have all your own answers, and any role models or teachers you engage with are only there to point you on the way back home to yourself.
This doesn't mean that you don't seek the help of others when the way gets difficult; we all need help from time to time. But the difference is that as a Master of Self you know that on the deepest level, everything you need is already inside you. With a perception of abundance rather than scarcity, you allow yourself to be inspired by the talents and successes of others.
As a Master of Self, you are forging your own path, creating your own journey to your own inner evolution. You are grateful for the lessons from your role models and teachers and you are inspired by their examples, but you don't compare yourself to any of them, nor do you want to be just like any of your role models, because you are completely content with the person that you are.
In the end, you understand that you are unique in your experience of life because no one else knows life from your perception but you. It is liberating to become aware that you only control your own will, and this knowledge allows you to enjoy everything you experience and do. The harmony and peace that the Toltec warrior felt in the opening paragraph of chapter one comes when you realize that there is no need to work so hard to be someone you think you should be, because you are already perfectly yourself. The I am is an experience of life, not a symbol or model that you have to attain. In this way, the inner war is over, again, and again, and again. As a Master of Self, peace reigns.
The following exercises will help you put the lessons from this chapter into practice.
In the Buddhist tradition there is a concept known as mudita, or sympathetic joy, which is the practice of having joy in the accomplishments, achievements, and good fortune of others. This virtue can be easy to cultivate when the others are members of your family or close friends, but it is more difficult once you move outside your inner circle.
For this exercise, think of a situation where someone else received something that you wanted for yourself. Perhaps this was a promotion at work, an award, a material object, etc. Once you have the situation and person in mind, repeat the following statement out loud three times.
“I am grateful that _______________ received the good I wanted for myself.”
How did it feel to speak those words out loud? If you are like most people, this can be a difficult practice to feel sincere about, especially at first. But consciously bringing the practice of mudita into your life can help you replace jealousy and envy with goodwill and unconditional love. Doing so will help you to see beyond the myth of scarcity. Other people are not your competitors; everyone gets exactly what they need in every moment, and this includes you.
Going forward, as you engage others in the Dream of the Planet, become aware of your internal reactions when you are in a situation where someone else receives something you wanted for yourself. Notice if your feel jealousy, envy, or fear, and use that as an opportunity to practice mudita.
Think of the many role models you have had in your life and make a list of all the qualities you saw and admired in these people. List the qualities only on a sheet of paper, not the names of the people. Some examples might be: honesty, generosity, tolerance, skill, peacefulness, discernment, etc. Make the list before proceeding to step 2.
Recall what we discussed in chapter 5 about mirroring, where someone who gets under your skin usually possesses a quality you see in yourself that you don't like. Well, the opposite is also true. Look back at the list of your role models' qualities. Now write your name at the top of this list. You possess all of these qualities! Otherwise, you wouldn't have been able to recognize them in others. You may not have the skill of your role model in certain areas, but you have the ability and the potential to forge your own way if you choose to work toward that.
Knowing that you already possess these qualities that you admire in others, what qualities do you think others would admire in you? How do you think others perceive you? Does that match up with the list you made, or are they different? Let your inspiration lead you forward.
My Wish for You
THROUGHOUT THIS BOOK, you have learned various ways to identify and release your domestications and attachments. You've learned how doing so can help silence the negative self-talk that produces suffering in your Personal Dream and replace it with unconditional self-love and self-acceptance. When you bring this spirit of unconditional love to your interactions with others in the Dream of the Planet, you see them through the eyes of compassion and you respect their choices even if they differ from yours. Through the power of forgiveness, you are able to move past the harm caused by others and see that they were doing the best they could at the time. In these ways, you are doing your part to create harmony in the Dream of the Planet.
You have also learned about the power of masks, the art of shape-shifting, and how you can shift for the benefit of another as long as it doesn't violate your personal truth. You are able to set goals that are consistent with what you really want, and you love yourself throughout the process of working to achieve them. In the end, you know that you are already perfect and complete, more than enough, and you will always receive exactly what you need in every moment. While you are grateful for the lessons you have learned from others, you now have the confidence to walk your own path because you know that everything you need is already inside of you.
Because you recognize the suffering that domestication and attachment cause in yourself and others, you no longer try to control those around you with anger, guilt, or sadness in order to force them to believe or act the way you think they should. You respect everyone's ability to make their own decisions, which means you don't project onto them a mask of who you think they should be. Because you accept yourself for who you are, you are now able to accept every other person for who they are. This is a dream that we are co-creating; we are learning from each other and respecting every person's individual perspective. No one is more important than anyone else. Engaging from this place of mutual respect for all beings makes it the best world possible.
In those rare moments when you do slide and fall into a trap, as a Master of Self you are able to regain your awareness and recover quickly. Rather than making things worse by lashing out, being defensive, or otherwise falling into chaos and joining the drama of the party, you now have the tools to regain your footing. Through the power of awareness, buoyed by unconditional self-love, you know that you are doing the best you can at every moment. You no longer need to distort the world around you to fit your perception. You know who you are, and as a result you can act and speak with complete confidence and without apology. Thus, your word becomes impeccable. Because you are engaging others with awareness and unconditional love, you have confidence that each action you take will be perfect in the moment. In all of these ways, you have learned how to become a Master of Self.
Forgiveness for the Dream of the Planet
When we think of an act of forgiveness, it is almost always in reference to people we know, or those who have affected us personally. However, there is another type of forgiveness that is often overlooked, and that is forgiveness for the suffering that occurs in the Dream of the Planet.
To understand this type of suffering, let's look more closely at the two components that make up the Dream of the Planet. First, there is the physical world of matter, with its oceans, continents, winds, and shifting climates, where change is constant with every action. This is the phenomenal realm, or the world that can be seen and felt. Second, there is the world of human agreements, and these agreements are what give meaning to the material world. This is the world that is created in our minds and is based on our perceptions. The world of agreements is unseen, even though what manifests from these agreements appears in the physical world. While the physical world appears to move on its own, the world of human agreements by definition requires our participation. Let's look at two important events to emphasize the difference.
The first happened on December 26, 2004, when a tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed thousands of people in an instant. It was a tragic loss of life, but it is understood as something that happened via the movement of the earth, without any human agreement. While the outcome is heartbreaking, there is no one to “blame” for an event like this.
Compare that to another event that occurred three years earlier, on September 11, 2001, in the United States. This also resulted in the catastrophic loss of human life, but the cause was dramatically different, as in that case the impetus was a human agreement. Tragically, many people lost their lives because one group felt that it needed to subjugate the world to its vision of virtue with violence. In this type of tragedy, a sense of “blame” is placed on the perpetrators.
While it's perfectly understandable to be saddened and enraged over events such as these, and some of you reading this may even have been personally affected by one or both of these examples, when that sadness overtakes us we lose our perspective in the dream, and debilitating grief, depression, and, in the latter example, a desire for revenge can set in. In either case, getting lost in the sadness can trigger us to take a negative attitude toward the world, saying or thinking things like, “there is no use trying to improve the world,” or “the world is a terrible place.”
If you take this route, the fog has crept back in, as you are now living in your imagination, filled with fear and despair, and the Dream of the Planet has become a nightmare. You are taking the events of the world personally and letting them define you and your thinking. You have forgotten that during these tragedies, many people stood up to help the victims and survivors. Communities came together to heal one another.
While it's completely normal that both of these tragedies would evoke sadness, there comes a time when we move past the loss and choose to forgive the world for these events. You do so because holding on to the negative emotions generated by these events keeps you from evolving. That does not mean you forget what happened; it means that you don't want events like these to cloud your awareness and keep you trapped in the fog, unable to see the beauty that is all around you and keep you from co-creating the Dream.
Furthermore, a Master of Self understands that those who commit acts of violence (including gang members, terrorists, abusers, manipulators, and others) are actually the most domesticated and attached people in the Dream of the Planet since they have lost their ability to see the humanity of another living being. They are blackout drunk at the party, blinded by their belief system. They are so completely controlled by ideas that they can no longer see the humanity of their brothers and sisters.
To be clear, forgiveness does not mean apathy. Forgiveness in this context means that in order to create a harmonious Dream of the Planet, you understand that you are only responsible for you. You choose to let go of the anger and hurt in order to bring peace to your Personal Dream, and in that way you actually help the Dream of the Planet, so that one day tragedies that occur as a result of human violence can be found only in history books.
For a Master of Self, peace comes with forgiveness, by letting go of any poison that you're holding on to. If you let that poison drown you, then you become part of the cycle that has brought suffering into this world. To forgive the Dream of the Planet for the darkness is to forgive any place of darkness within ourselves.
Even when others make a choice to construct the Dream of the Planet by creating a nightmare, you know how to end the nightmare within yourself. Every time you choose to forgive, you heal the infected wound that causes you to cower in fear and hide behind anger. Choosing to act from a place of love rather than fear will always bring harmony to the present moment, regardless of what is happening in the dream. Forgiveness is an act of love, so in times of global difficulty I will say to myself:
I choose to forgive, I choose to engage, I choose to take action, I choose to use my voice for healing, and I choose to express the power of my intent through unconditional love.
I am a co-creator of the Dream of the Planet, and I choose to end the cycle of conditional love.
I do this, and I am letting peace begin with me. This is the Mastery of Self in action, and this is my wish and hope for you.
I WANT TO FIRST honor the people who taught me unconditional love: my mother, Maria “Coco” Ruiz; my father, don Miguel Ruiz; my Mama Gaya Jenkins; my grandparents, Abuelita Sarita, Abuelita Leonarda, and Abuelito Luis; my brothers and sisters, Jose Luis, Leonardo, RK, Kimberly-Jean, Jennifer, and Jules; my children, Audrey and Alejandro; and my wife, Susan (Lovie). I love you with all of my heart.
I want to honor and thank Randy Davila, my publisher, editor, and ink brother. Thank you for giving me the opportunity once again to share my family's Toltec tradition through these books, and for helping my Hierophant family continue to spread love and the knowledge that allows us to heal from the wounds of conditional love. Thank you for everything Carnal, it is a pleasure to work with you in this way! Love you!
I want to honor and give my eternal gratitude to Kristie Macris, who helped me start my journey into writing by helping me write my first book and helped me in the creation of this one. You are my teacher of this beautiful craft, you helped me find my own voice, and you are my partner and most beloved friend. As you say, you are able to translate what I say because you know me so well. Here is to twenty-two years of friendship, and many more to come. Te amo!
I also want to honor my dearest friend and teaching sister, HeatherAsh Amara. (High five!) We have come a long way since we started teaching together and dreaming of one day writing books and collaborating to create our art. Here we are!!!! =-) Let's have some fun! Love you!
Muchas gracias a Dios, con todo mi Amor.
Así sea, así se haga, y así se hara.