We sat down with don Miguel Ruiz Jr., author of the new book The Five Levels of Attachment, Toltec Wisdom for the Modern World, and the eldest son of the legendary don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, for a discussion about the book and what it was like growing up in the Ruiz household.
Q: You grew up in Toltec royalty, so to speak, as most of your family, including your grandmother, are all deeply connected to the Toltec tradition. Your father, don Miguel Ruiz, wrote the best-selling book The Four Agreements and co-authored The Fifth Agreement with your brother, don Jose Ruiz. What was it like to grow up in the Ruiz family? Was there ever a time you can remember when your family wasn’t at the center of the Toltec tradition?
A: I grew up in a very interesting family. My grandma was a curandera, a faith healer, and my father is a former neurosurgeon. But I do remember a time growing up when my father was not “don Miguel Ruiz,” the famous author and Toltec teacher, he was simply Dr. Miguel Ruiz. I saw his transition, because I was alive during that transition, when he began to study the Toltec teachings, and when he began to enter this whole new way of life. So I know what a huge separation there was between the two Miguels. Of course, I say “two Miguels,” there was really only just one—but I saw the personal transformation take place.
Q: And you apprenticed with your father and grandmother for many years, correct? What was that like?
A: Here’s the way my father teaches. For example, when I was a young boy I asked him to teach me how to swim, and so he grabbed me and threw me into the pool! I had to find my way out by swimming, and I swam. But initially, I remember just splashing and yelling, “Dad, help me! help me! I can’t swim!” And he would reply, “Miguel, you’re swimming!” “But Dad!” I yelled back. And he said again, “Miguel, look around you, your head is above water!” And I looked around and thought to myself, “Hey, I am swimming.” All my confidence grew up and there I was. Of course, I was doggy paddling all over the pool, but I was swimming.
He taught me the same way with lecturing. One day, he said on stage, “I want my son to come up here.” I thought he was just going to present me and I was going to wave, and he says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, my son.” And he walks away, and I’m there with a microphone. I had to either open my mouth or walk away. Well, I opened my mouth, and I haven’t been able to shut it up since!
Q: Please tell me about your new book, The Five Levels of Attachment.
A: Many spiritual books explain the importance of not being attached to material possessions. While that is certainly true, this book takes a different approach. In The Five Levels of Attachment, I invite readers to gauge how attached they are to their beliefs, their ideas, and their knowledge. Because in my experience, it’s what we believe about ourselves, our loved ones, and the Dream of the Planet that creates our reality. And so many of us accept the beliefs given to us by our society without ever questioning which ones, if any, are true for us. It’s only after we gain awareness of these beliefs that we can begin to release the ones that no longer reflect who we really are. Then we are free.
Q: The book starts with a question: “Is knowledge controlling you, or are you controlling knowledge?” Is that what you mean by questioning your beliefs?
A: Yes, exactly. My grandmother asked me that question when I was just fourteen years old, and reflecting on it changed the direction of my life. You see, when our attachment to a belief increases, the question of “who we are” becomes directly linked to “what we know.” For instance, at the highest level of attachment, what I call Fanaticism, every decision we make is controlled by our knowledge, and we have lost the power of choice. But with Awareness, we can arrive at a place where we are no longer controlled by our knowledge. Only then we are free to be our Authentic Selves and form new agreements that serve our highest good.
For many of us, our attachment to beliefs—our own and the beliefs of others—manifests as a mask we don’t realize we can take off. This mask prevents us from interacting with others and the world in a healthy way, and forces us to make decisions based not on what we really want, but on what our beliefs dictate. As we release these attachments, our reality changes, since we are no longer chained by our beliefs. We are then free to create the lives we truly want by making new agreements that align with our Authentic Selves.
Q: Thanks to you and your family for sharing this wisdom with the world.
A: It is my pleasure. Remember, the point of all this work is to be happy, to enjoy life, and to enjoy our relationships with those we love the most, including ourselves.
Building on the principles found in his father’s book, The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz Jr. shows us how our attachments to beliefs, ideas, and knowledge, if left unchecked, can guide and control our lives. In The Five Levels of Attachment, he shows us how to identify our level of attachment to any beliefs we are holding. For it is only when we become aware of our attachments that we are then able to let them go and create new agreements that serve our highest good.
An excerpt from the book:
“The challenge I have for you is to change your agreement, to see yourself as a perfect human being, and to realize that there is no object, idea, or knowledge that you need to be complete. You are perfect because you are alive in this present moment, transforming continuously with life. “
—don Miguel Ruiz Jr., The Five Levels of Attachment, Toltec Wisdom for the Modern World