What I Learned From The Mastery Of Love

Matt Larsen

Disclaimer – I doubt I ever would have chosen to read this book without a recommendation from someone else. It was lent to me by a co-worker, and I read it, in part, out of respect for her.

The author: Miguel Ruiz once went to medical school and became a surgeon. Later in life after a traumatic accident he forsook it all to learn the healer’s ways and become an “Eagle-Knight” in the Nagual tradition. He has since studied the “Toltec” people and written about their teachings. He has written a few books now, the most successful being “The Four Agreements.”

The book: I hated the first 3 chapters. The first chapter described the wisdom he had obtained from the Toltec people. He then goes on to tell a “Toltec story” that somehow I already heard in Sunday School as a kid. It made me think – this guy is a hack. He picked some obscure historical group that no one really knows a lot about, and he invented stories about them to sound like it was ancient and mystic…when really the stories were made up by him or taken from other sources. He then proceeds to tell us a real truth:

“To master a relationship is therefore about action. It is not about concepts or attaining knowledge. It is about action. Of course, to have action, we need to have some knowledge or at least a little more awareness of the way humans operate.”

He kind of summed up his book right there. It’s not about knowledge, it’s about action. So stop reading this book and get moving…but of course he wants us to actually keep reading and to buy his book or he wouldn’t make any money or convince anyone to come to his seminars, courses, etc…In cases you hadn’t guessed, at this point I was becoming quite the cynic.

He then discussed mental illness and described it thus:

“We call it schizophrenia, paranoia, psychosis, but these diseases are created when the reasoning mind is so frightened and the wounds so painful, that it becomes better to break contact with the outside world.”

I have to admit there may be some truth in his statement, but it is far too simplistic. He makes it sound as though we make a conscious decision when life is too painful to create our own reality. It’s like people’s minds decide to go crazy, and I’ve seen that it is not so.

He then explains all the things humans naturally understand. Things like right and wrong, fair and unfair, love and hate.


“Each of us creates a personal dream for our own self, but the humans before us created a big outside dream, the dream of the human society. The outside Dream, or the Dream of the Planet, is the collective Dream of billions of dreamers. The Big Dream includes all the rules of society, its laws, its religions, its different cultures and ways to be.”

At this point I realized that he is either an Atheist, or believes in an unformed God that is simply the spirit of life within each of us. He does not believe there is any right or wrong…it is all perception. To me it slapped our Founding Fathers in the face - “We hold these truths to be self evident.” Don Miguel Ruiz would argue that they are only self-evident because we are all in the same dream, they are self-evident because we have convinced ourselves they are true.

"There is no one to blame for this disease; it is not good or bad or right or wrong, it is simply the normal pathology of the disease. No one is guilty for being abusive."

He keeps expounding on this idea that nothing we ever do is bad or wrong, it’s part of humanities disease.

At this point I was about to abandon the book for good because he was just making me mad…then he made some good points.

He gave the parable of the Magical Kitchen. It basically says – Imagine you have a magic kitchen that makes anything and everything you want, whenever you want it. Someone comes to your door and offers you a pizza, but you have to work for him the rest of the day. Of course you would say no, you can have that pizza or better for free, so why get it from someone else who expects something in return? Then imagine you haven’t eaten for days. You have no money and no food, and someone makes you the same offer. You may accept. Each day you are offered pizza if you will do what he says for the rest of the day. Soon you become dependent on the Pizza, you have to keep working for it. You fear the Pizza giver might leave one day, or not return…then you’d starve to death. You become possessive, desperate, and willing to do anything to keep the Pizza giver coming.

This is how we are with Happiness and Love. When we love others completely and absolutely, we are completely full of happiness. No one can offer us more happiness or love…we already have all we need, and we can share with everyone else…forever! We will never run out. But when we feel like we have no love, no happiness, and someone offers us a sliver, we jump at it. We take whatever we can get, no matter the price. We enter into terrible relationships simply because we have no love for others, no love for ourselves, and we need someone else to give it to us. As he states:

“Happiness never comes from outside of us.”

“If happiness can only come from inside of you and is the result of your love; you are responsible for your happiness.”

“When we love, we don’t have expectations, we do it because we want to, and if other people do it or not, it’s because they want to or not and it’s nothing personal.”

“The only way to master love is to practice love. You don’t need to justify your love, you don’t need to explain your love; you just need to practice your love.”

This is when I started to like the book. He was writing truth, and it was truth people need.

The next quotes about relationships and finding “the right one” were quite poignant.

“I can tell you that the right woman for you is the one you love just the way she is, the woman you don’t have the need to change at all…you are lucky if you find the right woman for you, and at the same time you are the right man for her.”

“You know the kind of man or woman that you want? The one that makes your heart sing, the one is aligned with the way you are, the one who loves you just as you are. Why set yourself up for something else? Why not get what you want? Why pretend to make someone fit what she is not?”

“When you buy something you don’t need, it ends up in the garbage. It’s the same in a relationship.”

“If you cannot love your partner the way she is, someone else can love her just as she is. Don’t waste your time, and don’t waste your partner’s time. This is respect.”

“You take care of your half of the relationship. The other half is not your problem.”

Then he made a quote that made me perturbed again.

“We learn to pretend to be what we are not”

We often practice to become something we are not. We want to be an athlete, or a scholar, or religious, or a good dresser. I do see people being false when they are trying to go against their beliefs, who they really are. But I see nothing wrong with learning new things and becoming things we weren’t before. Guess what, I’m a lot of things I wasn’t when I was a child…because I practiced. For example. My sister told me once she needed to stop acting like she was Hispanic, because she’s not. She was dating a guy from Columbia at the time. Well now they are married, and she is working diligently to learn Spanish. She will never be “Hispanic” by blood, but she can learn their language and appreciate their culture, food, and customs. This is not pretending to be something you are not. It is learning, expanding your horizons. So he has a point, but it shouldn’t be portrayed as an entirely negative thing.

"There’s no problem with being gorgeous. If you walk through a crowd of people and they tell you “Oh, you are beautiful.” You can say “Thank you, I know,” and keep going. It doesn’t make any difference to you. But it will make a difference if you don’t believe that you are beautiful and someone tells you that. Then you are going to say “Am I really?” This opinion can impress you, and, of course, that makes you easy prey."

Beauty and perception are one and the same. It can control us, or be our greatest asset.

"You will forgive them not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you don’t want to suffer and hurt yourself every time you remember what they did to you."

Forgiveness is not for the offender, it is for the offended.

"You have a limit to the amount of abuse you will accept, but no one in the whole world abuses you more than you abuse yourself. The limit of your self abuse is the limit you will tolerate from other people. If someone abuses you more than you abuse yourself, you will walk away, you run, you escape."

This one made me think for a very long time – is that how we determine what abuse we’ll take…how bad we think we are???

"Whatever is not true will not survive skepticism, but the truth will always survive skepticism."

Unfortunately this one was wrong. Like Harry S. Truman said: “You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.”

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