I'd heard of Don Miguel Ruiz for a while, but hadn't got round to reading any of his books. I'd known about his four agreements — (1) Be impeccable with your word (2) Don't take anything personally (3) Don't make assumptions (4) Always do your best (The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom) — but that was about it. Even though I'd been reading texts on ancient wisdom, self-discovery and spiritual enlightenment for some time — by Carlos Castaneda, Sogyal Rinpoche, Thomas Merton, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Stephen Batchelor, David Brazier, the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and Osho among others — Ruiz had passed me by.
However, last night I picked up his book, The Mastery Of Love, and it blew me away. I read half of it straight off at one sitting (or rather at one lying — I was in bed at the time). For me this simple but profound work is one of those immediately life-transforming, once-read-never-to-be-forgotten books you encounter all too rarely in life. (I remember also having this experience when I first came across Krishnamurti in my early twenties.)
I scribbled these notes while reading the book — the highlighted pieces are straight from the text, the rest are my own interpretations and summaries:
When a man meets a woman, he makes an image of her from his point of view, and the woman makes an image of the man from her point of view. Then he tries to make her fit the image he makes for her, and she tries to make him fit the image she makes for him. Now there are six images between them. Of course, they are lying to each other, even if they don't know they are lying. Their relationship is based on fear; it is based on lies. It is not based on truth, because they cannot see through all that fog.
Ruiz analyses our relationships, and shows how most of our love relationships are ones of control, of neediness, of manipulation, of possessiveness and of selfishness (oh, how Proust understood this — I've been reading In Search Of Lost Time recently).
It doesn't matter how much you love someone, you are never going to be what that person wants you to be.
We can't be responsible for another person's happiness or unhappiness; we create our own happiness or unhappiness from inside. If we make another person responsible for our happiness or unhappiness, we become dependent on that person. Then that person will have the sole power to increase our happiness or take our happiness away. Not good. Ruiz compares this kind of unequal relationship with the relationship of the provider and the drug addict.
We never really know another person — what's in their mind, all their thoughts, feelings and fantasies — even in close relationships such as husband and wife, or parent and child.
Every human being has a personal dream of life, and that dream is completely different from anyone else's dream. Every dreamer is going to dream in his own way.
We can never dream the same dream as another, but we need to respect each other's dreams.
We may have many relationships in our lives and, when it comes down to it, each relationship is unique and one-to-one, a relationship formed by two dreamers with separate dreams, but whose dreams touch and commingle to some extent within that relationship.
If our physical bodies consist of cells, then our dream-bodies consist of emotions, and our core emotions are fear (emotions such as anger, jealousy and sadness are just masks for fear) and love. Ruiz goes on to contrast love with fear, and shows how fear is lacking and divisive in every way. Unlike fear, love has no obligations or expectations. It is based on respect. Love does not pity, but has compassion (two very different things). Love is responsible. Love is kind. Love is generous and unconditional. Love has justice.
We are not responsible for others, for the other halves of our relationships.
We don't have the right to change anyone else, and no one has the right to change us.
You cannot change other people. They are what they are. Love them for what they are. Love yourself for what you are, warts and all.
I've been shocked by reading this book into realising how much I've tried to control some relationships in my own life, tried to influence and change other people, to make them conform to some predetermined image. No, no, no! You can't do it! It just brings misery and frustration. It's all through fear, really — fear of the autonomy and unique mystery of the other person, fear of what they might think of you, fear of what they might do to you, Fear and insecurity! Time to move on. I feel such relief.