Born in Mexico City into a wisdom-filled, spiritual family, don Jose Ruiz’s life was naturally saturated with teachers. Today, like his father, don Jose combines ancient wisdom he absorbed from his upbringing with modern insights for the landscape of today. He has dedicated his life to sharing the ancient Toltec wisdom by translating it into practical, everyday life concepts that promote transformation through truth, love, and common sense.
Don Jose travels the world, teaching his message of faith, love, gratitude, and humility. He is also the author of “The Wisdom of the Shamans” and co-authored “The Fifth Agreement” with his father, don Miguel Ruiz, a sequel to the very successful and much lauded “The Four Agreements” that has touched millions of lives around the globe.
“The Fifth Agreement” takes readers to a deeper level of awareness of the power of the Self and helps to return us to the authenticity with which we were born. This sequel reminds us of the greatest gift we can give ourselves: the freedom to be who we really are.
Face the Current invites you to unlock your heart and free your mind as we take you through a two-part journey into the wise spirit and teachings of don Jose Ruiz.
This Face the Current Culture Feature is published in Issue 22 / Winter 2019. Order PRINT here, or continue reading this article below.
Sasha Frate: In the book, “The Wisdom of the Shamans”, you explain that the Toltecs believe that everyone is an Awakened One, but it is the Shamans whose eyes are open to this realization. How does this Toltec view of shamanism differ from that of the global reference?
don Jose Ruiz: My family has said it’s always about service to nature. Guess where you “wake up?” In nature. When you close your eyes, you are in nature, when you open them, you’re in nature, but when you’re in service to nature, you begin trusting your inner guide. We have the intuition, but we betray it a lot. When we identify that we’re betraying it, everything changes. We have to be grateful for life. There is negativity in life but we’re not going to sacrifice ourselves to it. We are not going to let our dreams be defeated by it and we’re not going to become uninspired. On the contrary, I once said to my Dad, “I like people who are judging me. Isn’t that weird, Father?” He replied, “No, it’s because you’re training yourself to not take things personally.” When we begin feeling this inner guide, it’s because we wake up the instinct that we are always carrying. From this point on, we’re talking to the divine. It’s not in any language, it’s just trusting that you know you’re safe within yourself. We pass through fears, we pass through challenges, and we’re there; present to nature.
SF: Many people are seeking wisdom in all directions, from gurus and present-day leaders, all the way to our ancient past, but you say the wisdom that you seek is inside you. Might we simply consider these gurus and leaders to be guides that help us find the wisdom that comes from deep inside? What is that wisdom of which you speak?
dJR: All of those leaders work for the same boss, just like we work for the same boss. Gurus and shamans are giving us tools, so we can create art with our life and better it. They do it for themselves and they become inspirations. Honesty is the foundation of awareness.
Sometimes we know things about ourselves, but when someone says it out loud, it can break our spirit. However, if someone tells us a story, it can be inspiring; it can make us feel like the character and that we can overcome. The beautiful thing about it is when we know that we are hearing our story, but we don’t like what we hear, we can change it.
SF: What is the role of storytelling for planting these seeds of holy community?
dJR: When someone is going through something, they take everything personally. When we find someone that we trust like a parent or teacher and they confront us straight to the point about something, we react, and we may shut down. Through storytelling, we can use imagination and characters to present something relatable.
SF: It’s more of an invitation to relate and identify as opposed to being told what to do.
dJR: Yes, because sometimes we know things about ourselves, but when someone says it out loud, it can break our spirit. However, if someone tells us a story, it can be inspiring; it can make us feel like the character and that we can overcome. The beautiful thing about it is when we know that we are hearing our story, but we don’t like what we hear, we can change it.
SF: Outside of yourself, what have been some of your greatest sources of awakening and wisdom?
dJR: We always appreciate something when it’s gone. For me, something that went away and came back was my eyesight. I lost my eyesight for two weeks. I felt irritated and desperate, but then I felt myself surrender. I also felt some loved-ones projecting fear and victimization onto me, so I made myself strong. When I couldn’t see, I was really with myself. I could not run away from emotions; I was seeing and feeling the emotions. The most beautiful thing, however, is that I could see in my dreams and that made me more aware of the connection with sleeping brain and waking brain. It’s all life and we can create and make choices. When my sight returned, the biggest sensation I felt was knowing that it’s not about yesterday or tomorrow, it’s about right now.
We cannot go against our consciousness because if we don’t take action, our consciousness will not feel good. It’s like the feeling when we wake up and cannot get back to sleep. That’s not the only thing I appreciate, though. I also appreciate the company in my life; I appreciate friendships. I appreciate everything because one never knows when it’s the last moment.
The Universe of Now is the concept that we are in the university of life where we create our art. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not yesterday, it’s right now. When we are attending class, we’re learning and we’re sharing; You take the blindfolds off and you learn from everything.
SF: That’s a really great shift.
dJR: Yes, especially to have that opportunity to be grateful because that’s when things happen in our lives. When we survive, or we come out of situations, it’s important to feel gratitude and grateful to be alive.
SF: I think that’s a perfect lead-in to the question: What is the Universe of Now?
dJR: The Universe of Now is the concept that we are in the university of life. So, right now, we are in the university of life; this is where we create our art. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not yesterday, it’s right now. When we are attending class, we’re learning and we’re sharing; it’s happening to me right now. You take the blindfolds off and you learn from everything. That’s why we have so many Gods in the Toltec tradition, like the God of Rain, the God of Air; it’s because we see God the Creator everywhere. It’s formless, it’s not a gender, it’s just energy itself.
SF: You describe the illusion of time being cyclical rather than linear, which is how many cultures portray human progress. How does this difference in perspective lead into the Toltec view that we are living in the Fifth World Age and what does this mean?
dJR: Basically, cycles always happen. Waking and sleeping is a cycle. In a marriage there can be arguments where one partner says, “I won’t ever do it again,” but then they do. That’s a cycle. We need to wake up to our cycles.
In this last 10-20 years, we’ve been more conscious not only about human life, but animal life, too. Humanity is advancing so beautifully. When we try to hold onto a dream, we create justifications and excuses. This is when we take things personally and react. Everything in life changes and so we have to let go of everything. We can’t blame our ancestors because they didn’t know what we know. For instance, in the 40s and 50s, they said cigarettes were healthy and helpful for stressed people. Everyone really believed that, but now we know better. So now, it’s about having awareness and not repeating those things again. This is where forgiveness is very powerful. That’s why in the Universe of Now, we learn from our mistakes.
The most beautiful thing is to have the awareness that we can break any cycle. Why wait until we’re physically dead to end things that don’t support us in life? What if we take that good energy, desire, and self-respect, and we disintegrate the negative from our lives right now? It’s like breaking any addiction of suffering.
SF: It’s kind of a matter of things that are comfortable and a fear of change.
dJR: Many people just project onto other people without doing their own work. It’s not about changing others, it’s about changing ourselves. This is the biggest habit we need to break and the biggest cycle we need to end. What matters is within us, how we look at life, and how we look at ourselves. If Mother and Father can forgive all their children no matter what they do, we can forgive our brothers, sisters, and ourselves.
In one of his books, my Dad explains what it’s like “waking up” as the only sober person in a room where everybody is drunk off of knowledge and ideas of what will make them happy. The trouble is, they’re not living it yet. They have the concepts but haven’t dared to take action. Taking action is what’s going to create change and that’s the beautiful thing about the time we live in now.
SF: And it’s happening for you.
dJR: Yes, it is. It’s also happening in music, in art, in poetry, and in blogs. My stepson is 23 years old and he said, “Inside is what matters. It’s about being kind to people. I want to be remembered by the way I treat people because that’s what makes me feel happy.” That inspired me because the world is getting it. When we respect what’s outside of us, we respect what’s within, too.
SF: Why do you say that nature is one of the best places to strengthen one’s awareness practice?
dJR: Nature doesn’t cost a buck to us. My Dad once said to me, “You have problems? Go talk it through with nature. It has the patience and will hear everything. It has more patience than me.” When I did that, it was like nature took everything and did a cleansing of me, so I could let everything go. The beautiful thing that I noticed when I was talking and complaining to nature is that my issues really don’t matter. If I go home today with my problems, will it matter? I wasted so much time on them. Nature helps to get me back into my own time because you go back to the car and go, “What was I complaining about? What did it give me?” It doesn’t matter what the story is behind the problem, it’s the act of taking it to nature.
SF: That brings me back to our interconnection with everything and our tendency to pull away and feel disconnected when we’re caught up in these stories.
dJR: Yes, and one of the biggest beliefs that I had all my life is that I was an introvert. You know what? I wasn’t. I just said that because I wanted to run; I wanted to be alone and I wanted my separate space. After I began meditating with eyes open, I realized I could create my safe space without separating from humanity. When I was separated from people, I would really chew on the heaviness, but when I was around people and reflecting their positivity, there wasn’t room for that negativity. This is one of the beautiful things in life: what if we can be comfortable wherever we are? We wouldn’t have to run anywhere because we’re just in our skin. It’s so beautiful to reach that awareness in our younger years. It’s tiring to talk the language of negativity, gossip, and hatred, and that’s where we can change. If you change everything in yourself, in your house, everywhere becomes home.
SF: And peaceful.
dJR: Yes, and we especially don’t want to let people disrespect us. It’s a priority that others shall do us no harm. When children see that we are respected, we don’t have to have conflicts to tell them, “No.” They will respect us, and we can simply say, “No.”
SF: You mentioned the coming of the time that we’re at now; the coming of an age when it would be necessary to return the wisdom to the people. Do you believe that we’re currently really at that time?
SF: What are the signs that it is necessary for this wisdom to now be returned to the people?
dJR: The important thing is that we are alive right now. We are alive, and we have to start. We have wisdom to share, but how do we share it? By leading. When we believe in our wisdom, there is no end to our cup. Our cup will always be pouring. My Grandma always said the holy grail is the cup that never goes empty.
With the power of the internet, there are lies and there’s the truth. There is a lot of activity on the internet, so let’s contribute positivity. The internet has made the world a smaller place so let’s put it out there. Someone in India can connect with someone in Europe or the Americas and they can hold energy together and spread it further in their lives. It’s magical to work together. Before she passed away, my Grandma told me that she saw beautiful changes coming. She was so happy that we were going to experience them and we’re seeing it now! [Malala Yousafzai] was shot by terrorists for standing up for change in the Middle East and now she’s spreading so much power and education in that part of the world. The internet is something good.
The ripple-effect is very powerful. We’re amplifying our intent. We’re getting into a different time and it’s beautiful to pass the torch and light like our ancestors did to us. The important thing to remember is life is never the same as our ancestors; it’s always evolving.
SF: The ripple-effect that can happen from that is really powerful.
dJR: It is very powerful. We’re amplifying our intent. There are some kids out there who are just brilliant at it. We’re getting into a different time and it’s beautiful to pass the torch and light like our ancestors did to us. The important thing to remember is life is never the same as our ancestors; it’s always evolving. That’s something else my Grandma told me: “Don’t stay in the past.” You can study the past, but we don’t live there anymore. The Toltecs of the past didn’t have our tools and life wasn’t as fast as it is now.
SF: But then we can take the knowledge and wisdom of that time as it has modern applications that are really powerful.
dJR: Yes, exactly. Especially how we feed ourselves. Our ancestors used to eat food that didn’t have preservatives; they just ate what was in nature. In the last four years, I’ve lost over one hundred pounds.
dJR: I started taking care of my body. I turned to veganism and I started changing my old habits. People who know me had said, “You’ll never do that. You will never do that!” But it came a point where my body was not working and if I was going to be walking my path, it was time to unlearn. Now, I have no craving for the past, because I prefer to feel healthy.
SF: You described the human mind as a sort of virtual reality and you make a distinction between you and You. One is real, and the other is not. One is the truth and the other is virtual. Can you describe the difference and how these two are constructed? Are there any events at which the two become one?
dJR: The important thing is that I trick myself; that’s how I learn. There’s a part of me that likes music, that likes rock and roll; that’s my meditative time. I keep Jose happy by playing guitar and creating art; I love doing that. The other part of me that loves to share a positive message is my calling in life. I love sharing my heart and my life’s experience of things that I’ve learned. Now, I grow awareness and I give it to myself as well. I give myself the permission to play, to have fun, to not take life too seriously. I don’t want to become a professional musician, I just want to play. My passion is my calling and when I feel the perfect equilibrium between sharing my heart and my music, and I can put them together, that is the real Jose.
When I started spirituality, many people said to me, “You have to stop listening to rock and roll, stop watching movies, and just be in the pathway.” So, I did that for ten years and what I noticed is that I went against myself because I was just following someone else’s dream. It wasn’t mine. When I began letting go of that, I began letting go of the judgment first. It really is okay to satisfy my heart for a moment. It was perfectly clear, and I became happy. My Pop once told me that some people don’t want to be children; they only want to be serious. However, you have to have that childlike energy to enjoy life or else you can fall into obsessions. If you obsessively look for spirituality, you’re not going to enjoy it. I love my rock and roll lifestyle; I am living my dream and I’m happy doing what I love to do. It’s a beautiful thing when everybody balances out their life.
The First Attention is when we’re not aware of what we’re doing. The Second Attention is about awareness and action. All of a sudden you begin working on your own garden. You don’t realize it when you’re living in the Third Attention, because you’re loyal to the divine. That’s what makes a warrior. Your presence, living in your heaven, can inspire the flame in others’ heavens. When we begin reflecting this love to everybody, they wake up.
SF: You call the dream of the Second Attention by another name: the dream of the warriors. You describe it as a rebellion against all the lies in our knowledge where we begin to challenge what we believe and question all the opinions that we learned, while trying to recover our authenticity. Why do you say that we have to be the warriors and that it cannot be up to God, or Jesus, or Buddha, or Moses, or Mohammed, or any master, shaman, or guru?
dJR: The beautiful thing is that all of those great beings give us the tools and the words, but we have to do the work. They’re not going to come and build a house for us. They give us the wood, the nails, and the hammer, but we have to do it. If we don’t, we’ll be living by blind faith. The First Attention is when we’re not aware of what we’re doing. The Second Attention is about awareness and action.
There are many people who use the power of suggestion to manipulate other people, but they manipulate themselves, too. It’s around this thin line where we begin to respect power. By being of service to others, you are doing it for the love of your life, and this is truly a way of life. All of a sudden you begin working on your own garden. You don’t realize it when you’re living in the Third Attention, because you’re loyal to the divine. That’s what makes a warrior. Your presence, living in your heaven, can inspire the flame in others’ heavens. Showing people their true power and love is a beautiful reminder of the Toltec. When we begin reflecting this love to everybody, they wake up. When I read “The Four Agreements,” I went to my Dad and said, “I know this information. I know it!” He replied, “Of course you know it, because it’s integrity talking to integrity; everyone knows that.” That’s when it was my time to get all the wood, hammers, and nails that I’d need to build my home. I build my home so that the younger generation can play and grow in it, because some day they’re going to build one for themselves.
SF: Thank you.
dJR: Thank you, sister.
Books: “The Wisdom of the Shamans” / “The Fifth Agreement” / “Ripples of Wisdom: Cultivating the Hidden Truths from Your Heart” / “My Good Friend the Rattlesnake: Stories of Loss, Truth, and Transformation”