By don Miguel Ruiz and don Jose Ruiz, with Janet Mills
The authors of The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement -- bestselling books about the Toltec principles that lead to peace and self-understanding -- explain why skepticism can help open your life to a new kind of happiness. (Oprah Winfrey sits down with don Miguel Ruiz Sunday, March 3, at 11 a.m. ET on "Super Soul Sunday" on OWN and Oprah.com.)
Have you ever asked yourself if something you heard was actually true? Have you ever wondered if someone was lying to you? Or worse yet, have you ever wondered, “Am I lying to myself?” Do you believe those voices in your head that are always giving you opinions? Do you tend to believe other people’s opinions?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you will understand when being skeptical is a good thing.
Right now, you’re delivering a message to yourself and to everyone around you. You’re always delivering messages and you’re always receiving messages from one mind to another mind. But the most important messages are the ones you deliver to yourself. What are those messages? The word is a force you cannot see, but you can see the manifestation of that force, the expression of the word, which is your own life. The way to measure the impeccability of your word is to ask yourself: Am I happy or am I suffering? If you’re suffering it’s because you’re telling yourself a story that isn’t true, but you believe it.
When you look at yourself in a mirror, do you like what you see, or do you judge your body and use the word to tell yourself lies? If you believe that you are not attractive enough, then you believe a lie, and you are using the word against yourself, against the truth.
Is it really true that you are too heavy or too thin? Is it really true that you are not beautiful? If you’re telling yourself, “I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m old. I’m not good enough. I’ll never make it,” then be skeptical. Don’t believe yourself because none of these messages come from truth, from life. These messages are distorted; they’re nothing but lies. The truth is, there are no ugly people. There’s no universal book of law where any of these judgments are true. Every judgment is just an opinion -- it’s just a point of view -- and that point of view wasn’t there when you were born.
Everything you think about yourself, everything you believe about yourself, is because you learned it. You learned the opinions from Mom, Dad, siblings, and society. They sent all those images of how a body should look; they expressed all those opinions about the way you are, the way you are not, the way you should be. They delivered a message, and you agreed with that message. And now you think so many things about what you are, but are they the truth?
What is the truth and what is the lie? Humans believe so many lies because we aren’t aware. We ignore the truth or we just don’t see the truth. When we are educated, we accumulate a lot of knowledge, and all that knowledge is just like a wall of fog that doesn’t allow us to perceive the truth, what really is. We only see what we want to see; we only hear what we want to hear. Our belief system is just like a mirror that only shows us what we believe.
In our development, as we grow throughout our lives, the structure of our beliefs becomes very complicated, and we make it even more complicated because we make the assumption that what we believe is the absolute truth. We never stop to consider that our beliefs are only a relative truth that’s always going to be distorted by all the knowledge we have stored in our memory. As children, we are innocent; we believe almost everything that we learn, but everything that we learn isn’t true. We put our faith in lies, we give them power, and soon those lies are ruling our lives.
Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun. There is nothing to justify, nothing to believe. You have no mission except to enjoy life. You are here just to be, for no reason. Then the only thing you need to be is the real you. Be happiness. Be love. Be yourself. That’s wisdom. It’s the complete acceptance of yourself just the way you are, and the complete acceptance of everybody else just the way they are. The reward is your eternal happiness.
But first you have to unlearn a lot, and you only have one tool to do this. That tool is doubt. Being skeptical is an important part of recovering what you really are because it uses the power of doubt to break all those spells you’ve been under. Whenever you hear a message from yourself, or from someone else, simply ask: Is it really true? With the power of doubt, you challenge every message you deliver and receive. You challenge every belief that rules your life. Then you challenge all the beliefs that rule society, until you break the spell of all the lies and superstitions that control your world.
Once you recover all the power you invested in lies, you can see what is real; you can feel what is real. Even though lies still exist, you no longer believe them. You don’t believe everything anymore, but you can see, and what you can see is the truth. The truth doesn’t need you to believe it. The truth simply is, and it survives -- believe it or not. Lies need you to believe them. If you don’t believe lies, they don’t survive your skepticism, and they simply disappear.
Centuries ago, people believed that the earth was flat. Some said that elephants were supporting the earth, and that made them feel safe. The belief that the earth was flat was considered the truth, and almost everybody agreed, but did that make it true? It was nothing but a superstition, and I can assure you that we still live in a world of superstition. The question is: Are we aware of it?
Wherever you go, you will hear all kinds of opinions and stories from other people. You will find great storytellers wanting to tell you what you should do with your life: “You should do this, you should do that, you should do whatever.” Don’t believe them. Be skeptical, but learn to listen and then make your choices. Be responsible for every choice you make in your life. This is your life; it’s nobody else’s life, and you will find that it’s nobody else’s business what you do with your life.
For centuries, there have been prophets who predicted big catastrophes in the world. Not that long ago, there were people who predicted that in the year 2000 all the computers would fail and society as we know it would disappear. The day arrived, and what happened? Nothing happened. Thousands of years ago, just like today, there were prophets who were waiting for the end of the world. At that time, a great master said, “There will be many false prophets who claim to be speaking the word of God. Don’t believe.” You see, being skeptical is nothing new. Doubt takes you behind the words and helps you to discern the truth from lies. And this is a good thing.
Adapted from The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery. Copyright © 2010 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D., Jose Luis Ruiz, and Janet Mills. Reprinted by Permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, California.