24 May A Visit with Grandfather
I was born into an ancient wisdom tradition known as Toltec. My grandfather was an old nagual (shaman), and I worked hard all my youth to earn his respect.
As a teenager, I wanted to impress him with my opinions about everything I was learning in school. I told him my point of view about all the injustice in the world, about the violence and the conflict between good and evil. Grandfather listened patiently, which encouraged me to speak even more. Then I noticed a little smile on his face as he said, “Miguel, those are very good theories that you’ve learned, but everything you’ve told me is just a story. It doesn’t mean that it’s true.”
Of course I felt badly and tried to defend my point of view, but then grandfather started to talk. “Most people believe there’s a great conflict in the universe — a conflict between good and evil. Well, the conflict only exists in the human mind. It’s not true for the rest of nature. And the real conflict in our mind is between the truth and lies. Good and evil are the result of that conflict.
“Believing in the truth creates goodness, love, happiness. Believing in lies and defending those lies creates what you call evil. It creates all the injustice and violence, all the drama and suffering, not only in society, but also in the individual.”
Hmm. . . . what grandfather said was logical, but I didn’t believe him. How could all the conflict and suffering in the world be the result of something so simple? Surely it must be more complicated than that.
“Miguel, all the drama in your personal life is the result of believing in lies. And the first lie you believe is I’m not good enough, I’m not perfect. Everyone is born perfect and will die perfect because only perfection exists. But if you believe you aren’t good enough, thy will be done because that is the power and magic of your faith. With that lie you begin to search for an image of perfection that you can never become. You search for love, for justice, for everything you believe you don’t have, not knowing that everything you are searching for is already inside you. Humanity is the way it is because collectively we believe in lies that come from thousands of years ago. We react to those lies with anger and violence, but they’re only lies.”
I was wondering how to know the truth when grandfather said, “We can perceive truth with our feelings, but as soon as we try to describe it with words, we distort it, and it’s no longer truth. It’s our story.
Imagine that Pablo Picasso painted a portrait of you. You say, ‘I don’t look like that,’ and Picasso says, ‘Of course you do. This is how I see you.’ For Picasso, it’s true; he is expressing what he perceives. Well, everyone is an artist — a storyteller with a unique point of view. We use words to make a portrait of everything we witness. We make up stories, and just like Picasso we distort the truth; but for us, it is the truth. When we understand this, we no longer try to impose our story on others or defend what we believe. As artists, we respect the right of all artists to create their own art.”
In that moment, my grandfather gave me the opportunity to become aware of all the lies we believe. Every time we judge ourselves, find ourselves guilty, and punish ourselves, it’s because we believe in lies. Every time we have a conflict with our parents, our children, or our beloved, it’s because we believe in lies, and they believe in them, too.
How many lies do you hear in your head? Who is judging, who is talking, who is the one with all the opinions? If you don’t enjoy your life, it’s because the voice in your head won’t allow you to enjoy it. I call it the voice of knowledge because it’s telling you everything you know, and that knowledge is contaminated with lies.
Well, if you follow two rules, the lies won’t survive your skepticism and will simply disappear. First, listen to your story, but don’t believe yourself because now you know your story is mostly fiction. Second, listen to others tell their story, but don’t believe them. Truth survives our skepticism, but lies only survive if we believe them.
Just being aware of the lies that exist makes us aware that truth also exists. And by cleaning up the lies we believe about ourselves, the lies we believe about everybody else will change. Only the truth will lead us back to love, and this is a big step toward healing the human mind.
Excerpted and adapted from The Voice of Knowledge: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace. Copyright © 2004 by Miguel Angel Ruiz and Janet Mills.