Creating a Legacy of Love, Joy, and Happiness
By Susan Reynolds
Based on Pat Burns’ interview with don Miguel Ruiz and Eva Larrson
World-renowned spiritual leader don Miguel Ruiz, author of the worldwide bestselling The Four Agreements, believes that a grandparent’s primary responsibility is to expand love and joy in their grandchildren’s lives. It is a responsibility Ruiz embraced from the moment his eldest son, Miguel Jr., told him he was going to be an abuleo (grandfather).
“The day I found out my daughter-in-law Susan was pregnant, I felt a joy like no other!”
Clearly, Ruiz relishes the time he spends with eight-year-old Miguel Alejandro, who has autism, and six-year-old Audrey Ixchel. “I love to play with them,” he says. “I can happily say I am their toy, and theyplay with me.”
Ruiz views play as an ideal way to foster spiritual growth and understanding. “Children love to play. It’s the way they learn many important things about life. You can use play to teach them anything. Because we don’t have to take primary responsibility for their upbringing, grandparents are free to play with them.”
He believes grandparents are also uniquely qualified to provide a mirror into their grandchildren’s souls. “It’s important to help them do what they love to do, and to use that to teach them about themselves.”
That does not, however, mean spoiling the child or undermining the parents. “First, you must respect the parents — your child and his wife. It is important to respect the child. In that way, you teach him to respect himself. Never act without the permission of the parents and the child.”
Ruiz also advises to respect the parents’ right to make mistakes. “Do not chastise a parent in front of their child or in front of his or her spouse. Remember that you, too, were once a parent who made mistakes.”
Grandparents also have a responsibility to pass on family traditions. “My grandfather, Leonardo, was a shaman (nagual), and my beloved mother, Sarita, was a healer (curandera). At the feet of these incredible masters, I grew into manhood enveloped in the mystery and knowledge of the ‘old ways’ of my ancestors.”
However, he initially followed a different path. Born in 1952, Ruiz, the youngest of 13 children, grew up in Mexico and became a neurosurgeon, as did two of his older brothers. Then, in the late 1970s, he experienced a spiritual awakening after nearly dying in a car accident. Since then, Ruiz has been dedicated to sharing Toltec wisdom through his books, videos, workshops, and retreats. Two of Ruiz’s three sons — Miguel Jr. and José Luis — also teach the Toltec way.
The original Toltecs were artists and scientists in southern Mexico who formed a society to explore and conserve the spiritual knowledge of their ancestors. “They came together as masters (naguals) and students at Teotihuacan, the ancient city of pyramids outside Mexico City, known as the place where ‘Man becomes God,’” Ruiz explains. In the Toltec tradition, everyone is an artist who creates his or her own identity.
“It is important to teach grandchildren to use their eyes to see as an artist, to see the beauty in self and in others. As they grow, teach them to respect themselves and to understand they create their own life story … but that this is not all they are.”
“When we were children, we received the legacy of our parents and ancestors. Now this is our turn. We received the world a certain way, and we are modifying it. We can leave our children and grandchildren a new legacy … and our legacy is love, joy, and happiness.”
~ don Miguel Ruiz
Ruiz says children follow the Four Agreements “instinctively” — “until they learn otherwise from other children or adults.” But they can relearn the agreements as adults.
Although his ancestral teachings are well documented in his many works, Ruiz — who survived a near-fatal heart attack in 2002 and received a successful heart transplant in 2010 — believes his legacy will be his actions, how he lived his life. “Our grandchildren learn from what we do. If we are happy and enjoy life, they will live their life as they have seen us do.”
As for the paths his grandchildren choose, Ruiz harbors no expectations. “I don’t have special dreams for them. The only thing I wish for them is that they be happy and enjoy their lives in their own personal way.”
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Living the Agreements
Visit the don Miguel Ruiz website for a calendar or to register for upcoming speaking engagements, retreats, and workshops — including “Immerson into Love,” Tuscany, October 15 to 21 — and for more information or to purchase DMR’s books, CDs, videos, etc.
To learn more about Miguel’s newest project, in partnership with Eva Larrson, please visit The Agreements for Life website.
Susan Reynolds is a Boston-based writer whose works include Train Your Brain to Get Happy, Meditation for Moms, and Woodstock Revisited.
Pat Burns is a film critic and Regional Editor for GRAND Magazine, author of Grandparents Rock, and the happy grandmother of four.