Don Miguel Ruiz, the writer from Tijuana who is a bestseller in the U.S.

The author is a sort of spiritual guide for many, especially for celebrities and influential figures

Photo by: Facebook Miguel Ruiz

He emerged, as sometimes happens, almost out of nowhere. One day he was unknown and the next he was a bestseller invited to important television programs. At least that's how it seems from here, where he is not as well known as others of his lineage, such as Paulo Coelho, Osho, Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer, to mention a few.

Don Miguel Ruiz is one of those writers who transmit messages of optimism, motivation and self-improvement. Self-help. And, as we know, they are not writers who enjoy that elusive quality we call prestige. Rather, they are famous, commercially successful and influential.

What distinguishes Ruiz is a seemingly humble background. It seems so because when researching Ruiz in various places on the Internet it is difficult to find anything that sheds a more or less nuanced light on his origins and the conditions in which he grew up. Rather, everything you find seems to have been written and edited by press agents and publicists: a carefully narrated story in which Ruiz's overcoming of the "Don" is constantly highlighted every time it is mentioned, all the millions of copies he sold and the dozens of languages into which his most famous book - The Four Agreements, first published in 1997 - has been translated.

In that story, there is a childhood in a "rural" Mexico (not even Wikipedia lists the exact location) and a whopping 13 siblings, of which Miguel was the youngest.

We continue in the same story and in it there is an important time jump: suddenly Miguel Ruiz is no longer the youngest of 13 siblings. Now he is a young surgeon, who begins to practice with one of his brothers in the city of Tijuana. Another leap in time and now Ruiz suffers an event that radically alters his existence: a traffic accident puts him on the brink of death.

iStock Photo
iStock Photo

Apparently, that brush with the Grim Reaper prompted him to take a vital turn. Ruiz leaves surgery behind and starts writing about some of the questions and uncertainties that this glimpse of the end of existence makes him see.

Ruiz's first step on his new path could not be more auspicious. The book Los cuatro acuerdos is a resounding bestseller: millions of copies sell like hot cakes and the writer's last name does not take long to become what English speakers call "household name", that is, a name that is present in every home.

Find the book "The Four Agreements" on Amazon:

The English term is not whimsical. Despite his name and country of origin, Ruiz's fame is essentially American and in English, not Spanish. In fact, there is not a single word in Spanish on his entire official website (he, meanwhile, resides somewhere in the state of Nevada, which is not in Mexico).

That book gets him on shows like the Oprah Winfrey show. A presence there is a remarkable amplifier of fame and success, plus it is also a legitimization for other celebrities to approach and thus reproduce the cycle of recognition and repercussion.

Those four agreements to which Ruiz refers in his book (and in all the talks, interviews, articles and television appearances) start with "be impeccable with your words" (that is: do what you say you will do). In a television piece for the Univision channel in 2015, Ruiz himself says that that first motto is the most important of all. "Because you are your word." Then comes "don't take anything personally," "don't make assumptions" and, finally, "always do your best".

With these postulates - simple to say but difficult to fulfill - Ruiz established himself as a sort of life guru or existential coach, capable of inspiring and motivating others, particularly successful people. One example is the American athlete Tom Brady, one of the great football figures who some time ago declared that Ruiz's book was the "mantra" of his life. According to Brady, Ruiz's pages taught him to "delegate, be more honest and accept when things don't work out as planned".

The success of that book continues to mark him. Although he has written many more titles, on his own or with others, the debut had such an impact that it continues to reverberate almost 25 years after its publication, with more than 10 million copies sold and translations into more than 40 languages.

The traffic accident was not the only misfortune he has had. Almost 20 years ago, he was in a coma for several days. He recovered and published another book: "El arte tolteca de la vida y la muerte" (The Toltec Art of Life and Death). In the title of that book there is another key to Ruiz's uniqueness: the Toltec as a highlight. The Mexican's style employs the word not from the historical rigor to designate the particularities of that culture. Rather, Ruiz uses the word as a signifier of vague and generic indigenous beliefs that can serve as inspiration to appease the frenzy of postmodern, urban and digital life.

Find the book "The Toltec Art of Life and Death" on Amazon:

Recently, Ruiz published the fourteenth title in his bibliography: "Eros - Return to Unconditional Love", written with his partner Barbara Emrys.

The name of the book may lead one to think of the more romantic and "Western" conception of love, with its insistence and demand for exclusivity and unconditionality (once certain conditions are met, paradoxically) in love relationships.

However, already on the cover of the book there is an image that is not compatible with that notion of love: a hand "holds back" the arrows with which Eros, in Greek mythology, captivates the hearts of future lovers.

Find the book "Eros - Return to Unconditional Love" on Amazon:

In reality, says Ruiz, that conception of love is the fruit of a series of stories we are told from birth and then tell ourselves. "We tell ourselves stories to make our reality seem a little more real (...) We have been telling stories to other human beings for thousands of years to communicate things and to entertain ourselves. And regardless of how we tell them, every story is made up of the same essential components. It has its beginning and its end. It has its dialogue and twists. And its heroes and villains”.

Ruiz borrows concepts from Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) when he writes about stories that are "programmed" in the brain and then influence conceptions of the world and how these then influence behavior.

In short: if one is "programmed" with certain ideas during childhood, those ideas will have a major influence in adulthood and can shape behaviors for both good and bad. But not only that: one could "reprogram" oneself to change the integrated circuits of the mind.

That is why, says the Mexican, it is possible to acquire a different conception of love, one that is not romantic, but more generous and realistic.

Related Video: Don Miguel Ruiz, Tijuana writer and author of " The 4 Agreements".

With information by Fabián Muro from El País


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