“Is knowledge controlling you, or are you controlling knowledge?”
The Five Levels of Attachment, page 67
Building on the principles found in his father’s best-selling book (The Four Agreements) don Miguel Ruiz Jr. invites us to gauge how attached we are to our own viewpoint. In The Five Levels of Attachment, we gain awareness of agreements implicitly made across the years – agreements which shape our reality and affect our future. We are further shown how to release those which no longer reflect who we really are.
For the purposes of a common definition, this Toltec writer defines an “agreement” as the thoughts and beliefs we have said yes to.
The Soccer Analogy of Attachment
“Everything is made of light. We are the stars and the stars are us. When we see this, all of our senses are truly open and there is no need to interpret the world. In this moment, our full, unlimited potential is available to us. There is nothing blocking our way.”
The Four Agreements, page xiii
What happens is, instead of taking a given life experience for what it is, we create a story to make it fit our beliefs. Let’s look at how this process works via soccer team/game analogies that can be readily applied to any situation.
1. The Authentic Self: You enjoy watching the game for what it is. The moment the referee blows the ending whistle – win or lose – you go on with your life.
2. Preference: You now root for one team. You’ve invested an emotional side of yourself that enjoys the ups and downs of a great game, but are yet able to let go.
3. Identity: You’re a committed fan of one team. While you’re able to enjoy a beer with an opposing fan, your attachment extends beyond stadium gates.
4. Internalization: Your association with your favorite team is intrinsic to your identity. Your team’s performance affects self-worth. Whether others agree or disagree with you is a condition for acceptance versus rejection.
5. Fanaticism: You worship your team. An opposing fan is an enemy. In your eyes, a true fan is willing to die and kill for his or her soccer heroes.
By extension, don Miguel Ruiz Jr. points out it’s not much of a stretch to imagine the effects of believing any extreme idea in the realms of religion, politics, money, power or otherwise upon our collective consciousness (which he calls The Dream of The Planet).
Uncovering Your Assumptions
“By letting go of your attachment to what you think the melody should be, you open yourself to the potential to create a unique and beautiful song of your own composition or a collaboration that can be shared with others.”
The Five Levels of Attachment, page xviii
In this exercise, we’re invited to pretend we’re broken-hearted over our last relationship; our partner left us. Dating someone new for a few months, we’re waiting for their call and wondering why it’s not happening. Three possible explanations arise:
They’re out with friends.
They’re at the gym working out.
They’re cheating on us.
If we’re unaware of our assumptions, we’ll gravitate to the “narrative” that reinforces our assumptions as the mind’s attachments grow. At that moment, the door opens and in walks the paramour with bags full of food and goodies. “Surprise!” they say. Yet, we turn around in anger and pick a fight.
The antidote is to see our attachments for what they are. They’re merely one possibility. When presented a different truth, we can detach because the old belief no longer serves us.
Discovering the Foundation of Your Beliefs
“I am only responsible for what I say; I am not responsible for what you hear.”
The Five Levels of Attachment, page 19
Here’s an intriguing one: Tap into your memory and recall those experiences by which you made assumptions that were later shown to be untrue. Identify the missing pieces of information. Think about why you chose to fill in the gaps how you did at the time.
Back to the fictitious dating example, you assumed they were cheating. Unchecked, the wound of imagined betrayal would negatively impact not only your emotional sense of self but also reinforce faulty relationship beliefs.
Uncomfortable emotions are like car alarms: they let us know there’s a problem to attend to, thus allowing us to see our own truth. Whenever an emotion gets triggered, it’s an opportune moment to ask questions such as: What is this about? What agreement is at the heart of this? What attachment does this threaten? Do I really believe this? Is it important?
How freeing it is to know that our attachment to beliefs personal and collective can be cast off, like the mask they were in the first place. With awareness comes our ability to choose – to say yes or no all over again.
In this way, we experience the liberation of returning to our Authentic Selves, unhindered by judgment and open to pursue our true life’s calling.