A woman who read my first book Dance of Power which is about my apprenticeship with Sister Sarita and Don Miguel Ruiz asked me what had stopped me from throwing my hands up in frustration and saying “I quit.” As she read my book she kept thinking, “If that had happened to me I would have quit.” The best answer I had for her at the time was that I knew I had to continue, quitting just wasn’t an option. I knew my freedom required for me to fully embrace the Toltec Wisdom.

A few days later I was sitting in the sanctuary of a Catholic Church meditating. When I opened my eyes a group of children were coming out of the back room. All, except one, were bouncing along. One little boy was very solemnly carrying a bottle of oil. He reverently walked along in silence. He seemed to understand the sacred nature of the act that was about to be performed. I wondered if he would be able to hold on to his sacred connection or if he would lose it as he grew older. I closed my eyes and continued to meditate.

The question of why I had gone on when others would have quit surfaced. Over the years I’ve seen so many people quit right before a major break through. Just before they achieved a deep sense of peace and freedom they stopped doing the very things that were creating that freedom. At the moment they were about to experience a miracle I’ve seen people convince themselves that they need to do something else, or they need more time for themselves, or . . . the reasons are endless. What stopped me from doing that?

I know we’re all the same. Why is it I went on when others didn’t? I was sitting near a statue of Jesus and I began to wonder what he did, how did he achieved personal freedom? I felt that his personal freedom was rooted in a deep sense of love and compassion for himself and others. I know we all need to be gentle with ourselves; we need to accept our process and honor where we are before we can move forward. Love and compassion are far better motivators than fear and judgment.

I realized that great teachers like Buddha, Lao Tse, and Jesus we totally dedicated to experiencing and sharing their divinity. During the course of their lives they had made certain things non-negotiable. They prayed and meditated on a regular basis. They did what ever it took to maintain a deep and clear connection to their spiritual selves. That connection became like the very air we breath, a non-negotiable part of life.

In my classes I often talk about the need for discipline and dedication, two words we hate to hear. They had the discipline to overcome any obstacle. They saw themselves as God had created them rather than as their minds perceived them. Einstein once said that the most important decision a person could make was whether we lived in a friendly or hostile universe. From direct experience they knew God was all loving, they knew the universe was a friendly place.

When I finished my meditation I realized I had a much clearer answer for the question of how I’d managed to continue. I made certain things non-negotiable. I prayed and meditated daily. I had a loving mentor who told me to find a place I could talk to God and go there ever day. Every morning I went to the beach and prayed. My prayer was very simple – please love me. I would open my heart and let that love in, and then I would go about my day.

As much as possible I maintained an attitude of humility. Whenever I was unsure of what to do or how to do it, rather than guessing, I would say I don’t know. As soon as I admitted I didn’t know I became teachable and the answers would come. When I felt totally hopeless and didn’t want to go on I remembered quitting wasn’t an option.

I remember many nights getting out of my warm bed to finish my list of

non-negotiable things. In the corner of my mirror there was a small white index card with a list of four things. The first was to stand in front of the mirror, look deeply into my eyes and talk loving to myself twice a day. The second was go to the beach and pray. The third was meditate and the fourth write in my journal.

I never allowed myself to stay in bed and do them tomorrow because after all doing them was non-negotiable. Non-negotiable means no room for negotiation, none what so ever. We never negotiate our need for air. We never put off our next breath until tomorrow. If we want to continue to live, breathing is non-negotiable. My hunch is Buddha, Lao Tse, and Jesus were all very well acquainted with discipline and dedication and the concept of making things non-negotiable. They said they were no different from us, we could do the same things and even better, if we wanted to.

Do you want your life to be full of happiness and joy or pain and struggle? The choice is yours. And it all depends on how willing you are to exert discipline and dedication and to make things non-negotiable.

With love and aloha,