Posts Tagged ‘ABC Talks To…’

ABC Talks To: author Colette Caddle

Friday, September 26th, 2014

On September 14th,  Colette Caddle was at the ABC Treehut in The Hague for a writing workshop at the invitation of the Irish Club.  Colette is the author of fourteen best-selling books, including First We Take Manhattan, Every Time We Say Goodbye and The Secrets We Keep.  She very kindly agreed to be interviewed by me prior to the workshop, and she was just as lovely as can be.  :-)

Have you ever been to the Netherlands?

Only once before, on a day trip from Antwerp with my husband. Our train broke down, though, so in the end we only spent a few hours in central Amsterdam rather than the entire day.  It’s so nice to have a few days in The Hague now.  When we arrived you saw all the modern architecture, but there are so many nice older areas, too.  And I just saw the rehearsal for Prinsjesdag!

Have you any favorite books featuring the Netherlands or Dutch people?

Not really, no, sorry.  The problem is that there are so many books out there, and when I’m writing I can’t read.  I get too distracted and I worry I start writing like whoever I’m reading, or I read something so great that I get disheartened and think “Why do I even bother?”.  So I don’t read when I write, and when I do have the time to read there is always a great big pile of books to choose from already.  And a lot of those are from friends that have books out, too.

Yes, speaking of which: what is in the Irish water that so many bestselling authors hail from there? (Only 6 million inhabitants!)

I’m not sure!  It’s in the blood, I suppose.  We are storytellers.  I don’t call my books “novels”, but rather stories, and I love telling them.  They can also be set anywhere, because we all have the same problems and issues.  I just happen to really like living in Dublin and Ireland so they’re generally set there.

Your books focus on relationships and overcoming hardships. You also mention in the FAQs on your website that boredom inspired you to write your first book. I assume that, 14 books later, that’s not the case anymore. But what does inspire you to keep writing, then?

Well, I really didn’t like my job at the time, and reading for me has always been about escapism.  So I was having a tough time at work, and I would sit on my own at lunch and read a book.  Then I read a terrible one, and I thought “Well, I can do better than that!”.  So I wrote a few chapters, and a friend knew Patricia Scanlan, and she told me to send it off to a publisher.  I did, and two days later I got a call that they wanted to publish it.  Nowadays you’re supposed to get an agent first who then goes to the publishers for you, but back then I did it backwards!  I got the publisher first and the agent next.

I only had a few chapters, though, but the publisher had a wonderful editor who really helped me with the rest of the story.  I would write something, she would read it and then say “Oh no, this is so out of character!”.  She talked about the characters in the book as if they were real.  We would meet up at her house, her husband would be cooking something and in the kitchen the three of us would discuss the book.

Halfway through that first book she died, however, and a week later my father died.  It’s a miracle that book, Too Little, Too Late, was ever written.  I really felt it was my duty to her to finish it.

As for inspiration for future books, well, I always get ideas everywhere I go.  They generally go on the back burner.  My books are contemporary, so they will reflect the times.  I’ve seen, with the crisis going on, people who have lost the safety of their jobs, and who have gone on to find a career doing something they truly loved.  That’s also the case with my latest book, First We Take Manhattan.  The main characters start their own millinery business, and it’s tiny, but they are doing what they love.  And with hard work and sheer luck they become successful.  That’s a combination that’s also true for success in real life.

Have you ever considered writing in other genres? If so, what genre?

Yes!  The past few books have been going steadily darker anyway, but I was asked to write a novella for an adult literacy program in Ireland, the Open Door series.  I had to write a story that would appeal to both men and women, in somewhat simplified English, and it turned into a crime novella.  The focus is still on relationships, but I got to write about the crime and the mystery, too.

If I do write in another genre I will write under a pseudonym, though.  My name is tied to a particular genre now, and I owe it to my readers to keep writing those stories.  They’ve supported me for so long!

You have some wonderful writing tips on your website (Don’t prevaricate; Be yourself; Show don’t tell; Plan the timeline; etc.). Which of your own tips do you find the hardest to follow?

Procrastination!  (Or “Discipline” on my website.)  It’s so hard to not get distracted!  I will allow myself to change the decor of the room, or anything else I notice that needs changing, once I finish the book.  My friends all tell me I’m happier when I’m writing a book, and I’ve noticed that too.  So I should just keep writing.

Do you think self-publishing (for example, via the Espresso Book Machine) is the way to go, or should aspiring writers still submit their manuscripts to traditional publishing houses?

I think you should try the traditional publishers first, because they offer professional editors.  There is nothing more important to me and my books than a good editor.  They give truthful advice that your family, for example, can’t give.  Your family will either be too kind or too cruel.

That’s not to say that self-publishing is a bad idea.  But I do think that, when I read self-published books, parts are missing that an editor could help fill or take out.  I highly recommend that, if you are self-publishing, you spend money on a good, professional editor.

Paper, digital or audio?

Definitely not audio, because that’s too much like TV to me.  I prefer to hear the characters in my head.  I think there’s room for both paper and digital.  I’ve found that people who love a book on their ereader will buy the paper version to have in their bookcases.

Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Fiction, because real life is too horrible at the moment!  If I do want to read non-fiction, it will generally be a biography.

What was your favorite book when you were growing up?

All the books by Enid Blyton.  Also, from school, Jane Austen.  I still have my school copies of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.

Who is your literary crush? (Or was, when you were younger.)

Mr. Darcy!  I loved that he seemed one way and turned out to be something else.  And I loved the fact that Lizzie and he learned to accept their shortcomings and love each other.

Have you ever bought a book for its cover?

Gosh!  I don’t think so.  Because I know so many authors I usually buy a book because it was recommended to me by them or because I know the writer.

What book changed your life?

Hmmm, I don’t believe in a book changing your life.  I will tell you the books that have touched me the most, though: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  You read those stories and you think “that’s still going on in the world today.”  It’s so easy to be humane from afar.

Have you ever faked reading a book?

Oh, gosh!  I haven’t faked reading a book, but I have not been able to finish books.  Classics or award-winning books that everyone claims are great, for example.  If they are too filled with negativity I find it very off-putting, so I’d rather not finish it and read something else.

What are you reading now?

Nothing because I’m editing my latest book.

ABC Talks To: SciFi author Django Wexler

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

By ABC Amsterdam Science Fiction & Fantasy buyer Tiemen

Hi Django! Welcome to the ABC blog. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what the Shadow Campaigns series are about?

Hi! I’m Django Wexler, I write fantasy and love all things SFF. The Shadow Campaigns is my military fantasy series, a story of war and magic in a world loosely based on Europe in the 18th century.

I loved reading The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne. They are quite different from your average medieval knights and damsels fantasy and instead of swords and dragons you have muskets and mortars. What inspired you to write flintlock fantasy?

I loved George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and especially the way he took a fantasy setting, the traditional knights-and-castles world, and brought it back to its historical roots in 13th or 14th century England. After reading it, I knew I wanted to do something similar — fantasy with strong historical roots — but I didn’t want to use a historical period that had been done over and over. A bit later, I was reading a book about the campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte, and realized how many amazing stories you could get out of that era. That was where The Shadow Campaigns got started, and got its roughly Napoleonic feel.

The character of Winter Ihernglass is such an amazing character. How did you come up with the idea of a woman masquerading as a man to enlist as a soldier?

It’s actually a pretty well-worn theme, to the point where I was initially a little nervous about using it for fear of being called cliché. But I really wanted to get a female main character into a book that might otherwise be all men. It’d be hard for her to openly be a soldier without straying too far from my historical model in terms of culture, but it didn’t work very well when I tried her in roles that weren’t really part of the army.

What finally decided me was reading about actual historical examples of women of that period dressing up as men to fight — it really happened, not just once or twice but literally hundreds of times. (We have no idea how many, really, since often they were never found out!) That made me really want to include something like it in the book, and from there that storyline grew until it’s probably the most important part of the series.

Both The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne seem heavily influenced by the period of the French Revolution and especially in The Thousand Names it is clear that you know your musket from your bayonet. What kind of research did you do for the books and to what extent do you follow historical events from that period?

It’s hard to say, because a lot of the “research” is just the kind of thing I read for fun in any case. I read a lot of military histories, and in particular I try to get a sense of how the battles of a particular age felt to the people involved and the kind of things that tipped them in one direction or another. Battles are kind of vague in a lot of fantasy, and I didn’t want to do that, so I dug a little deeper on the details. The trick is figuring out how much to put in to give the readers a good feel for it without boring them.

Originally, I was going to follow historical events fairly closely, but in a fictionalized world with a bit of magic thrown in. That quickly went by the wayside as I started plotting out the series, though, and the books I ended up with are at best “inspired by” historical events. There’s a few bits and pieces of the original intention left over — the reason Khandar is a hot, desert country, for example, is because it was originally based on Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798.

A lot of fantasy tends to focus on male characters with women playing a secondary part. What I like about the Shadow Campaigns is that you have a cast of female characters who are not merely side characters but play active and crucial parts, both on and off the battlefield. Was this a conscious choice?

That’s definitely a conscious choice. When I was plotting out the very first versions of the story, I realized I had an all-male cast, since it was based on the historical wars and focused on the military rather than the political side. That just seemed boring, so I went looking for ways to break that up with some characters who weren’t just “yet another military officer guy”. As the plot changed, I added more politics, which helped me get another set of wider-ranging characters into the story.

What’s interesting is that the character with the most influence on events, the brilliant colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, stays in the background for large parts of the story. Most of the time you read the story from the point of view of captain Marcus d’Ivoire as he is trying to figure out what cunning strategy his commander Janus is employing this time. I would almost characterize the relationship between the two as a kind of military version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Would you agree with that view?

That was definitely one of my models, along with Timothy Zahn’s Palleon and Thrawn, who I assume also have a Holmesian influence. The key is that writing from the point of view of a character who is supposed to be a genius is pretty hard, since you’d have to convey an enormous amount of information to the audience constantly, and it’s a little harder for us average folk to empathize with. Making the point of view character the more normal person who stands by the genius’ side actually gives a better view of events, while letting you preserve a little mystery and tension.

Besides writing flintlock fantasy you also started with a Young Adult fantasy series. Could you tell a bit about The Forbidden Library and was it a different experience to write for a younger audience?

The Forbidden Library is the story of Alice, a girl who comes downstairs one evening to find her father talking to a fairy in the kitchen. When he disappears soon after, she’s sent to live with her Uncle Geryon, and discovers he has a massive, magical library where her own powers are revealed. It’s a lot of fun because it has so many of the things I love in it: books, libraries, cats, portals to other worlds, and various strange creatures.

It wasn’t actually all that different from writing my adult books, mostly because I didn’t actually know what I was doing. I pretty much wrote the way I always write, although with a slightly simplified narrative structure (only one point of view, fewer characters) and a shorter target length. My editor did change a few words once I was done, but overall the experience hasn’t actually been that unusual!

And at last the final question, not really fantasy-related but nonetheless a very important life and death question: in the event of the zombie apocalypse what would be your choice of weapon and transportation?

Hrm. See, here’s what always bugs me about zombies — they are thermodynamically impossible, and to my mind that makes zombie stories Fantasy rather than SF or Horror. So a lot depends on how, precisely, the magic animating the zombies works. If we’re in fantasy, I think I’d go with some kind of magic sword as my weapon, preferably one of the ones that makes me into an invincible warrior; those don’t run out of ammo. (Or break, or get dull.) Likewise, horses would make for good transportation once the gas starts to run out. Pegasi or unicorns would be even better!

There are ebooks available for The Thousand Names, The Shadow Throne and The Forbidden Library.  Bonus: The Penitent Damned, a short prequel to The Thousand Names, is available for free online at

Bookbits for September 24th, 2013

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
  • A book doesn’t seem to be worth much at the moment unless it’s part of a series. And that’s why FictFact is heaven-sent, because they’ve already done the crazy work of listing all of them for you. Search from A-Z, by genre or author and be amazed about how many series are out there!
  • I read somewhere once that the trouble with new books is that they keep us from reading all the old ones. To help with this dilemma, here are some classics reduced to tweets.

This Bookbits was written by Sophie and Ester. We love everything fun, quirky and literary, so be sure to contact us if you find anything we can share here.

ABC Talks To: Author Dr. Bruce Lipton

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

“Ninety percent of sickness is connected to stress, and not the result of genes.”

An interview with Dr. Bruce Lipton by Femke Wijdekop.

Bruce Lipton is a cell biologist and the author of The Biology of Belief and Spontaneous Evolution. Described as a ‘scientist on caffeine’, Dr. Lipton is spreading the good news of Epigenetics all around the world. Why are the scientific findings of Epigenetics (also known as the ‘New Biology’) such good news? Read on and find out…

How did you get from being a University Professor, teaching mainstream science (maybe we can say “genetic determinism” to medical students), to being one of the spokesman of the New Biology?

Well, it’s a very interesting story, Femke, because I have to let people know first of all that when I was teaching medical school students and I was working at the university, I was not into the belief of spirituality at all. I was teaching life as genes and biochemistry and physical mechanisms. I had no grounding in spirituality.

And then my research, which was on stem cells (and I just want people to understand that I started my cloning of stem cells back in 1967 – that’s like 45 years ago. Most people think that stem cells are relatively new in the science community, but almost half a century ago, I was cloning them)  – the research was so profound, it blew my mind, and then ultimately caused me to leave the university when I was introduced to a new understanding of science. And the fun part was, that science was introduced to me by the cells I was studying!

Basically it was a very simple experiment. What I did was, I isolated one stem cell. A stem cell is the same as an embryonic cell. It has multi-potential. It can become anything. We call it a stem cell, not an embryotic cell, for a very simple reason: before you’re born, I would look at this cell and say “this is an embryotic cell”. And then the moment you are born, I look at the same cell and now I call it a stem cell. It’s just because after you are born, you are no longer an embryo so we change the name of the cell, but is still an embryonic cell.

So I put one cell in a petri dish all by itself and it divides every 10 to 12 hours, so I have one cell, two, four, eight, and it keeps doubling. And after a week I have maybe about 50.000 cells in the culture dish. But all of them came from the same parent-cell. So I have 50.000 genetically identical cells. Now here’s where the experiment actually blew my mind.

I take those 50.000 cells and split them into three different petri dishes. So I have three dishes with genetically identical cells in each dish. But I change the content of the culture medium – that is the fluid the cells live in. Cells are like fish: they have to live in an aquarium. And I make a culture medium with all the things they need to live. So that’s their environment.

Simply, I have three petri dishes, all the cells are genetically identical in all of the three dishes, and I change their environment by changing some of the chemicals in the culture medium. And in one dish, the cells formed muscle. Another dish, the cells formed bone. And in the third dish the cell formed fat cells. Well, it’s a very simple experiment, but it has a very profound meaning because the question I asked was “What controls the fate of the cells?” And the answer is the environment, for a very simple reason. All the cells were genetically identical. The only thing that was different was the environment.

So what it really showed is: the cells adjust their biology to the environment they are living in. So the control is not in the genes. And I was doing these experiments, and when I was doing these experiments I was also going to the classroom and teaching medical students that genes control life. That was the conventional story then. But my cells kept showing me that the genes had no control. And so basically, I started to try to find out: how did the environmental signals control the genes?

And it led to a new understanding, which is today a new science, a whole new field of science called Epigenetics. Now most everybody has learned the science of genetics in school. Genetics is the science of the DNA that represents the genes and the genes control our physical and our behavioral and our emotional life; that is the belief system, so we talk about genes controlling us. When you teach that to a person, what you are teaching them is that they are victims. For this reason: as far as we know, we do not pick the genes, and if we don’t like our traits, we can’t change the genes, so we are stuck with genes that control our lives and that means that since we didn’t pick these genes and the genes control us, we are victims of our heredity. That’s the belief. Let’s say there is cancer in your family or diabetes, or Alzheimers, and the belief is: “Oh, I am a genetic sibling, and therefore I have the genetics for these diseases and now I am going to be a victim of these diseases.” Well the new science, which I saw 47 years ago in the tissue culture dish, shows that the genes don’t control things, it’s the response to the environment. And all of a sudden I said ‘Oh my gosh, there is a whole new science’. Now the science is called Epigenetics – which is not the same as genetics. And Epi, the little “epi”, that means “above”. So if I say “genetic control”, the old story, that’s control by genes. But the new science is called Epigenetic Control and that simply means “control above the genes”. Now we realize genes don’t turn themselves on and off; genes don’t control anything: it’s the cell’s ability to read the environment and then the intelligence of the cell, the brain of the cell, controls the genes.

And when you ask “What’s so important about that?”, then I answer “Well if the environment controls your genetics, then that means that if you change your environment, or change your response to the environment, then you control your genes.” And all of a sudden I thought “Wait! I have been telling people in the Medical School all those years that genes control them… but the new science is WE control the genes.” And that becomes very important. Because we are not victims – we are masters, because we can change our environment, and we can change our response to the environment, and therefore we are not victims to the genes because we control it. Now of course there is a problem: if you don’t know that you control your genes by the way you live and the world that you live in, then you don’t realize that every action that you do in the world, is influencing your genetics. And this is where the problems come from: we always blame the genes, and it turns out only about five percent of the population in this whole world was born with genes that do not support their health and their happiness. Meaning, 95% of the people on this planet were born with genes that should allow them to be healthy, and have a happy, wonderful, loving experience on this planet. And when we look at all the sickness around the planet, you say “Look at all the sick people!” and then I say “It’s not the genes, it’s the environment and the way we are living that causes that sickness, and if we understand that then we can personally take actions to control our lives and to control our genes.”

I know that was a long answer, Femke. (laughs)

Beautiful. So much information. But this is a true revolution in our thinking: the fact that we are not controlled by our genes but that our beliefs influence and control our genes. And that we are the masters of our lives to a big extent. So what was the reaction of your academic environment to your discoveries back in the ‘60s?

I have to tell you they really didn’t support it because back in the 60’s, that’s when the move to genes and the future Human Genome Project and all that focusing on genes, and all my colleagues were working on genetic research and I am the one guy in the room that says “I don’t think genes are that important!” And so at some point, they didn’t really support my work and they were not being, what I thought, good scientists because my research was repeatable. You could repeat the experiment over and over again and get the same results every time, but it just didn’t fit their belief system. And I left the university, and then I did my own research and tried to find out how the environment controls the cells. And the fun part about that was, that research led me to the connection between the mind and the body.

Right, because what you first discovered was that the environment controlling the cells in the dishes, but than there’s the other step of the environment not only being the physical environment, but also our thoughts and our level of consciousness, right?

Absolutely. You know a lot of people talk about the mystery of the mind and the body and I can tell you in about two minutes that there is no mystery, and I can explain how the mind and the body are connected. And it is so simple. Remember, I have a petri dish with cells in it and the environment of that petri dish controls the fate of the cells. So for a very simple understanding: if I take my plastic dish with cells and put it into a bad environment, the cells get sick. You can see that; you can watch them get sick. And now I have a plastic dish with sick cells in it, and the conventional belief would be: “oh your cells are sick, we should give them some medicine.” And I go ‘absolutely not’.. all you do to make the cells healthy again, is take them out of the bad environment, move them back into the good environment, and they instantly become healthy again. So the point about it is this: the fate of a cell, its health or disease for example, is not in the gene program. The health and the disease of a cell is a response of the cell to the environment.  Your health is a reflection of how you respond to your environment.

So then you say “How does that connect?” And so here is the simple, quick understanding of the relation between mind and body, and it goes somethings like this: Basically I say that the fate of the cell is dependent on the culture medium. And then I say when you look at yourself, Femke, in the mirror, and you see yourself, you see a single human being looking back named Femke. And I go “yeah, but that’s not really a true perception,” for the reason that you are not a single, living entity… your body is made of about 50 trillion cells. The cells are the living entity! When you say “Femke”, and I say “Bruce”, you are speaking and I am speaking for 50 trillion cells in a community! Your body is not a “one thing”… it’s a community of 50 trillion cells. So here’s the simple truth: your body is the same as a petri dish with 50 trillion cells in it, but it is a skin-covered petri dish, not a plastic petri dish. Inside your body, you have a culture medium. The culture medium is called the blood. And so the chemistry of the blood controls the fate of the cells, just exactly the same as the chemistry of the culture medium controls the fate of the cells in the plastic dish; the chemistry of your blood controls the fate of your skin-covered dish. So now basically, it says, your health or your sickness is not really based on genetics, but is based on the culture medium called ‘blood’.

And then I say “OK, what controls the chemistry of the blood?” And here comes the connection: the chemistry of the blood in your body is controlled by the brain. The brain releases hormones and specials factors and signals that release into the body. These chemicals from the brain go into the blood (the culture medium) and then these chemicals control the genetics of the cell. So all of a sudden it says: “Your body is a skin covered petri dish. Your cells have a culture medium called blood. And the chemistry of the culture medium is controlled by your brain.” Now I have to ask the next most important question: “But what chemicals does the brain put into the blood?” And then I answer “It’s based on your belief and your mind, and your perceptions.” A very simple point: if you open your eyes and see someone you love in front of you, your brains releases beautiful chemicals like dopamine and oxytocine and growth hormones. These chemicals, released by the brain when you are in love, when they are in the blood they cause the cells to be very healthy.

If I take the same chemicals from your brain, and put them in a plastic petri dish with cells in it, the cells grow beautifully. That’s why, when you experience love in your life, the chemistry of your brain is controlled by your mind and the mind is perceiving love, but the brain in response to the mind releases those chemicals. And that’s why you feel so healthy and happy and energized when you feel in love. Because the culture medium contains those wonderful chemicals. But then I say “Wait! What if you open your eyes and you see something that scares you?” “Oh,” I say “then you release totally different chemicals into the blood.” When you are scared, you release stress hormones and you release immune system-controlling chemicals and all these different chemicals that make you ready for fight of flight. Well the point is, if I take those chemicals released by the brain when you are in fear, and put them into the petri dish, guess what? It causes the cells to stop growing.. and if you keep those chemicals in the petri dish, the cells will actually start to get sick and die.

This is relevant because most people in this world are living in fear. Most people are afraid of their future and their life and not being loved or whatever. And that means that during the day, the chemicals they release from their brain are chemicals that shut down their growth and shut down their immune system. The more stress you are under, the more sickness the cells express. Because the culture medium, the blood of a stressed person, has chemicals that actually shut down the growth of the cells. So all of a sudden it says ‘we have been looking at sickness as a result of genes or bad chemistry in the body, and now we find that 90 % of sickness is really connected to stress’. And the reason why is because the mind in stress releases chemicals into the blood, the culture medium for your body cells, that cause the cells to stop growing and strike down the immune system. And that’s why when we are stressed, we get sick, and the world is very stressed right now…

To listen to the entire interview, click on the links below or visit ABC’s Soundcloud page.

ABC Talks To: Author and Toltec Nagual Don Miguel Ruiz

Friday, January 18th, 2013

“If we start changing, like a miracle everything around us will start changing right away”

An interview with Don Miguel Ruiz by Femke Wijdekop.

Don Miguel Ruiz is the author of The Four Agreements, a surgeon-turned-shamanic healer and one of the ‘grandfathers’ of the Self Help industry. He recently published The Fifth Agreement, together with his son Don Jose Ruiz. Excited to visit the Netherlands for the first time last October, Don Miguel agreed to do an interview with ABC.

We started off the three of us: Don Miguel in Quito, Ecuador (where he would deliver a presentation to the Secretary of Tourism the next day), Don Jose on a mountaintop in California and me behind my laptop in good old Dutch Haarlem. However, a Californian storm disrupted our Skype connection with Don Jose and soon Don Miguel and me continued the conversation on our own, talking about lies, truth and ultimate liberation of realizing our perfection is already established.

Don Miguel, could you tell our customers that haven’t read your books yet, what the four agreements are and why they are so important?

The Four Agreements is an introduction to a whole way of life. You know, the word “Toltec” means artist. From that point of view every single human is an artist. These four agreements help us to shift our attention from what we learned all of our life, and start seeing the beauty in everything that surrounds us. As soon as we start perceiving beauty, our whole life will change right away, because from that moment, all the judgements end, all the opinions end and we understand that every single human is here on planet Earth with one mission and one mission only for everyone. And that mission is to enjoy life, to enjoy the beauty of life. To really make a difference in the creation. Because we all are artists.

Once that we understand that, we are no longer searching for perfection, for perfection is just the biggest lie that we all learn. With that point of view, we understand that we are already perfect. We don’t need to search for perfection and from that point of view our whole life starts shifting. Because really we can enjoy every single moment of our creation, every interaction that we have in life is so enjoyable.

And these four agreements are an introduction to live our life in that way, and it’s extremely simple. The first one is ‘be impeccable with your word’, then ‘don’t take anything personally’, ‘don’t make assumptions’, ‘always do your best’. Four simple agreements that challenge everything that we learned in our lives. When we have that awareness, we can start changing everything and we can see how our life changes completely. Because if we change our own story, the benefit is not just ours, but is also for the people who surround us, like our beloved, our children, our brothers, sisters or society or parents, religion or country, etcetera.

These four agreements are the introduction to that way of life. And The Fifth Agreement is the conclusion, the end of that training.

What I read in the four agreements is that these agreements serve to break other agreements, agreements with illusions, with lies that we have made when we were very young. We were ‘domesticated’ as human beings, just like cats and dogs are. So how did we create or make these agreements, when we were very young, with ideas and beliefs that don’t serve us?

Well, we have to understand that when we were born, we had no knowledge. We didn’t choose where to be born, we didn’t choose the language, we didn’t choose the religion. But our parents hooked our attention and they started downloading to us what they believed. Every single word, everything that we learned, the whole language that we speak, is only true because we agree with the meaning of every word. It is only true because it’s an agreement, not because it is the Truth. But it’s working. We can communicate with each other by using the language. Then when we learn a language, we also learn a way of life of society, the way of life of our family. This is what we learn and what we practice all the time.

In certain points of life, we start searching for our own identity, what we believe we are, the way we love to be perceived, the way we express. We create a whole story – the story of our life, that is true for ourselves but for nobody else. When we believe in that story, we believe that that is the truth.

And on a planet where 7 billion people live, and every one believes that they have the truth and that everybody else is wrong, then we can understand easily the behaviour of humanity. We can understand the war, the injustice, the violence, poverty.. We can understand why society is the way it is. Because we really believe in the agreements that we made.

But with these four simple agreements we can challenge our whole way of life. It’s like Jose was saying, it’s nothing but common sense, and it’s extremely simple. But once we apply it, it looks extremely difficult. Like to be impeccable with your word looks almost impossible. Not to take anything personally also looks impossible. Not to make assumptions – wow..

But what we can really do is do our best all the time. And this is what I really like the most.

Me too..

(Laughs) Because we can see that everything that surrounds us, everything that we humans create, first exists in the mind, and with the action we make it real. Then we understand all the cultures that exist here on the planet since thousands of years, until now.

You call this state of being trapped in lies and trapped in confusion, you call this ‘mitote’. Is that right?

Yes, the mitote we could say is our knowledge speaking in our head. You know, knowledge has a voice that no one can hear but us. And we call it ‘thinking’. And in our thinking we create big dialogues. It’s like a thousand people talking at the same time, and nobody is listening. And that’s what we call ‘mitote’. Mitote is a word that comes from Nagual and means ‘big gossip’. When everybody wants to talk at the same time, and nobody is listening. This is what our mind is – a big mitote. A lot of thoughts. Like a wild horse that is going nowhere. But it’s a lot of noise in our head that only we can hear. Sometimes we cannot even sleep because we are thinking and thinking.. It’s incredible all the noise that exists in our mind. And that’s the reason why humanity is searching for inner peace for thousands of years. That’s how we created yoga, meditation, chanting, mantra’s.. music. Whatever can stop the mind is worth it, to find inner peace.

I really love the passage you wrote in The Voice of Knowledge about your not being able to sleep and going out into the desert. There you had the experience of feeling so alive, and so connected to everything you saw around you. It seemed like you shifted from the identification with Don Miguel to identifying with something bigger. It was a real expansion in consciousness, would you describe it that way?

Yes, what I found out, that wonderful, inspiring night, is that there is only one being and that it’s alive. I saw all the stars and I knew that all the stars are part of one being, and it’s alive. It’s something extremely interesting. I see all the stars, and I knew without a doubt, that the light that comes from one of these stars, they come from a different distance and a different speed. They come from millions of lightyears, far from my eyes. And every star sends a light in a completely different time. But I was perceiving all that light at the same time.

Then I understood completely that there is no real time-and-space. I understood at that moment that I’m part of all those stars. In the same way I perceive them, they also perceived me. And I looked around, and I saw the beautiful desert, I saw the Earth. And I knew it’s alive, and it’s part of the same being. And I look at my hands, and of course being a surgeon, being a medical doctor, I know that they are made by cells, and every single cell is a whole universe, and the cell is made by billions of atoms, just like the stars. And there’s 7 billion humans. And I understood the entire humanity is only one living being. And it is alive – that there is no difference between men and women. That all together, we are humanity. And I also understood that humanity is just an organ of this planet Earth, just like the atmosphere is another organ, the ocean is another organ, the forest is another organ.. well, every single species is an organ, and we all work together to maintain the equilibrium of the planet Earth, what I call the metabolism of the planet Earth.

Once you have that awareness, you start to feel an intense gratitude. So intense that the tears are coming out of your eyes. It starts to change right away into generosity. You want to share with whoever wants to listen, that experience.

What was the biggest lie that you had to unmask yourself, in your own life?

That of perfection. Because this is the biggest lie that humans believe. Since I was a child, I always feared that nobody’s perfect. I went to church, they say that nobody is perfect. I went to university, they say that nobody is perfect. Everybody around me says that nobody is perfect, and they use that to justify whatever mistake they do. They say ‘oh I’m just a human, I’m not perfect’. We are completely wrong! Everyone is perfect.. they just don’t understand their own perfection. Every single human is unique. There is no one like you, there never was any one like you and there never will be any one like you. You are unique. And that uniqueness is perfect. You’re perfect just the way you are. When you finally recognize that, then you find out that you respect everything, including yourself. You don’t try to impose your beliefs on anyone. Because they have the right to belief whatever they want to – it’s OK. It’s not personal. And life becomes easy.

So you don’t only free yourself to be who you are, but you also free others from the way you want them to be.

Exactly, you don’t try to control anyone. And no one really can control you.

To listen to the whole interview, click the audio files below, or visit ABC’s Soundcloud page.