Allan, The Reluctant Apprentice

The story of Allan Hardman’s apprenticeship with Miguel Ruiz

Early in 1995, I dreamed one night that I was in a simple little cafe somewhere, maybe in Mexico. As I was leaving, I noticed an older Mexican man sitting in a booth with a younger man, talking earnestly. I knew as I saw them that the older man was a teacher, or Nagual, and I said to myself, "I want a teacher like that! He is like don Juan in the Castaneda books." As I began to stop, I decided that they were speaking Spanish and that there would be no way to communicate with them, so I continued out the door. When I got outside, I realized that they were speaking English, but it was clear to me in the dream that it was too late to go back. I had missed my opportunity.

I vowed that I would never let that opportunity pass again.

Within a few weeks, the events of my life lead me to don Miguel Ruiz, the Nagual of the Toltec Eagle Knight lineage. I did not let the opportunity pass. In those early days, we drove the two hours from our home in Santa Rosa to Sacramento whenever he visited, sitting on the floor in living rooms of various apprentices, soaking up the magic of don Miguel's love and the wisdom of the Toltecs.

As an apprentice, I was a tough case. I already "knew" too much. Shortly after I met don Miguel I went on my first power journey to the Toltec pyramids at Teotihuacán. Before we went, we were told to bring two 9 volt batteries because there was going to be a very large group, and they were going to give us walkie-talkie headsets so we could hear Miguel. I was already not liking the whole thing. I was a workshop leader, I was a therapist, and I "knew" a lot about teaching and workshops. So this trip was already not looking too good. Too many people! I thought Miguel was pretty interesting, and I intended to have some quality time with him, preferably alone. I needed him to give me the freedom from my pain that I was searching for!

So I went on the trip, and from that start in my mind, it kin da went down hill. I tried to like it, but about half way through the experience, I was lost in the group, listening to Miguel on the headset, not getting the special attention I thought I needed, and then Miguel asked other people in the group to help, to lead the work. People that I didn't even know! It put me over the edge. I was really upset about it. I paid money to Miguel, and I wanted Miguel to teach me. Here he had these other people teaching and immediately I decided that they weren't doing it very well. You have to remember I "knew" a lot about workshops. Sounds like Hell, doesn't it?

I knew I was judging-- I knew a lot about the judge because I knew about psychology. I was filled with poison, and I knew that if I could dump it somewhere I could get rid of it. But where? Who? So I picked someone that I thought would listen to my poison, and started telling them my opinion about Miguel. "Miguel is doing this all wrong, and I don't want to put up with this, and who are these people anyway, and why isn't he paying more attention to me," and on and on.

And Miguel knew. That evening, when we had class, Miguel called me up and put me in front of the room to do some work with me to help me see my judge and why I was in hell and what the problem was. What my problem was by then was that I felt embarrassed in front of all of those strangers, and it was going downhill even faster. He was trying to help me out of my hell, but I couldn't hear it. He even told a wonderful story about Sidartha and Maya, but I was so lost in hell I never heard the story at all. I didn't hear a thing he said. And when he got all done he said, "Now look at all of them, what do you see?", as if the story had shifted my perspective or something. But I had not been able to listen to it. Then I was really in trouble, really in hell, there was no way I could do this right. But I knew the right answer... so I looked out there and said "I see love in everyone."

I was not fooling him in the least, of course! I was hoping for "Good boy, you can sit down now," but he kept trying to help me. I was a tough apprentice. And you know what I wanted to tell him? "You don't get that I get it! I understand what I'm doing. I don't have to go through this." I wanted him to know who I thought I was, and that I was hip to what was going on here, and I didn't need this teaching. I still wasn't getting it.

That night I sat in my room and tried to understand what was going on. I was pretty confused because I thought I was rather sophisticated about psychology and the sub-personalities like the Judge, but I really did not understand what Miguel expected of me. Finally, I went to sleep.

The next morning we had class, and Miguel addressed my confusion point by point. I don't know what was worse: not understanding what he was trying to teach me or realizing that he had some way of knowing what I was thinking. I still did not get it. I was still afraid, still not understanding why my answer about seeing love was not the "right" answer. I was used to knowing the right answers.

There was no big revelation that awakened me. I don't remember anything that don Miguel said or did that shifted my "reason" out of all that it "knew."

But somewhere near the end of that week in Teotihuacán, drawn into Miguel's powerful dream of unconditional love and acceptance, healed by the power of Teo itself... by the time I had walked the Avenue of the Dead and arrived in the plaza we call "Heaven," I was in heaven, I was in Love. And what a relief! It wasn't the end of hell in my life by any means, but I found out what heaven tasted like, and there was no turning back, no saying, "Well, so what?" And so my need for heaven, my thirst, my hunger for heaven and love just got stronger and stronger and stronger.

But you know, for another year I still "knew" all the answers. I still needed my mask that said "I already know that. Maybe I can help you understand it." I needed my strategy, my mask, to satisfy my need for perfection. I could not afford to not know. I could not really be a student. I had to already know all the answers

I am really grateful for a couple of little moments. We were at an apprentice meeting in Los Angeles, and we were going to lunch. We were standing at the back of Miguel's car, and I asked him a personal question about myself.

I had never really hung out with Miguel in a personal relationship. I just stayed in the back of the room, listening. First of all, I was afraid that if I got too close, he would find out that I didn't really "know." Better to stay near the back, nodding my head, and saying "Good point, Miguel, good point!" And I took notes, lots of notes, in case I had to repeat what he said-- like there would be a test or something, and I had to have the right answers.

He was sort of unnerving, because even if I sat up close and caught his eye and nodded vigorously, as if to say "Good point, Miguel, we are on the same page here," I could never hook his attention. He would never give me the look that smiled and said, "Yes, son, I'm glad you know what I'm talking about." I was always left flopping around wearing my know-it-already mask. But I held on to it!

So there I was, at the back of his car, putting something in the trunk, and I asked him my question. And he answered me, he gave me a gift. And I said something like: "Oh, yeah, that's what I thought, I know that. That's what I do."

Shortly afterward, one of the other apprentices said to me, "Do you know what you just did?" And I heard it. It was a little like my dream, walking away from the teacher. Right there I stopped doing it, and that is when I really started learning from Miguel. I finally became his apprentice that day.

It wasn't until our journey to Peru, some months later, that I burned that mask. In a fire ceremony at Pisac. I burned my mask that said "I already know," in that sacred fire.

After burning my mask, however, I felt like a scared little boy that was saying: "Without my mask, I can't protect myself. I don't know the answers. Nobody will like me." And a very dear teacher, la Doņa, pointed out to me that the frightened little boy was a mask, also. That scared little boy wasn't who I truly was either. I am a man, and a man of personal power, if I would only believe it. So I burned that mask too. I burned it in the sacred fire at Pisac. When I burned that second mask, I didn't need the first one at all. Then I was really ready to be an apprentice. Then I could really learn what it means to love and to be loved without condition. I could open my heart to Miguel, to all of my brothers and sisters, and be in service to a wonderful new dream. And I still am.

The punch line to my story is that I returned to Teo (and Peru, Guatemala) with don Miguel many times since that first trip, and he did a perfect job. I have no complaints. It is amazing how he improved so rapidly! And now I am one of those people that teach, the ones that I was so afraid of those many years ago. My final few years with don Miguel were at his monthly Dreaming Intensives, and I am grateful for that experience with him. In 2005 I ended my formal association with don Miguel, and now carry his Toltec lineage through my websites, travel, and teaching. I remain eternally grateful for his guidance on this journey of Life, and do hope that you and I can share it some day.

IN love.



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Allan Hardman is an author and expert on personal and spiritual transformation, relationships, emotional healing-- and a Toltec Master in the lineage of don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements.™ Allan teaches in Sonoma County, CA, and from “The House of the Eagles,” his winter home in Chacala, Nayarít, Mexico. He guides Journeys of the Spirit to sacred sites in Mexico, and hosts wellness vacations in Chacala. He is the author of The Everything Toltec Wisdom Book, and co-author of two books with Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss, Dr. Andrew Weil, Prince Charles, and others. Visit Allan’s extensive website at, and TACO, his online spiritual membership community.