Adapted from "The Voice of Knowledge" by don Miguel Ruiz, published by Amber-Allen.

Before we were born, a whole society of storytellers was already here. The storytellers who were here before us taught us how to be human. First they told us what we are-a boy or a girl-then they told us who we are, and who we should or shouldn't be. They taught us how to be a woman or how to be a man. They told us to be a proper woman, a decent woman, a strong man, a brave man. They gave us a name, and they told us the role we would play in their story. They prepared us to live in the human jungle, to compete with one another, to impose our will, to fight against our own kind. They filled us with knowledge, and of course we believed them. From the storytellers around us, we learned how to create our own story.

By exploring the story that we create, I discovered that the story has a voice. You can call it "thinking" if you want. I call it "the voice of knowledge" because it's telling you everything you know. It's always trying to make sense out of everything. That voice is always there. It never stops. It's not even real, but you hear it. You can say, "Well, it's me. I'm the one who is talking." But if you are the voice that is talking, then who is listening?

The voice of knowledge can also be called the liar who lives in your head. The liar speaks in your language, but your spirit, the truth, has no language. You just know truth; you feel it. The voice of your spirit tries to come out, but the voice of the liar is stronger and louder and it hooks your attention almost all of the time. You hear the voice, and what is it telling you? "Look at you. Who do you think you are? You will never make it. You aren't smart enough. Why should I try? Nobody understands me. How can I be happy when millions of people are dying of starvation?"

That voice is usually lying because it's the voice of what you have learned, and you have learned so many lies, mainly about yourself. The voice of knowledge can come from your own head, or it can come from people around you, but your emotional reaction to that voice is telling you, "I'm being abused." Every time we judge ourselves, find ourselves guilty, and punish ourselves, it's because the voice in our head is telling us lies. Every time we have a conflict with our parents, our children, or our beloved, it's because we believe in lies, and they believe in them, too.

But it's not just that. When we believe in lies, we cannot see the truth, so we make thousands of assumptions and we take them as truth. One of the biggest assumptions we make is that the lies we believe are the truth! For example, we believe that we know what we are. When we get angry we say, "Oh, that's the way I am." When we get jealous: "Oh, that's the way I am." But is this true? I'm not sure about that. I used to make the assumption that I was the one who said all those things that I didn't want to say. It was a big surprise when I discovered that it was not me; it was the way I learned to be. And I practiced and practiced until I mastered that performance.

Two thousand years ago one of the greatest masters said, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Free from what? From the storyteller who lives in your head and talks to you all the time. I no longer have that voice in my head, and I can assure you that it's wonderful. When the voice in your head finally stops talking, you experience inner peace.

That voice has been in control of your head for so many years, and no, it won't give up just because you want it to leave you alone. But at least you can challenge it by not believing what it tells you. If you follow these two rules, all the lies that come from the voice of knowledge won't survive your skepticism and will simply disappear.

Rule number one: Don't believe yourself. Listen to your story, but don't believe it because now you know that it's mostly fiction. When you hear the voice in your head, don't take it personally. You know that it's usually lying to you. Listen and ask if it's speaking the truth or not. Lies can only survive if you believe them. If you don't believe your own lies, you can make better choices based on truth.

Rule number two: Don't believe anybody else. You know that if you lie to yourself, surely other people lie to themselves. And if they lie to themselves, they will lie to you also. When people talk, you have no idea if what they are saying is coming from their heart or from the liar who lives in their head. Listen to other people tell their story, but don't believe them. You know that it's just a story that is only true for them, but listen because the communication can be wonderful.

You can change your life by refusing to believe your own lies. Start with the main lies that limit the expression of your happiness and your love. If you take your faith away from the lies, they lose their power over you. Then you can recover your faith and invest it in different beliefs. If you stop believing in lies, your whole life changes just like magic. You will be free of fear, drama, and conflict. This is the absolute truth, and I cannot put it more simply than that.

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