Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality

Anthony De Mello

Finished Reading:
Aug 25, 2019

Edition Publisher:

Edition Release:
May 1, 1992

Purchase Search via DuckDuckGo:
ISBN 9780385249379

Highlights & Annotations

“Even the best psychologists will tell you...that people don't really want to be cured. What they want is relief, a cure is painful.” (6)

  • // Courage to Be Disliked
    • people stay in suffering, but at some point the pain of staying outweighs the pain of change

“Anytime you renounce something, you are tied forever to the thing you were renouned….As long as you're fighting it, you are giving it power. You give it as much power as you are using to fight it.” (15-6)

“Truth is never expressed in words. Truth is sighted suddenly, as a result of a certain attitude. So you could be disagreeing with me and still sight the truth. But there has to be an attitude of openness, of willingness to discover something new.” (17)

“But you are listening for what will confirm what you already think? Or are you listening in order to discover something new? That is important.” (18) 

  • Re: People are looking for things that confirm what they already think

“...there are some people who do things so that they won't have to have a bad feeling. And they call that charity. They act out of guilt. That isn't love.” (24)

  • Stop doing things out of guilt → create boundaries

“The first test of whether you've been brainwashed and have introjected convictions and beliefs occurs the moment they're attacked. You feel stunned, you react emotionally. That's a pretty good sign not infallible, but a pretty good sign that we're dealing with brainwashing. You're ready to die for an idea that was never yours….It’s not easy to listen, especially when you get emotional about an idea. And even when you don't get emotional about it, it's not easy to listen;  you're always listening from your programming, from your conditioning, from her hypnotic state.” (27-8)

“Do you think of rich man wants to look at poor people? We don't want to look, because if we do, we may change. We don't want to look. If you look, you lose control the life that you are so precariously holding together. And so in order to wake up, the one thing you need most is not energy, or strength, or usefulness, or even great intelligence. The one thing you need most of all is the Readiness to learn something new. The chances that you will wake up are in direct proportion to the amount of Truth you can take without running away. How much are you ready to take? How much of everything you've held dear are you ready to have shattered, without running away? How ready are you to think of something unfamiliar?

The first reaction is one of fear. It's not that we fear the unknown. You cannot fear something that you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known. That's what you fear.” (28-9) 

  • // Upton Sinclair - “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

“Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you'll see through everyone. Then you will love them. Otherwise you spend the whole time grappling with your wrong Notions of them, with your illusions that are constantly crashing against reality.” (32)

  • Lower expectations → don’t build them up or get attached

“When there's something within you that moves in the right direction, it creates its own discipline.” (38)

“We all carry a shopping list around, and it's as though you've got to measure up to this list” (40)

“If you ever let yourself feel good when people tell you that you're okay, you're preparing yourself to feel bad when they tell you you're not good. As long as you live to feel other people's expectations, you better watch what you wear, how you comb your hair, what are your shoes are polished –  in short, whether you live up to every damned expectation of theirs. Do you call that human?” (41)

“ Who's living in you? It's pretty horrifying when you come to know that. You think you're afraid, but they're probably isn't gesture, I thought, and emotion, and attitude, I believe in you that isn't coming from someone else. Isn't that horrible? And you don't know it. Talk about a mechanical life that was stamped into you. You feel pretty strongly about certain things, and you think it is you working strongly about them, but are you really? It's going to take a lot of awareness for you to understand. Perhaps this thing you call ‘I’ is simply a conglomeration of your past experiences, of your conditioning and programming.” (45)

  • Passing down of things, behaviour, thoughts

“We spend so much of our Lives reacting to labels, our own and others’.” (49)

  • // Anil Dash 
  • // why I choose a loose label for my orientation or just say I’m not heterosexual
    • It keeps me from trying to cling to my preconceived notions about what my sexual orientation entails

“Think of anything that caused or is causing you pain or worry or anxiety. First, can you pick up the desire under that suffering, that there's something you desire very keenly or else you wouldn't be suffering? What is that desire? Second, it isn't simply a desire;  there's an identification there. You have somehow said to yourself, ‘The well-being of ‘I’, almost the existence of ‘I’, is tied up with this desire.’ All suffering is caused by my identifying myself with something, whether that something is within me or outside of me.” (50)

  • Pay attention to your envy → there’s something behind that 

“Because when negative feelings come in, you go blind.” (52)

“We never feel grief when we lose something that we have allowed to be free, that we have never attempted to process. Grief is a sign that I made my happiness depend on this thing or person, at least to some extent.” (53)

“Where there is love there no demands, expectations, no dependency. I do not demand that you make me happy; my happiness does not lie in you. If you were to leave me, I will not feel sorry for myself; I enjoy your company immensely, but I do not cling.

I enjoy it on an on cleaning basis. What I really enjoy is not you; it's something that's greater than both you and me. It is something that I discovered, a kind of symphony, a kind of orchestra that plays one melody in your presence, but when you depart, the orchestra doesn't stop. When I meet someone else, it plays another Melody, which is also very delightful. And when I'm alone, it continues to play. There's a great repertoire and it never ceases to play.” (54)

“Did you think happiness was excitement or thrills? That's what causes depression. Didn't anyone tell you that? You're thrilled, all right, but you're just preparing the way for your next depression. You’re thrilled, but you pick up the anxiety behind that: How can I make it last? That's not happiness, that's addiction.” (60)

“When was the last time you were angry and search for the fear behind it. What were you afraid of losing? What were you afraid would be taken away from you? That's where the anger comes from.  Think of an angry person, maybe somebody your Fritos. Can you see how frightened here she is? He's really frightened, you really is. She's really frightened or she wouldn't be angry. Ultimately, there are only two things, love and fear.” (63)

“Don’t be the rescuer” (70)

“When I'm listening to you, it's infinitely more important for me to listen to me then to listen to you. Of course, it's important to listen to you, but it's more important that I listen to me. Otherwise I won't be hearing you. Or I'll be distorting everything you say. I'll be coming at you for my own conditioning. I'll be reacting to you in all kinds of ways from my insecurities, for my need to manipulate you, from my desire to succeed, from irritations and feelings that I might not be aware of. So it's frightfully important that I listen to me when I'm listening to you.” (71)

  • Objective awareness; check yourself

“You know what's going to happen to you if you identify yourself with these things. You’re going to cling to them, you're going to be worried that they may fall apart, and that's where you're suffering comes in.” (74)

“Stop identifying with them. They come and go. When you really understand this, no criticism can affect you. No flattery or praise can affect you either.” (77)

  • // Brene Brown → "Don't shrink. Don't puff up. Stand your sacred ground."

“There is no explanation you can give that would explain away all the sufferings and evil and torture and destruction and hunger in the world. You'll never explain it. You can try gamely with your formulas, religious and otherwise, but you'll never explain it. Because life is a mystery, which means your thinking mind cannot make sense out of it. For that you've got to wake up and then you'll suddenly realize that reality is not problematic, you are the problem.” (86)

“Make sure that you're not swinging into action simply to get rid of your negative feelings. Many people swing into action only to make things worse. They're not coming from love, they're coming from negative feelings. They're coming from guilt, anger, hate; from a sense of Injustice or whatever. You've got to make sure of your ‘being’ before you swing into action. You have to make sure who you are before you act. Unfortunately, when sleeping people swing into action, they simply substitute one cruelty for another, one injustice for another. And so it goes.” (87)

“Everything becomes beautiful when you change…. We see people and things not as they are, but as we are.” (88)

Exercise: a) identifying negative feelings in you; b) understand that they are not in you, not in the world, not an external reality; c) do not see them as an essential part of the ‘I’. These things come and go; d) understand that when you change, everything changes. (89)

“To say no to people –  that's wonderful; that's part of waking up. Part of waking up is that you live your life as you see fit. And understand: that is not selfish. The selfish thing is to demand that someone else live their life as you see fit. That’s selfish. It is not selfish to live your life as you see fit. The selfishness lies in demanding that someone else live their life to suit your tastes,  or your pride, or your profit, or your pleasure. That is truly selfish. So I'll protect myself. I won't feel obligated to be with you; I won't feel obligated to say yes to you. If I find your company pleasant, then I'll enjoy it without clinging to it. But I no longer avoid you because of any negative feelings you created me. You don't have that power anymore.” (93)

“If you think that compassion and play softness, there's no way I can describe compassion to you, absolutely no way, because compassion can be very hard. Compassion can be very rude, compassion can jolt you, compassion can roll up its sleeves and operate on you. Compassion is all kinds of things. Compassion can be very soft, but there's no way of knowing that. It's only when you become love – in other words, when you have dropped your Illusions and  attachments – that you will know.” (96)

“When we talk about self-worth, are we not talking, really, about how we are reflected in the mirrors of other people's minds? but do we need to depend on that one understands one's personal worth when one no longer identifies or defines oneself in terms of these transient things. I'm not beautiful because everyone says I'm beautiful. I'm really neither beautiful nor pretty. These are things that come and go.” (106)

“Pleasant experiences make life delightful. Painful experiences for you to growth. Pleasant experiences make life delightful, but they don't lead to growth in themselves. What leads to growth is painful experiences. Suffering points up to an area in you where you have not grown, where do you need to grow and be transformed and change. If you knew how to use that suffering, oh, how he would grow.” (107)

“Don't seek to fulfill desire so much as to understand desire. And don't just renounce the object of your desire, understand them; see them in their true light. See them for what they are really worth. Because if you just suppress your desire, and you attempt to renounce the object of your desire, you are likely to be tied to it. Whereas if you look at it and see it for what it is really worth, if you understand how you are preparing the grounds for misery and disappointment and depression, your desire will then be transformed into what I call a preference.” (109)

“Every time you are unhappy, you have added something to reality. It is that addition that makes you unhappy. I repeat: you have added something...a negative reaction in you. Reality provides the stimulus, you provide the reaction. You have added something by your reaction. And if you examine what you have added, there was always an illusion there, there's a demand, an expectation, a craving. Always.” (109)

“Another illusion: you are all those labels that people have put on you, or that you have put on yourself. You're not, you're not. So you don't have to cling to them.” (113)

“You need understanding, not condemnation... In order to get awareness, you've got to see, and you can't see if you're prejudiced. Almost everything and every person we look at, we look at in prejudiced way.” (115)

“It always registers in your face, and your eyes, and your body.” (116)

  • Re: inner change

“So why do I fall in love with a person really? Why is it that I fall in love with one kind of person and not another? Because I'm conditioned. I've got an image, subconsciously, that this particular type of person appeals to me, attracts me. So when I meet this person, I fall head over heels in love. But have I seen her? No! I'll see her after I marry her. That's when The Awakening comes. And that's when love may begin. But falling in love has nothing to do with love at all. It isn't love, it's desire, burning desire, you want, with all your heart, to be told by this adorable creature that you're attracted to her. That gives you a tremendous sensation. Meanwhile, everybody else is saying, ‘What the hell does he's see in her?’ But it's his conditioning – he's not seeing. They say that love is blind. Believe me, there's nothing so clear-sighted as true love oh, nothing. It's the most clear-sighted thing in the world. Addiction is blind, attachments are blind. Clinging, craving, and desire are blind. But not true love. Don't call them love. But, of course, the word has been desecrated in most modern languages. People talk about making love and falling in love. Like the little boy who says to the little girl, ‘Have you ever fallen in love?’ And she answers, ‘No, but I've fallen in like.’

So what are people talking about when they fall in love? The first thing we need is clarity of perception. One reason we don't perceive people clearly is evident – our emotions get in the way, our conditioning, and our likes and dislikes. We've got to grapple with that fact. But we've got to grapple with something much more fundamental – with our ideas, with our conclusions, with our concepts. Believe it or not, every concept that was meant to help us get in touch with reality ends up being a barrier to getting in touch with reality, because sooner or later we forget that the words are not the thing. The concept is not the same as the reality. They're different. That's why I sent you earlier that the final barrier to finding God is the word of ‘God’ itself in the concept of God. It gets in the way if you're not careful. It was meant to be a help; it can be a help, but it can also be a barrier.” (118-9)

“Every language has untranslatable words and expressions, because we're cutting reality up and adding something or subtracting something and usage keeps changing. Reality is a whole and we cut it up to make Concepts and we use words to indicate different parts…. Ideas actually fragment the vision, Intuition, or experience of reality as a whole.” (122-3)

“Don't carry over experiences from the past. In fact, don't carry over good experiences from the past either. Learn what it means to experience something fully, then drop it and move on to the next moment, I'm influenced by the previous one. You be travelling with such little baggage that you could pass through the eye of a needle. You know what eternal life is, because eternal life is now, and the timeless now. Only this will you enter into eternal life. But how many things we carry along with us. We never set about the types of being free ourselves, of dropping the baggage, of being ourselves.” (132)

“From every pore or living cell of our bodies and from all our senses we are getting feedback from reality. But we are filtering things out constantly. Who's doing the filtering? Our conditioning? Our culture? Our programming? The way we were taught to see things and to experience them? Even our language can be a filter. There's so much filtering going on that sometimes you won't see things that are there.” (133)

“These are conventions. But we treat them like reality is, don't we? When we were young, we were programmed to unhappiness. They taught us that in order to be happy you need money, success, a beautiful or handsome partner in life, a good job, friendship, spirituality, God – you name it. Unless you got these things, you're not going to be happy, we were told. Now, that is what I call an attachment. An attachment is a belief that without something you are not going to be happy. Once you get convinced of that – and it gets into our subconscious, it get stamped into the roots of our being –  you are finished.” (134)

“A guru was once attempting to explain to a crowd how human beings react to words, feed on words, live on words, rather than on reality. One of the men stood up and protested; he said, ‘I don't agree that words have all that much effect on us.’ The guru said, ‘Sit down, you son of a b****.’ The man went livid with rage and said, ‘You call yourself an enlightened person. A guru, a master, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself.’ The guru then said, ‘Pardon me, sir, I was carried away. I really beg your pardon; that was a lapse; I'm sorry.’ The man finally calmed down. Then the guru said, ‘It took just a few words to get a whole tempest going within you; and it took just a few words to calm you down, didn't it?’ Words, words, words, words, how imprisoning they are as they're not used properly.” (143)

“When you cut water, the water doesn't get hurt; when you cut something solid, it breaks. You've got solid attitudes inside you; you've got solid Illusions inside you; that's what bumps against nature, that's where you get hers, that's where the pain comes from.” (159)

  • // David Haskell article re: coming out unscathed under pressure = submission to what happens to you; acquiescence – “I accommodate myself to the water, not the water to me.” // lichen body swelling on damp days and puckering on dry ones

“To be with people is to live in tension. To be without them brings agony of loneliness, because you miss them. You have lost your capacity to see them exactly as they are and to respond to them accurately, because your perception of them is clouded by the need to get your drugs. You see them in so far as they are a support for getting your drug or a threat to have your drug removed. You're always looking at people, consciously or unconsciously, through these eyes. Will I get what I want from them, will I not get what I want from them? And if they can either support nor threatened by drug, I'm not interested in them. That's a horrible thing to say, but I wonder if there's anyone here of whom this cannot be said.” (164)

“most of them have lost their capacity for enjoyment. I really believe that most people in affluent countries have lost that capacity. They've got to have more and more expensive gadgets; they can't enjoy the simple things of life. That I walk into places where they have all the most marvellous music, and you get these records at a discount, we're all stocked up, but I never hear anybody listening to them – no time, no time, no time. They're guilty, no time to enjoy life. They're overworked, go, go, go. If you really enjoy life and the simple pleasures of the senses, you'd be amazed. You've developed that extraordinary discipline of the animal. An animal will never overeat. Left in its natural habitat, it will never be overweight. It will never drink or eat anything that is not good for its house. You never find an animal smoking. It always exercises as much as it needs – watch your cat after it's had breakfast, look how it relaxes. And see how it Springs into action, look at the suppleness of its Limbs and aliveness of its body. We've lost that. We're lost in our minds, in our ideas and ideals and so on, and it’s always go, go,. And we've got an inner self conflict which animals don't have. And we're always condemning ourselves and making ourselves feel guilty.” (165)

“Happiness is not something you acquire; love is not something you produce; love is not something that you have; love is something that has you. You do not have the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don't possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desires and fears. As I told you earlier, first, psychological insight is a great help, not analysis, however; analysis paralysis. Insight is not necessarily analysis. One of your great American therapist put it very well:  ‘It's the aha experience that counts.’ Merely analyzing gives no help; it just gives information. But if you could produce that aha experience, that's inside. That is change. Second, the understanding of your addiction is important. You need time. Alas, so much time that is given to worship and singing praise and singing songs could so fruitfully be employed in self-understanding. Community is not produced by joint liturgical celebrations. you know deep down in your heart, and so do I, that such celebrations only serve to paper over differences. Community is created by understanding the blocks that we put in the way of community, by understanding the conflicts that arise from our fears and our desires. At that point community arises. We must always be aware of making worship just another distraction from the important business of living.” (176)

“Do you know where words come from? They come from projecting outside of us a conflict that is inside. Show me an individual in whom there is no inner self conflict and I'll show you an individual in whom there is no violence. There will be effective, even hard, action in him, but no hatred. When he acts, he acts as a surgeon acts; what he acts, he acts as a loving teacher acts with mentally retarded children. You don't blame them, you understand; but you swing into action. On the other hand, when you swing into action with your own hatred and your own violence unaddressed, you've compounded the error. You've tried to put fire out with more fire. You've tried to deal with the flood by adding water to it.” (183)

“What kind of feeling comes up on you when you're in touch with nature, or when you're absorbed and work that you love? Or when you're really conversing with someone whose company you enjoy in openness and intimacy without clinging? What kind of feelings do you have? Compare those feelings with the feelings you have when you win an argument, or when you win a race, or when you become popular, or when everyone's applauding you. The latter feelings I call worldly feelings; the former feelings I call soul feelings. Lots of people gain the world and lose your soul. Lots of people live empty, soulless lives because they're feeding themselves on popularity, appreciation, and praise, on ‘I'm okay,you're okay’, look at me, attend to me, support me, value me, on being the boss, on having power, on winning the race. Do you feed yourself on that? If you do, you’re dead. You've lost your soul. Feed yourself on other, more nourishing material. Then you'll see the transformation, I've given you a whole program for life, haven't I?” (184)