Ever since I first came across The Way to Love, I've been obsessed with Anthony de Mello and his writing. Awareness is definitely cut from the same cloth and goes deeper on a number of ideas that will be on my mind for a long time.
In a way, it's poetic that Awareness was Anthony de Mello's final act. It seems like the concept reverberates through everything else he put out into the world. Some of the actionable advice in this book is a bit controversial, but I feel confident that you'll think about things a little differently afterward. If that's not the sign of a great read, then I don't know what is. These are my favorite themes and quotations:
- You are never in love with anyone. You’re only in love with your prejudiced and hopeful idea of that person
- You don’t like to say, “My judgment was lousy.” That’s not very flattering to you, is it? So you prefer to say, “How could you have let me down?”
- Don’t try to make them happy, you’ll only get in trouble. Don’t try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it irritates the pig.
- Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you will 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.
- Where there is love there are no demands, no 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.
If you ever let yourself feel good when people tell you that you’re O.K., you are preparing yourself to feel bad when they tell you you’re not good. As long as you live to fulfill other people’s expectations, you better watch what you wear, how you comb your hair, whether your shoes are polished — in short, whether you live up to every damned expectation of theirs. Do you call that human?
- When you fight something, you’re tied to it forever. 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.
- Are you listening for what will confirm what you already think? Or are you listening in order to discover something new?
- We hate the new. And the sooner we face up to that fact, the better. We don’t want new things, particularly when they’re disturbing, particularly when they involve change. Most particularly if it involves saying, “I was wrong.”
- 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.
- The only way someone can be of help to you is in challenging your ideas. If you’re ready to listen and if you’re ready to be challenged, there’s one thing that you can do. It’s called self-observation.
- What leads to growth is painful experiences. Suffering points up an area in you where you have not yet grown, where you need to grow and be transformed and change.
- When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. He cares! He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win drains him of power.
No theory adequately covers reality. So I can speak to you, not of the truth, but of obstacles to the truth. Those I can describe. I cannot describe the truth. No one can. All I can do is give you a description of your falsehoods, so that you can drop them. All I can do for you is challenge your beliefs and the belief system that makes you unhappy. All I can do for you is help you to unlearn.
- Charity is really self-interest masquerading under the form of altruism.
- I’m not saying there’s no such thing as pure motivation. I’m saying that ordinarily everything we do is in our self-interest. Everything.
- Selfishness seems to come out of an instinct for self-preservation, which is our deepest and first instinct. How can we opt for selflessness? It would be almost like opting for nonbeing.
- Stop feeling bad about being selfish; we’re all the same.
There are two types of selfishness. The first type is the one where I give myself the pleasure of pleasing myself. That’s what we generally call self-centeredness. The second is when I give myself the pleasure of pleasing others. That would be a more refined kind of selfishness.
- Do not personalize what is happening to you. Look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.
- Don’t try to change it! Don’t say, “Oh, we were told not to do this.” Just observe what’s going on. As I said to you before, self-observation means watching—observing whatever is going on in you and around you as if it were happening to someone else.
- All suffering is caused by my identifying myself with something, whether that something is within me or outside of me.
- “Before enlightenment, I used to be depressed: after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed.” But there’s a difference: I don’t identify with it anymore. Do you know what a big difference that is?
- The important thing is not to know who “I” is or what “I” is. You’ll never succeed. There are no words for it. The important thing is to drop the labels. As the Japanese Zen masters say, “Don’t seek the truth; just drop your opinions.” Drop your theories; don’t seek the truth.
But when you say, “I am successful,” that’s crazy. Success is not part of the “I.” Success is something that comes and goes; it could be here today and gone tomorrow. That’s not “I.” When you said, “I was a success,” you were in error; you were plunged into darkness. You identified yourself with success.
- What you are aware of you are in control of; what you are not aware of is in control of you.
- That’s what spirituality is all about, you know: unlearning. Unlearning all the rubbish they taught you.
- Reality cannot be put into a formula. The guru can only point out your errors. When you drop your errors, you will know the truth. And even then you cannot say.
- Information is not insight, analysis is not awareness, knowledge is not awareness.
- You’re not living until it doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn to you whether you live or die. At that point you live. When you’re ready to lose your life, you live it. But if you’re protecting your life, you’re dead.
What I would advocate is awareness, which is not the same as concentration at all. Concentration is a spotlight, a floodlight. You’re open to anything that comes within the scope of your consciousness. You can be distracted from that, but when you’re practicing awareness, you’re never distracted. When awareness is turned on, there’s never any distraction, because you’re always aware of whatever happens to be.
Hope you found something here that you liked. I really couldn't recommend checking out the book in full enough. Some of the stuff here might seem a bit woo but I assure you, it's worth reflecting on. Let me know how you like it.
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