Awareness – Anthony de Mello

Awareness by Anthony de Melloawareness

The Perils and Opportunities of Reality

“There’s nothing so delightful as being aware. Would you rather live in darkness? Would you rather act and not be aware of your words? Would you rather listen to people and not be aware of what you’re hearing, or see things and not be aware of what you’re looking at? The great Socrates said, ‘The unaware life is not worth living.’ That’s a self-evident truth. Most people don’t live aware lives. They live mechanical lives, mechanical thoughts—generally somebody else’s—mechanical emotions, mechanical actions, mechanical reactions.”
~ Anthony de Mello from Awareness

de MelloFormatting note. I read Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes on the Book. Then, I’m pasting the big quotes and commenting on how I apply it to me. I don’t get into fiction books often, because I don’t find them useful. Whereas, these are awesomely useful!

Anthony de Mello was a 20th century Jesuit priest.


“Why don’t I see goodness and beauty everywhere? Because you cannot see outside of you what you fail to see inside.”

JW: Glass half full. That’s me. I turned that corner a few years ago. I decided one day that I choose to be happy. I’m a natural cynic. I was raised a skeptic. I doubt people honesty and true intention. I will myself to give people the benefit of the doubt. Now, I choose to see life through the beautiful camera lens. Of course all the garage is still in front of me, but I choose not to dwell on the bad stuff. I don’t read the news paper any more, television is only bad news. I choose to read uplifting blogs and inspirational stories.


“Imagine a patient who goes to a doctor and tells him what he is suffering from. The doctor says, ‘Very well, I’ve understood your symptoms. Do you know what I will do? I will prescribe a medicine for your neighbor!’ The patient replies, ‘Thank you very much, Doctor, that makes me feel much better.’ Isn’t that absurd? But that’s what we all do. The person who is asleep always thinks he’ll feel better if somebody else changes. You’re suffering because you are asleep, but you’re thinking, ‘How wonderful life would be if somebody else would change. How wonderful life would be if my neighbor changed, my wife changed, my boss changed.’

“You are the one who needs to change, who needs to take the medicine. You keep insisting, ‘I feel good because the world is right.’ Wrong! The world is right because you feel good. That’s what all the mystics are saying.”
~ Anthony de Mello

JW: My favorite song is Michael Jackson’s The Man in the Mirror. It’s a great song. Music is totally unique and catchy. The words are haunting and challenging. It always moves me. I can only change me. I cannot change anyone else. There are many times I’m annoyed by people and it’s all the things that I hate about myself. It’s projection. It’s seeing in others what I don’t like about myself. I turn those times into a deep breath and a nod to change myself and extend that annoying person grace, because they’re really not annoying. It’s just me being annoyed by me.


“A nice definition of an awakened person: a person who no longer marches to the drums of society, a person who dances to the tune of the music that springs up from within.”

JW: Stay true to yourself. If you find that those around you are not dancing the same way and you feel awkward, look for another community that appreciates you. I found that’s true in church and triathlon and work. Move on with life. It’s too short to stifle yourself just to fit in. A little bit of you might be dying every time that the real you can’t dance around.


“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.”

JW: Never in a million years would I have come up with this one. Selfishness is usually understood from other people’s view of you. Do I appear selfish? Do my actions appear selfish to someone else? This really turns it around. It reminds me of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Her objectivism also challenges the selfishness definition. I’m not sure I totally agree with the definition here, but I agree with the sentiment. I still think selfishness is being out for Number One and treating everyone else as Number Two [punny. get it, #2?]


“You’re much more energetic, much more alive. People think that if they had no cravings, they’d be like deadwood. But in fact they’d lose their tension. Get rid of your fear of failure, your tensions about succeeding, you will be yourself. Relaxed. You wouldn’t be driving with your brakes on. That’s what would happen.”

JW: In running, I’ve been trained to keep my feet behind me. Never swing your legs in front of the plane of your body, because your foot will strike in front and basically brake. Applying brakes during running is way inefficient. Same is true in life. Take off the brakes in your life, so you can really move forward. Stop the self loathing. Forgive your self. Don’t worry if you missed a day. or you ate a doughnut or a whole box. Forgive and forget, move on.


“Everything passes, everything.”

JW: In triathlon, I have dark moments. Parts of the training and racing get very painful physically, but more so very difficult mentally. I know it will pass. Take a Anti-Fatigue pill. Take a sip of water. Walk a bit. Keep moving. Know that it will pass. The dark moment will turn into a finish line. And, a finish line is always a bright moment. Celebration will come, eventually.


“As the great Confucius said, ‘The one who would be in constant happiness must frequently change.’ Flow. But we keep looking back, don’t we? We cling to things in the past and cling to things in the present… Do you want to enjoy a symphony? Don’t hold on to a few bars of the music. Don’t hold on to a couple of notes. Let them pass, let them flow. The whole enjoyment of a symphony lies in your readiness to allow the notes to pass…”

JW: What a beautiful thought that is. I love it. One note is pretty. But, you can’t hang onto that one note, it’s meant to be part of the whole song. It’s beauty is in the orchestration.


“Never identify with that feeling. It has nothing to do with the ‘I.’ Don’t define your essential self in terms of that feeling. Don’t say, ‘I am depressed.’ If you want to say, ‘It is depressed,’ that’s all right. If you want to say that depression is there, that’s fine; if you want to say gloominess is there, that’s fine. But not: I am gloomy. You’re defining yourself in terms of the feeling. That’s your illusion; that’s your mistake. There is a depression there right now, but let it be, leave it alone. It will pass. Everything passes, everything. Your depressions and your thrills have nothing to do with happiness. Those are swings of the pendulum. If you seek kicks or thrills, get ready for depression. Do you want your drug? Get ready for the hangover. One end of the pendulum swings over to the other.”

JW: Interesting, huh? Move the depression off yourself and onto something else. Don’t be defined by how you feel, because that can change like the weather.


“Life is for the gambler, it really is.”

JW: Risk energizes life. Thrill is in the trying.


“Perfect love casts out fear. 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.”

JW: In Christianity, perfect love is unconditional, undeserved. You give love without strings, without expectations, without conditions for being loved back. My happiness is not dependent on a mutually conditional love. My happiness is based on loving my honey 100%. She happens to love me back 100%. Yay. The ‘leaving part’ doesn’t apply to my marriage, but I can see how that would apply to friends that part ways. Some friends can smother you with codependency. Not fun.


“Do you want a sign that you’re asleep? Here it is: you’re suffering. Suffering is a sign that you’re out of touch with the truth. Suffering is given to you that you might open your eyes to the truth, that you might understand that there’s falsehood somewhere, just as physical pain is given to you so you will understand that there is disease or illness somewhere. Suffering occurs when you clash with reality. When your illusions clash with reality, when your falsehoods clash with truth, then you have suffering. Otherwise there is no suffering.”

JW: Reminds me of Yoda (Star Wars reference). In high school, we all had Star Wars nicknames. There was C3PR, Jody the Hutt, and I was Joe-da. Can’t remember all the names, but they were funny to me at the time. Suffering is a negative thing that I don’t dwell on a lot. It’s there, it sucks. Moving on.


“An Italian poet said, ‘We live in a flash of light; evening comes and it is night forever.’ It’s only a flash and we waste it. We waste it with our anxiety, our worries, our concerns, our burdens.”

JW: Life is really short. Take advantage of every day. Build momentum. Cherish the good times. Commemorate them with picture, talk about them over and over until they are established lore in your circle. Anxiety, worry, burdens are always there, but you can ignore them enough to move them out of the way of progress. Worry is such a waste of time. It paralyzes you and prevents you from acting on the NEXT step forward.

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