Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. – Anthony De Mello, Awareness
Are you really awakened or are you sleepwalking through life without being aware of it? Anthony De Mello in his somewhat provocative book “Awareness”tells you to wake up! To see the real beauty of life. Are you up to the challenge?
In this article, I handpicked some of his big ideas for you. Hope you will like it.
N.B. What the author refers to as waking up is what you might better know as “spiritual enlightenment”, “spiritual awakening” or “self-realization”.
To know more about spiritual enlightenment see my series of articles on that topic here
Anthony De Mello was the director of the Sadhana Insitute of Pastoral Counseling in Poona, India, he was widely known in English- and Spanish-speaking countries for his retreats, workshops, seminars on prayer, and therapy courses.
On Challenging your belief system
“The first step, as I said, was a readiness to admit that you don’t want to wake up, that you don’t want to be happy. There are all kinds of resistance to that within you. The second step is a readiness to understand, to listen, to challenge your whole belief system. Not just your religious beliefs, your political beliefs, your social beliefs, your psychological beliefs, but all of them. A readiness to reappraise them all, in the Buddha’s metaphor. And I’ll give you plenty of opportunity to do that here.”
“All I can do for you is help you to unlearn. That’s what learning is all about where spirituality is concerned: unlearning, unlearning almost everything you’ve been taught. A willingness to unlearn, to listen.”
“And so in order to wake up, the one thing you need the most is not energy, or strength, or youthfulness, 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.”
The world is an open asylum
“Do you know one sign that you’ve woken up? It’s when you are asking yourself, “Am I crazy, or are all of them crazy?” It really is. Because we are crazy. The whole world is crazy. Certifiable lunatics! The only reason we’re not locked up in an institution is that there are so many of us. So we’re crazy. We’re living on crazy ideas about love, about relationships, about happiness, about joy, about everything.”
“People get a good feeling on the basis of somebody getting a bad feeling; you win over somebody else. Isn’t that terrible? Take for granted in a lunatic asylum!”
On love and recognition
“There is yet another illusion, that it is important to be respectable, to be loved and appreciated, to be important. Many say we have a natural urge to be loved and appreciated, to belong. That’s false. Drop this illusion and you will find happiness. We have a natural urge to be free, a natural urge to love, but not to be loved.”
“Lots of people gain the world and lose their soul. Lots of people live empty, soulless lives because they’re feeding themselves on popularity, appreciation, and praise, on “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.”, 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.”
“How can you love people when you need people? You can only use them. If I need you to make me happy, I’ve got to use you, I’ve got to manipulate you, I’ve got to find ways and means of winning you. I cannot let you be free. I can only love people when I have emptied my life of people. When I die to the need for people, then I’m right in the desert.”
“Is it possible for the rose to say, “I will give my fragrance to the good people who smell me, but I will withhold it from the bad”? Or is it possible for the lamp to say, “I will give my light to the good people in this room, but I will withhold it from the evil people”? Or can a tree say, “I’ll give my shade the good people who rest under me, but I will withhold it from the bad”? These are images of what love is about.”
“Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the stupidity of society and culture.”
“The first step to waking up is to be honest enough to admit to yourself that you don’t like it. You don’t want to be happy. Want a little test? Let’s try it. It will take you exactly one minute. You could close your eyes while you’re doing it or you could keep them open. It doesn’t really matter. Think of someone you love very much, someone you’re close to, someone who is precious to you, and say to that person in your mind, “I’d rather have happiness than have you.” See what happens.”
Do you feel selfish by choosing happiness?
He goes on:
“How could I be so selfish?” But look at who’s being selfish. Imagine somebody saying to you, “How could you be so selfish that you’d choose happiness over me?” Would you not feel like responding, “Pardon me, but how could you be so selfish that you would demand I choose you above my own happiness?!”
On identification with “I”
“It’s going to take a lot of awareness for you to understand that perhaps this thing you call “I” is simply a conglomeration of your past experiences, of your conditioning and programming. That’s painful. In fact, when you’re beginning to awaken, you experience a great deal of pain. It’s painful to see your illusions being shattered. Everything that you thought you had built up crumbles and that’s painful. That’s what repentance is all about; that’s what waking up is all about.”
“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. The day that somebody tells me I’m a genius and I take that seriously, I’m in big trouble.”
On negative feelings
“Let’s suppose that rain washes out a picnic. Who is feeling negative? The rain? Or you? What’s causing the negative feeling? The rain or your reaction? When you bump your knee against a table, the table’s fine. It’s busy being what it was made to be – a table. The pain is in your knee, not in the table. The mystics keep trying to tell us that reality is all right. Reality is not problematic. Problems exist only in the human mind. We might add: in the stupid, sleeping human mind.”
“Anytime you have a negative feeling toward anyone, you’re living in an illusion. There’s something seriously wrong with you. You’re not seeing reality. Something inside of you has to change. But what do we generally do when we have a negative feeling? “He is to blame, she is to blame. She’s got to change.” No! The world’s all right. The one who has to change is you.”
“Negative feelings are in you. No person on earth has the power to make you unhappy. There is no event on earth that has the power to disturb you or hurt you. No event, condition, situation, or person. Nobody told you this; they told you the opposite. That’s why you’re in the mess that you’re in right now. That is why you’re asleep. They never told you this. But it’s self-evident.”
“You never trusted anyone. Come off it! That’s part of society’s brainwashing. You never trust anyone. You only trust your judgment about that person. So what are you complaining about? The fact is that 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?””
“Being president of a corporation has nothing to do with being a success in life. Having a lot of money has nothing to do with being a success in life. You’re a success in life when you wake up! Then you don’t have to apologize to anyone, you don’t have to explain anything to anyone, you don’t give a damn what anybody thinks about you or what anybody says about you. You have no worries; you’re happy. That’s what I call being a success.”
On psychology vs. spirituality
“Is psychology more practical than spirituality? Nothing is more practical than spirituality. What can the poor psychologist do? He can only relieve the pressure. I’m psychologist myself, and I practice psychotherapy, and I have this great conflict within me when I have to choose sometimes between psychology and spirituality.”
“People were coming to me with their relationship problems, with their communication problems, etc., and sometimes what I did was a help. But sometimes, I’m sorry to say, it wasn’t, because it kept people asleep. Maybe they should have suffered a little more. Maybe they ought to touch rock bottom and say, “I’m sick of it all”. It’s only when you’re sick of your sickness that you’ll get out of it. Most people go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to get a relief. I repeat: to get a relief. Not to get out of it.”
What about you? Are you willing to wake up?
And watch Anthony de Mello’s program “Rediscovering Life“. It is a must-see!
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