I first heard about this book on the Tim Ferriss Show as the one book to read if you're interested in awareness.
It reminded me a lot of the work of Alan Watts. Very similar verbiage and mannerisms. They both use lots of humor. The main difference I would credit to Anthony de Mello is a master of the one-liners. You will be listening and get hit by a beautiful, powerful one-liner.
For this report, I wanted to dive into some of those one-liners. I plan on keeping my commentary to a minimum as they mostly speak for themselves.
"Minority of One"
You're about to come either a psychotic or a mystic. You know one sign that you've woken up? You ask yourself, "Am I crazy or are all of them?"
We seem to think that those who have awakened to their place in reality as either psychotic or mystics. Frankly, I find little difference in the two for both feel that they must be crazy for how could the entire world? Statistics would say you are the crazy one. But it is a beautiful crazy.
If everybody is saying something you can be sure it's wrong. Every great idea when it first began was a minority of one.
Above I mentioned how statistics would say that you are the crazy one. But an analysis of major philosophical ideas would actually tell a different story.
Every great idea starts out as a blasphemy. — Bertrand Russell
What do Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, Bruno, and many others have in common? They each were a minority of one. Their ideas started out as blasphemy. They were persecuted for straying from the common doctrines of their time. If we now were to look back at the doctrines held by the common man of the time, we would find them to be largely incorrect. This has happened time and time again in history. Everyone accepted a common doctrine only to be disrupted by a minority of one. Suddenly statistics seem to back the statement that a belief held by the masses is likely wrong.
If you fight something, you are tied to it forever. As long as you are fighting it, you are giving it power. You must receive your demons. Because when you fight them, you empower them. You always empower the demon you fight.
The above quote was the key to ending my near-daily panic attacks. I was trying to fight my demons. One day, inspired by a passage by Eckhart Tolle, I sat down and breathed through a panic attack, fully accepting it. The panic attacks stopped almost immediately. What was once a daily or many times daily occurrence has only happened on a handful of occasions in the many years since.
On Letting Go
Only when you're ready to loose your life do you live it.
In order to wake up, we must allow our world to be shattered. We must let go of the preconceived ideas and relationships we have with the world. To quote Eckhart Tolle;
The secret of life is to die before you die and find that there is no death.
You must be destroyed as a phoenix and be reborn from your ashes. Your identity, your ego, must die a symbolic death. To quote Yoda;
Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.
Attachments aren't just the path to the dark side, they prevent you from being present. You can't control a moment, a person, or the future. To attempt to do so prevents you from letting go. You must let go of all you fear to lose. You must let go of your expectations in order to be in a happy relationship. You must let go of your fear of death to enjoy living. You must let go of perfection to see life's miracles. You must wake up. And your ability to do so is directly proportionate to the amount you let go.
The chances that you will wake up are in direct proportion to the amount of truth you can take without running away. How much of everything you hold dear are you ready to have shattered?
But why? Why must you lose yourself to find yourself? This is largely because who we think we are, and who we think others to be, is inaccurate. It's not a requirement that one lose everything to find the truth, but it indeed is easier. As Jesus said;
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
We carry a large amount of baggage with us. But instead of a burden, we see riches. We identify with this baggage and build the image of the world around us, past and future, thereupon.
Don't carry over experiences from the past. Good or bad. You now carry so little baggage you can pass through the eye of a needle.
This concept is incredibly freeing when applied to relationships. Most unhappy relationships stem from assumptions. It’s hard, if not impossible, to truly love a person as long as that love is dictated by expectations and interpretations. Not only that, but it's unfair to the other person to have to deal with the actions brought about by our false interpretations.
Drop your false ideas. Only then you will love them. Otherwise you will spend your whole time grappling with your wrong notions and illusions of them that are constantly crashing against reality.
Additionally, your wrong notions and illusions may extend to your understanding of the actions of others. We subconsciously weed out company to a level that allows us to feel comfortable. If we feel threatened in some way by an individual, we are unlikely to keep them in our company. We seek what we are. We also seek those that make us feel better about ourselves.
If you're attached to appreciation or praise, you're going to view people in terms of their threat or fostering of your attachment.
Anthony described a part of his life when he had received a compliment from an individual. After some time, he realized that he was trying to maintain the image assigned by the compliment. He immediately went to work to undo the false image of himself that this compliment had instilled in him.
Smash it, then you're free. Don't identify with labels.
The Danger of Labels and Words
We must smash the identity that the label creates. We must not be a slave to words.
What you judge you cannot understand. You've slapped a label on them.
The moment you label something you’ve ceased understanding. You cease understanding because the subject is already defined. The issue with this outlook is that reality is not set, but fluid. Even if your interpretation of someone or something is accurate, it is unlikely to be accurate for long. But once our image of a subject is set, it becomes increasingly harder to see it as anything but that image, regardless of the accuracy of our perception.
Concepts are frozen, reality is in flow.
Look around you. How much have you changed in 10 years? Do you live in the same place? Do you have the same friends? Same job? Perhaps your children have grown up. Perhaps you've had health issues. Perhaps you've had a breakup or birth of a child. You have inevitably had good days and bad. You have seen events flare-up in the world. Over time, all things change. Our concepts however are often frozen. This can put us in a painful spot when reality comes into opposition with our concepts.
Words and concepts fragment reality. Words cannot give you reality. They only point.
Our words concepts often provide the lens through which our understanding of reality stems. But these words force us to fracture reality, oftentimes into something that it is not. There is a Sanskrit expression Neti Neti (नेति नेति) meaning, "not this, not that." They believe that for a person to understand the nature of the Atman, the self, you must negate everything that one is not.
We think we know so we don't discover. When you're ready to exchange your illusions for reality, that's when you find it all.
We have to let go of what we think we know if we truly wish to find the nature of the Atman and reality.
There is an old Sufi saying;
A saint is one until he or she know's it.
This is also beautifully described by Christ;
But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
I believe that this comes down to the motive behind why we are doing the Lord's work. Whatever the form of that looks like depends on your beliefs but if one is doing an action to associate with the label of saint it is almost certain that one is doing so for the wrong reasons.
The religion that makes people good, also makes people bad. The same process used for making a saint can be the same process to create a terrorist.
How many atrocities have been done in the name of a higher power? Is this due to what a higher power would want? Or is this us building a doctrine upon our false interpretations of scripture? On this topic, I am quite unqualified to speak, but something to think about.
We differ from criminals only in what we do, but not what we are.
I thought this was a good reminder to find our common humanity.
The first sign that you've been brainwashed is that when your beliefs are attacked you react emotionally.
This is not limited to religion. But a good way to discover what your beliefs are is to pay attention to what makes you reactive.
Sleeping people read the scriptures and crucify the Messiah on the basis of them.
What can we take from this? Anthony de Mello advocates a few different practices to help with becoming more aware. First, we must recognize our programming and how it impacts our interpretations.
You're listening from your programming, from your conditioning, from your hypnotic state.
This hypnotic state from where most of us live our day-to-day lives taints the way we see the world.
We see people and things not as they are, but as we are.
This programming serves as a filter or lens.
We filter things out constantly. Who's doing the filtering? Your conditioning, your culture, your programming, your language.
This is where awareness comes in. Awareness is the medicine to clear our poor vision.
Become aware of your programming. Where awareness comes in, programming dies.
That's all fine and dandy, but how can we foster such awareness? This is when most people think of meditation. And meditation is an amazing option. But most people misunderstand the point of meditation. You often hear instructors say to "concentrate on your breathing" or something similar. But this misses the point. Rather you are trying to let judgment go. To be aware of your surroundings. To watch the rise and fall of the world and people breathing around you.
I'm wary of concentration, I'd advocate awareness. Concentration is a spotlight, awareness a floodlight. You're open to anything that comes within the scope of your consciousness.
This is not limited to meditation. Anthony mentions a practice called Self Observation. In Self Observation you watch everything occurring to you as if it were happening to someone else. To those of you familiar with video games this is similar to playing the game of life in the third person. By removing yourself from your head, you attempt to see yourself interacting with the world. This is similar to Eckhart Tolle's quest to find the thinker of the thoughts and the understanding that they are two different things.
Some people show you pictures in an album of a place they never saw.
How much of life occurs to us without us fully accepting and experiencing the moment? It is indeed a sad state. We must return presence and awareness into our life. Not only will we be able to see more clearly, but we will also no longer be dependent on the whims of others and our environment.
Free at last and utterly alone. Alone because in the midst of people they no longer have the power to make you happy or miserable.