Posts tagged ‘Anthony de Mello’
If we really dropped illusions for what they can give us or deprive us of, we would be alert. The consequence of not doing this is terrifying and unescapable. We lose our capacity to love. If you wish to love, you must learn to see again. And if you wish to see, you must learn to give up your drug. It’s as simple as that. Give up your dependency. Tear away the tentacles of society that have enveloped and suffocated your being. You must drop them.
Externally, everything will go on as before, but though you will continue to be in the world, you will no longer be of it. In your heart, you will now be free at last, if utterly alone. Your dependence on your drug will die. You don’t have to go to the desert; you’re right in the middle of people; you’re enjoying them immensely. But they no longer have the power to make you happy or miserable. That’s what aloneness means. In this solitude your dependence dies. The capacity to love is born. One no longer sees others as means of satisfying one’s addiction.
Only someone who has attempted this knows the terrors of the process. It’s like inviting yourself to die. It’s like asking the poor drug addict to give up the only happiness he has ever known. How to replace it with the taste of bread and fruit and the clean taste of the morning air, the sweetness of the water of the mountain stream? While he is struggling with his withdrawal symptoms and the emptiness he experiences within himself now that his drug is gone, nothing can fill the emptiness except his drug. Can you imagine a life in which you refuse to enjoy or take pleasure in a single word of appreciation or to rest your head on anyone’s shoulder for support? Think of a life in which you depend on no one emotionally, so that no one has the power to make you happy or miserable anymore.
You refuse to need any particular person or to be special to anyone or to call anyone your own. The birds of the air have their nests and the foxes their holes, but you will have nowhere to rest your head in your journey through life. If you ever get to this state, you will at last know what it means to see with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire. Every word there is measured. To see at last with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire. You will know what it means to love. But to come to the land of love, you must pass through the pains of death, for to love persons means to die to the need for persons, and to be utterly alone.
How would you ever get there? By a ceaseless awareness, by the infinite patience and compassion you would have for a drug addict. By developing a taste for the good things in life to counter the craving for your drug. What good things? The love of work which you enjoy doing for the love of itself; the love of laughter and intimacy with people to whom you do not cling and on whom you do not depend emotionally but whose company you enjoy. It will also help if you take on activities that you can do with your whole being, activities that you so love to do that while you’re engaged in them success, recognition, and approval simply do not mean a thing to you. It will help, too, if you return to nature. Send the crowds away, go up to the mountains, and silently commune with trees and flowers and animals and birds, with sea and clouds and sky and stars.
I’ve told you what a spiritual exercise it is to gaze at things, to be aware of things around you. Hopefully, the words will drop, the concepts will drop, and you will see, you will make contact with reality. That is the cure for loneliness. Generally, we seek to cure our loneliness through emotional dependence on people, through gregariousness and noise. That is no cure. Get back to things, get back to nature, go up in the mountains. Then you will know that your heart has brought you to the vast desert of solitude, there is no one there at your side, absolutely no one.
At first this will seem unbearable. But it is only because you are unaccustomed to aloneness. If you manage to stay there for a while, the desert will suddenly blossom into love. Your heart will burst into song. And it will be springtime forever; the drug will be out; you’re free. Then you will understand what freedom is, what love is, what happiness is, what reality is, what truth is, what God is. You will see, you will know beyond concepts and conditioning, addictions and attachments. Does that make sense?
Let me end this with a lovely story. There was a man who invented the art of making fire. He took his tools and went to a tribe in the north, where it was very cold, bitterly cold. He taught the people there to make fire. The people were very interested. He showed them the uses to which they could put fire – they could cook, could keep themselves warm, etc. They were so grateful that they had learned the art of making fire. But before they could express their gratitude to the man, he disappeared. He wasn’t concerned with getting their recognition or gratitude; he was concerned about their well being. He went to another tribe, where he again began to show them the value of his invention.
People were interested there, too, a bit too interested for the peace of mind of their priests, who began to notice that this man was drawing crowds and they were losing their popularity. So they decided to do away with him. They poisoned him, crucified him, put it any way you like. But they were afraid now that the people might turn against them, so they were very wise, even wily. Do you know what they did? They had a portrait of the man made and mounted it on the main altar of the temple. The instruments for making fire were placed in front of the portrait, and the people were taught to revere the portrait and to pay reverence to the instruments of fire, which they dutifully did for centuries. The veneration and the worship went on, but there was no fire.
Where’s the fire? Where’s the love? Where’s the drug uprooted from your system? Where’s the freedom? This is what spirituality is all about. Tragically, we tend to lose sight of this, don’t we? This is what Jesus Christ is all about. But we overemphasized the “Lord, Lord”, didn’t we? Where’s the fire? And if worship isn’t leading to the fire, if adoration isn’t leading to love, if the liturgy isn’t leading to a clearer perception of reality, if God isn’t leading to life, of what use is religion except to create more division, more fanaticism, more antagonism? It is not from lack of religion in the ordinary sense of the word that the world is suffering, it is from lack of love, lack of awareness.
And love is generated through awareness and through no other way, no other way. Understand the obstructions you are putting in the way of love, freedom, and happiness and they will drop. Turn on the light of awareness and the darkness will disappear. 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 is paralysis. Insight is not necessarily analysis.
One of your great American therapists 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 the “Aha” experience, that’s insight. 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 beware of making worship just another distraction from the important business of living. And living doesn’t mean working in government, or being a big businessman, or performing great acts of charity. That isn’t living. Living is to have dropped all the impediments and to live in the present moment with freshness. “The birds of the air . . . they neither toil nor spin” — that is living. I began by saying that people are asleep, dead. Dead people running governments, dead people running big business, dead people educating others; come alive! Worship must help this, or else it’s useless. And increasingly – you know this and so do I – we’re losing the youth everywhere.
They hate us; they’re not interested in having more fears and more guilts laid on them. They’re not interested in more sermons and exhortations. But they are interested in learning about love. How can I be happy? How can I live? How can I taste these marvelous things that the mystics speak of? So that’s the second thing – understanding. Third, don’t identify. Somebody asked me as I was coming here today, “Do you ever feel low”? Boy, do I feel low every now and then. I get my attacks. But they don’t last, they really don’t. What do I do? First step I don’t identify. Here comes a low feeling. Instead of getting tense about it, instead of getting irritated with myself about it, I understand I’m feeling depressed, disappointed, or whatever. Second step I admit the feeling is in me, not in the other person, e.g., in the person who didn’t write me a letter, not in the exterior world; it’s in me.
Because as long as I think it’s outside me, I feel justified in holding on to my feelings. I can’t say everybody would feel this way; in fact, only idiotic people would feel this way, only sleeping people. Third step I don’t identify with the feeling. “I” is not that feeling. “I” am not lonely, “I” am not depressed, “I” am not disappointed. Disappointment is there, one watches it. You’d be amazed how quickly it glides away. Anything you’re aware of keeps changing; clouds keep moving. As you do this, you also get all kinds of insights into why clouds were coming in the first place.
I’ve got a lovely quote here, a few sentences that I would write in gold. I picked them up from A. S. Neil’s book Summerhill. I must give you the background. You probably know that Neill was in education for forty years. He developed a kind of maverick school. He took in boys and girls and just let them be free. You want to learn to read and write, fine; you don’t want to learn to read and write, fine. You can do anything you want with your life, provided you don’t interfere with the freedom of someone else. Don’t interfere with someone else’s freedom; otherwise you’re free. He says that the worst ones came to him from convent school. This was in the old days, of course.
He said it took them about six months to get over all the anger and the resentment that they had repressed. They’d be rebelling for six months, fighting the system. The worst was a girl who would take a bicycle and ride into town, avoiding class, avoiding school, avoiding everything. But once they got over their rebellion, everybody wanted to learn; they even began protesting, “Why don’t we have class today”? But they would only take what they were interested in. They’d be transformed. In the beginning parents were frightened to send their children to this school; they said, “How can you educate them if you don’t discipline them? You’ve got to teach them, guide them”.
What was the secret of Neill’s success? He’d get the worst children, the ones everybody else had despaired of, and within six months they’d all be transformed. Listen to what he said – extraordinary words, holy words. “Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil. Children come to my school, little devils, hating the world, destructive, unmannerly, lying, thieving, bad tempered. In six months they are happy, healthy children who do no evil”. These are amazing words coming from a man whose school in Britain is regularly inspected by people from the Ministry of Education, by any headmaster or headmistress or anyone who would care to go there. Amazing. It was his charisma.
You don’t do this kind of thing from a blueprint; you’ve got to be a special kind of person. In some of his lectures to headmasters and headmistresses he says, “Come to Summerhill and you’ll find that all the fruit trees are laden with fruit; nobody’s taking the fruits off the trees; there’s no desire to attack authority; they’re well fed and there’s no resentment and anger. Come to Summerhill and you’ll never find a handicapped child with a nickname (you know how cruel kids can be when someone stammers). You’ll never find anyone needling a stammerer, never. There’s no violence in those children, because no one is practicing violence on them, that’s why”. Listen to these words of revelation, sacred words.
We have people in the world like this. No matter what scholars and priests and theologians tell you, there are and have been people who have no quarrels, no jealousies, no conflicts, no wars, no enmities, none! They exist in my country, or, sad to say, they existed until relatively recently. I’ve had Jesuit friends go out to live and work among people who, they assured me, were incapable of stealing or lying. One Sister said to me that when she went to the northeast of India to work among some tribes there, the people would lock up nothing. Nothing was ever stolen and they never told lies until the Indian government and missionaries showed up.
Every child has a god in him; our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil.
There’s a lovely Italian film directed by Federico Fellini, 8 1/2 In one scene there’s a Christian Brother going out on a picnic or excursion with a group of eight to ten year old boys. They’re on a beach, moving right on ahead while the Brother brings up the rear with three or four of them around him. They come across an older woman who’s a whore, and they say to her, “Hi”, and she says, “Hi”. And they say, “Who are you”? And she says, “I’m a prostitute”. They don’t know what that is but they pretend to. One of the boys, who seems a bit more knowing than the others, says, “A prostitute is a woman who does certain things if you pay her”. They ask, “Would she do those things if we paid her”? “Why not”? the answer came.
So they take up a collection and give her the money, saying, “Would you do certain things now that we’ve given you the money”? She answers, “Sure, kids, what do you want me to do”? The only thing that occurs to the kids is for her to take her clothes off. So she does. Well, they look at her; they’ve never seen a woman naked before. They don’t know what else to do, so they say, “Would you dance”? She says, “Sure”. So they all gather round singing and clapping; the whore is moving her behind and they’re enjoying themselves immensely. The Brother sees all this. He runs down the beach and yells at the woman. He gets her to put her clothes on, and the narrator says, “At that moment, the children were spoiled; until then they were innocent, beautiful”.
This is not an unusual problem. I know a rather conservative missionary in India’ a Jesuit. He came to a workshop of mine. As I developed this theme over two days, he suffered. He came to me the second night and said, “Tony, I can’t explain to you how much I’m suffering listening to you”. I said, “Why, Stan”? He said, “You’re reviving within me a question that I suppressed for twenty five years, a horrible question. Again and again I asked myself: Have I not spoiled my people by making them Christian”? This Jesuit was not one of your liberals, he was an orthodox, devout, pious, conservative man. But he felt he spoiled a happy, loving, simple, guileless people by making them Christian.
American missionaries who went to the South Sea Islands with their wives were horrified to see women coming bare breasted to church. The wives insisted that the women should be more decently dressed. So the missionaries gave them shirts to wear. The following Sunday the women came wearing their shirts but with two big holes cut out for comfort’ for ventilation. They were right; the missionaries were wrong.
Now . . . back to Neill. He says, “And I am no genius, I am merely a man who refuses to guide the steps of children”. But what, then, of original sin? Neill says that every child has a god in him; our attempts to mold him will turn the god into a devil. He lets children form their own values, and the values are invariably good and social. Can you believe that? When a child feels loved (which means when a child feels you’re on his side), he’s O.K. The child doesn’t experience violence anymore. No fear, so no violence. The child begins to treat others the way he has been treated.
You’ve got to read that book. It’s a holy book, it really is. Read it; it revolutionized my life and my dealings with people. I began to see miracles. I began to see the self dissatisfaction that had been ingrained in me, the competition, the comparisons, the that’s notgoodenough, etc. You might object that if they hadn’t pushed me, I wouldn’t have become what I am. Did I need all that pushing? And anyway, who wants to be what I am? I want to be happy, I want to be holy, I want to be loving, I want to be at peace, I want to be free, I want to be human.
Do you know where wars come from? They come from projecting outside of us the 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; when 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 un-addressed, you’ve compounded the error. You’ve tried to put fire out with more fire. You’ve tried to deal with a flood by adding water to it. I repeat what Neill said “Every child has a god in him.
Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil. Children come to my school, little devils, hating the world, destructive, unmannerly, lying, thieving, bad tempered. In six months they are happy, healthy children who do no evil. And I am no genius, I am merely a man who refuses to guide the steps of children. I let them form their own values and the values are invariably good and social. The religion that makes people good makes people bad, but the religion known as freedom makes all people good, for it destroys the inner conflict [I've added the word "inner"] that makes people devils”.
Neill also says, “The first thing I do when a child comes to Summerhill is destroy its conscience”. I assume you know what he’s talking about, because I know what he’s talking about. You don’t need conscience when you have consciousness; you don’t need conscience when you have sensitivity. You’re not violent, you’re not fearful. You probably think this is an unattainable ideal. Well, read that book. I have run into individuals, here and there, who suddenly stumble upon this truth: The root of evil is within you. As you begin to understand this, you stop making demands on yourself, you stop having expectations of yourself, you stop pushing yourself and you understand. Nourish yourself on wholesome food, good wholesome food. I’m not talking about actual food, I’m talking about sunsets, about nature, about a good movie, about a good book, about enjoyable work, about good company, and hopefully you will break your addictions to those other feelings.
What kind of feeling comes upon you when you’re in touch with nature, or when you’re absorbed in 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 everybody’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 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. I’ve given you a whole program for life, haven’t I?
By: Anthony de Mello
I’ve often said to people that the way to really live is to die. The passport to living is to imagine yourself in your grave. Imagine that you’re lying in your coffin. Any posture you like. In India we put them in cross-legged. Sometimes they’re carried that way to the burning ground. Sometimes, though, they’re lying flat. So imagine you’re lying flat and you’re dead. Now look at your problems from that viewpoint. Changes everything, doesn’t it?
What a lovely, lovely meditation. Do it every day if you have the time. It’s unbelievable, but you’ll come alive. I have a meditation about that in a book of mine, Wellsprings. You see the body decomposing, then bones, then dust. Every time I talk about this, people say, “How disgusting”! But what’s so disgusting about it? It’s reality, for heaven’s sake. But many of you don’t want to see reality. You don’t want to think of death. People don’t live, most of you, you don’t live, you’re just keeping the body alive. That’s not life. 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. If you’re sitting up there in the attic and I say to you, “Come on down”! and you say, “Oh no, I’ve read about people going down stairs. They slip and they break their necks; it’s too dangerous”. Or I can’t get you to cross the street because you say, “You know how many people get run over when they cross the street”? If I can’t get you to cross a street, how can I get you to cross a continent?
And if I can’t get you to peep out of your little narrow beliefs and convictions and look at another world, you’re dead, you’re completely dead; life has passed you by. You’re sitting in your little prison, where you’re frightened; you’re going to lose your God, your religion, your friends, all kinds of things. Life is for the gambler, it really is. That’s what Jesus was saying. Are you ready to risk it? Do you know when you’re ready to risk it? When you’ve discovered that, when you know that this thing that people call life is not really life. People mistakenly think that living is keeping the body alive.
So love the thought of death, love it. Go back to it again and again. Think of the loveliness of that corpse, of that skeleton, of those bones crumbling till there’s only a handful of dust. From there on, what a relief, what a relief. Some of you probably don’t know what I’m talking about at this point; you’re too frightened to think of it. But it’s such a relief when you can look back on life from that perspective.
Or visit a graveyard. It’s an enormously purifying and beautiful experience. You look at this name and you say, “Gee, he lived so many years ago, two centuries ago; he must have had all the problems that I have, must have had lots of sleepless nights. How crazy, we live for such a short time. 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. Now, as you make that meditation, you can just end up with information; but you may end up with awareness. And in that moment of awareness, you are new. At least as long as it lasts. Then you’ll know the difference between information and awareness.
An astronomer friend was recently telling me some of the fundamental things about astronomy. I did not know, until he told me, that when you see the sun, you’re seeing it where it was eight and a half minutes ago, not where it is now. Because it takes a ray of the sun eight and a half minutes to get to us. So you’re not seeing it where it is; it’s now somewhere else. Stars, too, have been sending light to us for hundreds of thousands of years.
So when we’re looking at them, they may not be where we’re seeing them; they may be somewhere else. He said that, if we imagine a galaxy, a whole universe, this earth of ours would be lost toward the tail end of the Milky Way; not even in the center. And every one of the stars is a sun and some suns are so big that they could contain the sun and the earth and the distance between them. At a conservative estimate, there are one hundred million galaxies! The universe, as we know it, is expanding at the rate of two million miles a second.
I was fascinated listening to all of this, and when I came out of the restaurant where we were eating, I looked up there and I had a different feel, a different perspective on life. That’s awareness. So you can pick all this up as cold fact (and that’s information), or suddenly you get another perspective on life – what are we, what’s this universe, what’s human life? When you get that feel, that’s what I mean when I speak of awareness.
By: Anthony de Mello
I want to give you a taste of the difference between analysis and awareness, or information on the one hand and insight on the other. Information is not insight, analysis is not awareness, knowledge is not awareness. Suppose I walked in here with a snake crawling up my arm, and I said to you, “Do you see the snake crawling up my arm? I’ve just checked in an encyclopedia before coming to this session and I found out that this snake is known as a Russell’s viper. If it bit me, I would die inside half a minute. Would you kindly suggest ways and means by which I could get rid of this creature that is crawling up my arm”? Who talks like this? I have information, but I’ve got no awareness.
Or say I’m destroying myself with alcohol. “Kindly describe ways and means by which I could get rid of this addiction”. A person who would say that has no awareness. He knows he’s destroying himself, but he is not aware of it. If he were aware of it, the addiction would drop that minute. If I were aware of what the snake was, I wouldn’t brush it off my arm; it would get brushed off through me. That’s what I’m talking about, that’s the change I’m talking about.
You don’t change yourself; it’s not me changing me. Change takes place through you, in you. That’s about the most adequate way I can express it. You see change take place in you, through you; in your awareness, it happens. You don’t do it. When you’re doing it, it’s a bad sign; it won’t last. And if it does last, God have mercy on the people you’re living with, because you’re going to be very rigid. People who are converted on the basis of self-hatred and self-dissatisfaction are impossible to live with. Somebody said, “If you want to be a martyr, marry a saint”. But in awareness, you keep your softness, your subtleness, your gentleness, your openness, your flexibility, and you don’t push, change occurs.
I remember a priest in Chicago when I was studying psychology there telling us, “You know, I had all the information I needed; I knew that alcohol was killing me, and, believe me, nothing changes an alcoholic — not even the love of his wife or his kids. He does love them but it doesn’t change him. I discovered one thing that changed me. I was lying in a gutter one day under a slight drizzle. I opened my eyes and I saw that this was killing me. I saw it and I never had the desire to touch a drop after that. As a matter of fact, I’ve even drunk a bit since then, but never enough to damage me. I couldn’t do it and still cannot do it”. That’s what I’m talking about awareness. Not information, but awareness.
A friend of mine who was given to excessive smoking said, “You know, there are all kinds of jokes about smoking. They tell us that tobacco kills people, but look at the ancient Egyptians; they’re all dead and none of them smoked”. Well, one day he was having trouble with his lungs, so he went to our cancer research institute in Bombay. The doctor said, “Father, you’ve got two patches on your lungs. It could be cancer, so you’ll have to come back next month”. He never touched another cigarette after that. Before, he knew it would kill him; now, he was aware it could kill him. That’s the difference.
The founder of my religious order, St. Ignatius, has a nice expression for that. He calls it tasting and feeling the truth — not knowing it, but tasting and feeling it, getting a feel for it. When you get a feel for it you change. When you know it in your head, you don’t.
By: Anthony de Mello
Now you need awareness and you need nourishment. You need good, healthy nourishment. Learn to enjoy the solid food of life. Good food, good wine, good water. Taste them. Lose your mind and come to your senses. That’s good, healthy nourishment. The pleasures of the senses and the pleasures of the mind. Good reading, when you enjoy a good book.
Or a really good discussion, or thinking. It’s marvelous. Unfortunately, people have gone crazy, and they’re getting more and more addicted because they do not know how to enjoy the lovely things of life. So they’re going in for greater and greater artificial stimulants.
In the 1970s, President Carter appealed to the American people to go in for austerity. I thought to myself He shouldn’t tell them to be austere, he should really tell them to enjoy things. 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.
Then I walk into places where they have all the most marvelous music, and you get these records at a discount, they’re all stacked 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’d develop 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 health. You never find an animal smoking. It always exercises as much as it needs – watch your cat after it’s had its breakfast, look how it relaxes.
And see how it springs into action, look at the suppleness of its limbs and the aliveness of its body. We’ve lost that. We’re lost in our minds, in our ideas and ideals and so on, and its always go, 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. You know what I’m talking about. I could have said of myself what one Jesuit friend said to me some years ago Take that plate of sweets away, because in front of a plate of sweets or chocolates, I lose my freedom.
That was true of me, too; I lost my freedom in front of all kinds of things, but no more! I’m satisfied with very little and I enjoy it intensely. When you have enjoyed something intensely, you need very little. It’s like people who are busy planning their vacation; they spend months planning it, and they get to the spot, and they’re all anxious about their reservations for flying back. But they’re taking pictures all right, and later they’ll show you pictures in an album, of places they never saw but only photographed. That’s a symbol of modem life.
I cannot warn you enough about this kind of asceticism. Slow down and taste and smell and hear, and let your senses come alive. If you want a royal road to mysticism, sit down quietly and listen to all the sounds around you. You do not focus on any one sound; you try to hear them all. Oh, you’ll see the miracles that happen to you when your senses come unclogged. That is extremely important for the process of change.
By: Anthony de Mello
If you wish to understand control, think of a little child that is given a taste for drugs. As the drugs penetrate the body of the child, it becomes addicted; its whole being cries out for the drug. To be without the drug is so unbearable a torment that it seems preferable to die. Think of that image – the body has gotten addicted to the drug. Now this is exactly what your society did to you when you were born. You were not allowed to enjoy the solid, nutritious food of life namely, work, play, fun, laughter, the company of people, the pleasures of the senses and the mind. You were given a taste for the drug called approval, appreciation, attention.
I’m going to quote a great man here, a man named A. S. Neill. He is the author of Summerhill. Neill says that the sign of a sick child is that he is always hovering around his parents; he is interested in persons. The healthy child has no interest in persons, he is interested in things. When a child is sure of his mother’s love, he forgets his mother; he goes out to explore the world; he is curious.
He looks for a frog to put in his mouth – that kind of thing. When a child is hovering around his mother, it’s a bad sign; he’s insecure. Maybe his mother has been trying to suck love out of him, not give him all the freedom and assurance he wants. His mother’s always been threatening in many subtle ways to abandon him. So we were given a taste of various drug addictions: approval, attention, success, making it to the top, prestige, getting your name in the paper, power, being the boss. We were given a taste of things like being the captain of the team, leading the band, etc. Having a taste for these drugs, we became addicted and began to dread losing them. Recall the lack of control you felt, the terror at the prospect of failure or of making mistakes, at the prospect of criticism by others.
So you became cravenly dependent on others and you lost your freedom. Others now have the power to make you happy or miserable. You crave your drugs, but as much as you hate the suffering that this involves, you find yourself completely helpless. There is never a minute when, consciously or unconsciously, you are not aware of or attuned to the reactions of others, marching to the beat of their drums.
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. When you are ignored or disapproved of, you experience a loneliness so unbearable that you crawl back to people and beg for the comforting drug called support and encouragement’ reassurance.
To live with people in this state involves a never-ending tension. “Hell is other people”, said Sartre. How true. When you are in this state of dependency, you always have to be on your best behavior, you can never let your hair down; you’ve got to live up to expectations. To be with people is to live in tension. To be without them brings the 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 insofar 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 neither support nor threaten my 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.
By: Anthony de Mello
How would I describe love? I decided to give you one of the meditations I’m writing in a new book of mine. I’ll read it to you slowly; you meditate on it as we go along, because I’ve got it put down in short form here so I can get it done in three or four minutes; otherwise it would take me half an hour. It’s a comment on a gospel sentence. I had been thinking of another reflection, from Plato: “One cannot make a slave of a free person, for a free person is free even in prison”. It’s like another gospel sentence: “If a person makes you go one mile, go two”.
You may think you’ve made a slave out of me by putting a load on my back, but you haven’t. If a person is trying to change external reality by being out of prison in order to be free, he is a prisoner indeed. Freedom lies not in external circumstances; freedom resides in the heart. When you have attained wisdom, who can enslave you? Anyhow, listen to the gospel sentence I had in mind earlier: “He sent the people away, and after doing that he went up to the mountain to pray alone. It grew late and he was there all by himself”. That s what love is all about. Has it ever occurred to you that you can only love when you are alone? What does it mean to love? It means to see a person, a situation, a thing as it really is, not as you imagine it to be.
And to give it the response it deserves. You can hardly be said to love what you do not even see. And what prevents us from seeing? Our conditioning. Our concepts, our categories, our prejudices, our projections, the labels that we have drawn from our cultures and our past experiences. Seeing is the most arduous thing that a human can undertake, for it calls for a disciplined, alert mind. But most people would much rather lapse into mental laziness than take the trouble to see each person, each thing in its present moment of freshness.
By: Anthony de Mello
Let’s talk more about effortlessness in change. I thought of a nice image for that, a sailboat. When a sailboat has a mighty wind in its sail, it glides along so effortlessly that the boatman has nothing to do but steer. He makes no effort; he doesn’t push the boat. That’s an image of what happens when change comes about through awareness, through understanding.
I was going through some of my notes and I found some quotations that go well with what I’ve been saying. Listen to this one: “There is nothing so cruel as nature. In the whole universe there is no escape from it, and yet it is not nature that does the injury, but the person’s own heart.” Does that make sense? It isn’t nature that does the injury, but the person’s own heart. There’s the story of Paddy, who fell off the scaffolding and got a good bump. They asked, “Did the fall hurt you, Paddy?” And he said, “No, it was the stop that hurt, not the fall.” 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 hurt, that’s where the pain comes from.
Here’s a lovely one: It’s from an Oriental sage, though I don’t remember which one. As with the Bible the author doesn’t matter. What is said is what matters. “If the eye is unobstructed, it results in sight; if the ear is unobstructed, the result is hearing; if the nose is unobstructed, the result is a sense of smell; if the mouth is unobstructed, the result is a sense of taste; if the mind is unobstructed, the result is wisdom.”
Wisdom occurs when you drop barriers you have erected through your concepts and conditioning. Wisdom is not something acquired; wisdom is not experience; wisdom is not applying yesterday’s illusions to today’s problems. As somebody said to me while I was studying for my degree in psychology in Chicago years ago, “Frequently, in the life of a priest, fifty years’ experience is one year’s experience repeated fifty times.” You get the same solutions to fall back on: This is the way to deal with the alcoholic; this is the way to deal with priests; this is the way to deal with sisters; this is the way to deal with a divorcee.
But that isn’t wisdom. Wisdom is to be sensitive to this situation, to this person, uninfluenced by any carryover from the past, without residue from the experience of the past. This is quite unlike what most people are accustomed to thinking. I would add another sentence to the ones I’ve read: “If the heart is unobstructed, the result is love.” I’ve been talking a great deal about love these days even though I told you there’s nothing that can be said, really, about love. We can only speak of non-love. We can only speak of addictions. But of love itself nothing may be said explicitly.
By: Anthony de Mello