Raad Ahmed
November 30, 2021

📖 Book Brief: Awareness

“Book Brief” is a paid-subscribers only series where I share my notes on inspiring ideas from books I read.

Awareness: Conversations with Masters - by Anthony DeMello

ISBN: 0385249373

Length: 193 pages

Date read: December 27, 2019

Format: Kindle

How strongly I recommend it: 4/5

Published: 1992

Go to the Amazon Page for details and reviews.

My Notes & Highlights

Bertrand Russell who said, “Every great idea starts out as a blasphemy.”

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.


But are you listening for what will confirm what you already think? Or are you listening in order to discover something new?

An openness to the truth, no matter what the consequences, no matter where it leads you and when you don’t even know where it’s going to lead you.

But challenge it from an attitude of openness, not from an attitude of stubbornness.

Buddha when he said, “Monks and scholars must not accept my words out of respect, but must analyze them the way a goldsmith analyzes gold—by cutting, scraping, rubbing, melting.”

Sufi would say, “A saint is one until he or she knows it.”

We don’t want to look. If you look, you lose control of the life that you are so precariously holding together.

The chances that you will wake up are in direct proportion to the amount of truth you can take without running away.

The first reaction is one of fear. 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.

It means to watch everything in you and around you as far as possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else.

It means that you look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.

It never strikes us that things don’t need to be fixed. They really don’t.

They need to be understood. If you understood them, they’d change.

without the desire to change what is.

You think you are free, but there probably isn’t a gesture, a thought, an emotion, an attitude, a belief in you that isn’t coming from someone else.

this thing you call “I” is simply a conglomeration of your past experiences, of your conditioning and programming.

So how about taking a minute, right where you’re sitting now, to be aware, even as I talk, of what you’re feeling in your body, and what’s going on in your mind, and what your emotional state is like? How about being aware of the blackboard, if your eyes are open, and the color of these walls and the material they’re made of? How about being aware of my face and the reaction you have to this face of mine? Because you have a reaction whether you’re aware of it or not. And it probably isn’t your reaction, but one you were conditioned to have.

First, can you pick up the desire under that suffering, that there’s something you desire very keenly or else you wouldn’t be suffering.

You have somehow said to yourself, “The well-being of ‘I,’ almost the existence of ‘I,’ is tied up with this desire.”

All suffering is caused by my identifying myself with something, whether that something is within me or outside of me.

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.

She has identified with the food. She is saying, “Anyone who attacks the food attacks me; I feel threatened.” But the “I” is never threatened; it’s only the “me” that is threatened.

Because when negative feelings come in, you go blind. “Me” steps into the picture, and everything gets fouled up. Where we had one problem on our hands before, now we have two problems.

It’s very important that when you swing into action, you be able to see things with detachment.

We never feel grief when we lose something that we have allowed to be free, that we have never attempted to possess.

Grief is a sign that I made my happiness depend on this thing or person, at least to some extent.

Because if you do, the next thing you will be doing, whether you’re aware of it or not, is demanding that other people contribute to your happiness.


Perfect love casts out fear.

It is something that I discovered, a kind of symphony, a kind of orchestra that plays one melody in your presence, but when you depart, the orchestra doesn’t stop. When I meet someone else, it plays another melody, which is also very delightful. And when I’m alone, it continues to play.

Alone v. Lonely

Loneliness is not cured by human company. Loneliness is cured by contact with reality.

You can only know what aloneness is when you drop your clinging, when you drop your dependency.

It will only serve as a distraction. There’s an emptiness inside, isn’t there?

When you talk to someone, are you aware of it or are you simply identifying with it?

did you study your experience and attempt to understand it?

You fear no one because you’re perfectly content to be nobody.

There’s a lovely saying of Tranxu, a great Chinese sage, that I took the trouble to learn by heart. It goes:

“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.”

You step outside of yourself and look at that depression, and don’t identify with it. You don’t do a thing to make it go away; you are perfectly willing to go on with your life while it passes through you and disappears.

And anxiety? There it comes and you’re not troubled. How strange! You’re anxious but you’re not troubled.

You’re thrilled but you pick up the anxiety behind that: How can I make it last? That’s not happiness, that’s addiction.

There’s only one reason why you’re not experiencing bliss at this present moment, and it’s because you’re thinking or focusing on what you don’t have. Otherwise you would be experiencing bliss.

Be aware of what you’re saying, be aware of what you’re doing, be aware of what you’re thinking, be aware of how you’re acting. Be aware of where you’re coming from, what your motives are.

What you are aware of you are in control of; what you are not aware of is in control of you.

it’s more important that I listen to me. Otherwise I won’t be hearing you. Or I’ll be distorting everything you say.

“Don’t seek the truth; just drop your opinions.”

“I am a failure, a lawyer, a businessman.” You know what’s going to happen to you if you identify yourself with these things. You’re going to cling to them, you’re going to be worried that they may fall apart, and that’s where your suffering comes in.

just as physical pain is given to you so you will understand that there is disease or illness somewhere. Suffering points out that there is falsehood somewhere.

You don’t have to add anything in order to be happy; you’ve got to drop something.

The second step (this is a four-step program) is to understand that the feeling is in you, not in reality.

There is no event on earth that has the power to disturb you or hurt you.

You’re free; you don’t care anymore about being accepted or rejected, that makes no difference.

But what you’re really telling me is that you want to be desired. You want to be applauded, to be attractive, to have all the little monkeys running after you.

He doesn’t need you; he’s not threatened by your criticism; he doesn’t care what you think of him or what you say about him.

The world is right because I feel good.

We see people and things not as they are, but as we are. That is why when two people look at something or someone, you get two different reactions. We see things and people not as they are, but as we are.

Put this program into action, a thousand times:

(a) identify the negative feelings in you;

(b) understand that they are in you, not in the world, not in external reality;

(c) do not see them as an essential part of “I”; these things come and go;

(d) understand that when you change, everything changes.

The selfishness lies in demanding that someone else live their life to suit your tastes,

As you identify less and less with the “I,” you will be more at ease with everybody and with everything. Do you know why? Because you are no longer afraid of being hurt or not liked. You no longer desire to impress anyone.

Somebody was mean to what he or she thought was you, but not to you.

Nobody ever rejects you; they’re only rejecting what they think you are.

To deny the self, to die to it, to lose it, is to understand its true nature.

Suffering points up an area in you where you have not yet grown, where you need to grow and be transformed and change.

Negative feelings, every negative feeling is useful for awareness, for understanding.

Whereas if you look at it and see it for what it is really worth, if you understand how you are preparing the grounds for misery and disappointment and depression, your desire will then be transformed into what I call a preference.

Every time you are unhappy, you have added something to reality.

You have added something by your reaction. And if you examine what you have added, there is always an illusion there, there’s a demand, an expectation, a craving.

You do not change if you merely change your exterior world. If you get yourself a new job or a new spouse or a new home or a new guru or a new spirituality, that does not change you.

Desire breeds anxiety and sooner or later it brings its hangover.

Until somebody told you you wouldn’t be happy unless you were loved, you were perfectly happy.

Because now I’m going to start getting tense. I’ve got to live up to it, I’ve got to maintain it. I’ve got to find out after every lecture: “Did you like the lecture? Do you still think I’m a genius?”

Don’t identify with those labels. That’s what someone else thinks. That’s how he experienced you at that moment. Are you in fact a genius? Are you a nut? Are you a mystic? Are you crazy? What does it really matter? Provided you continue to be aware, to live life from moment to moment.

When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn’t the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it’s the formless wonder of the child. Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language and words and concepts. Then hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll return to wonder again.

The beauty of an action comes not from its having become a habit but from its sensitivity, consciousness, clarity of perception, and accuracy of response.

An attachment is a belief that without something you are not going to be happy.

When you see a stone as a stone and a scrap of paper as a scrap of paper, you don’t think that the stone is a precious diamond anymore and you don’t think that that scrap of paper is a check for a billion dollars. When you see that, you change.

Consider how we’re enslaved by various attachments; we’re striving to rearrange the world so that we can keep these attachments, because the world is a constant threat to them.

And say to this object or person, “I really do not need you to be happy. I’m only deluding myself in the belief that without you I will not be happy. But I really don’t need you for my happiness; I can be happy without you. You are not my happiness, you are not my joy.”

Happiness is a state of nonillusion, of dropping the illusion.

If you’re attached to appreciation and praise, you’re going to view people in terms of their threat to your attachment or their fostering of your attachment.

When your mother got angry with you, she didn’t say there was something wrong with her, she said there was something wrong with you; otherwise she wouldn’t have been angry. Well, I made the great discovery that if you are angry, Mother, there’s something wrong with you. So you’d better cope with your anger. Stay with it and cope with it. It’s not mine. Whether there’s something wrong with me or not, I’ll examine that independently of your anger. I’m not going to be influenced by your anger.

“You’re having a tantrum. Too bad. I don’t feel the slightest desire to rescue you anymore, and I refuse to feel guilty.”

I’m not going to hate myself for anything I’ve done. That’s what guilt is.

It’s not reality that matters, but what you’re saying to yourself about it.

“The day you cease to travel, you will have arrived.”

“You mean I helped you? I was enjoying myself. I was just doing my dance. It helped you, that’s wonderful. Congratulations to you. No credit to me.”

Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.

You never enjoy others when you are enslaved to them.

“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.”

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.

You were given a taste for the drug called approval, appreciation, attention.

Others now have the power to make you happy or miserable.

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.

“Hell is other people,” said Sartre.

To be with people is to live in tension. To be without them brings the agony of loneliness, because you miss them.

Note: Because you 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.

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.

But in awareness, you keep your softness, your subtleness, your gentleness, your openness, your flexibility, and you don’t push, change occurs.

So imagine you’re lying flat and you’re dead. Now look at your problems from that viewpoint. Changes everything, doesn’t it?

When you’re ready to lose your life, you live it.

“We live in a flash of light; evening comes and it is night forever.”

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.

To see at last with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire.

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.

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.

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.

Do you know where wars come from? They come from projecting outside of us the conflict that is inside.