Awareness By Anthony De Mello: A Recovery Mainstay

Awareness By Anthony De Mello…how is this book different from others?

Awareness By Anthony De Mello

The seeker came to the guru and asked,

“Master, please would you take my notebook and write down the secret by which I can end my suffering?

The master smiled and obliged him. But when the seeker was handed back the pad all that was written was the word: Awareness.

“No, no” was his protest, “there is only one word written here, surely there is more instruction that could aid me in my suffering.

Again with a smile, the guru took back the pen and pad, and again the guru obliged the poor sufferer. Only this time upon receiving the notebook, there was seen a kind elaboration from the guru in the written words: Awareness, Awareness.

“Master you have only repeated the same word twice, I do not understand, please instruct me, how am I to be free of that which causes me to suffer?”

In a seamless charity, the master took the pen and pad and scribbled down on his paper for the third time. When the pad was handed back there could be read the words:

Awareness, awareness, awareness.


Anyone who has lived in the bondage of addiction knows very well the unspeakable burden of suffering that comes with a life enslaved to chemicals or destructive compulsions.

Anyone who has by grace and resilience survived such a life long enough to experience the obsession lift, also knows the innumerable ways in which addiction can manifest.

We put down the drink or the drug, and pick up the fork, we put down the fork and pick up the weights, put that down and pick up the credit card, social media, the cell phone, 10 extra shifts a week, etc. My first sponsor once told me, “the most common drug for someone in recovery is another person.”

Awareness By Anthony De Mello

The Jesuit Catholic priest, Father Anthony De Mello in his book “Awareness”, would describe addiction and all the aforementioned manifestations of addiction as attachments; or more specifically: attachment fears and attachment desires.

The crux of De Mello’s message in his transcribed, 8-hour lecture is that attachment leads to suffering, happiness cannot be found in or wrested from the external world, and that true inner change comes by way of no effort on your part, be it by force of will or renouncement, but by a rigorous and alert “seeing” and understanding that cuts through illusion.

These dictums are hardly new ideas and not of his invention, they are ancient insights from the east as well as the west, and for which he is a most apt translator, they are the core message of such spiritual traditions like Buddhism and Taoism.


What Father De Mello offers in his book are pointers, signposts that may lead one into a profound shift in consciousness. A shift from the perspective that “without his or her attention and adoration I cannot be happy” too, “I do not need anyone’s praise or approval to be happy”, for true happiness is uncaused, it is our natural state.”

Illuminated by such a revelation, by true awareness, is to enter the “Kingdom of Heaven” as De Mello proclaims. It is a state of being that the true meaning of the word happiness was intended to signify, the state into which we were all born and still reside, but cannot see lest we are freed from the programming and conditioning, the lies and illusions we adhere to and that are ubiquitous among the addicted, the recovered, and virtually all humankind for that matter.

Awareness By Anthony De Mello


In his book Awareness, Anthony De Mello shines the light of understanding onto the true meaning of such ambiguous precepts as non-attachment and pronouncement.

He leads us into a reassurance that we can prefer and fully participate in our career and relationships, our material gain and stature in life (or lack thereof) and be totally unattached – blissfully unaffected by gain or loss because we are born happy, because uncaused joy is our original and natural state, if only we have the awareness to see it.

Awareness By Anthony De Mello

He unmasks the only lasting result of bald abstinence by force of will, in that you are forever tied to that which you renounce, driven to compulsively avoid and resist instead of to compulsively seek and consume.

Moreover shows us how easily spiritual attainment can become just another game for the ego, deceiving us into trading in our chains of iron for chains of gold. But most importantly De Mello urges the reader not to reject or accept his words straight away, but to inspect and explore what he puts forth, as the jeweler inspects gold; by feeling, cutting, scraping.

Do not flatly discount what you encounter in this book or in life, do not merely say yes and accept what wisdom your guru imparts upon your heart, but learn, grow, and god willing transcend by feeling, cutting, scraping.

Article written by Jordan Gee