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How to Be Open

Are you listening to confirm what you already think, or are you listening in order to discover something new?

How to get the most out of these Wisdom Quotes:

  1. Put aside everything you think you already know.

  2. Open your mind and heart to receive something new.

  3. Take your time going through each point.

  4. Return to any points that particularly touch you.

  5. In the coming days, listen carefully to the wisdom within you.

*All quotes by Anthony de Mello, Awareness

1. Be Willing to Unlearn

Anthony de Mello quote

"Believe me, it really doesn’t matter whether you agree with what I’m saying or you don’t. Because agreement and disagreement have to do with words and concepts and theories. They don’t have anything to do with truth.

Truth is never expressed in words. Truth is sighted suddenly, as a result of a certain attitude. So you could be disagreeing with me and still sight the truth.

But there has to be an attitude of openness, of willingness to discover something new. That’s important, not your agreeing with me or disagreeing with me. After all, most of what I’m giving you is really theories. No theory adequately covers reality.

So I can speak to you, not of the truth, but of obstacles to the truth. Those I can describe. I cannot describe the truth. No one can. All I can do is give you a description of your falsehoods, so that you can drop them. All I can do for you is challenge your beliefs and the belief system that makes you unhappy. 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."


You have heard you need to be open to receive the truth, but what does it really mean to be open?

  1. Being open doesn't mean agreeing or disagreeing with what is being said. It means being willing to listen and learn something new.

  2. In order to learn something new, the old needs to be dropped. Most of us go through life living every day according to the past - without realizing it. This keeps us closed and chained to the conditioned mind. Seeing this opens you.

  3. Anthony tells us that it is through unlearning that we can learn spiritual things. We know very well how to learn, but how do we unlearn? In the coming quotes, we will discover the obstacles we have to the truth, ushering us into unlearning and the openness we seek.

2. Be Ready to Listen

Anthony de Mello quote

"Are you listening, as most people do, in order to confirm what you already think?

Observe your reactions as I talk. Frequently you’ll be startled or shocked or scandalized or irritated or annoyed or frustrated. Or you’ll be saying, “Great!” But are you listening for what will confirm what you already think? Or are you listening in order to discover something new? That is important.

We don’t want new things, particularly when they’re disturbing, particularly when they involve change. Most particularly if it involves saying, “I was wrong.”

I remember meeting an eighty-seven-year-old Jesuit in Spain; he’d been my professor and rector in India thirty or forty years ago. And he attended a workshop like this. “I should have heard you speak sixty years ago,” he said. “You know something. I’ve been wrong all my life.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is faith! 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. That’s faith. Not belief, but faith.

Your beliefs give you a lot of security, but faith is insecurity. You don’t know. You’re ready to follow and you’re open, you’re wide open! You’re ready to listen.

And, mind you, being open does not mean being gullible, it doesn’t mean swallowing whatever the speaker is saying. Oh no. You’ve got to challenge everything I’m saying. But challenge it from an attitude of openness, not from an attitude of stubbornness. And challenge it all."


"Are you listening, as most people do, in order to confirm what you already think?" "Or are you listening in order to discover something new? That is important."

  1. Have you noticed your reaction when you're listening to something that goes against your beliefs and preferences? There's an instant closing that happens, when the heart energy becomes blocked, not letting anything pass through. At that point, you're listening with a closed mind and heart.

  2. The reason this happens is because your false sense of self (the ego) feels threatened. Opening your mind and heart to something new can mean that you've been mistaken all these years - an uncomfortable possibility that may be too risky to entertain. So you play it safe by protecting the small, fearful self which you have always identified with, by closing and remaining closed.

  3. The 87-year-old man said, "I’ve been wrong all my life.” What a striking example of openness! This openness came from the courage to listen without closing, and the faith to follow an unfamiliar path.

3. Look and See

Anthony de Mello quote

"Understand that maybe you’ve got the wrong ideas and it is these ideas that are influencing your life and making it the mess that it is and keeping you asleep. Ideas about love, ideas about freedom, ideas about happiness, and so forth. And it isn’t easy to listen to someone who would challenge those ideas of yours which have come to be so precious to you.

You’re always listening from your programming, from your conditioning, from your hypnotic state. You frequently interpret everything that’s being said in terms of your hypnotic state or your conditioning or your programming.

The most difficult thing in the world is to listen, to see. We don’t want to see. Do you think a capitalist wants to see what is good in the communist system? Do you think a communist wants to see what is good and healthy in the capitalist system?

We don’t want to look, because if we do, we may change. We don’t want to look. If you look, you lose control of the life that you are so precariously holding together."


You're willing to unlearn. You're ready to listen. Now it's time to look and see.

  1. Look and see yourself: "Understand that maybe you’ve got the wrong ideas..." and perhaps your beliefs aren't as precious as you thought they were. Have they really served you all these years?

  2. Look and see others: the individuals and groups you've been judging - do they really have it all wrong, while you have it all right? Are you really better than them? Have you dehumanized them by closing your heart and slapping labels on them?

  3. Look and see the world: do you know that the world you see is simply a reflection of your mind? The world is actually what you think it is because you perceive it through the personal filter of your mind. This means you're not looking at life through the lens of a camera. Rather, you're painting a picture of reality through your thoughts. Is that painted picture more precious than discovering the truth of life and the truth of who you are?

4. Enter Into Self-Observation

Anthony de Mello quote

"The only way someone can be of help to you is in challenging your ideas. If you’re ready to listen and if you’re ready to be challenged, there’s one thing that you can do, but no one can help you.

What is this most important thing of all? It’s called self-observation.

Self-observation — watching yourself — is important. It is not the same as self-absorption. Self-absorption is self-preoccupation, where you’re concerned about yourself, worried about yourself. I’m talking about self-observation. What’s that? 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.

What does that last sentence mean? It means that you do not personalize what is happening to you. It means that you look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever."


Perhaps you have already heard of the benefits of being "the watcher" of your mind, or you're already engaged in self-observation but find yourself falling into judgment most of the time. Or maybe this is all completely new to you. Either way, Anthony provides some clear and helpful guidance for us that leads to the most incredible opening of all - that of awakening.

  1. "Watch everything in you and around you as far as possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else." How do you do that exactly? By zooming out of the snow globe of the distracted mind, to an expanded awareness. Imagine looking down on yourself from above as you move through your day, interacting with life.

  2. "You do not personalize what is happening to you." This means that you no longer need to get offended. See that everyone is operating through their conditioned mind, and whatever they say or do is a reflection of that and not a reflection of you. If someone doesn't like you, it means they don't like their story of you, their perception and ideas of you. Not personalizing what's happening also means that you no longer need to feel like a victim of life. Life unfolds in its own way, whether we like it or not, agree with it or not. You have attached meaning to its unfolding. Again, by zooming out and seeing yourself from the vastness of the universe, recognize that everything is happening impersonally on the outside, but you have personalized it all on the inside.

  3. "You look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever." Notice any resistance that rises up in response to these words. This doesn't mean you go through your day like a zombie. On the contrary, you're taking your place in the seat of awareness, being interested in your reactions to everything rather than just being lost in the content of your thinking. This is the most empowering position. The voice in your head has kept you in a state of self-hypnosis, but now you become disconnected from it, and you wake up, instantly finding yourself in the present moment, in real life instead of your memory or imagination. It doesn't matter how many of these moments of clarity, presence and awakening you have, as long as you have them.

5. Observe Like a Scientist

Anthony de Mello quote

"Do you want to change the world? How about beginning with yourself? How about being transformed yourself first? But how do you achieve that? Through observation. Through understanding. With no interference or judgment on your part. Because what you judge you cannot understand.

When you say of someone, “He’s a communist,” understanding has stopped at that moment. You slapped a label on him. “She’s a capitalist.” Understanding has stopped at that moment. You slapped a label on her, and if the label carries undertones of approval or disapproval, so much the worse! How are you going to understand what you disapprove of, or what you approve of, for that matter?

All of this sounds like a new world, doesn’t it? No judgment, no commentary, no attitude: one simply observes, one studies, one watches, without the desire to change what is. Because if you desire to change what is into what you think should be, you no longer understand.

A dog trainer attempts to understand a dog so that he can train the dog to perform certain tricks. A scientist observes the behavior of ants with no further end in view than to study ants, to learn as much as possible about them. He has no other aim. He’s not attempting to train them or get anything out of them. He’s interested in ants, he wants to learn as much as possible about them. That’s his attitude.

The day you attain a posture like that, you will experience a miracle. You will change — effortlessly, correctly. Change will happen, you will not have to bring it about.

As the life of awareness settles on your darkness, whatever is evil will disappear. Whatever is good will be fostered. You will have to experience that for yourself."


Why do you even want to be open in the first place? Because openness is what will afford the room in you to receive something new - insights that lift the veils of conditioning and have the power to transform your world - instantly.

  1. Can it really be as simple as just observing yourself? Surely there has to be something more difficult, more complicated on the path of awakening. It is thoughts such as this that hinder us from discovering the simplicity of truth. Truth is always simple. If something is complicated, it's the mind.

  2. Notice the difference in attitude between the dog trainer observing the dog, and the scientist observing the ants. You must learn to watch yourself without an agenda, with no end in sight. Observe yourself with pure curiosity, ready to learn something new every day. (For there is always something new to see when you are present and awake.)

  3. "You will change — effortlessly, correctly." Here we see the beautiful, effortless way of organic transformation. We've been told, time and time again, that we need to do so much to become better and live a satisfying life. There are many who are selling the dream very well. But don't be so convinced that they have what you're looking for. The change your heart longs for has nothing to do with outward things. And it has everything to do with opening your being to the light of awareness.

6. How Much Truth Are You Ready to Take?

wisdom quote

"Cut out all the judgments and simply observe, watch. You’ll make great discoveries. These discoveries will change you. You won’t have to make the slightest effort, believe me.

[And let there be] 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."


"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. How much are you ready to take? How much of everything you’ve held dear are you ready to have shattered, without running away? How ready are you to think of something unfamiliar?"


"The moment you get bitten by the bug of awareness. Oh, it’s so delightful! It’s the most delightful thing in the world; the most important, the most delightful. There’s nothing so important in the world as awakening. Nothing!"


What happens when you open?

  1. You're ready to receive the truth without running away.

  2. You effortlessly make great discoveries that change you.

  3. You are ready to experience the most important and delightful thing in the world - awakening.


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