The following is the 50th chapter in AWARENESS: A de Mellow Spirituality Conference in His Own Words
by Fr. Anthony de Mello, S.J. edited by J. Francis Stroud, S.J., Copyright © 1990 by the Center for Spiritual Exchange
“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.”