My friend Jana believed the man she loved didn’t love her. She might have been right. He was tentative and hesitant and eventually left her. But she might also have been wrong. She’ll never really know because for the six months they were together, she foundered around in the very murky territory that is relationship without awareness.“Awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness. To put it somewhat graphically,” Anthony de Mello writes, “…When I’m listening to you, it’s infinitely more important for me to listen to me than to listen to you. Of course, it’s important to listen to you, but it’s more important that I listen to me. Otherwise I won’t be hearing you. Or I’ll be distorting everything you say. I’ll be coming at you from my own conditioning. I’ll be reacting to you in all kinds of ways from my insecurities, from my need to manipulate you, from my desire to succeed, from irritations and feelings that I might not be aware of. So it’s frightfully important that I listen to me when I’m listening to you.” (Awareness by Anthony de Mello, Fount Paperbacks, 1900, p. 71)
For many, very good reasons, Jana grew up without much of a spiritual core to connect with. Then her man appeared and suddenly life had meaning. She floated up out of a morass of depression and stared into a bright, warm future. It didn’t last long. If the man didn’t call exactly when he said he would, or if he didn’t want to see her every day, that future came under threat. Eventually it disappeared completely.
A year later she’s still trying to understand what happened by analyzing him – Did he not love her? –and what happened between them – Did she drive him away? She goes back and forth, what he said, what she said, scrambling for signs, for ways to calibrate discernment. But there’s no way to get to grips with it this way. Her judgment, shrouded in insecurity, is just too unreliable. The only solution is to stop asking the question and start developing some deeper level self-awareness.
This, for Jana, is particularly painful. But she’s starting to do it, nonetheless. She’s beginning to look at the agonizing insecurities at the core of her being. The tricky bit is to be able to do that without judgment, to see the shapes and contours of herself without interpreting, categorizing or criticizing. The man is irrelevant really. Focusing on him is a distraction, just as self-criticism is a distraction from Awareness. She is her own best compass as long as she can manage to listen to herself first.