Tami Simon: This program is brought to you by SoundsTrue.com. At SoundsTrue.com, you can find hundreds of downloadable audio learning programs, plus books, music, videos, and online courses, and events. At SoundsTrue.com, we think of ourselves as a trusted partner on the spiritual journey offering diverse, in-depth, and life-changing wisdom. SoundsTrue.com: many voices, one journey. [Music.] You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Gabrielle Bernstein.
Gabby is the New York Times bestselling author of May Cause Miracles. She appears regularly as an expert on NBC’s Today Show, and has been featured on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday as a next-generation thought leader who was named a new role model by the New York Times. She’s also the author of the books Add More ~Ing to Your Life, Spirit Junkie, Miracles Now, and her newest book, Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back from Living a Better Life. The Judgment Detox is an interactive six-step process that calls on spiritual principles from a course in miracles, kundalini yoga, the emotional freedom technique also known as tapping, meditation, prayer, and metaphysical teachings.
Gabby is the founder of HerFuture.com: a social networking site for women to inspire, empower, and connect. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Gabby and I spoke about how judgment functions like an addiction, and her six-step process for breaking free from what she calls “the judgment cycle.” We also talked about honoring the core wounds that lie underneath our judgments, and how the judgment cycle begins with feelings of fear, inadequacy, and shame. We talked about the difference between judgment and discernment, and the judgments that many of us feel about our current president and political issues, and how we can be non-judgmental spokespeople who work for social change. We also talked about why Gabby has made feeling good a priority in her life, and how being judgmental and feeling good don’t go together. Here’s my conversation with Gabby Bernstein on her new book Judgment Detox.
Gabby, I’m excited to talk to you about the topic of judgment and its release. This is a topic that I think is so important for so many of us, and quite honestly [it’s] something that I’ve just really been focusing on more and more in my own life—how powerful it is when we become aware of our judgments, and how they make us feel. I think this is something you really point out in Judgment Detox. Even with the title “detox,” that when we’re filled with judgments it can feel quite toxic, quite dark and black. Talk a little bit about that idea of detoxing from judgment.
Gabrielle Bernstein: I like that you’re starting with this big question of how does it make me feel because I’ve written about how judgment is really an addictive pattern, and like any addiction we can feel really hungover when we’re done, when we’re coming down from it, right? This pattern of judgment has become a very pervasive issue for all of us, and we don’t always realize it. Having that awareness to start to check in and say, “How am I feeling in the wake of my judgment?” It’s a really big step in healing the pattern.
TS: [Yes.] Now, tell me how you came, Gabby, to focus on this, and to write a book—a whole book—on detoxing from judgment. Tell me your own process of coming to this.
GB: I wrote a book called The Universe Has Your Back, and it came out about a year ago—a little over a year ago—and when I was writing that book there was an entire chapter dedicated to killing our relationship to judgment so that we can get closer to our connection to the universe, and our spiritual relationship. When I finished writing that chapter, I looked at the computer screen and I was like, “Oh boy, this is a book.” I just realized that this is way more than just one chapter in a book. It was an entire book. I felt really called and inspired to get that book out now, because it was right around the time of the 2016 election that I was preparing these ideas and ready to make the commitment to publish this book. I sold it right away, and it became really clear that it was time for me to get this message out now, it was something I couldn’t wait on. Also, I think writing that chapter really gave me this real itch to get more out.
I don’t know. You’re such a creative person, you know what I’m talking about when you feel like you have to get something out. You cannot wait on it. That was—it was a call. I felt really, really pushed and pulled to get this message out not just for the times that we’re in and the need for the reader, but really for myself. I was suffering. I was truly suffering. I was feeling a lot of discomfort, I was feeling a lot of stress and anxiety, I was feeling like my relationships were suffering, that I felt disconnected, and in many cases I felt alone. It was all coming from this pattern of judgment that I was really realizing needed more than just a little bit of a perceptual shift here and there. It needed a full blown detox because I was truly seeing it as an addictive pattern.
I’ve been sober 12 years, so I’m very familiar with abstinence, and I’m very familiar with sobriety in terms of changing a pattern, committing to a new behavior, and the positive effect that we experience as a result of the repetition of new positive behavior. It became really clear to me that this is something I needed to do now because the same way that I was using drugs and alcohol in my early 20s I was now using judgment, and in the exact same way that I used the substances, which was simply to anesthetize feelings of inadequacy, shame, and self-attack. Ultimately, it was just another form of addiction that was needing to be detoxed.
TS: Let’s talk more about this idea of judgment as an addiction because I don’t think most people in their life think of it that way. I think most people think “I’m judgmental for gosh darn good reasons.” Addictions are other things. Those are things I’m doing to distract myself from this, that, or the other kind of pain. But I’m judgmental because there’s good reasons to be. How is it an addiction?
GB: This is a great question, and you’re pointing something out that’s really important, but I actually don’t think people think about their judgment that much at all. I don’t think they think of it as an issue. I think they feel just—I think I can see for myself, before doing this process I felt justified in my judgment. I felt like they were protecting me. It was a false sense of protection. But when I really started to dig into it, I could see how detrimental the behavior was, and how it was really bringing me down. The reason I believe that judgment is an addictive pattern is that the same way we would use drugs, or alcohol, or work, or sex, or love—to project out, to do something, to anesthetize a deep-rooted wound or discomfort.
When we feel that—in efforts to avoid feeling those feelings, we use some kind of substance to get out of that pain. In the case of judgment, we would project out what we don’t want to feel within, so we use that judgment as a way of avoiding feeling that pain. The reason that this becomes an addictive pattern is because there’s something I call in the book called “the judgment cycle.” We are feeling those feelings of shame and inadequacy, so then we project out that shame and inadequacy onto somebody else so that we don’t have to feel it. Then unconsciously we feel a sense of guilt because the truth of who we are is not judgmental, and so that guilty feeling that we have for judging them we project back onto ourselves. We judge ourselves for judging, and then we judge ourselves for judging so much that we feel so terrible that we judge somebody else, because we don’t want to feel it anymore. It becomes this rapid cycle of judgment that’s just pretty much going on all day long, and it’s going on in the background.
We don’t realize it, we’re not paying attention to it, we’re—like I said earlier, we feel justified in it, and we’re sitting there even on our social media feed judging someone, then judging ourselves for not having what they have. Then judging somebody else on social media so that we don’t feel that bad about ourselves, and then judging ourselves again, and then judging somebody else again. It just becomes this very pervasive cycle. Ultimately, this pattern has become something that I believe has kept us stuck. It’s weakened our attracting power. I think when we’re here talking to your community, a very spiritual community that I believe is always in the pursuit of getting closer to consciousness, and raising their relationship to their higher power. Well, judgment is probably one of the biggest ways that we block that connection. We block our power to manifest, to attract, to call into our life what we desire. Because when we’re in a place of judgment, we’re in a low-energy, low-vibe state, and in that state we feel that great sense of inadequacy, which we continue to perpetuate through the cycle of judgment.
TS: Now, I wonder, I think it would be helpful if you would give an example. Perhaps maybe something you’ve really—
GB: I have a great one.
TS: —worked through on your own life, especially of this cycle and addictive nature.
GB: I have a recent one, Tami. OK.
GB: Here I am. It was like a week ago, and a girlfriend of mine calls me, and she says to me “Gabby, I was in my kundalini yoga and meditation teacher training, and my teacher is sitting on the stage and she’s talking to the class. All of a sudden she starts talking about you, and how you’re not teaching the teachings properly.” Putting down my teachings. When she said this to me, it sent me into this deep, deep-rooted shame, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of self-attack and hatred, and I did not want to feel those feelings for one second. Immediately my response was, “What kind of spiritual teacher judges another spiritual teacher in their yoga classroom? Who does that?” I started going into this rage in judgment and anger, and all of a sudden pretty quickly I start feeling pretty guilty, because here I am judging another spiritual teacher.
Quickly, I started saying to myself, “Well, oh my God, I’ve got this book Judgment Detox coming out in a few weeks. How could I judge another spiritual teacher. Oh my God, what’s wrong with me? I feel like such an idiot. What’s going on with me? I’m so awful that I’m judging this person.” Then in that shame of judging myself, or judging her, I start judging my friend who was actually just telling me that this happened in the first place, and I’m all mad at my girlfriend for telling me that this happened. She should’ve kept her mouth shut. Why did she have to tell me? Then I feel so guilty for judging my friend, making myself—making her feel bad for what she’s done, but I start judging myself because here I am, I’ve written the book to Judgment Detox. How dare I judge, right? You see the cycle?
TS: I saw it perfectly. Very understandable.
GB: Right. Can you imagine that cycle in your own life? I think anyone listening might be like, “Yes, that sounds familiar.” Yes.
TS: Then help me connect to the addictive nature. Here you are, and you’re in this cycle judging your friend, judging this other teacher, judging yourself, feeling guilty about the whole thing. How is that an addiction, or an addictive process, if you will? Then this breaking of that pattern, like breaking an addiction?
GB: Yes. OK, great question. In the midst of all that, I kept going back to it. I was with my girlfriend—she was staying with me over the weekend—and I kept saying, “Well, what did she really say? Why did she say this?” Just continuing, going for it, and going for it, and going for it. Because I’ve been living the Judgment Detox, and because I put my face on the cover of this book, and because I really want to walk my talk, I had the tools within me to “break the cycle” as you said. Healing any addiction is really simply breaking a cycle. Like in 12-step recovery, you don’t want to drink, right? They say, “How do you break the cycle? Call your sponsor, go to meetings. Call your sponsor, go to meetings.”
You put some type of positive behavior—pray, meditate, call your sponsor, go to meetings, practice the step work—doing some kind of positive spiritual behavior in front of the addictive pattern is what stops the addiction in its tracks. The same case with the Judgment Detox. In that moment, I viewed the first step—which is I witnessed my judgment without judgment—and I said to my friend out loud: “I am judging. I’m seeing myself in this. I am not happy with how I’m acting, and I’m not going to judge myself for this judgment. I’m going to look at it.” In that first step, you ask yourself a few questions: What or who am I judging? How does it make me feel? Why do I feel justified in this judgment? What experience from my past has set me off to be in this judgmental story in the first place? I started to ask myself these questions. I kind of unpacked the pattern there. I could see this woman telling me that I wasn’t teaching properly was triggering the part of me that was a sixth grader. I was told I was stupid, right?
Just triggering that past feeling of inadequacy. Then the second step in the Judgment Detox is to honor the wound. I really had to go deep and honor the wound, which is that little girl that was feeling inadequate. In that second step, I used emotional freedom technique tapping, which I shared with you guys on your summit.
TS: Yes, The Self-Acceptance Summit. Yes.
GB: Using EFT. Yes, EFT. I’m sure a lot of people listening are familiar, but it’s emotional freedom technique, which is tapping on energy meridians while you’re talking about emotional disturbances. You’re healing the energetic disturbance that lives beneath the wound and the trigger. I saw that I was triggered in step one, and in step two I was tapping on the trigger. When I started tapping, “I feel so inadequate. Even though I feel so inadequate, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” I tapped on this wound, and then I continued into the following steps, which we’ll get to if we want to.
GB: I put the steps of the book in place of the judgmental pattern, and within six or seven hours I was out of the cycle. Now, six or seven hours is long even for me now, but in general terms that’s a pretty quick comeback rate, right?
GB: My hope for the reader isn’t that they completely give up their judgment altogether. My hope is that they just no longer believe in it, they no longer have tolerance for it, and they have the tools in their back pocket so that they can come back fast.
TS: Now, you mentioned that in the Judgment Detox, you teach a six-step process, and you’ve identified the first two steps. The first one being witnessing your judgment without judgment, and I think people can relate to that like “OK, I can do that. I want to do that, I think.”
TS: It’s relatively innocuous. I want to witness what’s going on. “Oh, I’m judging. I’m not going to judge the fact that I’m judging. Great.” Now you get to the second step, which I think is quite—it’s deep, and I want to talk to you about it, which is honoring the wound, and you write that underneath every judgment is a core wound. That’s what I want to talk to you about. How do we start knowing what are the core wounds underneath this or that judgment?
GB: In step one, we start to see the wounds when we practice those four questions because by asking yourself those four questions, you can begin to unpack the pattern. You’ll see—maybe you see over and over again that the same . . . The four questions in step one were: What or who am I judging? How does it make me feel? Why do I feel justified in that judgment? Then the fourth question is: What experience from my past is triggering this? If you start to do that enough times—the journal that accompanies this book, there’s a lot of pages in that journal where you can really just write those four questions out for many, many different judgments. Hopefully by the time you’ve done it six or seven, eight, nine times you can see, “Oh, wow, a lot of the same past experiences are showing up.”
When you notice through that audit of your judgment that there’s specific experiences that continue to repurpose and resurface, you can realize for yourself, “OK, wow. There’s some pattern here, there’s a moment in time that created an energetic disturbance. A wound that I’ve been running from, that I’ve been avoiding.” I imagine that a lot of people listening to Sounds True probably [have] been doing personal growth work for a while. Maybe they’re not. Maybe you’re new to this. But if you’ve been here for a while, you may have done some work. In which case, you may be pretty conscious of some of those wounds. You may know, “OK, well, my father left when I was a kid,” or, “That teacher told me I was stupid,” or, “I felt inadequate when I was left on the playground.” Those experiences from our past where we separated from oneness, where we separated from our faith in our interconnectedness, and the love within us—that separation has just been repurposed, and replayed over and over through the fear-based belief systems that we continue to project throughout our lives.
GB: Ultimately, those experiences become the patterns that leave us left with judgment as our protector.
TS: Now, I want to talk about something that I think a lot of people will relate to here, which is a judgment about our current political administration, and our current president. You said that you started getting really excited about writing this book during the 2016 election results and thereafter. I think someone might say, “Wait a second. I feel very judgmental about some of the decisions that are being made in Washington, DC.” How does that relate to a core wound that I have? Isn’t that just being an intelligent, critical thinker?
GB: There’s a difference between judgment and discernment, and we have two choices right now with this political scenario. We can be discerning, and we can get out and vote. We saw what happened in Alabama. We can get out and vote, we can let our—we can speak up, we can write about it, we can have our voice heard locally. We can do that from a place of discernment—which means we can witness the injustices that are occurring, things that we may not agree with, things that make us feel unsafe in this country that we live in, in the world that we live in—or we can do something about it, or we can sit around and judge it all day long, lower our energy, weaken our power, and lose our voice.
I think Martin Luther King is a perfect example. That movement didn’t come out of a place of judgment, it came out of a place of peaceful protest. There’s a big difference. It’s not about being silent, and it’s not about ignoring the realities of our times and becoming apathetic, it’s just about, “Am I going to speak up from a place of judgment or am I going to speak up from a place of discernment?” When we can dissolve that judgment, our voice has far more power.
TS: Help me understand further, Gabby, how someone would know in their own experience, “I’m being discerning here, and I’m not moving into this . . .” You talk about judgment. A couple of times you’ve mentioned that it’s a lower vibration, and there’s this—as we mentioned in the beginning—quality of toxicity to it. How do I know when I’m engaging in a conversation about current events, and I’m speaking out, whether I’m coming from a place of judgment—I feel justified, I’m fired up, I’m saying all these things—or if I’m coming from a place of discernment?
GB: How do you feel? You have to ask yourself, “How do I feel?” Simply, if you’re in a place of judgment you’re going to feel riled up, you’re going to feel—maybe even feel physical stuff come up for you. I know when I’m in a place of judgment, my stomach hurts. I feel clenching in my chest. When I’m in a place of discernment, I’m realizing this isn’t something that’s right, but I’m going to speak up about it. It doesn’t feel right to me, but I’m going to take action from a place of empowerment. I feel aligned. I feel connected. I’m breathing more easily. I have clearer thoughts. I feel less rageful. It’s less personal.
TS: Now, one thing is when someone feels quite justified—what I notice from my own experience, I’ll speak for myself here—is I do get that kind of toxic aftertaste, but also sometimes in the moment I can revel in it, and revel in my righteous anger. I kind of enjoy it, to be honest.
GB: We get high off of it, yes. It’s a temporary high.
GB: It’s a temporary high. Well, there’s a lot that comes along with that. We get temporarily high in our self-righteousness. In some ways, we feel like we’re protecting ourselves and we’re speaking up. But you nailed it—we feel it unravel later. We feel hungover from it later. Again, it’s an additive pattern. You get high at first, and then you fall apart.
GB: Even gossiping with people, there’s a temporary high because there’s a false sense of connection, and then later you walk away feeling more disconnected than you ever had before you began.
TS: Yes. I think especially when you mentioned this quality of “we’re being a protector,” then I feel like this is a good thing to do. I’m protecting something I care about.
GB: In some ways, it may feel like protection is the right response, but that’s a pretty scary place to live, Tami. It’s pretty scary to live at a place where we’re triggered and then we have to fight back, and we’re triggered and we have to fight back, and every time we’re triggered, we feel we have to be righteous and fight back. It’s a pretty stressed-out state to live in.
GB: It’s a lot of stress response, right? There’s a constant state of living that yo-yo of reacting, reacting, reacting. One of the biggest things that’s happened for me as a result of writing this book is I’ve become so aware of my triggers, and I have these tools now to self-soothe in the midst of the trigger so I don’t have to use judgment as a way of fighting back.
Even just a simple example: working with an outside party in your field. In my field, we work with a lot of different independent contractors that set things up. I had many hours of discussion on how this one campaign was going to be set up, and then I see it set up today inside the back end of my platform—I see it, and I’m like “What is this? It’s completely wrong. The opposite of everything we agreed to.” The protector in me wants to go right into judgment. “How dare they. What did they do? Who are these people? What’s wrong with them?” It sounds like a silly thing, but that hit a trigger in me.
GB: That triggered this part of me. It’s an old story from the past, which I’ve been able to un-dig from this book—a story of feeling like I’m not being taken care of. When I feel that feeling, I judge the person who’s not taking care of me for being so wrong, and so stupid, and so inadequate, because I feel so afraid of not being taken care of. I caught myself in that moment today, seeing myself go right into that rage, and then using the tools in the book to unpack it. Witnessing my judgment without judgment, honoring the wound, and then taking myself through the rest of the steps that you can start to do quite quickly once you’ve done these steps.
The third step [is] putting love on the altar. The typical thought process I’d be having, there would be, “I’m not being taken care of.” That would be the mantra. “I’m not being taken care of.” The third step of put love on the altar is a prayer. I put the prayer out. I choose to see this differently. I choose to judge nothing that occurs here, and just putting myself into a different state, and then taking myself actually very quickly though the rest of the steps as we can get to.
TS: Now, just one more thing, because I want to address the person who is potentially feeling an objection at this point because of the state of the world, and the protector energy inside of them who says, “Oh my God, I’m listening to Tami Simon at Sounds True, and I like her work, but gosh now the last thing I want to hear from Sounds True is that we’re going to turn us all into sort of paste balls of unconditional love and light during this time when we need people to be well-informed, critical-thinking activists. This is scaring me. We’re really moving to this, ‘Let me release all judgment’ at this moment?”
GB: Let me be clear. By no means am I suggesting that we become all love and light, and ignore what’s going on in the world. That’s not what’s going on here. But what I am saying is there’s two different approaches to the way that we show up right now. We can show up from a place of rage and triggers because let’s face it—the 2016 election, any woman who has been sexually assaulted has a major triggering wound with Donald Trump. Let’s be real. Particularly even right now with everything else that we’re seeing, right? There’s a real trigger, right? Anyone who has experienced any type of racial injustice triggers. Immigrants trigger. It’s just everywhere. Triggers. Anyone that—every moment of the day, this administration will be triggering our childhood wounds. My therapist actually said that she’d never been busier than right after the election.
GB: Her office, she was just doing after hours with her clients because people were so—because their core childhood wounds were triggered. What I’m asking [of] my readers and anyone here who feels called to feel better in the midst of this corruption is to practice these steps so you can heal those core wounds. So that when you come from a place of true healing you have a much more powerful voice and a much more powerful stance, because if we act out from a place of being triggered, our judgments are going to weaken our voice. They’re going to weaken our power, and ultimately we won’t be able to create the movement that we need to create now.
GB: It’s not in any way saying be silent. It’s saying clean up the energy behind your message before you start becoming the messenger.
TS: Very good. I think that’s very clear. Now, in terms of this second step you call it “honoring the wound,” and we talked a little bit about the process by which you can investigate and identify the wound. What does it mean to honor it?
GB: Oh boy. When we start to look at all the ways that we’re wounded, it can be sad. It can be kind of depressing, and it has to be a little bit of a ceremony in some ways. I try to look at the ways that I allowed myself to be the witness of the wound. I noticed that if I start looking at all of it, and I start looking at it from the stand point of “Oh my God, there’s so much here,” I started to see myself as a victim. But the moment that I reframed it and said, “I’m going to honor these wounds as the tapestry that has made up the life that I have lived, and now I’m going to really bring my practice to these wounds so that I can heal them. Truly heal them so that I can be more free.”
There was a much different energy than looking at like, “I’m such a victim. I have so many things from my past that I have to heal,” and then going back into the judgment cycle. That’s why I really wanted to make it a practice of honoring your past, honoring your experiences, and in no way regretting the past. No way regretting the past experiences. They got you here. They got you to be someone who’s so wise, and connected, and spiritually awake right now that you’re listening to this audio. God bless you. All the experiences from your past have led you here. It’s an incredible experience to be able to honor our past and say, “OK, that’s what it’s been and I’m ready to see it differently.”
TS: OK, and now to ground this again, Gabby. I loved the example that you gave of the kundalini yoga teacher, and the comment she made that was repeated to you that triggered you, and you told us how you were able to identify a wound from your childhood. Tell me what it’s meant for you to honor that wound that you identified?
GB: Through the practice of EFT, I’ve been allowing myself to really heal the wounds, and that practice is a really—being truly present. Even using the words in emotional freedom technique: even though I’m so triggered, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. That’s [a] setup statement with emotional freedom technique. Even that in itself— that line in itself—is a true acknowledgement of even though I’ve got this stuff, I still love and accept myself. It’s radical self-compassion because if we’re going to be brave enough to wonder what lives beneath the addictive pattern of judgment, we have to be willing to be compassionate and loving along the way. I think that’s required. It’s absolutely required. In order to do deep self-reflective work, we have to really be kind, and gentle, and honor ourselves throughout the process.
TS: Once again I want to ground it in the real-life example, if you can tell me the wound you identified, and then the honoring of it, and how that’s rippled out in your life.
GB: OK. In that instance, that example, it triggered a part of me that felt as though it was that sixth grader that was told that I was stupid. When I went to step two—the practice in step two is EFT—and I tapped on that wound, and through the experience in tapping on that wound I came out the other side allowing myself to truly feel the feelings that live beneath that wound. To answer this correctly, the practice of really honoring the wound is allowing yourself to be present in the feelings that are there, that live beneath it.
TS: You were able to be present with what it feels like. The sense of shame, or loneliness, or being exiled for not being smart enough. Something like that. Being inadequate—that feeling.
GB: Yes. The word “shame” is the operative word, because in the book there’s three different tapping scripts. There’s this script on judging someone else, judging yourself, and shame. In this specific instance with the yoga teacher, I was tapping on the shame. Tapping on shame is really going there. It’s really allowing yourself to be present with the feelings, to bring a voice to your shame, because our shame can’t be dissolved until we bring a voice to it. When we speak our shame, then it can be developed. It’s when we’re so unwilling and so afraid to acknowledge it that it’s this secret murderer. It’s this silent voice that’s always lingering.
GB: It’s when we really allow it to be present and honor it—really, like I said, honor it—that it can be dissolved.
TS: That’s helpful. Really letting ourselves speak it out. In this case, it might be something like you letting yourself say, “I felt so terrible feeling stupid. This is this deep thing inside me. Maybe I’m not really that bright.” Something like that? The shame of that?
GB: Exactly. While you’re tapping—[in] emotional freedom technique, you tap on these different meridians. While you’re tapping, you’re actually talking about the shame. In this case, I was tapping on the shame and before I started tapping, the shame was at a 10. Zero to 10, [with] 10 being the highest. Throughout the tapping process, I’m tapping on these different energy meridians, and saying things to myself like, “All this shame. All this shame of not feeling good enough. I feel so ashamed that I’m not smart enough, that I don’t think I’m smart enough. I feel ashamed, I feel triggered. I’m so rageful, I’m so angry, I want to fight back.” Continuing to just allow myself to tap on whatever was coming up, and really let the words of shame come up. “I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. Who am I to teach? Who am I to do this?”
Then once it starts to come to the surface, we start to feel a sense of relief. Tapping is interesting because it’s like a tabletop, and there’s different aspects that come out while you’re tapping. Just like a tabletop, when you kick out one aspect, it’s like kicking out one of the legs of the table. Then you find another aspect that comes up as you’re tapping and you kick out another leg of the table, and another aspect kicks out the third leg, and the fourth leg, and then the table collapses. In the collapse, that’s where the freedom lies. I just kept continuing to tap on different aspects as they came up, and so the first aspect maybe I feel ashamed, and then I feel rageful, and then it was tapping on “I’m not good enough because I was stupid in sixth grade.” Right? Allowing all those stories to be uncovered throughout the tapping process, and that’s the step—that’s the exercise in that second step.
TS: OK. I want to make sure that we at least touch briefly on all six of the steps. Step three you mentioned had to do with—you call it “putting love on the altar” and turning our judgment over in prayer, really letting there be some kind of spiritual intervention when we find ourselves judging. Talk some about that, and specifically is there a prayer that you use on the spot when you’re, “I’m judging now. [Yes.] This is the moment”?
GB: Yes. There’s several prayers throughout this chapter that I love to use, but one really simple one that I think is a great way to even to start your day, which is simply: I choose to judge nothing that occurs. It’s a gorgeous—it’s a simple, simple, simple practice of just praying to see things differently. Praying to choose to not judge whatever is in front of you. You could also simply say, “I choose to see this differently.” There’s a prayer for acceptance that I put in the book. It’s the acceptance prayer from the 12 Steps, and acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I’m disturbed it’s because I find someone, some place, thing, or situation, some fact of my life unacceptable to me. I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. That’s another one of the prayers.
I put these prayers in the book. There’s a prayer for forgiveness. The way that I ask the reader to use the prayer is to really just begin to pay attention to the moments when they feel those wounds. They’ve done step one. They’ve witnessed their judgment without judgment. They’ve done step two. They’ve honored the wound. At this point, they’re in a place where there’s less of a charge, and there’s an opportunity for that perceptual shift. The prayer is something that can be used interchangeably all throughout the day, whatever is going on. But to really simply make a commitment to use a different language rather than the language of judgment, because it’s easy, so easy to fall right back into that self-righteous place of protection. Because really that’s such default button for all of us, that protector mode.
Through prayer, we surrender, we release the protector. We say, “Protector, you can step aside now.” And we allow a voice of our higher self to step in. That’s the beauty of prayer. It’s just a very passive experience. It’s practice of surrender. It’s imperative if we’re going to begin to change the pattern, because no matter how much heavy lifting we do with the tapping and the witnessing, we need that prayer as the next step to begin to get out of the way.
TS: Have you identified, Gabby, that there are certain judgments—they happen for you, and you immediately go to prayer. No big problem. But there are other kinds of judgments that you hold on to for a longer period of time, and—
GB: Yes. [Laughs]
TS: What category of those judgments do you tend to hold on to for a longer period of time where you don’t go directly to prayer?
GB: OK. Well, really the big one is when I feel—if the wound that’s been triggered is the wound of feeling like I’m not being taken care of or I’m not being respected, that’s the one. When I’m judging from that place, it’s harder for me to jump into prayer. That’s why I really need those first two steps before I can pray. But to your point, there are some judgments that show up right now where I can go right to prayer. I can go right to prayer. I can find my way right to prayer. What I’m not feeling as triggered, it’s easier to go right to prayer.
TS: What would you suggest to someone who has a judgment pattern where it’s really turned against themselves, and they judge themselves for something like, “Oh, I’m eating chocolate again.” Right here, this is the sugar moment, and there’s a judgment, judgment.
TS: What’s a prayer that they could use right in that moment?
GB: In that moment, it’s an opportunity. I wouldn’t go straight from “I’m eating chocolate and I’m in my sugar moment” to “I’m perfect, I’m wonderful” or affirming something different. I think that I would pray for an intervention. “Thank you, spirit, for helping me through this moment of discomfort. Thank you God, thank you universe—whatever you choose to believe in—for helping me through this moment of discomfort.” Whenever we ask for help, we can put in the place of the pattern a spiritual intervention. We can invite in a power greater than ourselves to help realign us with our inner guidance system, and that asking is a very powerful, profound prayer.
TS: Just to make sure this is clear for people, why do we need spiritual intervention? Why can’t we just go through the process of detoxing our judgment without this turn to spirit or God?
GB: I think that if you don’t identify as a spiritual person you could absolutely still use the practices in this book, and you could look at the prayers as intentions or affirmations. You don’t necessarily have to believe in a higher power to use these practices, although throughout the book a lot of the practices are designed to help you get closer to that connection to your higher power. It can happen. Truly when it comes to spiritual principles, I don’t want people to get hung up about the semantics. If the idea of prayer is a hang-up for someone, I don’t want that to deter them from following these steps. They could simply say, “Well, I’m just setting a new intention,” or, “I’m using a different language,” or, “I’m changing my inner dialogue.” Because it’s never—my intention as a spiritual teacher is to be very free about the way that I teach.
I don’t want to in any way make people feel like it has to be this type of meditation, at this moment in the day, for this amount of time, and I have to pray this exact way. That’s just another form of judgment. My hope is that people can find—really, my primary intention, and the through line behind all the work that I do and all the books that I write is to help people establish a spiritual connection of their own understanding, and if they don’t want to call it spiritual, that’s fine with me too. I just want to help people feel better. Call it what you want, really.
TS: OK. Summarize for our listeners in brief step four, five, and six. So at least we have the overview of the six-step process.
GB: Wonderful. OK. Step four is to see for the first time. I can explain this step, actually, with a story. When I was writing this chapter—when it was about time to write this chapter—I didn’t know what it was going to be yet. Actually, the step came to me. There was an outline, but it changed as I wrote because so much was happening in real time. I was dealing with some issues with my dad, and like many people there’s a person or family member in your life that there’s reoccurring stuff that comes up. My father and I were on our typical phone call, a Sunday afternoon phone call, and we were just kind of struggling with each other, fighting back and forth about some unnecessary things. At the end of the call, he said to me, “You know, Gabby, I feel really judged by you.” I thought to myself, “I am judging you, Dad.”
I’m in the middle of writing a book called Judgment Detox, and here I am judging you, at which point I just said, “OK, maybe that’s something I really need to bring to the practice that I’m writing about right now, and I thank you for bringing this to my attention.” I said “OK, fine. I’ll see you next Friday night for dinner, and then we’re going to go to temple for Pappy’s Yahrzeit—for my grandfather’s anniversary of his death.” I met my father for dinner that Friday night, and then in the typical Bernstein style of my family, we showed up late to temple because that’s what we typically do. We walked in very late. We walked into the back row, and I sat back in the back row, listened to the rabbi’s sermon, and of course that night the sermon was all about compassion, and kindness, and oneness, and deepening our connection to love. I just was in awe of how perfect that assignment was for me to receive that message that night.
Then at the end of the service, the rabbi said, “I want to acknowledge this family that’s in the audience, and it’s the Bernsteins. I want to acknowledge Edgar Bernstein, and Max Bernstein, and Gabby Bernstein are here in the audience tonight. I really want to acknowledge Edgar, because Edgar is here every year on his parent’s anniversary of their Yahrzeit. He’s always here to celebrate his elders, and I really acknowledge Edgar for never missing their anniversary, and always showing up for him, and his mother, and his father. This year I went into the archives.” He tells this whole story about [how] he went into the archives of the temple registration cards, and he pulled out my grandfather’s membership card that he had handwritten with his name, Seymour Bernstein, and he pulled it out to give it to my father that night. He acknowledged my father, and he walks up to my father, and gives my father this membership card. I see my father standing in the aisle just hysterically crying, and just so proud to be acknowledged.
In that moment, all I could see was a man being honored by his rabbi. I could see a man who is part of a congregation. I could see a man who had shown up year after year to celebrate his elders, a man who is very loyal to his faith, and a man who is very vulnerable and sensitive. In that moment, all of my stories from the past were dissolved, and all I could see was him for the first time. I just wanted to share that story because it’s the best way for me to describe what this means. It’s to see someone through the lens of the present moment. Seeing them in their light, seeing them in what is thriving about them, and what they are bringing to the table, what is working. Rather than all the stories, and the pretenses, and the traumas from the past that we want to hook into.
GB: It’s a challenging step for people, particularly if somebody has been really harmed by another person. But in that case, it may be seeing someone for the first time would require that maybe you just see that person as a spiritual assignment—someone who has brought you to your knees so that you could grow more, and learn more, and become a stronger person. There’s practices in this step about really using compassion, and presence, and seeing someone through the light within them so that you can have that experience, hopefully, as seeing them for the first time.
TS: Yes, and it sounds like also through the eyes of compassion—seeing their pain, seeing what they went through to get to this place, what made them.
GB: Absolutely. That’s exactly right.
TS: OK. Step five.
GB: Step five is to cut the cord, and there are six meditations in this chapter, and those meditations are beautiful practices. They’re designed for the reader to practice over a six-day period each morning, and after each meditation in the morning they would do a little reflection and see how they feel throughout the day. The meditations are designed for people to get closer to oneness. They’re practices in forgiveness, and the goal of these six practices of meditation are to cut the energy cord. When we have a real hook with energy, with a judgmental attack on someone, we’re sending out this almost energetic dagger, and there’s a cord that is attached. That invisible cord—whether you call it a cord, or just a vibe, or a feeling, or an emotion—it can be felt.
You know it. When you’ve had a break up or even though you may not have seen the person in six months, you still feel so energetically tied to them, right? The goal of these meditations is to really cut those cords so that we can feel a sense of freedom, and we can also let the other person off the hook. That’s a big intention here of these steps. The six meditations build upon each other to really give that person that experience of freeing themselves of the energy cord attachment, and they’re beautiful meditations.
TS: It’s interesting that you focus on the energetic level of our judgments. I mean it’s one thing to go through this process in our minds and understanding, but yet still this fifth step of saying we actually need to get in there at a feeling-based level—it sounds like release, a real release.
GB: Yes, you nailed it because when we—here’s the thing. We can walk around and say all the right things. “Oh, I’m not judging. I’ve said my prayers, I’ve done my work, and I’m saying nice things.” We can still feel that hook. That can’t necessarily always be healed through a prayer, through an affirmation, or through compassion. Sometimes that has to happen on a more subtle level. It has to happen in a more contemplative state, and so a lot of my greatest forgiveness and my greatest healing has occurred on my meditation pillow. In that chapter, I share a story of a real dark, dark judgment that was lingering, and I just couldn’t heal it. The only way that it was going to be healed was through cutting those cords on my meditation pillow.
TS: OK. Step six. You call it “bringing our shadows to light.”
GB: This is the forgiveness step, and I strategically place this step as the last step because I felt like by the time you’ve done all five steps, you get to this final step, and you’re in such a beautiful place to genuinely allow. What I love most about the way that I’ve been taught to practice the forgiveness—as a student of A Course in Miracles, I’ve been really taught that forgiveness is a choice we make, and it’s not a major act that we have to take, it’s an experience we have to receive. That receptivity of the experience of forgiveness comes through the choice that we make, comes through the moments of witnessing our judgment without judgment, and honoring our wounds, and putting love on the altar, and seeing for the first time, and cutting the cord. Those are all five steps to really prepare us to get to a place of just allowing those shadows to dissolve into light, because those steps have prepared us to come to a place of genuine willingness to be free.
In this chapter, I talk about how the practice of forgiveness is much more passive than we imagine. Not necessarily something we have to do. It’s something we have to allow, and that can come through the cumulative effective of these steps, and our willingness to forgive.
TS: Interestingly, Gabby, you’re emphasizing this “allowing” and “receiving,” but you’re also saying that the big move is the choice. The choice to forgive. That’s something we do.
GB: It is, and that’s the nice thing about forgiveness. It’s almost like we have to look at the ways—there are three steps that I reference based on the principles of A Course in Miracles in this chapter. Witness the ways that you detoured into fear, choose that you want to forgive instead, and the final step is allow spirit, or allow God, or allow presence of the spiritual connection to set that forgiveness in motion. That third step is really passive. It’s not up to you. It’s about surrendering, and allowing, and just letting the universe do her thing. Truly. It’s getting out of the way. Once we have that awareness, “This isn’t what I want, and I choose to forgive instead.” Miracles will occur. It’s a beautiful experience, but it has to come from a genuine desire to forgive.
TS: You’ve just mentioned this first step: witnessing our fear. When you talked about some of the hardest types of judgments for you to let go of, it came down to a deep fear of not feeling safe. I wonder if you can connect for our listeners this idea of whatever it is that we’re afraid of, and how that can relate to the judgment cycle.
GB: The judgment cycle begins from that place this year. The only—if we were not afraid, or if we were not in a place of shame or inadequacy or place of separation, we wouldn’t judge, because why would we judge if we felt great? If we felt good about ourselves? Why would we be judging? That feeling of fear, that trigger of shame—that’s the place that we judge from. Through this practices—they’re all practices of truly reorganizing our relationship this year, and reorganizing the relationship of those fears so that we can offer them up at the end and really ask for them to be resolved.
TS: Even as you were talking about how our current social situation brings up many core wounds for people, many of these deep fears, there’s a fear, “I’m not going to be safe in a world where we’re on the brink of nuclear war. I’m not going to be safe in a world where the environmental crisis is spiraling out of control.” Et cetera. Many people, underneath the judgments they have, there’s a lot of fear. Understandably.
GB: Yes, and I really want to talk about this a little bit more because I think that it’s—again and again I think I’m going to continue to come back to the fact that sometimes that fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the moments when it wakes us up and says, “I got to get out and vote,” or, “I got to get out and do that thing,” or, “I got to speak up,” or, “I got to call my congresspeople,” or whatever it is. We have that fear as a guiding light toward what we know needs to change. But it’s when we continue to dwell in that energy and fear that we perpetuate the problem. That’s why I really want to have people going through these steps at this time. These steps are not meant to make people apathetic. These steps are meant to give people more power.
TS: OK. There’s two more questions I have to ask you, Gabby, and these both came up from reading the end of the Judgment Detox, and toward the end of the book, you write in a section called “Make Feeling Good a Priority.” You write this: “I made a commitment to myself, my family, and my readers that feeling good was my number one priority.” I thought that was so interesting because obviously—as we talked about it in the beginning of this conversation—when we’re feeling super judgmental we may feel on some kind of righteous gorge, but it’s not the same as really feeling good, and feeling peaceful, and at the type of “high vibration” that you’re pointing to as possible. Talk to me about this commitment you made to make feeling good your number one priority.
GB: I really love your questions. You’re an amazing interviewer. Thank you. I appreciate you today. I appreciate you for really taking your time with this book too. I loved this part of this book as well, and I’m so glad you brought it up because ultimately when I was able to really do these steps, I was able to really see how detrimental that judgmental pattern was to my energy, my physical body, my relationships, my work—everything in my life. As I started to heal, I started to feel better. When I started to feel better, I wanted to take that to the next level. Making that desire to feel good my priority is also saying that I’m making a commitment to living the Judgment Detox practice day in and day out, doing my best to continue to come back to these principles, and feeling good.
When I set out to write this book, I really asked myself, “Who do I want to be? What is the kind of person I want to be?” I realized [that] I want to be the kind of person who, in the midst of gossip, chooses a higher-level story or chooses to stay silent and say a prayer. Or in the midst of attack, says a prayer for the person instead of fighting back. I want to be the kind of person who can stay calm when I’m triggered and have the tools to come out of it quickly. That desire, that clarity of who I want to be and how I want to function in the world, is completely aligned with my desire to feel good. When I make feeling good a priority, I get closer each day to being that person that I want to be.
TS: Gabby, I think the reason you’re appreciating this conversation is that, as I mentioned in the very beginning, this is an issue that is really important for me to investigate in exploring the Judgment Detox. I realized I have a lot of justifications for my judgment and that they keep me from feeling good, but I feel so justified in them. I have this idea that there’s something more important than feeling good, that being a righteous citizen is more important, protecting my business from people taking advantage of me is more important. I have a lot of justifications that are unexamined, and I think that’s what I really came to see in studying the Judgment Detox was how important it is that I examine these justifications for my judgment.
GB: Yes, I appreciate you so much for having the willingness to go there because that’s—we feel so justified in our judgment, and we feel so terrified of the idea, “What if I let that go? Who would I be if I let that go? Would I be giving up on protecting my country? Would I be giving up on protecting my business, or my relationship, or myself, or whatever it is? Who would I be?” I really challenge all of you out there listening to really question that. Who can I be if I give this up?
TS: OK. Then the last point that I want to talk about is you write toward the end of the book, “In my own spiritual practice, my main focus is on my comeback rate.” You talk about this idea of a “comeback rate” in your life, and I thought that was so interesting, and I want to end on that note: what you mean by that, and how we can increase our comeback rate.
GB: Great. I’m not putting this book out there expecting myself, you, anyone to read this book and never judge again. It’s just not going to happen. What I’m hoping is that you just come back fast. You have this capacity and the desire to feel good, and the desire to feel free, and the desire to be that person in the world that brings more light rather than more justification and rage. Through those strong desires to be that type of person, you use these practices to come back fast. The ways that we come back—when you go through this entire six-step process of the Judgment Detox, you’ll start to feel a shift within you, and my hope is that you can use these steps interchangeably.
Once you’ve taken them all the way through, use them as you need them. In any moment, you can say that prayer, or you can sit down and cut the cord through a meditation, or you can choose to see through the lens of compassion and see for the first time. Just use them, and use them, and use them, and bring them into your daily moment-to-moment practice. As you start to live these practices, the last chapter of the book is “Live the Judgment Detox.” As you start to live these practices, you come back faster, and faster, and faster. I’m not so concerned about how perfect of a spiritual student you are, or how infrequently you judge. What I’m most focused on is how quickly you come back to love.
TS: OK, Gabby. I do have to just tag on something here. This idea of feeling good as your number one priority and coming back to it. The comeback rate—coming back to releasing judgment in this place where you can have this nonjudgmental place of feeling good, feeling the light worker empowered in you from a clear and centered place. Is feeling good the highest priority, or are there other things that might be a higher priority than feeling good? I’m curious about that.
GB: I think feeling good is the highest priority because—I can quote my diary here. When we’re feeling good we’re feeling God, and when we’re feeling in alignment with the presence of God, that’s when we can show up for the world in the best way possible. That’s when we can be the best parent we can be. That’s when we can be the best employer, or the best student, or the best wife, or child. That feeling good is the highest priority, in my opinion.
TS: I’m talking with Gabrielle Bernstein. She’s the author of a new book called Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back from Living a Better Life. I know reading this book has helped me really investigate my own judgment in a very, very important way. It’s an important book at this time I think that we’re in, the Judgment Detox. Gabrielle, thank you so much. Thanks for the conversation and your good work. Thank you.
GB: Thank you so much.
TS: SoundsTrue.com: many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.