Your judgments are not about others; they are about you and your conditioning. For example, if you are judgmental toward someone who is overweight (or toward yourself about this), that’s because you have conditioning that says it’s not okay to be overweight. The problem is that this judgment simply isn’t true. It’s okay to be overweight, especially when that’s the case. It’s okay simply because that’s the way it is. Why argue with reality? Some people are overweight, and that’s the truth. End of story. Of course, the ego is always arguing with reality, and that’s why we suffer.
If seeing someone who is overweight triggers a judgment and causes you to contract, then you have an opportunity to explore any negative beliefs you have around being overweight. What meaning do you give to being overweight? What does it mean if you or someone else is overweight? Does it mean to you that he or she (or you) is a bad person? Weak? Lazy? Ignorant? Poor? Troubled? Unhappy? Unsuccessful? Uncover all the meanings you give to being overweight. Whether the ideas you have about being overweight apply to you or someone else, they cause you to contract when you believe them, and if you express them, they cause others to suffer too. Unless you want to suffer and be a source of suffering in this world, it’s wise to examine any conditioning that causes you to contract. Once you discover how untrue and how unhelpful such beliefs are, they begin to lose their power to cause you and others suffering.
Just because others have the same conditioning—the same false beliefs—doesn’t make that conditioning true. No one’s conditioning is true, not ultimately, and no one has “the right” conditioning or beliefs. We all have our own conditioning, and no one has exactly the same conditioning, which helps explain why getting along with others is so challenging. To make things worse, we think our conditioning is true and correct, or at least better than someone else’s; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t judge others and try to change them. We believe our conditioning is right and superior because we are programmed to believe it is right and superior.
Like a fish in water, we don’t see or examine certain programmed assumptions we have as human beings. One of the deepest and most unconscious assumptions we have is that what we think is true. We live by the unquestioned assumption that if we think it, it must be true. We don’t question our beliefs because they are what we think. Since everyone has different ideas (conditioning), this conviction that our beliefs are true causes a lot of problems in relationships. A great deal of energy is expended trying to convince others of what we believe or trying to defend our ideas, when it could be much better spent.
Ideas are just ideas. They’re not that important, but we are programmed to think they are because ideas create our identity—they create the you that you think you are. Without your ideas, beliefs, opinions, dreams, and memories, who would you be? Who is this you that you think you are if not a composite of ideas about who you are—your conditioning? You can test this premise that who you really are is not who you think you are in moments when thinking isn’t happening: Where is this you that you think you are, with all of its stories, history, and beliefs? For a moment this you stops existing, but do you still exist?
Something still exists even when you stop identifying yourself as this you, with all its ideas and history. This something that exists beyond thought is the real you—Essence. It’s present when you are thinking too, but you don’t notice it because you are lost in thought (how true that expression is!). And what are ideas? Without your belief in them, they are nothing. In and of themselves they have no power, and the truth they contain is only relative truth, not ultimate truth.
Your judgments relate to beliefs you personally hold as true. They are true to you, but not ultimately true. The beliefs you hold as true are often very different from the ones others hold as true, and no one’s are ultimately true, although every ego believes its beliefs are. The best thing that can be said about any belief is that it may have more truth than another, but that also often depends on one’s perspective—one’s conditioning.
Although some conditioned ideas and beliefs appear to be truer and more helpful than others, it’s not our business to try to change other people’s conditioning unless they invite us to. Even when someone is our spouse, lover, parent, sibling, or close friend, changing their conditioning is still not our business.
Love Is More Important Than Conditioning
Not only is it not our business to change others, but it’s also harmful to relationships to try to do so. Ideas are just not worth the price paid in love lost. Love is more important than any conditioned idea or belief, but if you take your conditioning more seriously than love, you will lose love. The other person will withhold love from you because it will be too painful for him or her to love you.
Conditioning takes this toll time and time again in relationships, and we assume the problem is a lack of love. Often, what causes relationships to break down or never leave the ground isn’t a lack of love, but valuing ideas over love. When we are identified with the ego, we do choose ideas over love because being right is more important than loving. In the egoic state of consciousness, other people’s differences frighten us, and to feel safe, we feel we need to change them. So, getting others to change seems very important.
In reality, love is always the safest choice, but the ego doesn’t see this. Only Essence does, and we have to drop into Essence to realize this. Dropping into Essence isn’t always easy to do in relationships because differences are so apparent and conditioning is triggered so frequently. Conditioning triggers judgment, and judgment triggers the desire to change someone, which causes conflict and pain and, consequently, withdrawal from relationship (i.e., the cold shoulder).
For example, if your conditioning is that you like to be early for appointments and your partner’s conditioning isn’t the same, you are likely to say something unkind when your partner isn’t ready when you are, if you are identified with your ego at the time. What you say is likely to be designed to punish or try to change your partner, which will be not only ineffective, but also destructive to the relationship.
The easiest place to stop this cycle is at the beginning, when the judgment first appears, because the judgment has the least momentum at that point. You can’t keep judgments from arising because they aren’t under your control or anyone else’s, but you can decide to do nothing about a judgment. And that’s the best choice you can make if you want love and relationship.
Many would argue that if someone doesn’t conform to what they want, they don’t want to be in that relationship anyway. That’s their choice and the reason most relationships dissolve or never get started. Those who make this choice aren’t likely to find love or a lasting and meaningful relationship with anyone because no one will ever meet their stiff and very personal requirements.
Those who make this choice believe they will eventually meet someone who will meet all their criteria, so they keep looking and keep rejecting others. They explain their lack of relationship by saying that other people were too this or too that, but the question is, too this or that for whom? Who is it that has these requirements and preferences? It’s the conditioned self—the ego—and it will never be pleased. As long as you let the ego choose your partners, you won’t have one. The ego is in the business of rejecting others, not accepting and loving them.
For love, we need to turn to Essence because that’s what knows how to love. When Essence is evoked in relationships, we find ourselves saying yes to love and no to our ideas about how others should be. We choose love instead of our conditioned preferences. Love feels too good to walk away from just because of some differences. The ego, on the other hand, prevents us from feeling love. It cuts love off with judgments before it even has a chance to be experienced. Those who are entrenched in the ego don’t feel much love.
Fortunately, love is less than a breath away, if only we turn our attention away from our judgments and onto the moment, which is full of exactly what we are looking for: love that is perfect just the way it is.
When we want love on our own terms, we are unlikely to find it, or what we get is a person and relationship that matches our conditioning as much as possible. This kind of relationship isn’t necessarily what will make us the happiest, however. The ego thinks it knows best about relationships and will settle for nothing less than what it wants. But what it wants is just not a good guide for happiness. What we want isn’t always what will make us the happiest. Following our desires is not the key to happiness. It’s what we think will make us happy, but it isn’t what actually makes us happy.
Happiness lies in being aligned with Essence. When we are identified with Essence rather than with the ego, we have everything the ego is looking for but pursuing in inept ways: happiness, joy, love, peace, and contentment. This is really everything you—and the ego—have ever wanted. It’s just that the ego has a different way of trying to get these than Essence.
From Essence, getting is not required, only being. Happiness, joy, love, peace, and contentment are not arrived at by trying to get them, but by noticing that they are already here. Just check: Is love here now? Is happiness here now? Is peace here now? Is contentment here now? Noticing these qualities draws us into the experience of them.
To align yourself with Essence and experience love and the other qualities of Essence, all you have to do is notice love. When you notice love, you are, in a sense, choosing love over the ego’s ideas, and that choice brings you into alignment with Essence. Essence lives for love and is not dissuaded from it by ideas or judgments or differences. It loves because it sees similarities, not differences. It sees how others are like itself—how others are itself. From Essence, you experience Oneness and unity with all life, and from this place, it is easy to love.
Taking Responsibility for Our Judgments
Judgments keep us under the ego’s spell. The ego keeps us entranced with its ideas by making them seem important and by making the fulfillment of its desires seem necessary for happiness. It convinces us that what we think and desire are more important than they are. We think that to be happy, safe, and secure, we must have life and others match our ideas, and this just isn’t true. However, as long as we believe this, either consciously or unconsciously, we will be under the ego’s spell and we won’t find happiness.
When we are identified with the ego, our ideas about how life and others should be seem really important. We are convinced that these ideas matter, and they don’t. Does it really matter if your husband eats with his mouth open or your wife wears too much makeup? Does it really matter how much money your husband makes or how beautiful your wife is? It matters to your ego because you think these things make you look bad. You imagine all sorts of terrible things, particularly rejection by others, happening as a result. You give more importance to your fear of rejection than is reasonable. Rejection, to the ego, seems like a life-and-death matter, which it isn’t, of course.
Notice how the ego is very uncomfortable with doing anything or having the partner do anything that doesn’t match its conditioning. It gets uncomfortable, scared, angry, ashamed, or embarrassed when you or anyone who might reflect on you breaks its conditioned rules about how to live. An obvious example is how uncomfortable and scared you would feel if you or your partner broke the law, when your conditioning is to be law-abiding.
The same thing happens when you or your partner breaks one of your own personal “laws” about how to behave in public or while eating or during sex or while working or in any other circumstance, no matter how minor or silly this “law” may seem to others.
Here is an exercise to help you discover the conditioning behind your judgments:
Exercise: Examining the Conditioning Behind Judgment
The next time you feel an urge to judge your partner, examine the conditioning that lies behind your judgment. Behind every judgment lies a “should” or a “should not.” What “should” or “should not” are you imposing on your partner? Notice how your judgment is an attempt to get your partner to change his or her behavior so that you don’t have to feel uncomfortable.
When others do things we don’t like because of our conditioning, we feel scared, angry, ashamed, or embarrassed. When you feel these feelings, a judgment is probably not far behind. The judgment that arises out of these feelings is an attempt to change the partner and ease any discomfort. Watch this process. It’s interesting to see how predictable it is, and watching it is a good way to become more aware of your own conditioning and to take responsibility for it.
It’s not our partner’s responsibility to change just because we have conditioning that demands that. Wanting our partner to change is not enough reason for him or her to change, although the ego thinks it is and tries to manipulate by claiming, “If you loved me, you would change.”
If we want a loving relationship, we have to take responsibility for our conditioning and the feelings generated by it, and choose to give up our judgments and attempts to change our partner. When we do this, we discover true love because our partner will love us for being so loving, accepting, and allowing. There is nothing that opens someone’s heart more than someone with an open heart. Conversely, there is nothing that closes someone’s heart more than someone with a closed heart—and that means someone who is judging.
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“This book is essentially a prescription for happiness in relationships and, incidentally, happiness outside of relationships too. It is hands down the best book I have ever read on relationships. I understand now how I was causing a lot of the problems in my relationships by my own ignorance, and I am confident that I will approach my next one with new skills and a new understanding of love, tolerance, acceptance, and harmony.” –Shari Blake
"Impeccable. If after all the fighting and struggle and confusion, you are ready to hear and drink in the simple truth about living, loving, relating, this book is for you. This is more than a book; it is a treasure. How radiantly clear and simple it is to hear when one is ready. This book is for those who are ready to get IT, to hear out of the silence the music that we all are." —Michael N. Peil
“This book has changed my life. I no longer feel the need to judge how others are living their lives, and mine has become so much more simple, rich, and stress free. This book has helped me to let go of my ego and move into living in Essence. I’m living in Essence, not the ego, and loving it!” -Kas
“I feel blessed to have found this absolutely beautiful book. Every sentence is a gem. This book can save a lot of suffering in relationships. It explains why we do what we do and helps us change our relationship to our judgments and conditioning. Gina's compassion is evident from her beautiful words.” –P. M.
"This book did so much more than improve my marriage. It improved my life. It teaches easy techniques to improve your relationships with others, yourself, and life.” –Ira Cohen
“This book has opened my eyes regarding the true meaning of a relationship. I have learned to love and accept my partner the way he is. I have learned so much about myself, thanks to this book. I feel deeply grateful! This book helps me to come back to love again and again. –Chintana
“All you ever wanted to know about relationships and true love without expecting to find it written. Gina manages it in this book, in a very clear, simple, practical, and luminous way. Don't be mistaken, it is a book about who we really are and how to live it, or as Gina puts it: how to align ourselves with ‘Essence.’ A must!” –Anatala
“When you have read enough of the theory, sit down, relax and open this book. You won't be disappointed! Gina offers practical, down to earth insights on relationships that can propel you to experiencing inner Essence through LOVE. A beautiful book that does away with mental gymnastics, becomes your friend, and offers you the insightful guidance that you so much deserve and have looked so hard for.” –Jerry Chess
“My life has been blessed by this amazing book. I have been suggesting it to everyone! The author clearly describes how our attachment to ego hinders our experience of love. Her gift of expression makes these concepts clear and easy to grasp. Highly recommended.” –Valeria Kendall
“I wish everyone would read this book. If you want to understand how to make the relationship with yourself work, along with relationships with anyone else, this would be a great book to absorb. Gina Lake goes deep, and you will end up really understanding yourself and others so much better. I love her books!” –Peter S.