The Acceptance Epiphany: “Book Bites” from Gabrielle Bernstein’s Judgment Detox

I first started listening to the audio of the Judgment Detox while on holiday in Italy in June. The book came up as an Audible recommendation, and based on the synopsis and title, it sounded like a book I DESPERATELY needed to hear. On top of all that, I figured that I could use the time traveling to and from Italy to listen, learn and hopefully grow. While I did find the book engaging from the beginning, I wasn’t in the right headspace to appreciate and absorb Bernstein’s words. One sleepless night in Rome I began to listen along, but soon drifted off to sleep and missed valuable nuggets of information. I resolved that I would try again once I’d made it back home. And in late July, that’s exactly what I did (because I have to honor my commitments). Since giving my full attention to the audio, I also bought a hard copy of the text because I’m a bookworm and I LOVE to annotate texts. Also, having a physical copy of the text has allowed me to re-read and reabsorb things that I may have missed while listening to the audio—because let’s face it; we all lose focus from time to time. Let me first state that this text has been above and beyond eye-opening. Having finally accepted that I needed to reconcile my judgment issues, I’ve realized so much about myself, and others, in a brief amount of time. More specifically, the fourth chapter, “See for the First Time”, has provided me with a myriad of what I am calling “Book Bites”. And what are Book Bites? A Book Bite is similar to a Sound Bite, but better (and there’s that judgment again) because their extracted from books. Book Bites are composed of phrases or sentences from the texts that I read. And since my last name is Booker, I’ve taken it a step further. They’re the words that have left a lasting imprint on my mind and heart.  The bolded quoted text are the Book Bites from just one of the six chapters (steps) in Bernstein’s Judgment Detox.  The other bolded text are my Booker Bites–the phrases and sentences I am to reflect over.

Book Bite #1

“The most loving thing we can do for someone is to accept them. The most unloving thing we can do is try to change them.”

Since beginning Bernstein’s Judgment Detox, I’ve done quite a bit of self-reflection. I had one of the most profound epiphanies of my adult life just recently. In my journal I wrote: It’s hard, damn near impossible, to accept others if you’ve not first and foremost accepted yourself. Some of you may be thinking to yourselves: yeah, I got that lesson years ago. And if that’s you; rock on! However, if you happen to be like me and you’re sometimes slow to acquire new skills/revelations, then this information has made a huge shift in your psyche. Here’s my truth. When I first began reading Bernstein’s text, I was under the assumption that I needed to stop judging other people. But the more I listened to the audio and then followed it up with the physical text, I quickly realized that I have been my own worst enemy. I’d been investing so much time judging other people because I’ve been doing it to myself for years. Did you get what I just wrote? I arrogantly believed that I needed to stop judging others, but what became clear was that my judgment of others has been a direct reflection of the relationship I’d been having with myself FOR YEARS! That’s right. This wasn’t something I’d been struggling with for four years; this has been something I’ve been struggling with since childhood. When I get up on any given morning and look at myself in the mirror and I find it hard to say/think something nice to/about myself, it has become absolutely clear that I haven’t accepted myself. Here’s what I’ve come to realize: All the judgmental thoughts and vocalizations I’ve made about other people are just reflections of my own lack of self-acceptance.

Book Bite #2

“…the darkness you seen in them is a disowned part of your own shadow. When you judge the shadows in others, you’re merely projecting what you’ve denied within yourself. Whenever you’re triggered by others, it’s because they’re mirroring back elements of your shadow that you’re unwilling to heal.”

Well damn. Now that’s deep. This goes back to the first Book Bite because those triggers are obviously connected to things that I’ve been unwilling to accept/love about myself. All the things and people catalogued in my Judgment Detox Chart from chapter/step 1 are all connected to the disowned aspects of myself. Each one is a reminder of something I’d like to have but don’t have, some trait in them that I aspire to have but don’t believe I exhibit, or something they’ve attained that I too aspire towards. When I look back over my chart, jealousy is a common thread that connects many of the items. And at the heart of it all is an inability to accept both the good and the bad within myself. screen-shot-2019-08-04-at-9.58.31-amThese wounds, these dark places within me have kept me metaphorically suffocated. It’s time to take inventory of the shadows, so that the healing balm of complete self-acceptance can wash away the residual shame and guilt of my past. Without complete self-acceptance, judgment will continue to rear its ugly head.

Book Bite #3

“When you change your thoughts and feelings about another person, you change your energy toward them.”

Here again, I received a metaphoric slap in the face with these words. I first tried to use these words to alter the atmosphere in my current living situation. And then it hit me: the person/people you’re living with aren’t your enemy. I am my own enemy! While I was busy trying to change the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of those around me, I’d forgotten that I don’t live in a glass house and shouldn’t be throwing stones. For years I’ve been thinking ill of myself. For years I’ve been my own worst critic. For years I’ve been replaying negative sound bites about myself in my mind: you’re not smart enough, not attractive enough, not good enough, no longer young enough, not able, not capable, not whatever. And this constant stream of negativity got projected onto others because it was an extension of the “good treatment” I’d been giving myself. I am hyper aware of my desperate need to change my thoughts and feelings about myself. Instead of mentally beating myself up about the the myriad short comings over the course of my life, I need to start speaking words of love, admiration and appreciation into my spirit. As a first step towards complete self-acceptance, I created a list of things I appreciate about myself.

  • I appreciate my drive for emotional and physical betterment.
  • I appreciate my candid honesty.
  • I appreciate my dedication/commitment.
  • I appreciate my thoughtful and giving nature.
  • I appreciate my love of reading and learning.
  • I appreciate my wicked sense of humor.
  • I appreciate my desire to always strive for more.

If I learn nothing else, I have learned to start speaking to myself more positively (perhaps to even talk to myself like a Buddhist 🙂.

Book Bite #4

When we accept others we give them space to grow. When we accept others, we clear the path to create a new story.

Again, when I first read these words, I put them in the context of an individual with whom I’ve been in conflict. And that’s when Spirit intervened with truth. This hasn’t been about the other person; this has been about the shadows that I’ve been unwilling to look at in the mirror. For over twenty-one years I have not been able to give myself space to grow, nor an opportunity to create a new story. I’m going to be transparent with you. There have been three occurrences in my adult life that I’ve earnestly wanted to take back. Twice in my twenties I chose to be pro-choice and in my late thirties I turned down an opportunity to teach abroad (and likely absolve my debt in the process), but chose not to for a romantic relationship. I’ve berated myself daily for over two decades for the first decision, the second for over a decade and a half, and the last for the past four years. As I write these words, I realize that I’ve not forgiven myself for my choices. As a result, I’ve not accepted that they’ve brought me to where I am today mentally and emotionally. I’ve been unable to clear a path to create a new story because I’ve been hung up on the what could have been stories. It’s time to accept that the choices I’ve made, good and bad—there goes that judgment again, have led to my current personal evolution. Without those experiences I wouldn’t be the person I am now. And that includes appreciating the woman I’ve become.

Book Bite #5

“…feel relief in letting go of trying to change someone who can’t be changed.”

Yet another salient point brought up by Bernstein. While the text references our not trying to change someone, I believe the same can be true for past experiences from our lives. In Book Bite #4, I spoke about the choices I’d made and how they’ve been limiting me from speaking encouraging words into my own life. There may be moments from our past that we’d like to turn back the hands of time on, but we can’t. And it stems from this deep and unrelenting desire to try to change a past that cannot be resurrected. We must bravely walk into our tomorrows with a clear conscious and love for the individuals we’ve become as a result of our past actions and/or decisions. screen-shot-2019-08-04-at-9.59.01-amThis became true for me earlier this morning. I finally moved onto to listening to/reading the fifth step in the Judgment Detox: “Cut the Cords.” This chapter included guided meditations to assist in letting go. I was eager to meditate as it is my Commit 30 focus for the month of August. As I was guided to invite the person whom I’d been judging into the meditation, glimpses of the twenty-one year old version of me flooded my awareness. Later, Bernstein urged on to draw awareness to where the cord (the energetic connection) was. Immediately, I started to feel a tightening in my chest. It felt surreal, but I knew that the energy stemmed from my inability to feel relief because I’d been trying to change an event that cannot be changed/undone. Tears started to well in my eyes and when Bernstein urged to sever the energetic cord with a metaphoric sword, the tightening in my chest ceased to be. I was in no way prepared for the feelings I’d experienced earlier, but I knew that I desperately wanted freedom. To once again borrow words from Bernstein, I wanted a freedom “…to focus…on the good that has come from this situation…shifting your focus…[and] get closer to acceptance.

Book Bite #6

“…you can choose to see this person with compassion, accepting that a happy person wouldn’t treat someone so poorly.”

I love what Bernstein said with regards to compassion—a gift we should give to those with whom we are in conflict, especially if that individual is ourselves. During the guided meditation referenced in the previous Book Bite, I looked back at the twenty-one year old version of myself with the eyes of compassion. I recognized that at that stage in my life I was doing the best I could do based on my level of emotional and spiritual enlightenment. Much has transpired within me in the past twenty-one years. Enough to allow me to look in the mirror with the eyes of compassion. A happy person doesn’t criticize others or him/herself. A happy person sees the light that resides inside of themselves and other beings. A happy person doesn’t pick apart another or him/herself. A happy person sees a plethora of virtues in him/herself as well as in others. When we look at ourselves with the eyes of compassion, it is easy to extend the same to others.screen-shot-2019-08-04-at-9.58.50-am

We cannot give to others that which we have not given to ourselves. Take a look in the mirror; how are you treating yourself?