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On a phone call  the other day, a student shared how she wants to be in her heart, but notices her judgments – her habit of judging others for qualities they do or do not have – keep getting in the way. “They seem to have a life of their own”, she complained. “How can I stop?”

Here is my response:

Our judgments seem to have a life of their own because they are unconscious to us, and they spring forth from this unseen part of ourselves because they are not grounded in our awareness, because we haven’t seen and accepted that they are part of us. In truth, there is nothing outside of us, and the judgments we have onto others are projections of unowned aspects of our own personality. The world mirrors back to us these unowned parts of ourselves that we have pushed away.

There is a couple who live across the street who are very private. When I see them at all, it is usually in their car pulling in or out of their driveway. They seem to have blinders on, never looking up, or around, sending a message of not wanting to engage. But that’s okay with me. If they ever choose to say hi, I’m available for that.

I have another neighbor who has a problem with these folks. He says he cannot stand those people.

“Why not,” I ask?

“Because they are so unfriendly; they are not nice people,” he responds with disdain.

So how do we explain the two different responses to to our neighbor’s behavior? It could be said that my friend has a conditioned belief that unfriendliness is bad, and no way is he that. He is not bad! He is seeing in these neighbors a trait in himself that he has denied and pushed into his unconscious – and what lives in the unconscious gets projected out. The world is mirroring back to him his own unowned personality trait.

Our judgments arise out of our conditioning about good and bad and right and wrong. They are polarized. And it is this polarized view of seeing the world that separates, that colors our perception and keeps us from seeing truth and the intrinsic nature of people and things. When we pull in our projections and own them, we create an integration and a healing and the world is seen just as it is, reflecting back to us our new-found wholeness.

The key to this healing is to see the world as a mirror. Even if we are unable to see this initially, in order to initiate our process of integration, we must assume that this is true. Then when we catch ourselves doing judgment, we can stop ourselves in our tracks with a little reminder: Everything I see is in me. In this way, a process of self-inquiry is initiated. The next step is to ask yourself: “How do I do this same irritating behavior?”; or What exactly is this issue that is unresolved in me?”

Your answer will lead you to find your humility and compassion, and your equality with others. You will see that there is no “outside” – that everything is you. And you will find your heart.