Stress And The Five Layers of Conditioning: Do You Even Know What Petrified Conditionings Live In The Forest Of Thoughts Called Your Mind?

Stress comes from fear of the future or guilt about the past.  But it does not exist within a vacuum.  You experience fear of certain things and guilt about certain things.  Whatever those things are, they are fossilized by your conditionings.

Everyone has the same layers of conditioning, though each layer may be different in its’ specifics.  Here are the five layers of conditioning every human being experiences; that are happening to you, right now:

Physical Level Conditioning:  Male, female, fat, thin, tall, short, healthy, sick, right-handed, left- handed…. All of the things you see or experience about your body – and other people’s bodies – make you believe (what you think are) facts about your body and what your body makes possible or impossible for you to be, do or have.

This layer of conditioning is what makes you label yourself according to your physical appearance or assumed or achieved physical capabilities.

Conclusions drawn from the physical-level-of-conditioning are not necessarily fact, yet, are treated as fact by you and your community according to your culture.  You compare, contrast, and compare again, contrast again…and whittle your reality into a tight little package born from what your culture supports.

Some conditionings can handicap you.  For example, it is acceptable for someone who is right- handed not to try to use the left hand; then to become incapable of using it.

These conditionings make you feel awake, sleepy, hungry, energized, horny, afraid…they make your heart beat harder or your body feel relaxed.

The physical-level-of-conditioning makes you feel either safe or in danger; it sets your expectations for your physical body; and makes boundaries on your tolerance for pain and pleasure.

Desire Level of Conditioning:  Choices you have made (and feel compelled to continue to make) are based in desire for what is available.

Your choices exist within the context of what is available to you.  For example:

In the USA we are conditioned to want to be entertained by performance: movies, music, shows…because they are available to us.

In South India the conditioning to be entertained is different; satisfied by having tea with the family or sharing a walk at the beach…because that is what is available to them.

Both cultures seek entertainment, but the desire-level-of-conditioning that compels the two cultures varies greatly.

In a city with a great metro system, you are conditioned to use it.  It’s cool.  Think Le Metro in Paris; The El in Chicago; The Tube in London.

In South India, it’s not.  People use it because they have to.  They don’t want to.  It’s cool to not use public transportation.

The desire-level-of-conditioning changes according to what is available to you.  What is obvious is convenient and comfortable.  It makes you define the bubble you live in as the only bubble around.

Mental Level of Conditioning:  You’ve been told, either directly or indirectly:  You belong to this nation, religion, group…not that one.  The mental-level-of-conditioning gives you labels that make you identify with a certain subset of human beings.

‘I am an American.’  That phrase carries a completely different set of conditioning than ‘I am an Israeli’ or ‘I am a Palestinian’ or ‘I am a Mexican’ or ‘I am a Tibetan’.  It occurs in every subset, like ‘I am from the south side’ and ‘I am from the north side’ as well as ‘I went to Harvard’ and ‘I went to City College’.

‘I am hip’ or ‘I am an artist’ or ‘I am a doctor’ or ‘I am rich’ or ‘I am poor’…all are mental-levels-of-conditioning.

Your mental-level-of-conditioning rules your choices about acquisition (what is important to seek and to want): where to belong, whom to marry, what to purchase, what school to go to…

Some conditionings are transient, yet powerful, and separate people into categories.  For example, in America, it is accepted, for a woman, to pursue thin-ness; for a man, to pursue muscle.  You use different words for a fat woman or a flabby man than you would for the approved counterpart.

The mental-level-of-conditioning makes you feel comfortable spending your time and money to acquire or achieve specific, pre-approved things.  You will admit acquisition of, membership to and labels associated with these pre-approved things and hide whatever-about-you that you believe is not pre-approved.

Language Level of Conditioning:  You are taught to communicate through verbal portals (spoken or written word) and through non-verbal portals (body and appearance language)


The use of and meaning of words is limited by the dictionaries you use, and by your culture’s connotations of words.

The vocabulary that is available to you creates and limits your expression and your reality.


Your non-verbal communications – your facial expressions, body expressions and style expressions (what you choose as clothing, home, jewelry, car and things that ‘say something about you’)  – identify you.

Wearing the right clothes demonstrates social status.  Owning an old car means you’re unsuccessful – or cheap.  Or maybe thrifty – and eccentric.  It depends on how you were conditioned to speak through your possessions.

Conditioning about non-verbal communication makes you interpret physical movements as facts. The middle finger is an insult; a fist-bump gives you street cred; thumbs up means you agree. What does a wink mean to you?  How about when someone gets ‘too close’ or stays ‘too far’?

The language-level-of-conditioning makes you feel comfortable interpreting others communiation into familiar, bite-sized, digestible bits.

Family Level of Conditioning:  Your family heritage and trend.  The pride or shame of your family name, heritage and story.  The family profile combines the history of many of the other levels of conditioning.

Family-level-of-conditioning envelopes individuals in bundles of reality.  To a great extent, families interpret the other layers of conditioning and personalize them to their own collective identity.

The family-level-of-conditioning makes you feel an intimate part of something bigger than you; rooted and timeless.  It gives you a sense of importance and relevance.

The Seven Truths About Conditionings:

  1. In each case of conditioning, doors to other worlds and experience have stayed closed.
  2. You have not chosen what you have been conditioned to be, do and have.
  3. Year-after-year, your conditionings have become ‘customized’ as your own unique and complex combinations.
  4. Through your own actions (and inactions) you have contributed to the conditionings of others.
  5. It is your conditionings that have defined what you feel as fear and guilt.
  6. Each conditioning has controlled what you think about and how you think about it.
  7. You can Re-Condition.

Before trying to change your life, you must know what you are trying to change. 

Can you recognize the conditionings in your life?  Take an inventory.  See if you can come up with 25 conditionings.  They masquerade as facts.  Any of these sound familiar?

Yankees are hard-working.

Rich people are cheaters.

Atheists are dangerous.

No one needs a fancy car.

People with glasses are smart.

Women who wear Hermes are rich.

Strangers who look at you are weird.

Anyone who takes the bus is poor.

Just start with the labels you have lived with as fact.  You’ll start to dig up your conditionings.

You Can De-Condition. You Can Re-Condition!

No one says you have to change.

But it you want to, the thoughts connected to your conditionings have to be allowed to fall away.

That fact can terrify anyone.  It can feel too risky to your reality.  Without your conditionings, who are you?  Honey, that is a big spiritual question.  One that has challenged sages throughout time.

Why do you think being in solitary confinement is the hardest human journey?  Talk about a massive de-conditioning.

You don’t have to change your entire reality; just the part you want to change.

And you have the power to do it.

But first, you have to have an idea of what your conditionings are.  Then, the thoughts connected to your conditionings have to be allowed to fall away.  You must be willing to allow yourself to see your conditionings as, simply, things.

If you have heard the phrase ‘let go of yourself’ or ‘rise above yourself’ or ‘stand unclothed’ or ‘be naked’ connected to the practice of meditation (or, really, any spiritual practice) it has meant this:  strip away the conditionings.  When you get quiet and separate yourself even slightly from your conditionings, you will know:

Your conditionings are not you.


You are more than the sum of your conditionings.  They are convenient borders in your life that have served as stepping stones in your development.  You can narrow or expand the borders because you are not your conditionings. 


What gets in our way is history and culture and religion and economic conditions.

It is part of the hypnosis of our social conditioning.  — Deepak Chopra