“Be curious, not judgmental”- Walt Whitman
Typically, we all go through the day judging our experiences, other people and ourselves. It’s ingrained in our habitual thinking process.
From my own personal experience not being able to accept a thing as they are has been one of the greatest hindrances to finding happiness.
But what would it be like to simply experience something without the judgement of something or someone being always good or bad, right or wrong?
Can we learn to see judging as a red flag to remind us to stop?
Overcoming our Judgmental Mind
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”- William Shakespeare
Stopping yourself from being judgemental isn’t easy. We have been doing it for such a long period of time. We all have conditioned beliefs that guide our thoughts, feelings and emotions.
It takes a great amount of awareness to be able to catch yourself when that judging mind kicks into action.
But there is a way!
Mindfulness offers an alternative to this vicious cycle in the form of non-judgment. By definition mindfulness means: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.”
What this means is letting go of all any judgments that arise automatically with every experience we have.
When we react to our judgments, we are only seeing our limited view of what’s really happening. When we learn to let go of these judgments we start to see things as they really are.
In practicing non-judgment, there’s no grasping, no resisting, and no ignoring of life’s experience. There’s no god or bad, right or wrong. We just open up to our experience and observe what arises.
But how can we cultivate a non-judgmental practice?
How to Practice Noticing our Judgmental Mind
“When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.” – Earl Nightingale
Practicing mindfulness meditation helps cultivate the ability to notice when we engage in judgemental thinking.
When we engage in a formal sitting meditation part of the practice is to be aware of when we start thinking. We become the observer or the witness.
We start by establishing an anchor point of concentration. This could be the breath or a body part or a mantra. We hold our attention exclusively on this point to calm the mind.
Every time we notice our mind has wandered, we practice guiding our attention back to the anchor point of awareness without any judgement.
Without labelling the experience good or bad, we simply acknowledge that we are thinking. The intent is to just notice the sensations in the present moment without any form of attachment in the shape of hope, fear, praise or blame.
The Importance of Vigilant Awareness
“Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” – Wayne Dyer
In reality when we sit to meditate it’s not always that easy to do. It’s not a direct smooth ride from A to B to a place of calm. This is where a constant vigilance around awareness is important.
We might experience strong dominating feelings relating to anger, frustration or disappointment. This causes us to find ourselves hooked for some time to a narrative that is dominated by judgements and opinions of the experience or the meditation.
Yet, after we’ve been sitting alone for some time doing nothing, besides being aware of our breath and noticing our thoughts, our mind starts to find peace and calm. We begin to notice an increase in clarity.
The more clearly we begin to see the more powerful our speech and our actions will be.
We notice our attitudes about what is going on. Then we start to become familiar to our habitual patterns. We start to see what we always do. How we hold ourselves together by indulging in judgements and opinions about things around us.
The Fruits of our Meditation Practice
“The highest freedom of mind comes from becoming non-judgmental.”― Debasish Mridha
When we are not meditating, we start to notice our judgements just as we notice we are thinking when we are in meditation.
This is extremely helpful practice because we have a lot of judgements. We tend to take them as truths. Yet in reality they are not truths.
We have a lot of emotional backup to support our judgements. They are frequently very critical. They are sometimes about how nice or perfect something should be.
However, judgements are self-serving opinions. They are nothing more or nothing less. We can begin to notice them and label them just like we label our thoughts as thoughts.
This may sound very simplistic approach but it works.
All our needs and desires are centred on our opinions and judgements. We take it to be the absolute truth about how things are. Yet, if we allow a brief second to question the validity of our judgements we might find the ultimate truth that is not based on our needs.
Uncovering the Context of our Judgements
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”- Mother Teresa
We don’t have to make these judgements go away or criticise ourselves for having these opinions. We just need to notice the context of our narrative in that moment.
Just notice what we say to ourselves in those moments. See how much we take as a truth that may or may not be shared with others.
What we need to do is just let those judgements come and go with no opinion attached. We just come back each and every time to the immediacy of our experience.
If we can allow ourselves to see our judgements as judgements and let go then we can come back to the stillness of the present moment. We start to see things through new clearer perspective.
We start to realise how our habitually ways of perceiving things can cause us to engage in conflicts that are not necessary in life. The ‘I’ win ‘You’ lose now becomes ‘win/win’ for all parties involved.
This makes life less confrontational. Energy is not wasted. Life runs much smoother.
Take Away Message
When we hold on to our judgements, no matter how valid our cause, we are simply adding more anguish to the world. We can never be happy.
Cultivating non-aggression is cultivating peace.
The less our judgements are clouded with opinions the more we are able to communicate. We are not talking about ignoring or keeping quiet. If we don’t get swept away by outrage then we will see more clearly.
Take some time today to practice non-judgement with yourself, others, and the world at large.