Judging

Not Judging Your Judging


Question:
Iím trying to practice being nonjudgmental, but I think Iím missing something. Every time I try it I find I canít do it and then I just get mad at myself. What should I do?


Answer:
Nonjudgmental stance is not an easy skill to learn. It takes lots of practice because we have grown up in a very judgmental world. Itís all around us, even in the religions that are supposed to be teaching us about love.

The trick is to ďjust noticeĒ or observe (the skill before nonjudgmental stance). If I have a feeling, rather than naming it as anger or something else (anger is an assessment of physical facts), I notice my pulse is faster. I notice I am holding my breath. I notice that my voice is louder and at a higher pitch. I notice that the tone of the other person's voice is impacting me. When I label this feeling as anger, thatís a judgment based on the observation of facts. We are trained to assess facts instantly and convert them into judgment. To observe and describe, we have to back up and break it all down more slowly. Do you see how the details of observation allows you to have distance from the feeling?

The other thing to avoid is to judge yourself for judging yourself. That can get into a viscous cycle that leads to depression.

You might practice observing and describing less volatile feelings -- just to get the hang of it, then come back to feelings of more significance. You could keep a journal of things you notice around you or just in any given moment. Like, "right now, I notice my dog laying on the floor at my feet. I notice how she stretches her body along the floor, but some part of her body is always in contact with mine. Right now her back is against my foot. Her breathing is slow and shallow and occasionally she snorts as she sleeps. I notice that it is raining outside and I hear the swish of water as the cars pass by. . ." You get the idea.


The first time I tried viewing my garden from a nonjudgmental stance, I mean like not just noticing the weeds that needed pulling or something like that, it was like a whole new world opened up to me. I noticed the velvety surface of the petunias - pink and purple. I noticed the brilliantly intricate crinkles of the marigold flower and the smooth, lazy layers of snapdragons. I saw the veins in the leaves of the violets and the soft, lush plumy green of the blue hosta. My begonias aren't blooming yet, but their leaves are a thick, creamy reddish-maroon color and it's like they are lined in a tiny, tiny strand of lace.

I hadn't seen all that beauty before, although it was always there. There is a Buddhist saying that reads something like this:
One day a prince asked the Buddha what his disciples did all day. He said, "We sit, we walk, and we eat."
The prince said, "We do the same thing! Why are you any different?"
The Buddha said, "Because when we sit, we know we are sitting and when we walk, we know we are walking, and when we eat, we know we are eating."

The practice of observing and describing with a nonjudgmental stance is about noticing the facts of the moment. I see my balcony garden every day during the summer, but the day I just observed it, I finally saw it and knew that I saw it.

Lisa

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