We make judgments all of the time. Our lives depend on them. While they are an essential decision-making tool judgments can get out of control if used in unhelpful ways. I got it wrong, I'm such an idiot! What will they think of me…I had better work non-stop! In our mindfulness practice, we attempt to cultivate a non-judging attitude. Why and what does this mean?
When depressed we often become painfully aware of the gap between how we feel and how we would like to be. We make problems solve and make judgment calls, to work out what we need to do to change it, and if we fail, we feel worse. It can be a bit like trying to dig yourself out of a hole with a spade.
What does this have to do with mindfulness? A commonly used definition of mindfulness coined by JKZ is an awareness that arises when we pay attention to present moment experience, non-judgmentally and with kindness and curiosity. So our relationship to judging is explicitly to do with mindfulness,
We cultivate mindfulness when we try as best we are able, to be an impartial witness to our own experience.
Almost everything we see is categorised and labelled, a kind of judging process. It’s usually tagged as good or bad. When it is neutral, we barely notice it. We might label it boring.
This automatic way of judging our experience becomes so routine that it flies below conscious awareness. We make many judgments that have no objective basis in reality.
When our judgments are below conscious awareness, we react to them rather than responding…a bit like a yo-yo going up and down, without us necessarily understanding why. Sometimes this is called stress reactivity or even emotional reactivity.
The treadmill. When we do this, we become more aware of our habits, our fears and our prejudices.
We need to become aware of our experience. To become mindful of the stream of our mind, our judgments and our reactions to our judgments. Often we'll judge ourselves and then judge ourselves again. "I'm an idiot I shouldn't have done", that followed by, "I'll never get it right". Once we are aware, we can find a way to step - back and respond rather than react.
There are even some universal judgments that are particular to meditation. When you are practising meditation, let's say watching your breath, you are bound to notice your mind at some stage judging, “I can’t bear this, I can’t do this anymore’. In this way meditation is excellent training for learning to have a different relationship with your judgments. Rather than taking this judgment at face value we notice it as a judgment and continue as best we can to stay with our breath.
In our meditation practice, we try to cultivate a non-judging state of mind. Getting aware of judgment as it appears is the first step. We then remind ourselves to notice it like an observer. There’s no need to stop the judging but spot it, and then step back and notice it like an impartial witness instead of being caught up in it. We don't see it as a fact or truth, but as a mental event in mind and continue as best we can to stay with the focus of the meditation.
Practicing non-judgment in this structured way, helps us find a small space between what we experience and how we might choose to respond. "in the last week of an MBSR course many people say, "I'm surprised, but I'm just not as reactive to things as I used to be" or "I just don’t get upset in more". It can feel good when the brain stops being so judgmental.
A good way to get the hang of this is to practce and an 8-week MBSR course is a very good start. For some of us it can take a lot longer and the the Living Mindfully With Compassion course is the perfect complement. This runs once a year in February. We'd love to have you there. Check these out on the website or www.headrest.com.au.
Book now for the course beginning Wed Feb 27 or to access the 2019 early bird discount for May 2019. More info at www.headrest.com.au or book directly through https://www.trybooking.com/ZNES