I wanted to write about something that became the theme of our last retreat and by many reports was very helfpul, judgement. Judgement has been something that I've worked with a lot in my meditation and in my life. Despite being intellectually aware of it for some time, it's only in the last year, particularly, I have become very intimate with it and aware of the confusion and suffering it was causing me and probably those close to me also.
For years I have been teaching as part of a witnessing practice.... observe without judging, without needing to change and with ruthless self honesty (Red Hawk). But like most things that still hold us in our suffering judgement had slipoed under the radar of my awareness, being so immeshed in my Ego, persona and identity (little me).
My judgement of others was disguised (or justified) as holding a valuable high standard and I accepted my directness of defending that standard as an attribute in my personality. And this was (is) a projection of my own relationship with myself. Sounds fair enough – I'm sure some of you hardcore perfectionists would agree (while others cringe).
So lets re-examine again the cycle of this judgement and how it is actually the key to reinforcing the very thing we judge.
Say I eat too much chocolate ice cream. Little me feels great when I eat chocolate ice cream and I enjoy identifing with it – though my waist line or blood sugar levels may question that identification. As part of that enjoyment and identification, my mind will justify these actions, it will be tuned into all the information that supports me eating ice cream and be blind to the contrary. When there is identification this is unconscious, so it's not even a question of ignoring...it happens beneath the radar. After sometime though the counter-story becomes apparent and now there is conflict in the mind. So now it gets interesting. I still have the sensory habit of identifing with that which feels good... but new info confronts that.
This is the time where judgement enters, (aka another really bad habit).... firstly it's another story and an endless one. Judgement can argue back and forth the pro's and con's forever, without anything changing. All my energy is taken up with the mental conflict and more than ever I just seek comfort (of chocolate icecream most likely). At the central nervous system level it's just laying down more pathways of negativity and failure. Judgement is demeaning and disempowering.. I don't feel good about myself when I'm judged (by myself or others), I may be defensive and am unlikely to make empowered decisions in such situations. Finally, I am actually awareness which is uncondioned, unidentified and free of suffering (this is the realisation yoga teachings reveal) and judgement is actually just the mind sharing it's opinion about itself – really a bit tedious.
Wow! From the later perspective we don't get caught in the story. The meditation awareness we could bring to it, is just to simply be conscious and decide when to eat ice cream and when not to, thereby moderating our consumation as is appropriate for us.. no emotional story. Isn't that more simple.
Lets imagine that with an emotional habit....which isn't actually so much different to ice cream in it's tastiness. For me over the last years, that has been working and doing things to at a deep, deep level increase my feeling of self worth. I'm good at what I do (I think) and so I get a lot of reinforcement to keep doing it... even when it sometimes turns into working too much and stressing my body. When I'm not doing, when the ice cream is taken away it's feels unpleasant, sometimes a sadness or boredom becomes apparent. I can try and fill that with reading a book or even 'doing' meditation.. And it is here also that enters the judgement... or miriad of judgments. So often I can be meditating and watch the thought of 'got to get up and do something' somtimes there aren't even thoughts it's just a feeling the sensation of judgement lurking . Then the other conflicting thoughts come in about .. you should be able to relax and not have these thoughts.. judgement, judgement judgement and again its the judgement that perpetuates the cycle. Otherwise it is simple just rest in awareness either on the cushion meditating or in any of our other daily activities.
We always see things through the filters of little me (which is our conditioned self – the outcome of many years/decades of training). Conditioning is uncounscious and concerned mainly with preservation of little me.. however disfuncional that might be. From the stillness of awareness consider for a moment where you feel challenged in life and see if you can reveal an area you get stuck.
Sources of judgment (aka beating ourself up) may be around or behind:
being unhappy with our body (too fat/ too thin)
not doing enough or doing too much in life, in work for the family
any tendency we have...ie. always trying to please others, giving in rather than living out truth
the anger, upset or stress when people don't do what we want
So what do we do about it? Well, simple ...we just notice it. Before we can notice honestly without trying to change and without judgement, we need to be honestly aware of when there is judgement. Watch the tendencies that we don't like - the 'not liking' immediately shows where the judgement springs up. I'm note suggesting we need to like the tendency, this is still playing the game... It's just stepping right out of the picture... just notice.. 'and this' 'and this' lalala.. no big deal. When you notice the judgement, just relax back into the body sensation and know "I am the awareness, not the mind, thoughts or judgement". The awareness lessens the power of the identification and over time, judgement becomes less all by it's self. It is much easier then to rest in a peaceful place even when things are not going our way also with our inner experience. We develop greater clarity that supports us to live they way we want without emotional manipulation of judgement undermining us.
Hope this is helpful, look forward to seeing what new juicy topics arise in the October retreat.