Friday, November 13, 2009

Non Judgment

One of the classic definitions of "mindfulness" comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn: "Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."

It is the part about non-judgment that often trips people up. We are, after all, judgmental beings. It was undoubtedly desirable that our simian ancestors were able to discern a strong tree branch from a weak one while brachiating through the arboreal canopy. So let's just assume that we are in a constant state of judgment. (Notice that you are judging what I'm saying right now.)

What is being asked for in mindfulness practice is not that we stop judging. Like trying to stop thoughts, this one could be impossible. What is required is that we become aware of the judging mind when it occurs, and then to observe it non-judgmentally.

This kind of non-judgmental awareness allows us to create space around all of our experiences. One aspect of judgment is that it limits choice. When we are able to see things with an attitude of non-judgment, we automatically create a sense of spaciousness. Things now have the ability to move and change on their own, and we can just watch this process as it happens, allowing it and letting it be.

This also means that we can observe those times when we are being judgmental, either toward others or ourselves.

In your meditation practice, when you observing some event as it arises (a sound for instance), try using the word "Wow!" to start off the observation. Something like, "Wow! Look how much that noise is bothering me, right now! Feel how my head is pounding. Look at the story my mind is telling me about the noise and the person making it!" By taking this attitude of awe, you can bring a kind of innocence to the practice which helps enable a spacious, non-judging perspective.

Later, when you get up off the cushion, you can bring this same non-judgmental attitude into your daily life.

This We Have Now by Rumi:
This we have now
is not imagination.

This is not
grief or joy.

Not a judging state,
or an elation,
or sadness.

Those come and go.
This is the presence that doesn't.

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