"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about calming your mind and opening your heart enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! Musings on Life and Practice by a Long-time Student of Meditation.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Judgment Day

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
J. Krishnamurti

"Judge not and ye shall not be judged"
 ― Yogi Jesus of Nazareth

I don't the think there is any greater freedom than being Present to our lives without the distortion caused by Judgment Mind.  

This deeply engrained process of evaluating what we experience as bad, wrong, condemnable can dominate our lives.  It is embedded in the language we use to describe and communicate our experience.

If one is paying attention, the difference between the warm, bright, spaciousness experienced as we maintain the clarity of an open heart and mind, and the constricted, narrow, claustrophic texture of a quality of  consciousness imbued with judgmental thoughts and feelings, is obvious.  In any one moment, it can literally be the difference between heaven and hell.

Growing up immersed in a society that is highly judgmental, most of us have been deeply conditioned to experience our lives in terms of good/bad, right/wrong, should be/shouldn't be.  In fact, our ego sense, with its perceived separation and isolation from "the other" is largely built on and maintained by the thoughts, opinions, and various mind states that emerge from this conditioning.  Even in it's mildest form, that of liking/disliking, Judgment Mind  generates thoughts and feelings that serve to separate us from ourselves and others in any particular moment. 

It is actually quite fun to see for yourself how that plays out on the meditation cushion.  

At times, we can clearly see Judgment Mind in full blown operation.  The gracious spaciousness of mind at rest collapses as the ranting and raving and blaming of judgmental thoughts cascade across the surface of discordant feelings.  

As Practice develops, we get more adept at noticing whether we can just take a breath and put some kindness and space around that and let Judgment Mind go it's merry way-- or whether we get swept away, ultimately getting judgmental about being judgmental!  Watching the process closely, it can pretty quickly become another obvious example of the Divine Sitcom that we humanoids are capable of co-creating.

In one of those episodes, I saw how the thoughts  "I don't like myself.  I'm bad." provided a wonderful opportunity to examine the experience carefully, in the lens of Mindfulness.  Letting go of the particular narrative generated by Judgment Mind, the experience became a kaleidoscope of momentary feelings flowing through my awareness. Moments of anger, fear, and pain emerged -- and soon dissipated.  Without the support of the storyline, they had nothing to hold onto.

At that point, I was able to look deeply and explore the paradoxical nature of "Self. "  Just "who" the hell it is that doesn't like "who?" Peering at that brought a sense of wonder -- and a chuckle.

A Few Tips on Practice

1.  Clarify your intention.  The actual bottom line of Mindfulness Meditation is not changing yourself from "bad" to "good". That can just be another product of Judgment Mind.  Try not to set up your Practice as yet another cycle of warfare against "yourself", another ego trip.  The object is to "come as you are you are" to the process and engage in a journey to explore the nature of your own mind.  Mindfulness is nothing more, nothing less than Seeing your own experience as it is

2.  Examine your own approach to Practice.  Don't set up your own "mine field" of unrealistic expectations.  We are literally creatures of habit.  Our conditioned patterns were set in place long ago.  Much of who we think we are is just a habit. 

Patience and Persistence are both the means -- and the ends -- of Practice.  There is a quality of consciousness accessible to all, experienced by most of us already in special moments (oftentimes without noticing it).  Cultivating a more consistent connection to that aspect of mind will take commitment, time, and what one of my teachers called "effortless effort".

Relax -- and keep Practicing.

3.  Just Take Notice.  The "noting practice" taught by various schools of Buddhism as part of Shamatha Meditation can be a useful means of identifying and releasing moments of Judgment Mind.  Generally used in conjunction with Mindfulness of Breathing,  this technique calls for us to make the mental note "thinking" when we notice that our attention has been drawn from a primary focus on the sensation of breathing into the realm of thought.  Noting the quality of that mental note, your inner monologue's "tone of voice", can indicate the presence of Judgment Mind.  Is is harsh, carping, frustrated, whinny?  If so, take the opportunity to pause and take at deep breath -- and repeat the mental note, "thinking", with greater kindness and compassion for yourself -- and all sentient beings.  

The noting practice can be done at any point during the day, not just on the meditation cushion.

The Bottom Line?


Over the years I've seen that real change is possible.  In fact, looked at closely it becomes obvious that everything is always changing.  

Thankfully, we have the capacity to determine, in part, the nature of that change.  Every day is Judgment Day -- or not.  With Practice, we do have a choice in the matter -- moment to moment.  

The bottom line?

We don't have to stay stuck in the same conditioned rut.  Instead, Life can be a Groove!

It just takes Practice.

2 comments:

Don Karp said...

Judgment is an attribute that will occupy me for several lifetimes of work. Thanks for writing on this.

I practice (and preach) non-judgment during listening in peer relationships and in coaching, both online and off.

What, then, is discernment, or choice? Is this a form of judgment?

I like to think that I am open minded, but not so much that my brains fall out!

Lance Smith said...

Hey Brother Don,
I'm tempted to just let this go with a quip: "When I do it, it's discernment. When you do it, it's judgement, Brother." LOL But, what is really involved here, at the deepest level, is quite important. It involves what the Tibetan Buddhist's refer to as Primordial Wisdom. For the most part, as conditioned human beings, we operate from a point of view that is largely a result of our personal and collective history.

Although we have access to a quality of consciousness that is more or less unfettered by our conditioning, for the most part our we operate from an egoic "point of view" that consists of a set of beliefs and opinions about ourselves, other people, and the world. We generally experience our lives from this conditioned point of view. We rarely see the world "as it is." What draws our attention is oftentimes that which confirms our own worth and sense of things. We rarely see the world as it is. We are too busy critiquing it.

The promise of Practice is accessing a quality of consciousness that isn't so deeply mired in this egoic point of view. As the Practice deepens we are more likely to experience that which Connects us, moment to moment, than that which separates us. It is from that position of Connection that true compassion emerges, and with it a deeper level of understanding. The Clarity that emerges in those special moments is Primordial Wisdom. Generally these moments are not experienced as an isolated individual. What emerges, what might be said, "rings true" for all who are Present. It's wonderful when it happens.
One Love,
Lance