"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about getting out of your head enough to engage each moment wholeheartedly. When we are Present in an open, kind, clear, and helpful way, the vast, mysterious, magical reality of life itself becomes self-evident .

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Judgment Day

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

"Blaming is a way to protect your heart, trying to protect what is soft and open and tender in yourself. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.”
― Pema Chödrön

I don't the think there is any greater freedom than being Present to our lives without the distortion caused by Judgment Mind, the conditioned mental/emotional process of evaluating what we experience as bad, wrong, blameable, condemnable. 

If one is paying attention, the difference between the warm, bright, spaciousness experienced as we maintain the clarity of an open heart, 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 quite 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 is felt separation and isolation from "the other" is largely built on and maintained by the thoughts and various mind states that emerge from this conditioning.  Even in it's mildest form, that of liking/disliking, it can generate thoughts and feelings that 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 thought  "I don't like myself." provided a wonderful opportunity to examine the experience carefully, in the lens of Mindfulness.  Letting go of that particular narrative, the experience became a kaleidoscope of momentary feelings, variations of what we might label as anger, fear, and pain.  Without the support of the storyline, these soon dissipated.  At that point, exploring the the issue of just "who" the hell it is that doesn't like "who" eventually produced wonder -- and a chuckle.


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 "bad 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".

3.  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, it's "tone of voice", will indicate the presence of Judgment Mind.  You then have the opportunity to repeat that mental note, "thinking", with greater kindness and compassion for yourself -- and all sentient beings.   


Over the years I've seen that real change is possible.  In fact, looked at closely we see 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.  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.  Life can be a Groove!

It just takes Practice.

Originally Published, July 18, 2015. Revised.

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