"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

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

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Judge Not

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

“We sow the seeds of our future hells or happiness by the way
 we open or close our minds right now.
 ― Pema Chodron

I don't think there is any greater freedom than being Present, engaging life as it is without the distortion caused by Judgment Mind.  

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 maintained by the thoughts, opinions, and various mind states that emerge from this conditioning.  Even in its mild form of liking/disliking, Judgment Mind can generate thoughts and feelings that serve to separate us from the peaceful, calm, and caring Presence we have access to in every moment.  
If we are overly self absorbed, distracted, stressed, moving too fast, it's easy to get lost in our conditioned reactions to Life.  Adrift in Judgment Mind, we loose Presence.  We create an alternative reality and forget that the world is really not as it appears to us at that moment.  This deeply ingrained process of evaluating what we experience as bad, wrong, condemnable, is part of our social conditioning.  It appears as discontent, complaints, blame, and self-blame.  If we aren't paying attention, it can and will dominate our lives, moment to moment.
Seeing For Yourself
One of the fruits of meditation is that we can see how that process works directly.  We can see for ourselves that Judgment Mind isn't only the thoughts going through our heads at the moment.  It's deeper than that.  It is embedded in the emotions we are experiencing.  It's embodied in the tightnesses and discomforts of our body.  It directly effects the quality of our consciousness, our state of mind.  
It is actually quite fun to see for yourself how that plays out on the meditation cushion.  
If you're paying attention, the emergence of Judgment Mind is obvious.  You'll know that you've have lost touch with the relaxed, warm, bright, open, spaciousness of a open heart and clear mind.  Instead of a profound sense of Connection, you'll collapse into the ego's self-protective reaction patterns.  The emotional energies of those patterns can be fiery hot or icy cold, yet there is a tightening, discontent, and a sense of disconnection.
This contraction can happen in a heartbeat.  We can be Present, aware of the sacred expanse of the moment.  Then, Zap!  The gracious spaciousness of an open heart and mind collapses and our attention is consumed by the ranting and raving and blaming of judgmental thoughts as they cascade across the surface of discordant feelings.  
As Practice develops, we get more adept at noticing exactly when the shift occurs.  Then,  sometimes, we can dispel Judgment Mind readily.  Taking a breath, bringing kindness and openness to our hearts and minds brings us into the moment more fully -- and Judgment Mind dissipates.  
In any one moment, this can literally be the difference between heaven and hell. 
Of course, sometimes we may get swept away for awhile.  Then a gentle patience with yourself is helpful.  In my case, the process often ends with me noticing that I'm being judgmental about being judgmental!  That moment of recognition often brings on a grin or a chuckle these days. The poignancy of the Divine Sitcom apparent, the energy of humor emerges -- and my heart opens.  I'm immediately Present again.  There I can feel the Presence of the One Love. 

In one of those meditation experiences awhile back, I saw how the thoughts "I don't like myself.  I'm bad." provided a wonderful opportunity to examine the experience carefully.  Having learned how to let go of the particular narratives generated by Judgment Mind, the experience became a kaleidoscope of sensations, feelings, and energies.   Moments of anger, fear, confusion, humiliation and pain emerged.  Yet, within the space of several breaths, they dissipated.  Without the support of the same old narratives, these energies had nothing to cling to.

Instead, what emerged was a relaxed, open, clear, warm, expansive quality of consciousness, -- and a sense of wonder.  A boundless sense peace and a warm-hearted appreciation permeated my breath and body. 

I can live with that.  Hopefully, I can die with that as well.

A Few Tips for Practice

1.  Clarify your intention. 
The actual bottom line of Mindfulness Meditation is not changing yourself from "bad" to "good". That form of motivation is another product of Judgment Mind.  Try not to set up your Practice as yet another cycle of warfare against yourself.  That's just another, more subtle, ego trip.  The object is to "come as you are" to the process.  You're on a journey to explore the nature of your own mind.  Mindfulness is nothing more, nothing less than seeing and accepting your own experience in the present moment, as it is.   That takes Presence, engaging life with an open heart and a clear mind.

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.  

Noticing the quality of that mental note, your inner monologue's "tone of voice", can indicate the presence of Judgment Mind.  Is the voice (or voices) harsh, carping, frustrated, whinny?  If so, take the opportunity to pause and take a deep breath -- and perhaps note the flavor of that energy, then simply repeat the mental note, "thinking"with greater kindness and compassion for yourself -- and all sentient beings. 

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.

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