“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
“We sow the seeds of our future hells or happiness by the way
we open or close our minds right now.”
― Pema Chodron
don't think there is any greater freedom than being Present, engaging life as it is without the distortion caused by Judgment Mind.
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.
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
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
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
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.
one of those meditation experiences awhile back, I saw how the thoughts "I don't like myself.
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
Clarify your intention.
The actual bottom line of Mindfulness Meditation is not
changing yourself from "bad" to "good". That form of motivation is another
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.
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.
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.
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
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 it becomes obvious that everything is always
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?
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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