"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

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Judge Not and ...

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
― J. Krishnamurti
“People talk about entering nirvana, but we are already there.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

I don't think there is any greater freedom than being Present in the moment to life as it is.  
In the expansive vision of an open heart and clear mind, the barriers and boundaries that appear to separate us from ourselves, from one another, and from Sacred Oneness become increasingly permeable, translucent, transparent.   
Being Present, we feel the Presence of something vast and boundless. 
I believe most of us, if not all, have experienced such moments -- at least as children.  Unfortunately, accessing these moments and making them a regular part of our life is easier said than done.

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 created and 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 get lost in the alternative reality we have created -- 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, diatribe, enmity, 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.  In one moment, we can be Present, aware of the sacred miracle emerging.  Then, Zap!  The gracious spaciousness of an open heart and mind collapses.  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 actually dispel Judgment Mind quite 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. 
To Hell and Back
It seems to me that the most debilitating form of Judgement Mind occurs when we turn its focus on ourselves.  A widespread part of our childhood upbringing, many of us internalize the harsh criticism and condemnation we've received.  This often results in a deep distrust of ourselves, a lack of confidence and ease, and what has been labeled an "inferiority complex."  This seems to be endemic in our society, part of our shared cultural subconscious.  
Yet, it is not necessarily universal to the human condition.  Evidently this widespread pattern is so foreign to Tibetan culture, that the Dalai Lama had a hard time understanding a question about it posed by a prominent American Buddhist Teacher.   
I could have answered the question in a heartbeat.  Patterns of harsh self-judgment are pretty familiar terrain for me.  I'm grateful that the Practice has provided me with a way to navigate those patterns with more compassion and skill.
During one morning's meditation awhile ago, I watched Judgement Mind rear it's ugly head as the thoughts "#@!#& me! I'm a #@!#&-- up" erupted into my consciousness.  I had been through a pretty challenging confrontation the day before, and as sometimes happens, the episode had been re-incarnated in my thoughts and feelings a number of times over the ensuing 24 hours.  Now in the silence and stillness of the Practice, it reared its head and bit me in the tail.  
Luckily that tail was firmly placed on my meditation cushion. 
This time it was relatively easy to let go of the "story line,"the habitual narrative running through my mind.  As Practice has deepened, I've learned not to believe everything I think.  Rather than my attentions collapsing into the realm of thinking, it's easier to see thoughts as merely thoughts. 
Now, much more often than before, I am able to notice where my mind has gone rather quickly. If needed, I can take a few, slow, deep conscious breaths, relax my shoulders and belly, open my heart -- and let the thoughts go their merry way.  The experience then became a kaleidoscope of sensations, feelings, and energies.  Sometimes, moments of anger, fear, confusion, humiliation and pain can emerge.  Yet, within the space of several more breaths, the emotional energies of each had dissipated.  Without the support of the same old narratives, these energies had nothing to cling to.

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

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

It just takes Practice.

No comments: