By Steve Savels.
Is this article worth reading or not? You probably just made that judgment, or perhaps you are making it right now. We make judgments like this all day long. After all, our time and energy are limited, we have to make choices. And choices are based on judgments.
Judging is also a matter of health, even survival: is it safe to cross the street? Is that yoghurt still okay? Could that person in the distance be a mugger?
These are all very relevant judgments that help us move through life without getting hurt.
When judgments become painful
But what if you get stuck in judgments? About your partner, your mother-in-law, your job, your kids? Or even about yourself? The same capacity that is meant to keep us safe, can become very painful.
In one of our mindfulness courses, there was a mother who was always arguing and bickering with her teenage daughter. They were constantly judging each other. The mother really suffered from this (and probably her daughter did too), but she didn’t know how to restore the relationship.
Me too, when I began practicing mindfulness, I also started noticing how I was stuck in judgments. I hated my job and couldn’t stop thinking about how much I loathed it. Every morning it was an ordeal to get up and drag myself to work. It was completely draining.
Do you recognise this?
Mindfulness offers some ways to get unstuck from this exhausting judging.
First, a playful exercise to become more aware of the judging. Go for a 5-minute walk and count the number of judgments that you make, either negative (“it’s too hot”), or positive (“that’s interesting”). There might be hundreds, in just a few minutes.
You might be surprised by the sheer numbers, but this is completely normal. Our mind never stops judging.
When you start becoming more aware of this constant judging, you may notice something extraordinary happening: you start judging the judging. “Oh no, not another judgment! Can’t my mind ever stop judging?”
This is a great illustration why it is not very helpful to try to stop judging. Most likely, you will only start judging the judging, thus creating even more judgments. And becoming more and more self-critical.
The mindfulness attitude of “non-judging” doesn’t mean “not judging”. It means that you can train yourself to be more aware of the judging, and then make a conscious decision whether you want to engage with it or not. Because that’s when it becomes painful: when you take your judgments seriously, and you start ‘feeding’ them by thinking about them, even arguing with them.
The mother with the teenage daughter learned to recognise her judgments when they first came up. Then she asked herself: what do I want to do with this? Sometimes it was necessary and helpful to say something about it to her daughter, but more often it was not.
The fact that she could see the judgments just as judgments, also helped to take them less seriously, even to treat them with kindness and a bit of humour. Which had a big impact on how she communicated with her daughter: with a much lighter and more playful attitude.
Of course, they still argue now and then, but they developed a much kinder and more loving relationship again.
For myself, when I started being more aware of how judgmental I was, and learnt to deal with my judgments in a lighter way, I noticed a big difference on my mood. I felt much happier, and rather than being stuck ruminating on what I didn’t want, I started seeing new possibilities.
What if you could develop a kinder and more playful attitude towards your own judgments?
Learn everything on this (and much more) in our 8-week mindfulness courses. Or if you have already done a course, why not deepen and strengthen this non-judging attitude with our follow-up mindfulness and heartfulness course?