“Kind thoughts are rarer than either kind words or deeds. They imply a great deal of thinking about others. This in itself is rare. But they also imply a great deal of thinking about others without the thoughts being criticisms. This is rarer still.” – Frederick W. Faber
Mindfulness involves an attitude of radical acceptance, curiosity, and awareness of the present moment. It also includes an authentically nonjudgmental stance toward all things, no matter how “good” or “bad” the mind automatically labels them. It can be very challenging – even terrifying – for many of us to truly release judgment. For some, there is a felt sense of security behind the wall of judgment… illusory in its seemingly impenetrable nature. Imagine all of the love and joy that such a thick wall could be blocking out.
At times, we may – consciously or otherwise – hold onto the belief that judging ourselves, others, or events will protect us from real or perceived danger. The true danger that many of us do not notice is that judgment often serves to prevent us from authentic connections with others, genuine self-knowledge/awareness, and living our most meaningful/value-based lives. In this way, judgment acts as a barrier that disconnects us from the richness, beauty, and nuance inherent within the universe.
Mindfulness Exercise: Nonjudgmental Mindfulness
Judgment has no more power over your lived experience that you will allow. Do you sense that judgment toward yourself, others, or events has impacted your life in ways that feel limiting, inauthentic, or harmful in some way? If a part of you feels that you could benefit from cultivating an attitude of nonjudgmental mindfulness toward your true self, others, or events, take a few minutes to practice this brief mindfulness exercise.
Unless you are currently faced with an “emergency,” spending the next three to five minutes engaged in mindful reflection is likely to be time well spent. Before you begin this brief mindfulness exercise, take a moment to reflect on the ways in which adopting a judgmental attitude has resulted in limiting your opportunities, knowledge of self/others, and relationships.
(1) Visualize yourself removing the lenses of judgment
Observe what thoughts, emotions, and sensations emerge within your experience as you imagine taking off a heavy pair of glasses through which you have viewed your experience. Imagine these glasses as containing thick, cumbersome, and cloudy lenses that result in a skewed, distorted, and judgmental view of yourself, other people, and events.
(2) Mindfully notice… really see… yourself, others, and the world
Allow yourself to blink a few times, take a step back, and really see the world around you… unencumbered by the heaviness of judgment. Allow harsh judgmental thoughts toward yourself and others to slowly melt away as you become aware of the rich and personal life path that has brought you to this present moment. Allow yourself to experience warmth and compassion as you realize that each of us has traveled along a unique path in life… full of hopes, dreams, regrets, failures, desires, doubts, loves, fears, and so on. Recognize and embrace our common humanity as you allow the barriers you may have built between yourself and others (or between your false self and authentic self) to slowly melt away.
(3) Ask wise mind, “What is it that I most deeply want in my life?”
Wise mind is the balancing point between reason and emotion. Wise mind often manifests itself as the still small voice within… guided by your deepest sense of intuition. When you are acting out of wise mind, there is mindful awareness and integration of reason with emotion, enabling you to make effective choices. By calmly and peacefully asking wise mind this question and allowing it to naturally unfold, you may notice certain themes emerging. For example, you might notice a deep longing for love, belonging, or acceptance arising from within. Whatever answer(s) come to you, choose to practice mindfulness by directing an attitude of acceptance, curiosity, and openness toward your deepest needs and wishes.
Mindfulness & Freedom from Suffering
Dr. Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), encourages her clients to actively apply principles of mindfulness to their daily lives to obtain a wide variety of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional benefits. One of many benefits of practicing mindfulness is learning to release judgment.
Consider if you will choose to continue along your journey in life with the exact same mindset… closed to new perspectives or stuck in judgments. Letting go of judgment may seem terrifying at first, especially when a great deal of life has been viewed through the lens of equating judgment with safety. This is a false sense of security that you can be free of at any moment.
Harsh Judgments Inflict Unnecessary Suffering
Freedom from the self-imposed suffering that comes along with judgmental thoughts, emotions, and deeds is attainable. Releasing judgment does not mean that you “approve” of things that violate your true values. It means allowing yourself to move into a place of emotional stillness, peace, and acceptance of what is.
Freedom from judgment enables fear and anxiety to leave your heart, greater expressions of love toward yourself and others, and recognition that you have the power to change things that are within your control. The tricky part of practicing nonjudgmental mindfulness (enabling greater awareness, open-mindedness, and curiosity) is learning how to identify what is truly within your control. A clue… your response and the meaning you ascribe to all things is up to you.
Change of all kinds – experienced as positive or negative – can be unsettling. We are creatures of habit in many ways. Perhaps you notice a tendency toward judging yourself or others in ways that are harsh or impulsive. If you identify with a proclivity toward judgment, consider how this judgmental attitude has impacted your life.
Has it brought you closer to others? Increased authentic self-knowledge? Allowed you to take healthy risks and reach for your value-based dreams? If you find that a judgmental mindset has been limiting in some way(s), pause for a moment. Consider the possibility of releasing judgment and feeling safe… at the same time.
What might that type of freedom from the self-imposed mental prison of judgment be like? Try challenging yourself to practice nonjudgmental mindfulness in one small way today. Perhaps this means actively noticing yourself engaging with a judgmental thought, which increases mindful awareness.
If you feel so bogged down by judgmental thinking that it’s difficult to even imagine a life without judgment that feels “safe,” direct compassion toward yourself in the present moment. If you notice that judgment is a familiar – yet bumpy or painful – road that you’ve grown accustomed to walking upon, remember that it’s never too late to change your attitude and mindset.
“No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back.” – Turkish proverb
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Goldstein, E. (2010, November 6). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elisha-goldstein-phd/4-steps-to-better-relatio_b_779168.html
Linehan, M. (2005). Teaching nonjudgmental mindfulness. Retrieved from http://www.behavioraltech.org/resources/mindfulness_exercises.cfm
Featured image: There is a light by AlicePopkorn / CC BY-ND 2.0