Have you ever heard someone say ‘no judgement’, or ‘I’m not being judemental’, or ‘judgement free’ in a conversation where in fact what you are all actually doing is talking about how you feel about someone based on their actions? Be honest in your answer now. This is just a blog you are reading on a computer, you can say what you like and I won’t judge you – or will I?
Judgement is a word that has been on my mind a lot over the last few months, particularly because I undertook the first part of my training to become a yoga teacher. The creation of a safe space for people to talk about their hopes, fear and dreams is crucial to the process of teaching people to be teachers and I found it fascinating as to how much we talked about judgement, of ourselves as wannabe teachers, of our bodies, of other people’s bodies and of our yoga abilities. At some level it bothered me that one thing people kept saying was ‘I’m no judger’. It made me wonder if that was really true of any of us. Can we really walk through this life not having opinions of what we think of other people, and not making judgements.
It made me realize that I do it all the time. In fact it is a constant part of my mind chatter as I walk down the street, go into work and interact with people on a daily basis. In the most positive way it comes because I am fascinated by people and their lives and what has made them who they are today, but on the down side I realize that I usually draw the conclusions without knowing the facts. I had even made some judgements of some of my yoga peeps which seriously made me question the type of person I am and who I want to be. Oh my God I thought - I am the world’s worst judger – and even by saying that I am judging myself – aaagghhhhh – how do I get out of this cycle????
During one of the last days of our training we held a bonfire on the beach and into the fire we threw all the things we wanted to get rid of. In went the shame, the fear, the old jobs, the self-hatred, the sadness and the failed relationships. I didn’t think too hard about it and I flippantly threw judgement into the fire, not realizing how profound this act would be over the coming weeks.
There are two life-changing things that have happened since that bonfire night. The first is a realization of the judgemental and ‘violent’ language I use against myself. Every time I go to disparage myself in the name of humour or humility I am in fact judging myself. This must stop, for me and for all of us who do it. You know how it goes, especially you women know how it goes. Someone gives you a compliment and instead of saying thank you, you tell them how cheap your new dress is, or how your new hair do is just to cover up the grey or how the good job you did last week was luck. You fail to do something perfectly and in your mind you are suddenly fret with the possibilities of being a terrible parent, or losing your job, or being dumped by your partner. All of these things are judgement on ourselves, on us not being good enough or being ‘enough’. We would be mortified to be judging someone else in this way and in these last weeks since the bonfire I have come to believe that treating ourselves in this way is an adage for how we then treat others. The opposite is of course, understanding, compassion and respect, three qualities which would enable us and all those around us to lead much happier and more loving lives.
The second thing that has happened is that the stories I tell myself about people I see on the street, in the park and at work have changed their tone. I noticed this first when I saw a very overweight woman on the street. Instead of my usual judgemental thought of ‘wow, she doesn’t respect her body because she is so fat’, I found myself thinking, ‘I wonder what happened in her life, how could I know, why am I judging, maybe she is really ill, or abused and in fact I don’t know so just shut up monkey mind’. After that thought a wave of compassion came over for me, for the woman, for myself, for humanity. I never know what has happened in people’s lives unless they choose to tell me, so in fact there is no use at all for the moment that I spend wondering about and judging people. I doubt I am going to stop people watching, nor stop being intrigued by people’s lives but I can certainly stop telling myself stories about them in my head. Now I find myself compelled to bring compassion to those thoughts as well as acknowledgement that their story is their own and not mine to tell.
So please don’t read this and judge yourself for having had judgemental thoughts about yourself or other people. Liberate yourself, start your own bonfire, (I suggest you use the kitchen sink or a BBQ if you don’t have a beach close by), and throw judgement into the flames. Then find some space in your heart for compassion, understanding and love, first for yourself, and then let it spill over into all the other millions of interactions and relationships you have every day of your life. And if it takes time for this to happen, just remember not to judge yourself along the way. We are all already enough just as we are.