The art of non-judgement
Actualizado: abr 29
Say someone is walking towards you on the street and they change sides as they approach. We tend to take things like this personally, as a rejection from a stranger that we need to figure out. If the stranger is older, we think they are judging us for being young and irresponsible. If the stranger looks upper class, we assume they are afraid our low income vibe might be contagious. If it’s a woman, we feel she finds us too simple. If it’s a man, that we are too complicated. Now, take a moment to really visualize all these hypothetical encounters. Where do all these assumptions about ourselves stem from?
Regardless of these assumptions being right or wrong, in no way are they originating in the people we cross paths with. As long as we don’t develop the ability to read minds, we have to simply admit that it is wrong to make assumptions about what other people think of us (or about anything else for that matter). In fact, it is a pure waste of time and energy. (Talking about mind reading, this is actually one of the siddhis - supernatural powers attained by spiritual advancement – called Parichitabhignta. But I am pretty sure that none of us is currently meditating or practicing yoga in order to get to this level of enlightenment, aren’t we?).
The fact is that we are masters of projecting our own drama into other people’s assumptions. We can’t see that the drama of feeling misunderstood and judged starts in our own head. I believe that in some unconscious level, we do feel like we aren’t good enough and must be judged by strangers. Actually, what is really happening is that we are constantly judging ourselves.
The reason why I am musing about this is because I had such an encounter the other day. A man with a dog was walking toward us and he literally avoided us as if we were a bump on the street. He didn’t discretely change sides, pretending he actually had to walk somewhere else. He literally walked around a parked car in order to not walk next to us on our side of the street. Weird… Whenever this happens to me when I’m walking Lucy, the assumptions in my head go like this: “this person thinks my dog is bad/aggressive/sick/contagious” and therefore “this person thinks I’m a bad/irresponsible/wrong dog owner because I don’t take good care of my dog”. Again, stop for a second and think. Did this man have all these thoughts about us? Well, maybe he did. Or wait, maybe not! (Look at Lucy in the picture, it’s hard to believe any dog lover wouldn’t want to walk next to her!). So after this thought crossed my mind, I kept making assumptions to see if I could come up with the right scenario of what just happened. This time, the alternative assumption was that this man didn’t want to cross next to us in case the dogs barked at each other and the baby (who was indeed sleeping) would wake up. Just like that, the story changed radically, from a very judgmental stranger to a highly considerate one.
This story closes with two questions. How can I know if this stranger’s case was the first or the second? And most importantly, is it really important to know? For my part, I would prefer to stick to the second alternative. Very simply put, I can’t be affected by other people’s thoughts, but I very well can be affected by my own. So if my thoughts are positive and elevate me, if they make me feel connected to others, if they make me believe the world I live in has my back, I will be in a much calmer and brighter state of mind. Compare that to always thinking people are against you, that you have to constantly defend yourself, that this world is an ugly place to be in… After you consider the two sides of the story, wouldn’t you agree that it’s better to be in the positive one?
Finally, let’s have a look at this through the yogic lens. The perfect thing to do, as good yogis would, is to not judge. But given we are just human, and we will at some point have our judgmental inner voice speaking up, our work now is to recognize our judging patterns when they appear. The first step is to simply get to know our mind, and be gentle to it. Follow this inner dialogue next time: “This person thinks that I am this and that… Oh, look! Here is my mind judging what this person thinks of me. But how can I know what this person is really thinking? Plus, is it relevant to me? Do I really feel that way about myself? Is there anything I would like to change?” When we can’t avoid but find ourselves in “judging mode”, we can follow these steps: stop, acknowledge what is happening, let go of the stories you tell yourself. And if you simply can’t let go, maybe keep making assumptions till you arrive to one that allows you to find some peace. Practice, practice, practice.