I went to this yoga workshop once called “Slow Burn.” We started seated in a circle. The teacher said we would go around the circle and each person would say I ____ too fast. We were all supposed to fill in the blank according to where in our life we need to slow down. When my turn came, I proudly declared, without hesitation, “I drive too fast.”
The circle ended with the teacher (one of my all time favorite mentors) proclaiming, “I judge too fast.”
What? That’s an option?
I need to change my answer.
A couple of months ago, while mindlessly perusing Facebook, I had a memory of that moment. I spend more time on Facebook than I’d like to admit. It’s a weird anomaly in my otherwise non-digital life. I recognize how much of a life-waste it is, yet sometimes, after a long day, I spend more than thirty or forty minutes sifting through electronic pages of people’s lives. Nowhere in my life do I judge more quickly than on Facebook. In fact, if I’m not actually writing/responding to a friend, I spend my time passing judgments on people I barely know. “Damn that bridesmaid up-do is hideous, poor thing, I wonder if she realized?” “Wow, I can’t believe she’s dating that guy, she is way too good looking for him.” “I can’t believe that’s what that girl did with her life!”
They say, in yoga, “we resist what we need the most.” In five years of practicing yoga, I haven’t so much as scratched the surface of my judgmental behavior. I don’t even make excuses for avoiding it. I’ve never felt compelled to deal with judgment because I’d never really witnessed it come up on my mat.
Until recently when I made an important connection. I started to observe the way in which judgment interferes with what I’m trying to cultivate on my mat, the higher order stuff I want to take out of the studio and into the world. Specifically, I’ve noticed how judgment interferes with my desire to be a loving and compassionate person in my everyday life. As soon as I judge someone, I cut off the channel connecting us. I can no longer see their light and love, or, our similarities, or, the meaning of our interaction. All I experience is the judgment.
I’m a firm believer that as I am judging others, I am really judging myself. I am comparing myself either to an end of “at least I’m not like that” or “ugh, I wish I was more like that.” Either way, I am generating internal negativity. In the first instance, I have immediate guilt and shame for being compassionless and critical; in the second instance, I am denigrating my own value and failing to see the truth of my full beauty and wholeness. I’m undoing all the serenity and open-heartedness I sweat my butt off for.
It’s a lose, lose. Over and over again.
Once I could see how judgment blocked my other intentions, I started dedicating my yoga practice to non-judgment. Slowly, I could see the way in which my practice helped manifest my off-the-mat intentions.
I found myself judging about the same amount, but observing it more. The observation helped me slow down the process of disconnecting. Sometimes I’d recover just in time to balance out the judgment with a positive affirmation. “but damn that wedding is beautiful.” “He must make her so happy.” “Good for her for following her dreams.”
I’m still on Facebook and the judgments keep coming. But the awareness gives me the opportunity to witness the effects of judgment and resolve to do better.