I have never thought of myself as judgmental. In fact, I strive towards being open minded, understanding and tolerant. Until I recently experienced missing patience with someone from whom I had [unreasonable] expectations, and saw myself acting and speaking in what can only be described as a judgmental manner.
In my quest towards being more open-minded, flexible and mindful of my actions, I expect the same from others and see with a critic eye those who don’t seem from where I stand to ‘strive enough’. Ideally, through the study and practice of Yoga, I have the tools to notice this kind of attitude and correct it, but in the haste of everyday life, I still see myself acting and talking impulsively without thorough reflection.
I recently listened to Pema Chödrön’s Don’t Bite the Hook. A lecture in Shantideva’s teachings on patience. Shantideva was a Buddhist monk from the 8th century. In the teachings of the sixth chapter of his most famous scripture, we are encouraged to develop and practice patience. First and foremost when we experience a situation as unpleasant, irritating or even painful. We need to learn to be with the emotion, observe it, and avoid acting impulsively in our hurry to come out of it. This will allow us to act more skillfully and avoid creating more pain for ourselves and others.
Patience is also to be practiced towards ourselves and others by remembering that we all act with one basic need at the base: the wish to avoid pain or to get out of a situation that feels like painful. We all want to be and stay happy.
I think the message in this audiobook is beautiful. I heard it when I was in the process of reflecting about how, out of habit and often unconsciously, I often judge other people’s actions and choices.
I have been asking myself why do I do this? Why do I judge and criticize (mainly mentally) others? So far, I have two answers:
1. The ‘need’ to feel that I do something well. I am not proud of it, but I think that finding what I perceive as shortcomings in others gives me some sort of validation.
2. It is easier to see other people’s flaws than my own. It is easier to criticize others than work with my own limitations.
I believe that in order to stop this bad habit, I need to work more dedicated to slow down the process from thought to word and/or action. Patience, like Pema Chödrön describes, is key. If I manage to observe my thoughts, I will be able to stop them. I have decided to replace them with an affirmation that counteracts the negativity. When I do this, and allow the time to reflect, I will remember that we all are trying our best from what we know, so why the need to judge? It only creates separation.
During a walk in the forest this week, I shared my thoughts with my husband and we agreed to refrain from talking about other people in a negative way. I don’t believe we are of the worst sort but we do often criticize how ‘people’ do this or don’t do that and get all worked up. It is mainly about people in general and very rarely about friends or people we know, but still. Why not spend our time together talking about something uplifting? Share dreams, make plans, be amazed by the good things, or even be quiet from time to time. 😁
My daughter sometimes shares with me how uncomfortable she feels when some of her friends talk poorly about each other behind their backs and my explanation is often that they must have low self-esteem and/or nothing more interesting to talk about…boom! Right back at me!
Humility is another word that has been dancing in my mind a lot lately. I need to remember to meet everyone with humility. Meet situations with humility as well. Humility can lead to curiosity and allow me to listen, and show understanding even if I don’t agree with what I see or hear.