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How a Non-Judgmental Mind Transforms Us

Learning to be less judgemental means we are more present, compassionate and happy. It reconnects us to each other, ourselves and life.

When you first start to meditate, the first thing you discover, if you haven't already, is the fact that you have a voice in your head. Not only do you have a voice in the head, but it's a voice that pretty much never stops talking. It goes on and on incessantly, from the moment you wake up to the time when you go to sleep. And for some of us, it won't even stop then, doesn't let us get any sleep. Now, this voice, very often, isn't helpful.

It commentates on our lives all day long. It speculates. It likes and dislikes. It makes judgements about everything. He is, she is, I am, life is.

It labels things. It complains. It compares us to everybody else. It worries and plans for the future and it constantly replays and regrets the past. It makes up stories about our lives, which often, don't actually represent our reality at all.

It does all of this quickly and automatically. So judgments about all that we encounter can quickly become habitual and even automatic. Often, we're not even aware we're doing it, but this unyielding flow of judgmental thoughts makes it difficult to find any peace within ourselves. The great majority of these stories and judgments that the mind makes up are what I would call snap judgements. In other words, they're a quick reflexive assessment of reality of what's happening.

And therefore many of them are incomplete and inaccurate. Some of them are quite unconstructive. And many of them can generate negativity, stress, and deeper forms of suffering. In fact, the Buddha once said that our own worst enemy could never harm us as much as our own unwise thoughts. And this feels really true when you look at the suffering our thoughts can cause us.

Imagine this scenario. You're lying in bed one morning. You wake up/ you open your eyes and you look out the window. And what you see is that it's raining. And then a voice comes into the head, a quick snap judgment that says, Oh, what a dreadful day.

Now, is it true that the day is dreadful? Of course not. It just happens to be raining. That's the reality of what's happening. But if the mind comes in and says that it's a dreadful day, and you believe it. And guess what you're going to have? That's right.

You're going to have a dreadful day. So in other words, a thought like that, if you believe it, if you buy into it, creates negativity. So if you haven't recognized the difference between a thought and just a snap judgment and what reality is when you buy into the thought and you suffer, you play out the thought. So too often, we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we know prevent us from seeing things as they really are. We fill up our minds with preconceived notions, biases, opinions, and judgments.

And when our minds are full like that, we can no longer taking any new wisdom or understanding. When we think we already know everything, we hamper our ability to see clearly and to grow and to learn. We can so easily view people, events and the world around us through a veil of preconceived snap judgements. Maybe you have an opinion about somebody for instance, and you put them in a box, as the saying goes. She's a hippie, he's arrogant, she smart, he's weird.

But here's the thing, if we hold on to those mental labels about people thinking that we know someone, you know what happens, you really never meet them again. So if you pay attention to the thoughts that dart into and out of your mind all day, you might be surprised at just how often you pass judgment about things, events, people, and yourself. What mindfulness involves is becoming aware, becoming aware of the mind's habit of judging and unhooking from those thoughts. In this way, we learn not to take our thoughts so seriously, and to see them as simply mental events. And we discover through this process, what I would call a liberating insight that our thoughts, they're just thoughts and not reality.

And with this insight, thoughts lose their hold over us. By responding non-judgmentally to the events and experiences of our lives, we cultivate the capacity to be non-reactive. We're more able to stay grounded in peace, wisdom, and presence, no matter what life throws at us. By observing things and people through the lens of non-judgment, we see them with fresh eyes, as the saying goes. Rather than making assumptions about them, it reconnects us with our innermost selves.

And we begin to see really clearly reality just as it is. A rainy day isn't a dreadful day. It's just a rainy day. Reality is what's left when all of your judgements and assumptions have been laid aside. So why do our minds do all this judging anyway? And why does it jump so quickly to conclusions about what's happening around us all the time? Why does it resort to these snap judgements and start attaching what are often unhelpful stories to our experience? Well, as with many other unhelpful things that the mind inadvertently does, it's only trying to keep you alive and safe.

Your mind is evolved to protect and serve you. So think about your mind as a survival machine. To keep you alive, your mind takes in masses of sensory data in any given moment. And it has to filter all of that sensory data to figure out what's most relevant. To do this, the mind, the mind's filter, if you can think of the mind is having a filter, it filters all your sense perceptions through two basic questions.

The two basic questions are, What does it mean?, or what is it? and, what do I do? So your mind wants to understand exactly what's happening in your environment by asking what does it mean? What is it? Your mind wants to make anything unknown, concrete and understood as quickly as possible so that it knows whether or not you're safe. And then it wants you to react as quickly as possible to what you're seeing, feeling and hearing. So when it asks, what do I do, it's assessing whether you need to run, fight, hide, or whether you're okay and safe. When your mind is making meanings, judgments, and stories about all the things around you, what they mean and what you should do, it needs to do this at lightning speed, as quickly as possible. So when it comes to making these stories, these snap judgements, it's important to know that speed beats accuracy, every single time.

That's why the judgements are best described as snap judgements because. They are fast, but not necessarily accurate. After all, a delayed response in the hundreds of thousands of years that have gone by, that could have meant the difference between life and death for some of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. If a Wolf was in the woods, you need to act fast. However, we don't know have wolves on our tails these days.

It's not very likely. In this world today, we're often very, very safe. Instead, what we tend to react to is, is try imagining more like this scenario. You're in a car park and you've got your bags of groceries. You're heading towards your car.

And as you step out into a laneway between the cars, another car rushes past really, really quickly, and it almost hits you. It could have knocked you over, but you were, even though you remain unscathed, your body's flooded with adrenaline and you nearly got hit by that car. You're having a moment of slight distress. So your mind takes a very quick snapshot of what's going on, scrambling to make meaning out of what's just happened in it. It might just in a millisecond notice two things.

The car that nearly hit you is sleek and shiny. It's a convertible. And it also notices there's a woman. You can see her reflection in the review mirror of the car, and you can see that she's got designer sunglasses on and salon perfect hair. Immediately the mind takes these two bits of data and reacts with the thought, rich bitch.

Now often when I tell this story in my retreats, I'll use this example, people laugh and I say, I know you're laughing, but isn't this what minds do? This snap judgment is quite typical of how instinctive our minds are. They just blurt out a snap judgment. Now the trouble here is this. If you believe that thought, that snap judgment and allow it to truly influence your thoughts and behavior, then maybe if you believe that thought rich bitch, you might, if she got out of the car, you would treat her very, very differently. And maybe if you see even other people with designer sunglasses or sleek, stylish cars, you might feel animosity towards them.

And when this happens, when we believe in a snap judgment like that, we treat people differently. We see reality differently. We no longer see the human being behind the sunglasses or the car they drive. These snap judgements, have the capacity to color our world experience out, the way we view the world and skew our perceptions. But we can untangle ourselves through the power of mindfulness and kindness, by adopting what's called a beginner's mind.

A great way to unhook ourselves from judgmental, these judgemental tendencies of the human mind is to cultivate this beginner's mind. A beginner's mind is simply a mind that suspends judgment. A beginner's mind is open and receptive. It's willing to experience everything as if it was for the first time. It doesn't condemn or assume it already knows better.

The beginner's mind experiences, life with a really open mind, free of any expectations of what it should be. This way of being reconnects us with a fresh way of seeing and experiencing. It unlocks our ability to be truly present for the precious moments of our lives and the people we love. The next time you find yourself wanting to judge what somebody is telling you, and this is one of the places where we can get really into judgment. Instead of being judgmental or, you know, letting that inner critic kind of come to work, see if you can listen really carefully when someone is talking to you.

And if you find something challenging, if you find yourself judging, you might like to say to yourself mentally, Hmm, isn't this interesting. This will open your mind to the opportunity to learn something new or hear something new, and you may surprise yourself with the things you discover. This is where your beginner's mind could really begin to help you let go of your snap, judgments about people, places, and events in your life. When you meet reality, moment, by moment, you put aside your attachment to these judgemental views and adopt the openness of the beginner's mind. Kindness is another aspect of the beginner's mind.

In the beginner's mind, there's an, a warmth and an openness to experience, a befriending, you could say, of life in each moment. And this kindness, by the way, just doesn't just apply to how we see others. In fact, we often save the harshest criticisms for ourselves. That voice in the head, for many people, often has plenty to say about how much more we need to do in life to be enough. It often berates us with thoughts like you can't do this.

You're an idiot. Who do you think you are? It's quite willing to play these negative criticisms to ourselves, in a misguided, although well-intentioned effort, to help us thrive and survive in life. In mindfulness training, we learn to adopt the kindness, the calm and the openness of the beginner's mind and observe these mental judgments that cause suffering and stress. We meet them with kindness and understanding, knowing that the mind is just doing what it was evolved to do. And we untangled from them.

We let them go. We realize they're not so serious. In training in this way, we become better and better equipped to be kind to ourselves. We become better and better then also to offer genuine kindness, friendship, and love to others. If we can be less harsh, impatient, and judgemental with ourselves, we'll naturally be more kind, patient and non-judgmental with others and with life in general.

And we can become islands of sanity and peace in a frantic world. In this way, a non-judgmental mind connects and transforms us all. Now, like anything in life, cultivating a kind and compassionate and calm mind takes a little bit of practice. And meditation is a really great way to take the next steps towards cultivating a kinder, more compassionate, more authentic mind, and a more wholehearted love of life. After all, in the words of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, "What is love? Love is the absence of judgment."

Talk

4.8

How a Non-Judgmental Mind Transforms Us

Learning to be less judgemental means we are more present, compassionate and happy. It reconnects us to each other, ourselves and life.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

When you first start to meditate, the first thing you discover, if you haven't already, is the fact that you have a voice in your head. Not only do you have a voice in the head, but it's a voice that pretty much never stops talking. It goes on and on incessantly, from the moment you wake up to the time when you go to sleep. And for some of us, it won't even stop then, doesn't let us get any sleep. Now, this voice, very often, isn't helpful.

It commentates on our lives all day long. It speculates. It likes and dislikes. It makes judgements about everything. He is, she is, I am, life is.

It labels things. It complains. It compares us to everybody else. It worries and plans for the future and it constantly replays and regrets the past. It makes up stories about our lives, which often, don't actually represent our reality at all.

It does all of this quickly and automatically. So judgments about all that we encounter can quickly become habitual and even automatic. Often, we're not even aware we're doing it, but this unyielding flow of judgmental thoughts makes it difficult to find any peace within ourselves. The great majority of these stories and judgments that the mind makes up are what I would call snap judgements. In other words, they're a quick reflexive assessment of reality of what's happening.

And therefore many of them are incomplete and inaccurate. Some of them are quite unconstructive. And many of them can generate negativity, stress, and deeper forms of suffering. In fact, the Buddha once said that our own worst enemy could never harm us as much as our own unwise thoughts. And this feels really true when you look at the suffering our thoughts can cause us.

Imagine this scenario. You're lying in bed one morning. You wake up/ you open your eyes and you look out the window. And what you see is that it's raining. And then a voice comes into the head, a quick snap judgment that says, Oh, what a dreadful day.

Now, is it true that the day is dreadful? Of course not. It just happens to be raining. That's the reality of what's happening. But if the mind comes in and says that it's a dreadful day, and you believe it. And guess what you're going to have? That's right.

You're going to have a dreadful day. So in other words, a thought like that, if you believe it, if you buy into it, creates negativity. So if you haven't recognized the difference between a thought and just a snap judgment and what reality is when you buy into the thought and you suffer, you play out the thought. So too often, we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we know prevent us from seeing things as they really are. We fill up our minds with preconceived notions, biases, opinions, and judgments.

And when our minds are full like that, we can no longer taking any new wisdom or understanding. When we think we already know everything, we hamper our ability to see clearly and to grow and to learn. We can so easily view people, events and the world around us through a veil of preconceived snap judgements. Maybe you have an opinion about somebody for instance, and you put them in a box, as the saying goes. She's a hippie, he's arrogant, she smart, he's weird.

But here's the thing, if we hold on to those mental labels about people thinking that we know someone, you know what happens, you really never meet them again. So if you pay attention to the thoughts that dart into and out of your mind all day, you might be surprised at just how often you pass judgment about things, events, people, and yourself. What mindfulness involves is becoming aware, becoming aware of the mind's habit of judging and unhooking from those thoughts. In this way, we learn not to take our thoughts so seriously, and to see them as simply mental events. And we discover through this process, what I would call a liberating insight that our thoughts, they're just thoughts and not reality.

And with this insight, thoughts lose their hold over us. By responding non-judgmentally to the events and experiences of our lives, we cultivate the capacity to be non-reactive. We're more able to stay grounded in peace, wisdom, and presence, no matter what life throws at us. By observing things and people through the lens of non-judgment, we see them with fresh eyes, as the saying goes. Rather than making assumptions about them, it reconnects us with our innermost selves.

And we begin to see really clearly reality just as it is. A rainy day isn't a dreadful day. It's just a rainy day. Reality is what's left when all of your judgements and assumptions have been laid aside. So why do our minds do all this judging anyway? And why does it jump so quickly to conclusions about what's happening around us all the time? Why does it resort to these snap judgements and start attaching what are often unhelpful stories to our experience? Well, as with many other unhelpful things that the mind inadvertently does, it's only trying to keep you alive and safe.

Your mind is evolved to protect and serve you. So think about your mind as a survival machine. To keep you alive, your mind takes in masses of sensory data in any given moment. And it has to filter all of that sensory data to figure out what's most relevant. To do this, the mind, the mind's filter, if you can think of the mind is having a filter, it filters all your sense perceptions through two basic questions.

The two basic questions are, What does it mean?, or what is it? and, what do I do? So your mind wants to understand exactly what's happening in your environment by asking what does it mean? What is it? Your mind wants to make anything unknown, concrete and understood as quickly as possible so that it knows whether or not you're safe. And then it wants you to react as quickly as possible to what you're seeing, feeling and hearing. So when it asks, what do I do, it's assessing whether you need to run, fight, hide, or whether you're okay and safe. When your mind is making meanings, judgments, and stories about all the things around you, what they mean and what you should do, it needs to do this at lightning speed, as quickly as possible. So when it comes to making these stories, these snap judgements, it's important to know that speed beats accuracy, every single time.

That's why the judgements are best described as snap judgements because. They are fast, but not necessarily accurate. After all, a delayed response in the hundreds of thousands of years that have gone by, that could have meant the difference between life and death for some of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. If a Wolf was in the woods, you need to act fast. However, we don't know have wolves on our tails these days.

It's not very likely. In this world today, we're often very, very safe. Instead, what we tend to react to is, is try imagining more like this scenario. You're in a car park and you've got your bags of groceries. You're heading towards your car.

And as you step out into a laneway between the cars, another car rushes past really, really quickly, and it almost hits you. It could have knocked you over, but you were, even though you remain unscathed, your body's flooded with adrenaline and you nearly got hit by that car. You're having a moment of slight distress. So your mind takes a very quick snapshot of what's going on, scrambling to make meaning out of what's just happened in it. It might just in a millisecond notice two things.

The car that nearly hit you is sleek and shiny. It's a convertible. And it also notices there's a woman. You can see her reflection in the review mirror of the car, and you can see that she's got designer sunglasses on and salon perfect hair. Immediately the mind takes these two bits of data and reacts with the thought, rich bitch.

Now often when I tell this story in my retreats, I'll use this example, people laugh and I say, I know you're laughing, but isn't this what minds do? This snap judgment is quite typical of how instinctive our minds are. They just blurt out a snap judgment. Now the trouble here is this. If you believe that thought, that snap judgment and allow it to truly influence your thoughts and behavior, then maybe if you believe that thought rich bitch, you might, if she got out of the car, you would treat her very, very differently. And maybe if you see even other people with designer sunglasses or sleek, stylish cars, you might feel animosity towards them.

And when this happens, when we believe in a snap judgment like that, we treat people differently. We see reality differently. We no longer see the human being behind the sunglasses or the car they drive. These snap judgements, have the capacity to color our world experience out, the way we view the world and skew our perceptions. But we can untangle ourselves through the power of mindfulness and kindness, by adopting what's called a beginner's mind.

A great way to unhook ourselves from judgmental, these judgemental tendencies of the human mind is to cultivate this beginner's mind. A beginner's mind is simply a mind that suspends judgment. A beginner's mind is open and receptive. It's willing to experience everything as if it was for the first time. It doesn't condemn or assume it already knows better.

The beginner's mind experiences, life with a really open mind, free of any expectations of what it should be. This way of being reconnects us with a fresh way of seeing and experiencing. It unlocks our ability to be truly present for the precious moments of our lives and the people we love. The next time you find yourself wanting to judge what somebody is telling you, and this is one of the places where we can get really into judgment. Instead of being judgmental or, you know, letting that inner critic kind of come to work, see if you can listen really carefully when someone is talking to you.

And if you find something challenging, if you find yourself judging, you might like to say to yourself mentally, Hmm, isn't this interesting. This will open your mind to the opportunity to learn something new or hear something new, and you may surprise yourself with the things you discover. This is where your beginner's mind could really begin to help you let go of your snap, judgments about people, places, and events in your life. When you meet reality, moment, by moment, you put aside your attachment to these judgemental views and adopt the openness of the beginner's mind. Kindness is another aspect of the beginner's mind.

In the beginner's mind, there's an, a warmth and an openness to experience, a befriending, you could say, of life in each moment. And this kindness, by the way, just doesn't just apply to how we see others. In fact, we often save the harshest criticisms for ourselves. That voice in the head, for many people, often has plenty to say about how much more we need to do in life to be enough. It often berates us with thoughts like you can't do this.

You're an idiot. Who do you think you are? It's quite willing to play these negative criticisms to ourselves, in a misguided, although well-intentioned effort, to help us thrive and survive in life. In mindfulness training, we learn to adopt the kindness, the calm and the openness of the beginner's mind and observe these mental judgments that cause suffering and stress. We meet them with kindness and understanding, knowing that the mind is just doing what it was evolved to do. And we untangled from them.

We let them go. We realize they're not so serious. In training in this way, we become better and better equipped to be kind to ourselves. We become better and better then also to offer genuine kindness, friendship, and love to others. If we can be less harsh, impatient, and judgemental with ourselves, we'll naturally be more kind, patient and non-judgmental with others and with life in general.

And we can become islands of sanity and peace in a frantic world. In this way, a non-judgmental mind connects and transforms us all. Now, like anything in life, cultivating a kind and compassionate and calm mind takes a little bit of practice. And meditation is a really great way to take the next steps towards cultivating a kinder, more compassionate, more authentic mind, and a more wholehearted love of life. After all, in the words of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, "What is love? Love is the absence of judgment."

Talk

4.8

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