Freedom from Judgment

woman_pexels-photo-27949_smAs we find ourselves in the midst of holiday season, I thought it would be an apt time to say a few words about judgment since reuniting with loved ones can often stir up conflicting emotions and memories. I’m not talking about the healthy discerning judgment that helps you determine if a situation is safe or unsafe. I’m talking about the “authoritative opinion” type of judgment…something that all too many of us were raised with and now self-administer at will. Let’s just give judgment the benefit of the doubt and say that at best, its intention is really about being socially accepted…and maybe, just maybe there is some good in that. But…when your inner totalitarian breaks free, forget about it…judgment becomes a killer. And I want to say, I don’t think that self-judgment and judgment of others are so mutually exclusive. When I first started my mindfulness practice in 2007, the concept of letting go of judgment was pretty new to me. But over time, the more I’ve practiced, the more I’ve come to see how much judgment can create an impediment in one’s life. Maybe that voice is barely audible at times, but I can pretty much guarantee you that it’s there. Awareness has revealed to me that even the slightest judgment can have significant impact. If judgments aren’t as loud as “You’re not good enough!…you can’t do that…don’t even try…she’s so much better than you…” it’s most likely as subtle as “this is so annoying…that’s bad…I’m doing it wrong.” All of these can be accompanied by their own forms of hindrance, that keep you from thriving to your potential. And don’t be fooled, the “good” judgments can have an equally similar impact.

I invite you to explore this with curiosity. Try to sit for ten minutes and catch how often these right/wrong, good/bad judgments arise. The next time you’re interacting with friends, family or co-workers, pay attention. How many judgment thoughts arise? Check in again, how does this manifest in your body? When you think back, how much were you raised with judgment, intentionally or not, by those around you? And lastly, what are you missing out on when you’re led by judgment? What is the world missing out on? All of this is significant, but the good thing is that we no longer need to be ruled by it.

In the same year that I began my mindfulness practice, Buddhist teacher and psychologist Jack Kornfield wrote this great article for Lion’s Roar, where he elaborates on the acronym “RAIN” which “stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-Indentification.” It’s about learning to move away from the labels and absolutes that keep us stuck in a corner and finding the malleable aspects of any situation that create opportunity for change. I find it to be a compelling argument, a recipe to create your own sense of freedom. You can take risks and honor your innate wisdom at the same time. As for conflicting feelings about relatives and friends? You still can’t change the person, but you can always change your approach. For you I will wish that it’s an approach led with kindness and compassion both for yourself, and for others.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

The mean girls we all know and love:

Speaking of being judged, I listened to this great story on Radiolab over the Thanksgiving weekend about Surya Bonaly who might arguably be one of the best ever Olympic Skaters but didn’t win the gold, possibly because her idea of best was radically different from the judges.

And lastly, one thing I definitely do love about Dan Savage, is this video: It gets better.

Copyright 2016 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.