“Judgments cause suffering”. These are three words that I scribbled down while I was reading the book Dharma Punx. This line really struck me, and has stayed with me, floating around in my head for a while now, popping up every so often in conversation, and dharma talks.
“Judgments cause suffering”. Not pain, but suffering. Pain is a sensation, something real that happens, something that actually physically hurts. Suffering is a state of being. It is trouble, caused by our judgment of that pain after it has passed, or by our judgment of a person or a situation we are in.
A judgment is completely internal. It really may have nothing to do with what is actually occurring externally. It is the mind forming some sort of opinion based on circumstances presented to it. It is the mind making up a story and filling in blanks. It is not necessarily truth. Judgments immediately categorize things for us, as positive or negative, harmful or beneficial, good or bad.
If it rains for four days straight, I can say, “This weather is awful. It’s just been miserable. I hate this!” I have deemed it awful and miserable, and so I will see it that way, and maybe even begin to feel that way myself, and spread the misery to the people around me. If I say “I love the rain. It makes the flowers grow, it makes everything green!” I will see it that way. And maybe even skip around and jump in puddles, and piss off the miserable people around me.
But what about if I just see it as it is? No judgment. “It is raining today. I guess I might need an umbrella.” I can choose to remain unaffected by the weather. It does not have to change the way I feel at all. It remains completely external.
If someone starts talking about politics, I can think, “What are you? An idiot? Have you been living under a rock?!” and begin to get aggravated, as my blood starts to boil. Or, I can think, “Yes!! I totally agree with you! You are so smart!” Feeling some sort of connection, while feeding into my own ego and sense of enlightenment. Or I can just listen to the words, and make no judgment, and choose to remain unaffected by them. They remain external to me.
I practice non-judgment when I meditate. I sit and focus on my breath, trying to clear my mind of all thought but the breath itself. If a thought comes into my mind, I don’t think of it as good or bad. I have a practice of acknowledging it, naming it, and then letting it go. I decided to do this today as I was running, paying extra attention to the “Judgment Thoughts”.
It went sort of like this:
When I get home I have to wash the dishes, straighten up, laundry, shower… Planning.
I really wish I had a maid…. Fantasizing.
Shannon said the funniest thing yesterday….Remembering
I wonder how everyone feels in Town Hall after yesterday’s election….Speculating.
There were many others, I don’t remember, but I tried to remember how some of the judgmental thoughts came about…
I noticed that one of my neighbors hasn’t mowed his lawn yet this season. Get ready for the judgment.
I ran past an overweight elderly man smoking a cigarette. Here comes a judgment.
I saw people texting and driving. I think a judgment is on the way.
A young woman was running up and down the stairs in the park. Yup, judgment. (Not all of my judgments are negative.)
I had to wait for five (5!) cars to drive right in front of me, while I jogged in place, in the middle of the crosswalk, in the pouring rain. Judgment. Judgment. Judgment! Judgment! Judgment!
Those last two judgments were vocal, and accompanied by hand gestures! And I guess you could say they caused me some trouble. Some trouble that I kept with me for a few paces. Completely aggravated by the people in those cars that must have seen me standing there. Why didn’t they stop? What is wrong with them? Idiots!
But…Right there- in that moment, running down the hill, am I really aggravated by the people in those cars? Or by these lingering thoughts inside my own head? Don’t I have the choice to let this go? To just get back into my breath, and continue my run. I do. I have a choice. I did not have a choice about the initial event. But I can control my thoughts now, and end my suffering. I can stop the judgment, and end it right now.
And so I did. I put the smile back on my face, I returned to my breathing, and enjoyed the rest of my run, unaffected by those things that are external to me.
Coming back to my own breath, putting an end to needless suffering, and, of course, with a song playing in my head. Alleluia, come on get happy. Get ready for the judgment day.