You know the feeling.
It usually pops up when you’re thinking back on the way some situation went.
Or maybe you’re just sitting still, trying to be in the moment.
For a minute or two, everything is perfect.
You’re breaking down the situation in your head…
Or maybe you’re in the flow, lost in the present moment, enjoying it.
Judgement rears its ugly head.
Rather than subjectively thinking about your situation, or just being in the moment, your brain starts to judge.
What’s wrong with you. What went wrong in the situation. What could have been even worse. What the other person was probably thinking…
And just like that, your whole outlook has changed.
No more quiet moment. Instead, you’re wound tight, caught up in the negative.
Your brain sends you into a tailspin, and you spend the rest of the day caught up in a constant cycle of what could have been. What should have been.
But what if there was a different way to approach your ego-maniacal judge-y self?
Observe and report
One of the things I’ve been talking about at the beginning of my yoga classes is the idea of observing.
Being in the moment, and trying not to judge. Just allowing whatever is… to be.
Noticing. Here and now.
And maybe, just maybe, allowing yourself to be okay with whatever is going on.
Knowing that things might not be exactly as you had hoped or expected. Feeling that your body is doing something different than it was yesterday or last week. And really seeing if you can be okay with it.
It’s far easier said than done, but I believe that it’s something you can learn to do with a little bit of practice, and a fair amount of patience.
One of the major keys of meditation is allowing your thoughts to occur without engaging, without judging. Just let them happen, and let them float away.
In the same way, you can start to let go of judgement before it settles in and ruins your party.
The mind-body connection
Here’s a couple of examples of how you might start to integrate this practice into your day.
1. During yoga (or apply this to whatever form of exercise you’re loving these days)
It might go something like this:
You’re sitting cross legged at the beginning of class. Sukhasana. “Easy pose, my ass,” you think. Your left hip is all sorts of tight, and your brain scrambles to try to remember if you did something stupid to deserve the discomfort. Then you remember the fight you had with your friend the day before, and you start to rehash it… before you remember you’re supposed to be focusing. “Dammit! Get it together. Everyone else in this class obviously has an easier time with this.” Your hip hurts. You can’t focus for the life of you. Your friendships are falling apart. Nothing is going right… Judge. Judge. Judge.
But what if you tried this instead:
You’re sitting cross legged at the beginning of class. Sukhasana. Easy pose. You notice that your left hip is all sorts of tight, and you send the breath down that direction with a mental message to see about letting go. Maybe it works a little bit. Maybe it doesn’t. But you’re aware of the discomfort, and you do your best to be okay with it. If you find thoughts intruding, you acknowledge that they’re making an appearance. You bring your awareness back to the breath. Inhale. Exhale. Maybe even smile. Your body talks, your mind starts to wander. Back to the breath. Inhale. Exhale. Again and again.
2. On your way to a (potentially stressful) meeting
You might experience this:
You’re ten minutes away from the coffee shop where you’re having the meeting. In reality, you’ve been going over the conversation in your head for hours. You imagine what you’ll say, and your brain goes wild with all the possible ways that the conversation could go wrong. You imagine the person you’re meeting with getting angry, and your heated response. You stockpile the comebacks just in case you need them. You notice that your stomach is in knots and you’re unconsciously clenching your fists and your teeth. You let out an exasperated sigh. Why do you always get so carried away? When you arrive at the coffee shop, you’re already stressed and ready for a fight.
But what if your experience could be something like this instead:
You’re ten minutes away from the coffee shop, and you’re taking your time getting there. You notice that the sky is a beautiful shade of blue, with tiny wisps of clouds here and there. It’s a warm day, and there’s a slight breeze. You allow yourself to think about what drink you’ll order when you get there, but when your mind tries to drift to what the conversation might bring, you take a deep breath and bring your focus to a building that you’re passing. You never noticed it before, even though you cross this street quite often. When you arrive at the coffee shop, you take another deep breath and walk inside. Whatever happens, will happen.
How would this change your experience?
Be in the here and now
Now, the next time Judge-y McJudgerson tries to take over, you know what to do.
When you notice the judgement start, take a few deep breaths to let it go. Even if you’re into the spiral when you catch it, release it.
The more you start to notice, the easier it will get.
And the more you can notice, then think “Hmm… Okay…” and move on, the easier it will get.
So what do you think? Less judging, more allowing yourself to be in the moment (whatever that moment may bring)?
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!
I’m working on this one with you. Every day. Every breath. Every moment.