“Be curious, not judgmental.”
~ Walt Whitman
Most people are bitchy a lot of the time. That includes me.
I read a book on insight meditation years ago in which Buddhist teacher Joseph Goldstein mentions that judgment is one of the last vices of the mind to fall away.
Even very enlightened people judge! It is the nature of the human mind. But it’s usually more harmful than helpful. Working to let go of beng judgmental is a lifelong practice—one that can start right now in this moment.
In the spirit of taking my own advice, here are eight practical ways to help us work toward becoming less mean, petty, judgmental bitches. May they be of benefit!
1. Become aware of your judgmental tendencies.
I am personally noticing an increased amount of pettiness and judgement cropping up in my mind, especially these days, living under the roof of my in-laws for several weeks of this often not-so-relaxing summer vacation. My mother-in-law is universally known as a difficult person. I can write this about her, because she neither speaks English nor reads elephant journal.
The tension in the house has embedded itself under my skin and tends to make me either shut down and simmer in irritation, saying nothing—or take it out on my husband with sharp words and a mean tone of voice. I know this is neither mindful nor skillful. I know it’s hurting me more than anyone else. I’m working on it, alright? Awareness is the first step.
2. Recall that we are all ultimately the same.
To paraphrase a gem of Sikh wisdom: all souls shine with the light of God. When feeling superior or inferior to someone, which is the foundation of judgment, it is essential to remember that each of us is actually just a little piece of the universe walking around expressing itself. We are all interconnected and therefore judging ourselves and/or others is both useless and unnecessary.
3. Know how to say no.
In many cultures, people simply will not say no. I’ve experienced this phenomenon in Guatemala, Colombia and India, and surely it happens worldwide. Most people would rather feign politeness, lie and say “yes,” rather than be honest and perhaps ruffle some feathers by taking a stand, setting a boundary and saying “no.” Not saying no when we need to only leads to more aggression and, most likely, self-judgment. Learning to say no and mean it takes practice, and it’s highly recommended for maintaining our sanity and composure.
“No is beautiful. It clears the way for a yes. If you feel no and you don’t express it, it just festers inside and gets expressed unskillfully. The freedom to say no, on the other hand, helps you experiment, open up a little more.”
4. Know when to say yes.
When the time is right, saying yes and being open and expansive feels good. Listen to your heart, check in with your gut and go for it!
“My experience is what I agree to attend to.”
~ William James
5. Let go of pride.
Judgmental people have a sense of superiority and an inflated ego, whether conscious or subconscious. Pride is a fence that keeps us separated and isolated from each other. When you notice excessive pride arising within, swallow it, take a deep breath and let it go.
One surefire way to put this into practice is yoga asana. Challenge yourself with a difficult pose, and see how the mind goes wild with judgment. Notice and release. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
“If you keep your mind humble, pride will vanish like morning mist.”
~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
6. Cultivate compassion.
My mother-in-law had a rough childhood. All I know are the basic facts: her mother died when she was three years old; her father quickly remarried and neglected her; she was then raised by a strict grandmother. Surely this has a lot to do with her personality today, which is controlling, opinionated and often quite harsh. Whether we know about the difficulties of a person’s life or not, everyone has experienced adversity. Recalling this truth and cultivating compassion for people helps temper even our most outrageous bouts of judgmental thinking.
“Real magic in relationships means an absence of judgment of others.”
~ Wayne Dyer
7. Be generous—give metta.
Metta, or loving kindness, is the act of sending good wishes for health, happiness, safety, ease and freedom to all beings without exception, including ourselves. It is a powerful meditation technique that can transform the practitioner, if not the recipient. Take a few minutes per day to practice metta.
“I notice that when I’m generous, accepting, and loving toward myself, all that’s reflected out into the world. The more I cut myself slack, the more I don’t judge myself for being other than I am, the more I’m aware of who I am, see it, honor it and respect it, the more I do all those things for others.”
~ Jeff Bridges
8. Contemplate the Five Remembrances.
These stark, illuminating statements harken back to #2 on this list. We all face growing old, fading health and ultimate death. With this in mind, it’s a bit easier to loosen our grip on how things and people should or shouldn’t be and just enjoy them for the beautifully imperfect beings they (and we) already are.
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
~ Translation by Thich Nhat Hanh
As always, this list is merely composed of my humble opinions, and it’s just a beginning. What other advice can you share for letting go of pettiness and judgment?
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Editor: Travis May