There are seven attitudes that allow us to experience our lives mindfully: non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go (be). Let’s play with this first one today….
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, defines non-judging as this: “Mindfulness is compassionate, openhearted, choice-less awareness. It is cultivated by taking the position of an unbiased attentive witness to your own experience as it happens in the present moment. To do this requires that you begin to relate to the contents of experience, without judgment, as the present moment unfolds. The habit of categorizing and judging the experience locks you into patterns of reacting and repeating thoughts, feelings, and behavior. You may not even be aware of these patterns. Judging acts to separate you from the direct experience of each moment and from the unfolding reality of life. When you practice mindfulness, it is important to recognize the judging quality of mind and identify the judgmental thinking as it arises. It is equally important not to judge the judging! Simply note that judging is present.”
I thought it might be kind of interesting to offer up this attitude for practicing this week with all that is happening politically. With the extensive media coverage out there, it’s especially easy to judge everyone right now, isn’t it?! BUT what happens to YOU when this felt sense of judgment surges through your body? What does your heart rate do? Your blood pressure? Your attitude? Your thoughts? Your ability to make calm, thoughtful decisions?
When I experience judging, it feels like dis-stress to me (certainly not eu-stress). During these times, we are spending a higher percentage of time in the fight/flight/freeze state, which is meant to be a short-term exertion or burst to get us away from the tiger, to fight it or hide from it. If we remain in this state for too long, it makes us just plain ol’ stupid (yep, had to say it). When our amygdala is activated during dis-stress, we lose access to the prefrontal cortex, which is the executive function portion of our brain that separates us from animals and assists us in making thoughtful decisions.
Check in with that and see if it resonates….Are you more likely to cut someone off in traffic while experiencing this ‘justified’ judgment? Are you going to miss the opportunity to hold the door open for a random stranger at the bank? Are you going to be more impatient with that clerk at the grocery who is doing the best she can?
So….if we use our mindfulness practice to recognize what is actually happening in this moment without judgment:
- I am experiencing a trigger and X,Y,Z is present in my body, mind, emotions.
- A surge of hormones is flowing through my body causing me to do X,Y,Z in reaction.
This moment of mindful awareness might create some distance from the trigger or lessen the emotional tone within your body. In mindfulness, we call this noting or naming what is. Researchers found that this action alone causes a physiological shift and takes us out of the stress response — it deactivates the amygdala and allows access to the prefrontal cortex.
So, while we are waiting for this election to be resolved, and even after that, it might be an interesting experiment to just notice when you begin to judge, pay attention to how it feels in your body/mind/emotions, and then watch how you react to others in your path. Be the witness to yourself in this dis-stressing state. No judgment, just observation…and from that place of awareness, consciously choose to stay there or not.
For those who wish to read more on my website about all seven attitudes, click HERE.