Lurking in the Shadows: An Exploration of Judgment

judgment shadow2

Do you ever notice yourself thinking thoughts or continuing behaviours that you, at other moments, wish you didn’t? Perhaps we aren’t even aware of these behavioural/thought patterns, save for the clarity of insight at other times. I wonder. Why do I think those thoughts? Why do I keep doing that?

Once my awareness kicks in, perhaps through an other expressing their truth to me, or maybe an emotion I feel within, something else rises to my consciousness. Lurking in the shadows, I see judgement.

I have seen/heard/felt something. I start to evaluate it, pass it through my filters (connect it to past experiences that were similar so as to make sense of it), contrast it with my memories, establish expectations, make assumptions, and then integrate it into my overall story about life. This is my sequence of what I would call judgments of the mind. This is when duality so often emerges, through the common labels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

How is one to “not judge”, as so many teachings are now encouraging? And how it gets further twisted around when one realizes that judgement creeps back in so easily through judging the judgment itself – saying that ‘not judging’ is better than ‘judging’. That’s when we get stuck in loops – hating a part of our Self because we noticed the judgment arise toward the thought/behaviour we wished we hadn’t. Such is the inevitable result of attempting to change through force.

And so it remains, lurking in the shadows.

When I write out the mental process I would call judgement, I can’t help but notice that at its core, that’s just what the mind does! That’s (part of) its proper role within the ecosystem of my body. Its job is to understand, to resolve dissonance (an inability to hold two contrasting ideas – essentially what is called a paradox), to make sense of experience. How do we learn to distinguish what is the truth of our immediate experience (present) from what is filtered through memory (past) and limiting our experience of novelty (breaking out of destructive patterns) in life?

How is judging and hating a natural process going to change anything? As I evolve into this awareness, I notice that not only does it not change anything, it seems to perpetuate, even intensify, the patterns of discord within me. I recreate the shadow, blocking the light to see what is there so that I can transform it and let it go. The is the alchemization of the mental-ity of force into the heart-ality of compassion, and the natural release of judgment.

Taking it personal.

judgment shadow1One such pattern I notice within my self that fits the story above, is a nearly immediate evaluation of how attractive I think people are when I first see them. I judge how hot I think they are. I observe these thoughts and then I observe not liking them. I also notice the judgement influencing my choices thereafter – do I choose to talk to someone because I find them attractive and not someone else because I don’t? I would rather not judge people (and my self) in this way.

I also recognize that we all likely do this – others might discriminate (not a bad thing, we make choices all day between options, like whether you want chocolate or vanilla) based on other qualities. But why do I observe a room of men lose all focus on their face-to-face conversation when a beautiful woman walks in the room? Why is the gender discrimination such a dominant tool of selection? I don’t think there is anything wrong with this – at its core it is an appreciation and reverence of beauty. The curse of this appreciation is the judgment of it being better than something else. Can we appreciate beauty, even surface beauty, without elevating its status above all else?

The thought pattern I notice within is mirrored in the world I observe. Often, the result of making the external observation of the same pattern is having more guilt piled on – knowing that I am participating in the perpetuation of the objectification and subjugation of women (a kind of perverse, inverse-status elevation). And so, I work to translate my desire to release this global pattern into the dedication of releasing it within myself.

For a time, while the pattern of judgment was really hidden, I would have my thoughts translate into action. I would let my evaluation of a woman’s attractiveness influence the choices I made. When I was younger, the presence of an attractive person would cause me to become so self-reflective (in my ego) that the tiniest thing would embarrass me, I would freeze up in shyness, and my cheeks would turn beet red with humiliation.

At another time, I worked through my shyness and fears and was able to transform my closing up into action – I felt comfortable approaching attractive people. My choices were still being dictated by the judgments and thoughts. Now, instead of avoiding an attractive person, I would make a point to talk to them. I would try to impress. I would seek to have my ego inflated. I would try to not try to impress. I would even find myself being overly generous and bending to their will, simply because of how they looked.

At a more recent time, I noticed the patterns, the thoughts, the behaviours. Why was I doing this? It didn’t feel like something I wanted to do anymore. I want to see the beauty in all. I want to choose through my heart, not through reactionary mental judgements, comparisons to memories, and assumptions based on the past (yes, there is a place for this in balanced, critical decision making).

At the present time, I still observe the reactionary thoughts of judgment and valuation, however I do not let them solely direct my actions. I know that I am free to choose anew – to end the cycle and break out of the pattern of unconscious reaction. Does the observation of the reaction break its cycle? Ab-soul-utely. One’s observation is the light that is needed to pierce the shadow of reaction and uncover the gifts hidden within: your individual truth. Without it, the pattern will continue to grow in the shadows.

I am not my past. I choose a new story. I choose to see all as equal. I choose to love my thoughts, no matter what they say. They become me because they are not me. I choose to see beauty in All. I choose to embody a humble reverence to the core of that beauty beneath the form. I trust in the natural release of judgment through the growth into compassion. I am not my past. I can choose anew.

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