There is a story that I love, which goes like this...
Once upon a time, there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically, “you must be so sad.” “We’ll see,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed! “Not only did your horse return, but you received two more. What great fortune you have!” “We’ll see,” answered the farmer. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbours again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Now your son cannot help you with your farming,” they said. “What terrible luck you have!” “We’ll see,” replied the old farmer. The following week, military officials came to the village to conscript young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Such great news. You must be so happy!” The man smiled to himself and said once again. “We’ll see,”
I love this story. It shows us how little we understand about life events, their consequences and ramifications.
When something happens to us, we have the tendency to classify it as good or bad (and maybe indifferent, sometimes). We get a promotion: good. We win the lottery: good. We lose our job: bad. There is the coronavirus: bad. And so on.
But the story teaches us that we really don't know whether something is good or bad, because when we expand the timeframe in which the event happened, and include its long term consequences, we might end up changing our mind.
We get a promotion: good. However, we might discover that the new position comes with a tremendous amount of stress. Over time, we might decide that the extra money we make is not worth all that pain.
We win the lottery: good. However, there are people who developed fear, and paranoia, as a consequence of winning the lottery. Now that they have all that money, they are afraid someone is going to steal it.
We lose our job: bad. However, we might get a much better one, and quickly discover how refreshing the change has been, and that we've ended up being much happier.
There is the coronavirus, the lockdown, the recession: bad. However, the earth really needed a break. And during this time, we have seen how nature has flourished in a matter of weeks. This situation has had the potential to bring much awareness of how carcinogenic our presence on this planet is, and maybe moving forward we will take measures to respect it more.
Painful events in life can turn out to be majestic lessons, through which we grow and become stronger. They can open our hearts and minds.
So, we shouldn't be so quick in judging. Our brain is an association machine, it loves to put concepts together and judge, so the question is: are all forms of judgement bad?
I don't think so. I still need to be able to judge if I can cross a road. I might want to make a judgement call for a situation that has the potential of becoming dangerous. I need to take decisions about every aspect of my life, and of course that means judging.
So when is judging bad? Well, for example when is comes with attachment, with identification. When we decide that we follow a particular political party; football team; rock band; or a certain lifestyle, and we identify ourselves with those decisions, then we're in trouble. To identify comes from the latin words identitas facere, which translates to "to make an identity".
That means that our favourite team, or the political party we choose, becomes part of our identity and therefore a criticism to them can be interpreted as an attack towards ourselves. Just pop over to facebook and follow any conversation. You will see how often someone simply expresses an opinion, or a fact about a situation, and someone else takes that as a personal offence and reacts angrily. Lists of mortal enemies are made this way...
Another type of dangerous judgement is when it serves no purpose other than that of inflating our own ego: "that person is stupid" or "that is a bad person". It's our ego who needs to be better, smarter, more powerful than others, and to achieve that position it has to diminish them and their qualities. Sounds familiar? Of course... it's everywhere.
One last example of misplaced judgement is the one mentioned in the story of the farmer. The neighbours are very quick in judging all the events that are happening to the farmer, and the story shows how they miss the point every single time. The farmer instead is not interested in judging. He doesn't care to put a label on those events, because he knows better. He knows that things can turn out to be much different, when we allow enough time to pass.
And I guess that that was the whole point of this post. When we observe life, every time we make a judgement it's like we put a label on something. From that moment on, we know what that thing is and then the brain moves on to something else. The problem is that very rarely we have understood the full extent of a situation, or an event, and therefore it would be much better to keep observing and investigating, rather than labelling.
Those who are slow to judge, or don't judge at all, keep observing life with curiosity, and end up understanding so much more about it. Therefore there is great value in trying to avoid practicing the confused, dangerous forms of judging.
Judgement is a prison for our minds.
Meditation can be of great help in these regards, because it offers space. If our mind is still, we can find that there is a moment of presence between an event and our reaction to it. A moment in time and space, in which we observe ourselves offering an initial response to a situation. In that moment, the power of presence can help us refraining from emitting a judgement and moving on, and instead we can keep on observing both the event, and ourselves.
One little moment in time can therefore make a huge difference in terms of outcome. We should cultivate that stillness, cultivate that little moment in which we will be able to decide to keep our eyes open, our mind present, and our heart soft, and accept whatever happens with a curious attitude, like that farmer.
As a Reiki practitioner, I value the absence of judgement even more. It allows to perform a treatment on another person while my mind is completely open, and doesn't need to decide where the healing should be directed or focussed. This allows the energy to flow freely, and therefore my clients can truly take from the treatment whatever they need.
And as a Reiki teacher, having no judgement means I can see right through my students. I can feel their hearts and connect to them, because I'm not obstructed by all the decisions about them that I would have made otherwise, if I were indulging in judging.
So, like the sun, which just shines, and like the rain, which just falls, we should learn how to walk through life without deciding what is good and what is bad all the time. It doesn't help. It blinds us and prevents us from seeing things as they are. We should avoid it, and enjoy the tremendous amount of energy and peace that comes with that decision.
The choice is ours, so I guess... we'll see!