We live our lives from the interpretation of our minds. It follows us wherever we go, giving us every second a report of what we live, including a continuous evaluation of whether it,s good or bad, better or worse than something else, and what should or should we change.
According to scientists we have around 60,000 thoughts a day, and 90% of those are .. the same as the day before! That is, we rarely have a fresh, new, spontaneous thought, according to the present moment!Instead of living reality, we interpret it and, based on what we tell ourselves, we experience it one way or another .. According to what we think, we feel, and according to that, we act .. In addition, we live with a tendency to negativity, which means that our brain is always fixing and memorizing the negative experiences (to protect us from danger).
So, if one day you get up tired or depressed, the one responsible for feeling this way may be some thought that has been evaluating things for you.. something that you,re telling yourself about what you lived the previous day or last week or in the last 6 months..
In the worst case scenario, that interpretation may end up telling you how terrible your life is and how flawed you are for not knowing how to handle it better (or you end up criticizing others and blaming them for what happens to you..)
If you wake up happy and at ease, surely your mind will assign to external causes that state of happiness and try to control things so that everything stays as it is: clinging to situations, things or people that supposedly have generated that state, and creating strategies to perpetuate it, not allowing it to come and go lightly.
The negativity bias
But what affects us the most is when our mind becomes negative. Left to its automatic functioning, the part of the mind responsible for our survival (the most primitive part of the brain) continually creates thoughts of concern that try to figure out things or avoid the pain that things cause us as they are (not as we would like).
That,s what scientists call ‘the negativity bias’. Not being able to find creative solutions to ‘fix’ what is supposed to be ‘wrong’ in the present moment, the mind limits itself to create judgments, which generate a cascade of emotions and reactions that can make the situation much worse.
These judgments tend to be critical and devalue reality and us, which generates us guilt, shame, anxiety, stress, nervousness … that in turn creates painful feelings of separation, loneliness, frustration, disability.. This creates a vicious circle that is very difficult to break, because of how identified we are with the whole story.
And all this, why? And how mindfulness can help
There are parts of our brain that, by evolution, are not designed to accept things as they are, but only to solve problems, real or imagined. This areas are there to make sure that our genes survive and a next generation can exist. Those parts dominate us most of the time.
When it perceives a danger (physical or emotional) that part of the brain starts to create stories about what happens to us based on the past: according to painful emotional experiences, ideas learned about reality, prejudices, traumas … stories, erroneous and unproductive interpretations , and they gain strength every time we believe them.
We usually follow them for years, sometimes even our whole lives. That,s quite the opposite of acceptance, the basis of a mindful attitude, which invites us to look and accept reality as it is, without judging, and thus we will be free of suffering.
Instead of A BEING THAT IS EXISTING MOMENT BY MOMENT, and that always has the freedom to choose to respond to the present moment in a creative way, counting on all its resources and wisdom, a part of the mind always judges reality and says that it,s not right, and it also can tell you that YOU ARE DEFECTIVE AND YOU HAVE TO CHANGE!
Stopping our minds with radical acceptance
But, what would it mean to live life without judging it? What would happen if, instead of choosing our mind,s judgments, we would limit ourselves to embrace everything as it is? Exactly as it is? Uncomplainingly?. What would happen if we could look at everything we are, everything we feel, everything we do and everything that we live with a clean, fresh, new look, without judgments, with an open heart, without comments? Accepting what is moment to moment?
What would happen is that we could choose to do or think something new every moment. This seems impossible to achieve, but we can train our minds to do that moment by moment, which is the basis of mindfulness.
To better understand what it means not to judge, here are the words of #Jon Kabat Zinn :
“Not judging is a very important element of Mindfulnes practice, and in fact it is part of my definition of Mindfulness, which is the consciousness that comes from paying attention purposely in the present moment without judging .., not judging is the real challenge, because when we start paying attention to what is in the mind we discover that we have ideas and opinions about everything, and we are always judging things in terms of: I like it, I do not like it, I want this, I do not want this, this is good this is bad, and it is like a constant flow of judging, judging, judging, judging ..
So when we speak of Mindfulness as consciousness without judgment, that doesn,t mean that there will be no judgments, it means that we will be aware of how much we judge, and we will be careful not to judge the fact of judging. When we relate to them in that way, then we begin to see that our judgments are often black and white is this or that, good or bad, I like it, I don,t like it, I want it I don,t want it, and this vision imprisons us..
But not judging does not mean that you suddenly become stupid, and you think: well, I’m not going to judge, so I’ll walk down the street in front of a truck that’s not coming, what’s the difference? No, it means that we cultivate discernment, which is the ability to see what is unfolding, not to judge it but to recognize it and to understand it in relation to our experience.
So when we talk about consciousness without judgment we are talking about a very fine degree of discernment, clarity, wisdom, understanding, interconnection between things, and at the same time realizing the tendency that we have to judge fairly quickly: I like it, I don,t like it, I want it, I don,t want it, and I recognize that this actually creates a kind of veil or filter before our eyes that doesn,t allow us to see things as they are, but through the lenses of our own ideas and opinions and I like it and I don,t like it, which practically blinds us.
So this is a wonderful discipline, the cultivation of the awareness of the fact of judging and the cultivation of being kindly not judgmental or of not judging the judgments that we discover in ourselves ..
And throughout the days, weeks, months and years we can begin to find a way to navigate through our judgments, so that they no longer dominate our lives in the same way. And we recognize when they arise and that, in fact, they are somehow toxic, and the more we challenge them and the more we rest in discernment and pure consciousness, the more we can live life authentically in the present moment without being trapped in our own mental habits, in our insane mental habits”
How about if you wake up in the morning, and instead of restarting the computer with all the programs of all the previous days of your life (that contain all your predetermined answers), you choose to be free, act according to what feels right in the moment, sensing that everything is fine as it is and that you are well as you are?
Could you put aside your judgments and decide that there is nothing to fix and that at every moment you can choose to start again, act spontaneously, but this time without expectations, without judgments, without fears, without guilt, without loads .. Can you imagine how it would be?
Pause for a moment and imagine it.
Maybe a sense of fear appears. It,s normal to feel fear before the unknown. The part of the mind that works to protect us feels terror before the new because it can,t control it. But you can take it as a game.
What would it be like to live without judgments? No attachment or control, no aversion, no confusion about things. Just awareness, moment by moment.
Being. Moment by moment. Just as life is, new, changing, fresh, free, moment by moment.
If you have imagined the possibility and you liked it … I,m going to suggest an exercise to you. Whenever you see yourself wrapped up in an old way of being, an old pattern, a painful or hurtful attitude, judging life or others, allow yourself to stop (what we call the ‘sacred pause’ in mindfulness), breathe for a few seconds and say to yourself: ‘may I live this moment without interpretations and start over’.
And if you want, you can continue adding some kind words (as suggested by the practice of loving kindness or metta of mindfulness meditation). Studies on self-compassion indicate that sweet and kind words activate the part of the brain responsible for feelings of calm and safety, making us secrete oxytocin, the hormone of well-being.
So give in to the sweet, affectionate and kind voice that lies inside you (the one you would use with a dear friend), and mentally whisper it slowly to you: may I be happy, may I feel safe, may I be peaceful, may I live my life moment by moment, may I be free of interpretations and judgments .. or whatever comes. If you find it difficult to add some kind words because it generates contradictory feelings, stay with the first part of the exercise at first.
And now tell me, how was it? And if you want, share it in the comments.
By Belén Giner
There is no controlling life.
Try to corral a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado.
Dam a stream and
it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.Allow, and grace will carry you
to higher ground.
The only safety lies in letting it all in
– the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of the heart,
or sadness veils your vision with despair,
practice becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go
of your known way of being,
the whole world is revealed to your new eyes.
by Danna Faulds
This post is also available in: Español