Noticing is the first step
One of the first things you notice when you start meditating is how much judging you do. You close your eyes and begin to focus your attention. Then you have a thought.
After a while you realise that’s what you’re doing (which is exactly what’s supposed to happen). So you bring your attention back to your breath, or whatever focus you are using. But after a while, you notice that its happened again. Just like training a puppy to sit on a mat, you have to bring your mind back to the meditation over and over again.
In the beginning, some meditations feel like your puppy mind has spent more time off that damn mat than on it!
Judgement creeps in
What’s especially interesting in that process is that, if you pay attention, you’ll notice judgement.
“Why can’t I just concentrate?” “I’m so bad at this” “Am I even doing this right? I’m terrible at this” “This is not going to make any difference” “This is so boring”.
The trick, once you notice, is to let the judging go.
Why does this happen?
As humans we’re actually hardwired to judge things.
Our primitive brain, the part that served us well and kept us alive before our more sophisticated thinking processes developed, NEEDED to judge.
Fitting into the social group you were in was vital to survival. If you were rejected from the group, chances are you wouldn’t survive very long (Hello Sabre toothed tiger!). Comparing yourself to the rest of the group, judging yourself and others, constantly weighing up...that was how you made sure you could fit in and more importantly how you could survive.
So don’t be too hard on yourself if you suffer a lot with comparisonitis.
So what’s wrong with all this judging?
Well, nowadays our social group is MASSIVE. Social media plus the more mobile lifestyles we all lead has been a game changer.
Now we are bombarded with judgements constantly. And unless we can tune in and notice it, we start to take those judgements at face value.
Sadly, what we judge the most harshly is often ourselves, leading us to constantly feel not good enough. That unthinking judgement can be a slippery slope into behaviours that make things worse - like eating junk, drinking too much, ordering something you don’t need online...we all have our ways of escaping. Basically, trying to avoid how it makes us feel or make unpleasant feelings go away.
So what should you do when you notice judging in your meditations?
Notice. That's all. No action required.
That's the short answer. Of course, that's easier said than done.
Often, instead of just noticing, we start to judge our judging too. For me that used to go something like this:
Out of no where:
"This meditation isn't very good today"
And then (a little bit critical):
"There I go with the judging. I'm supposed to know better than that."
A short while later (coupled with an anxiety spasm):
"I'm not very good at this"
Closely followed by (frustrated tone):
"I need to stop judging"
"I'm so bad at judging all the time"
And then (getting a bit angry):
"Why am I still thinking? I need to be meditating"
Kind of like a little conversation with myself. However, it's not a conversation between loving friends. It's a hard and demanding conversation.
Building a friendship with myself
I began, through my meditation practice, to notice the way I communicated with myself. I realised I wasn't very nice to myself or kind at all. In fact I was the opposite. Harsh and critical.
I began to ask myself the question - what would it be like if I treated "me" like a friend?
First Steps to friendship
The first step was actually realising that I am not my thoughts. Taking a step back to truly be the observer instead. That sounds very abstract so lets dive in.
So what does that look and sound like?
Well, instead of:
"I'm not very good at this"
"I'm having the thought that I'm not very good at this".
That doesn't sound very different, I hear you cry! But it allows us to create a tiny chink of space between that thought and our beliefs about whether it's true or not.
Try this 1 minute activity
So let's make this about you instead of me. We all have a harsh inner critic that tells us we are not good enough. We each have our own version of the story "I'm not enough".
I want you to conjure up for a minute one of the mean things you accuse yourself of - maybe it's "I'm useless" or "I'm so disgusting" or whatever.
Close your eyes and say the words, either in your head or out loud:
"I am xxxx (whatever your word or phrase is)".
(Go on, give it a try. I know it's tempting to just keep scrolling but sometimes you can't understand something without experiencing it).
Really feel it and hold onto it as if it were true. Put all your attention on it. (Sorry, that probably doesn't feel very nice).
NOW, do the exact same thing. Close your eyes and say the phrase, really try and feel it fully. But this time say "I'm having the thought that I'm xxxx".
If you're like many people, somehow that small bit of space created by the words "I'm having the thought" makes it very different.
Suddenly its just a thought. It's not reality.
Changing the conversation
By changing in these small ways the way we connect with out thoughts, we can slowly change the way they have a hold on us. Now, I have learnt to notice when I'm being harsh to myself. When I'm not being a friend.
It takes time to change the way we talk to ourselves and change the tone of that conversation. But noticing is the first step.
Then the good stuff starts to happen
This is a really great example of how meditation practice, that eyes closed experience, can start to drift into your eyes open experience.
The more times you notice your judging and your thoughts in your practice, the more you start building that awareness. Suddenly those same moments of catching yourself start to happen in your eyes open life too.
And just like in your meditation, you can let it go and move on.
By training our minds in meditation, with our eyes closed, it automatically starts to crossover into your life - which is where you need it!
The real benefit
Meditation can make you feel great in that moment but it’s real value is when it spills over into your actual life. For me, that’s been the biggest game changer of all.
Maybe now's the time to really delve deep and give it a try. Click here to find out what's on offer.
Do you ever notice yourself judging yourself or your experiences
I’d love to hear your thoughts :)