The first of the foundational attitudes of mindfulness is non-judging. In mindfulness practice, we do our best to pay attention to the present moment, in its entirety. Not just pieces of the moment, but all of it. If we are to see the present moment and experience it in its fullness it requires us to set aside our ideas, opinions, likes and dislikes, so that we may see things as they actually are. When we see things through a distorted lens, that is only part of the picture. In mindfulness, we are taking in the whole view.
If we are honest about how our minds usually are, we see that we are constantly judging and reacting to both things that go on inside of us and outside of us. When we take a look at this process, we may be surprised to find that we are constantly judging and having an internal dialogue about our experience. In fact, we may be busy trying to have another experience other than the one we are currently having because we have judged the experience to be bad and perhaps a better experience to be good. We do this with just about everything; even other people. People can be judged to be bad because we disagree with them or they make us feel bad. Then they turn in to an “unreal other,” and we feel justified for treating them a certain way based on our judgment.
It is not that we shouldn’t have a mind that sees some things as good for us and some things as bad for us. Having a mind that discriminates has its place and it has a practical application like crossing the street and looking out for traffic. If we think there is no judgement needed on these occasions, we may end up getting hit by a car. The kind of judgement we are talking about here are the judgments that tend to dominate our thinking and therefore make it rather challenging to find any peace in this moment. If you doubt this process, then stop and take a moment to look at your mind. You will probably find that after too long you are judging this moment and this experience.
When we practice mindfulness we become aware of this nature of the judging mind and see if it is possible to take a step back and just observe what is going on by taking the stance of the impartial witness. When we do this, we only need to be aware that the mind is doing this. Then we begin to see how much energy we expend judging everything rather than letting things be as they are in this moment. This not passive resignation. In fact if we are to act in a way, then we need to let go of judgments so that we can see how thing accurately and then act from that place of clarity. Acting from a place of clarity is not just so that we make decisions and plan actions that come from an accurate appraisal of what is going on but it is also a way to become very intimate with this moment of life that otherwise might pass us by.