Saturday morning I went to a family yoga class with my three boys. While I was helping my sons out of the car, I saw another mom also unloading her children. Her six-year-old daughter was wearing high-heeled shoes.
I judged that mother wrong.
On our way inside, my 3-year-old dropped his mat. It unrolled across the sidewalk and he melted down. While I helped him calm himself, another family went by and let their kids walk across my sons yoga mat wearing their shoes.
I judged that mother rude.
Once we finally arrived inside, we negotiated mat placement, and discussed removal of socks. I noticed another mom with a baby fussing in the bucket seat.
I judged that mother disconnected.
These fleeting judgments crop up like weeds amidst the calm that I am trying to train my mind to feel. They distract me from being in the moment with my sons and pull me into a point of view I do not enjoy. They’re momentary, but they do arise. Denying these thoughts would allow them to spread roots beneath layers of composting untruths.
To decide that the judgments are wrong or that I am somehow bad for thinking them would be to deny nature. It’s normal to have a running litany go through your head. If I really think about it, it’s another way to realize that I am not my mind. My mind can speak on its own, especially when it’s allowed to be untamed. I look at a thing of beauty and I think pleasurable thoughts. I look at a thing of ugliness and I shy away or try to defend myself from more of it.
It doesn’t matter whether my judgments are true or not. I can let them exist. Feelings and thoughts are neither bad nor good. They just are. I can choose to tame them or let them go. Either way, I don’t have to react to them. I can let them float away like dandelion seeds. There will always be another one hard on its heels.
It is what I choose to do after the judgments arise that creates the person I wish to be.
When my dandelions bloom and spread seeds, I can choose compassion to tame my mind-garden several ways:
- I can remember that it is not my right to hold anyone else to an arbitrary standard.
- I can know that I am not seeing the full situation, but only a tiny piece.
- I can learn that I do not know the reason for why the mothers were parenting the way they were.
- But most importantly, I can understand that it doesn’t matter what the reasons are behind the vignettes because they deserve compassion and respect.
I use these tools to pull out the weeds by the roots. To be clear, I’m not trying to eliminate something bad. If you’ve ever tried to pull out a dandelion and get every single root, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it’s futile to try to live without them. When I use the word weed, it’s by the definition:
A wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants
If I’m not careful with the weeds, they will outcompete the thoughts I want to grow large, flower and reseed themselves. I find that the more attention I pay to something, the larger it grows and vice versa. If I’m always looking through the eyes of judgment or criticism, those are what will reach toward the light the fastest.
I don’t believe in using harshness to eliminate all weeds. Rather, I chose an organic approach, knowing that I can live with the weeds of judgment. They might wither or grow less invasive as I cultivate compassionate thoughts. But, I’ll let them be. I can live with them. It’s part of being human.
My cultivated plants are thoughts of compassion. How do I cultivate compassionate thoughts? I actively focus on them. I don’t cling to them or judge them as good; I simply turn my gaze toward them and use them. It’s like sunshine and water on the patches that need growth, with a little shade on the dandelion thoughts.
I used to look at my meditation teachers and think they were always peaceful and calm. I used to beat myself up thinking I would never eliminate judgment like they do. Then, I gave up that judgment and really listened to what my teachers were saying. They didn’t live in a non-judgmental space, they lived with the same human thoughts, but they didn’t focus on the weeds. They cultivated compassion and kindness. Once I understood that, I felt freer to allow myself the same.
The other thing I think of when I see my dandelion seeds ablowing in the wind, is how they like to drift over to my neighbor’s lawn. They spread from there to the next neighbor and so on. It’s like that with thoughts, too. If someone dumps a negative idea on me, it can affect my mood and I may spread that to someone else and on down the line. But, I’ve also had the reverse happen where we share beautiful thoughts and it changes interactions. There’s a reason why my neighbor is allowing our naturalized bulbs to grow across her fence. They’re nice to look at.
Judgment is going to arise no matter what I do. But, I don’t have to allow the thoughts to germinate and spread in my garden. I can encourage compassionate thoughts with lots of things that feed them and not allow myself to focus on or spread weeds of disconnect out into the breeze. My hope in doing this is ultimately to cultivate a sense of peace within and, if I’m lucky, to have some spread to my neighbors.