Making Compassion my Hoe

Dandelion Compassion

Dandelion Compassion

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.

How is your garden growing? Are you cultivating compassion even when judgment arises? I would love to hear from you.

NaBloPoMo 2011

10 thoughts on “Making Compassion my Hoe

  1. Pingback: Value Judgments Can Be Valuable | | Vibrant WanderingsVibrant Wanderings

  2. I really love this post, Zoie. I’ve had it sitting open since you wrote it as I’ve thought it through. Thank you for putting this out there, because it’s helping me understand so much about the inevitable judgments that come through my head, and yet the conscious choice for compassion (and grace—there’s a word buzzing through our household lately) that I can reach for. I will be sharing this post!

  3. Not an easy thing. Thank you for your thoughtful discussion. The dandelion seeds are beautiful.

    I don’t even know how much I judge. I definitely value non-judgement, and of course I judge others for judging. . . and myself for all sorts of things. I think this is coming along with my work with acceptance (which my next post is about).

    • Thank you for commenting, Erin. Yeah, I took a little flack in the comments I chose not to publish for being “judgmental.” I think that’s the point, though. We’ve all got them, maybe not everyone gets judgy over the same things. This particular morning, it got me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with judging. It’s just remembering that the judgment is mine and I own it. It’s not the other person’s fault I’m judging-I think this is part of the arguments for abuse and rape. But, anyway, I value non-judgment, too. But, we do it all the time, right? This is more something than something else? We even judge our judgments 😉

      I’m looking forward to reading your post

  4. I have to agree with Teresa on how perfectly expressed this idea is, Zoie. Sometimes I seriously feel like you’re my angel, because the things you write seem to speak so directly to me. I needed this one, as I need many of your posts. I so deeply want to be a compassionate person, one who is slow to judge and just naturally gentle and kind. This desire causes me to be the least compassionate with myself, because I focus on the judgments, and I judge myself for having them. To imagine those judgments as valid, human, natural, and able to live alongside the beautiful flowers of compassion gives me so much hope and peace. Thank you.

    And the fact that you can write something so beautiful and include that play on words in the title just proves the multi-faceted awesomeness that is you.

    • Thank for your comment, Melissa. That is one of the most difficult parts of becoming compassionate-extending it to oneself. I think if I were forced to speak aloud the criticisms I said inside, I would be more gentle with myself. Even more so, if someone said the words from my internal monologue to my kids, I would be furious.

  5. I’ve been trying to figure out what to say ever since I read this post yesterday. It resonated so deeply and has come at a poignant time (I’ll write it up on my blog some time soon) but I felt lost for words, you know?

    Anyway, your post is one for reading over and over – each time I linger on the words I find new meaning, see a new mirror that has been held up for me to look into. I love how you are being loving and compassionate to yourself by not judging YOURSELF for having these thoughts; that’s the ultimate in self care and something I desire to learn.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful piece with us…

  6. I’m totally blown away by this. Being non-judgemental has always been really important to me. At the same time, I’m great at judging. I’m seriously fantastic. You’ve said something here that I’ve never thought of (which, when you live in your own ponderings for as long as I have is a miracle). I love the image of the dandelion seeds. It’s going to be part of many meditations for me.
    The quality of your writing and the way you express this and make it accesible for even my tired mind is just beyond beyond. How the heck do you do it?
    And thank you for doing it.
    And just to show you how Unenlightened my mind often is…. I read your title and laughed because I initially read, “Making Compassion my HO”
    Maybe I shouldn’t admit that.
    Oh well. there you have it.

    • Thank you for this wonderful comment, Teresa! Your kind words mean a lot to me. This was one of those posts I’ve not been quite satisfied with publishing, so I do it by writing feverishly, hoping there aren’t too many errors missed by spellcheck, holding my breath and clicking publish-usually all with a baby at my breast & 2 kids hanging on my neck. Ha!

      And you got my titles play. heehee! I have an annoying habit of writing titles with obscure references, plays on words or double meanings. So, yes it evokes that obnoxious phrase on purpose. I’d hoped to draw a (possibly) faint connection between judgment and tools in the mind (conscious or unconscious with the title)

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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