Today, I witnessed an expression of pure joy and happiness disappear in the blink of a judgemental eye.
My first instinct was that of anger. Yes, even yoga teachers get angry!
Initially, I felt anger at the judgemental look that wiped the smile off a care-free, smiling face.
Then, surprisingly, anger at the ‘victim’ in our story – the one being judged.
That seems harsh, I know. But, it made me angry that they might allow someone else to control their happiness.
It frustrated me that they sacrificed their joy due to someone else’s idea of how we should behave.
Of course, almost as quickly as their joy was extinguished, my anger turned into compassion and curiosity.
Thus, we arrive at this moment in time and my curious dive into judgement, the thief of joy.
To judge is human; to discern divine
Human beings always have and always will judge. In fact, from the cradle to the grave, judging with discernment serves to keep us safe from harm.
Everyday, we judge the potential danger of a situation – whether food is poisonous or a person is a threat.
But, sometimes, in a bid to protect us, the ego (ahamkara) overreacts and gets it wrong.
Psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach tells the story that I think beautifully demonstrates the difference between judgement and discernment:
“Imagine you are in the woods and you see a dog under a tree. You smile and go to pet this dog and it lurches at you, fangs bared and growling. You become angry at the dog and then you see its leg is caught in a trap. You shift again and go from being angry at the dog to having compassion for it.”
With this in mind, I wonder how we might discern differently knowing the full story behind a situation. Would we judge in the same way?
It’s not you; it’s me!
Psychology Today tells us that “judging other people has nothing to do with the people who you are judging.”
While, in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says:
“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” ~ Sutra 1.33
Rather than being friendly when faced with happiness, many of us react in a judgmental way. Perhaps we judge someone with a shiny new car as being ‘too flashy’. Or, maybe we judge an attractive person as being ‘full of themselves’.
Yoga teaches us that our past impressions (samskara), which may lie deep in our subconscious, effect our actions and reactions. Furthermore, these samskara cause the ego to make a judgement based on whether the past experience was pleasant or unpleasant.
Next time you notice yourself having a judgemental thought, be curious about what samskara might be behind the thought. But, remember, we are more than our stories. We are all divine.
At the end of the day, judgement stems from a sense of separation. We judge others when we see them as different or “other”.
Sadly, this illusion of separateness is what leads to hate and abuse.
By contrast, recognising that we are all the same enables us to act with compassion and empathy.
Yoga means union.
In my experience, not only union of body and mind, but also union of the human spirit. Despite our physical differences and our diverse experiences, we are all divine. We are all one.
Finally, if self-judgement or the fear of someone else’s judgement is stealing your inner joy, search for the strength and courage to be uniquely you!
Does this resonate with you? Let me know in the comments!
May you be happy & well!
Try this 30-minute Yin Yoga for self-acceptance to practise self-compassion and empathy.
Check out the on-demand library at Happy Yoga Wales for many more yoga classes and meditations.