The mind is a judging machine.
Everything that we experience is filtered, categorized, and dealt with in some automatic way.
- Some things are judged as “good”, so we grasp for more, and cling to what we have.
- Other things are judged as “bad”, so we hide, resist, and run away from them.
- And everything else? That’s judged as “neutral”, so for the most part, we ignore it entirely.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these judgments. It’s the nature of the mind to judge.
Sometimes, these judgments are helpful. They can lead you to understand the things that bring you up, give you energy, and fill you with purpose. They can help you understand what doesn’t resonate with you, and leaves you feeling drained.
But when left unchecked, the judging mind is taxing and controlling. It takes significant energy to evaluate every experience you encounter. There’s always something to be done about wherever you are.
- Chase the “good”
- Flee from the “bad”
- And ignore the “neutral”
When you’re unaware that these judgments are influencing your behavior, you’re just along for the ride. Like a marionette reacting to a puppeteer, you become trapped by your conditioned judgments and reactions.
Mindfulness presents an alternative to this vicious cycle in the form of non-judgment.
What is Non-Judgement?
As Jon Kabat-Zinn reminds us, “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.”
The last part of that definition, non-judgment, means letting go of the automatic judgments that arise in your mind with every experience you have.
Setting down the judging mind, even for a short while, is a refreshing weight off of your shoulders.
In practicing non-judgment, there’s no longer anything to be done about the present moment. No grasping for more, no resisting what’s there, and no ignoring of life’s experience.
When you stop trying to react to your experience, you can open up to it completely, resting in mindful presence.
Simply being, you awaken to the reality that the present moment is whole as it is. You don’t need to do anything or go anywhere to see that. You just have to be.
Non-judgement isn’t about stopping judgments from ever arising—that’s impossible. It’s the nature of the mind to judge.
Instead, it’s about changing your relationship to your judgments. Knowing that they’re temporary thoughts, and you don’t need to be swept away by them just because they arise in your mind.
Why Does Non-Judgment Matter? (4 Benefits)
To practice mindfulness is to make direct contact with the experience you’re having. Getting in-touch with the actual experience itself is a freeing and peaceful state. Along with that comes a host of benefits.
- Non-judgment opens you up to more of life’s beauty. Judging something as “neutral” means it’s not worth your attention. But when you remove this judgement of “neutral”, you have the chance to see the beauty and wonder present in every aspect of life. Any activity can be a wonderful, enriching experience if you take the time to pay attention to it.
- Non-judgment helps you off the hedonic treadmill. So much dissatisfaction comes from the endless quest for more. Be it money, accomplishments, or titles, the motivation of that pursuit comes from the judgment that what you have now is not enough. Letting go of that judgment, you can appreciate the countless positive qualities of where you are now.
- Non-judgment helps you cultivate a peaceful mind. Your judgments are the only source of stress about the “bad” things in your life, or whatever might happen in the future. Letting go of the judgment of “bad” frees you from the suffering caused by interpreting it this way.
- Non-judgment helps you see clearly. When reacting to your judgments, you’re only seeing your interpretation of what’s there. Letting go of those judgments helps you see things as they actually are.
What Does it Look Like to Practice Non-Judgment? How can I get Started?
Practicing mindfulness meditation helps you build familiarity with the quality of non-judgment. In meditation, every time you notice your mind has wandered, you practice non-judgment by gently returning your attention to the original object of awareness.
Outside of a meditation practice, the process is simple:
- Notice when judgments arise. Witness whatever comes up in the body or mind in conjunction with that judgment.
- Recognize the thoughts that are there without denouncing them or clinging to them.
- Move forward with clarity, staying present to the experience at hand.
Without practicing non-judgment, we can’t be mindful.
But when we do, it opens up a whole new dimension of life’s experience.