One aspect of mindfulness is non-judgment. It’s the key to the whole process. We are not only tuning into the present moment but opening to it with an attitude of non-judgment; opening to it as it is. This is the real essence of mindfulness: learning to open to what is arising, just paying attention to it a little more closely–even to what is uncomfortable.
You can sense how non-judgment–this ability to shift into noticing things as they are–might automatically releases some tension. This is because the tension, the stress, comes from resistance: resisting what is arising, resisting the moment. We tune in to the tension in our body or to the uncomfortable emotions we might be feeling. Noticing those sensations and tuning in to what is arising can help us to start to release it. To let it unwind. And then the tension can start to pass.
When we tune into the sensations and into what is actually happening, we are automatically bringing ourselves out of the world of thought. We can’t be caught up in thought and pay attention to the present moment at the same time. It is our thoughts about things that stir up the tension. So coming into this moment, and opening to it as it is, is a huge relief. This is the practice of non-judgment, and this is a key aspect of mindfulness.
What we begin to notice, when we are practicing mindfulness and non-judgment, is that our judgments are happening all the time. They are constant. We are constantly resisting aspects of the present moment or things that irritate or annoy us, or make us uncomfortable or uneasy. By opening to those experiences, to those things that we are resisting, by opening to the judgment, we have an opportunity to release judgment, and, therefore, to release the tension.
We begin to realize when we are judging the moment, judging another person, judging ourselves, or judging our environment or situation. We notice that we want something to be different than how it is. Then, we can move beyond judgment by simply noticing and not judging it. We can say to ourselves, “Well, I’m judging my reality right now,” or “I’m resisting my reality.” Noticing this automatically begins to open us up to non-judgment. This is our opportunity to shift it, to shift into just being with it, just feeling it.
One of the things we tend to judge the most is ourselves. This is a key source of our suffering. When things are not going well in our life, or when something is not right, we often look for someone to blame, and a lot of the time we blame ourselves. We criticize ourselves, thinking, “You are such an idiot,” or “You are so lazy.” This critical voice can arise. By beginning to notice these judgments of ourselves, we begin to see how they add additional tension, stress and suffering to the situation. They make a difficult situation even worse. When we notice a self-judgment arising, it is an opportunity to notice it, to open to it and to say, “Oh, I’m judging myself.” By not judging the judgment, by just being with how it makes you feel, by coming into the sensations, we drop out of the critical thoughts and back into the moment; back into the body.
Non-judgment is an attitude that we bring into our awareness of the present moment. There are a few other attitudes that we can bring into the practice, in addition to non-judgment, such as an attitude of care, or an attitude of appreciation. These are additional ways of enhancing the mindfulness practice that allow us to really open our hearts to the present moment.