Releasing Judgment

We find ourselves in different states of judgment everyday. Sometimes, we choose to look at judgment as a critical way to live life. So long as we have good judgment we will make better decisions and fewer mistakes, guard ourselves from pain and suffering, and protect who we are and what we know.

We often believe that so long as we have good judgment we are safe.

What about judgment as prejudice? From the Latin praejudicium, or "judgment in advance", by simply occurring before judgment is made, prejudice prevents the formulation of objective opinion. But are opinions ever truly objective? Do we ever have sufficient knowledge about a person, group of people, or situation to formulate judgment without the weight of prejudice?

We carry our judgments with us throughout our day, sizing up our family, friends, colleagues, enemies, and passersby. We do it all day long, in every instance - without even realizing it. That's why it's called an unconscious bias. It's human behavior - our fight or flight - our amygdala hijack (overactivity of the survival instinct in the brain) that we can't control unless we choose to recognize it, accept it, and release it. Even then, letting go of subjectivity is impossible.

Over a year ago, as part of my sadhana (daily personal spiritual practice), I committed to a practice of releasing judgment - judgment of myself, judgment of other people, judgment of that which I do not understand. What a task!  As soon as you start to notice how often and how deeply you judge yourself and others, it becomes unsettling how deeply ingrained our unconscious biases, or prejudices, have become.

During this time, I also attended a trauma sensitive yoga teacher training. Hearing the stories of those who suffered complex trauma in their lives made me realize how little we know about each other. These beautiful, essential beings were in fact suffering. If I met one of them on the street, in the yoga studio, or in an office, I never would have known the complex past that brought them to the moment of our meeting. I would have made judgments about who they are, what they believe, and how they show up. I never would have thought for a moment about the experiences that shaped these people standing in front of me.

I realized then that one of the keys to releasing judgment is admitting that I do it: I am biased, you are biased, we are all biased. When these biases show up as prejudices, we need to recognize them, admit to them, then release them.

There is a Buddhist meditation around releasing judgment. As part of my sadhana, I committed to a 30-day daily meditation, during which time I practiced this mantra:

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (low-KAH sah-mah-STAH sook-eye-NOO bah-van-TOO)

May all beings in the universe be free from suffering.

When you can wish freedom from suffering for all beings, regardless of your relationship with them, you can help yourself to release judgment. Releasing judgment also becomes a release from suffering, for you, your loved ones, your enemies, those you don't know, and the entire universe.