Mindfulness Practice Lesson 1: Non Judging
My favorite book that I recommend to my Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine patients for learning Mindfulness Meditation, which I think is invaluable as a tool for stress management and to address the underlying nervous system issues that lurk beneath a lot of diseases from pain to digestive complaints, and beyond that, for personal growth, is Calming Your Anxious Mind, , 2nd edition, by Jeffrey Brantley, M.D. Pick up a used copy on Amazon.
In this book Brantley outlines the 7 attitudes that one cultivates in a mindfulness practice. Notice I say practice, because the practice of mindfulness is a practice for living; the goal is to meditate regularly and to take the gifts of mindfulness and spread them out in other areas of living.
The first attitude is Non Judging.
In the practice of mindfulness meditation and mindful living, we are scientists, not judges. We are “unbiased, attentive” witnesses to our own experiences as they happen in the present moment.
What that means is that we cultivate an awareness of our both our experience and physical, mental, and emotional responses without judgement as the present moment unfolds. I am standing in the forest breathing fresh air. I am happy because the trees are fresh and stream is pleasant. But then I start to worry about getting my taxes done. Rather than get lost in that, I notice that I am starting to worry. I notice, “worry, .” Maybe I pay closer attention to my breath sensations, or to the sights and sounds of the forest, or both.
Another example–Type A person with migraine. It hurts. She is frustrated that it hurts. It affects her activities, what she can and cannot do. Its beyond her control. But she loves control. She is sick of the pain and angry and frustrated, all of which make her very very tense. She was probably tense before she got headaches. She may have had the tendency to easy anger or fear before the headaches. And worst, she is unaware of any of it, focused solely on her mission to make the pain disappear with drugs or acupuncture. But what she is unaware of is how tense she is.
Alternative: I am aware that it hurts, without labeling that a negative thing. It is what it is, a burning ache. Nausea. It is not pleasant, that is sure the truth, but that is o.k. I stay present with these sensations without a VAT tax, meaning, I dont add negative value to what is, without judging it. I dont add tension to pain, but I let myself feel the pain and then i realize how tense I am, and later I will notice the emotional states and fight or flight nervous system states associated with the tension.
Allowing “What Is” (as opposed to what we wish it were, or what we add to it) to be there, without trying to change it, while being alert to its particulars, grounded in the breath, key point, grounded in and by the breath, breaks the chain of identification.
By break the chain of identification I mean that it gives you some wiggle room, so that you are less affected, even possessed, by your disease. At the same time, for example with the underlying tension that causes the vast majority of chronic headaches, you begin to be aware of the tension so that you can allow it and take steps for it to release, along with the medical steps you take, like acupuncture, massage, and herbal therapies.
So the first step is to just note what is happening, “judging.” Some guy cuts you off while driving. Maybe he was rushing his baby to the hospital. You dont know. Anyway you get annoyed and mutter some irritated, angry comment under your breath. Suddenly you remember your mindfulness practice, and you say out loud or mentally, “judging, judging.”
I guarantee you as soon as you do that you will un-tense and feel better about yourself and about living. In a split second you will be able to let go of that adrenaline pumping sickening anger. That is a real practical way of letting go that is actually deep and does not involve rthe repression of feelings that I often observe in new age or religious science circles. And i say that as an observation not a judgement. Its just I have seen that, going through acupucnture school, people talking about letting go of anger, without a practical tool for doing it.
copyright eyton shalom san diego ca june 2012 use with permission.