Guest contribution: Wendy Quan
No doubt you have heard of ‘mindfulness’, and may know that it’s largely about being present, or ‘being in the now’ to cultivate a more peaceful life. But did you know that a key attitude of a mindfulness practice is non-judgmental awareness? The problem is, what exactly does ‘non-judgmental awareness’ mean in everyday life? And did you know that by practicing this, you can reduce frustration and stress in your life, and cultivate more peace and calm?
First, here’s a quick explanation of non-judgemental awareness:
Our human minds are typically automatically judgmental. For example, we form opinions about others and ourselves and may think “She is selfish”, or “Why do I keep doing that, I’m so stupid”. When we do this, what happens to our experience in this moment? That’s right, it’s negative and stress inducing. A mindful way to deal with such situations is by practicing non-judgmental awareness. This means to take the stance of observing, or witnessing. You become keenly aware that you are judging – you recognize when you are doing this, suspend the judgment and don’t pursue or feed the judgment further. In mindfulness practice, we watch our breath as a way to stay centered and present.
Here is an everyday example from my life that may help you:
A co-worker of mine would come to me daily and complain about how stupid other people are, and how she could do all their jobs better. I didn’t consider her a friend, but I also didn’t want to alienate her since we had to work together. I found her to be cynical and toxic, and didn’t like that I was judging her either. Once I learned how to handle the situation mindfully, here is what I did instead: During the conversations, I keenly observed how I was reacting and any judgments I was making, and I also observed her behaviour – her body language, her emotions, etc. Instead of engaging in and fueling the conversation, I simply observed and acknowledged with a non-judgmental ‘hmm’. It didn’t take long for her to stop dumping her frustrations on to me, and my work life improved for the better!
In this example, I became aware of my judgments, suspended the judgments and didn’t fuel them. I took on an attitude of observation of myself and my co-worker rather than letting myself get wrapped up in the drama and emotion. Often after stressful encounters, I continue the non-judgment practice. For example, if I feel flustered afterwards, I focus on my breath to become centered and present, and notice any emotions that arise. I notice and accept the emotions but do not fuel them.
When I teach mindfulness meditation, I use the phrase ‘If you don’t judge, you can’t get frustrated’. If you think about this, you can see that if you let go of judgment (ie: “that person is stupid”), then you let go of the stress that is caused by judging others and yourself. It isn’t always easy to do, but with practice it gets easier and your life becomes more peaceful. Give it a try!
Wendy Quan, founder of The Calm Monkey, is the industry leader helping organizations implement mindfulness meditation programs and combining change management techniques to create personal and organizational change resiliency. She trains passionate meditators to become workplace facilitators through workshops and online training.
Wendy is a certified organizational change manager who has been recognized as a pioneer by the University of California, Berkeley and the global Association of Change Management Professionals. Her client list includes individuals from around the world and organizations such as Google. Her life’s purpose is to help people create a better experience of life.