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Mindful : February 2014
Distinctions and Judgments One of the most common mindfulness instructions is to pay attention to our experi- ence nonjudgmentally. Over time, practicing in this way slows the rapid-fire judging mechanism in our mind—the one that categorizes a little too quickly and acts too fre- quently based on bias. Some people think that taking a nonjudgmental approach mea ns we don’t make judgments. That ’s not true. Mindfulness prac- tice only asks us to become fa miliar with the moment we’re in before we start mak- ing distinctions. It asks us to suspend judgments for a bit, not to abandon them. Our intellect contains great power to break up the world into categories, to make distinctions, and to disas- semble and reassemble our experience endlessly. Making distinctions is delightfully complex. Just think of all the colors in the 120-crayon box, and that ’s nothing compared to the more than 1,000 in the Pantone system used by designers. Consider all the names of plants and animals, the words in the dictionar y, the songs on iTunes. Our abil- ity to discern infinite varia- tions is the source of creativ- ity, innovative thinking, and our ability to make decisions. Cultivating awareness only enhances that capability. With the openness and clarity of awareness, we can see the process of categoriz- ing and judging while it’s at work. We can make better use of our ability to pick and choose, discerning which actions will create benefit for ourselves and others and which will likely do more harm than good. We can perceive our tastes a nd preferences without one- upping others who don’t feel the same way. The sunlight of awa reness reveals a world that accommodates many points of view. Living with enhanced awareness means we may no longer operate with rock-solid certainty—the know-it-all mentality that masks an underlying insecurity—but when we do decide, we have more knowledge about how we got there. With a mix of humbleness and confidence, we can make leaps into the partially known, willing to lea rn f rom what comes next. Explore: Recall a person you know well. Let his or her characteristics and attributes pop into your mind. Keep going until you’re tiring of the list. Now pay attention to what kinds of judgments you’re making. Notice if they become harsh or hasty. What does an honest judgment feel like? → We can perceive our tastes and preferences without one-upping others who don’t feel the same way. February 2014 mindful 75