I hear the voice before I round the bend actually catching sight of her. My patience for people walking the nature trails while having a phone conversation having run out days ago I am instantly annoyed. As I begin tuning into the actual words of this private conversation echoing out across the bay I instantly start judging this woman, and not just because she is ruining my evening walk. I take a deep breath and listen; I don’t really have a choice.
“She is a loved girl and we have to keep filling her with love. Jesus will…”
Oh no, here’s the Jesus will fix everything spiel about to let loose, I think to myself. Some guy in the sky will magically fix everything. I can feel myself beginning to mount my high horse of reason while carrying my shield of judgment while the Jesus rant continues. Then I pause. I remind myself of my new mantra, “Get curious.”
I have been feeling extra judgey lately. I am a recovering perfectionist. And a requisite for perfectionism is judging – critically harsh self-judgment at all times in pursuit of the unattainably perfect. For years I believed I could silently judge myself without it spilling over to others, but the truth is, I can be shamefully judgmental of others too. I’ve spent the last few years doing the unglamorous, never ending work of unraveling my perfectionism, easing up on myself, and in turn easing up on others. But when I am particularly tired or cranky or irritated (all of which I was on my evening walk) I get super judgey.
In meditation we catch ourselves each time a thought drags us out of the present moment, calmly label it as a thought, then gently bring ourselves back to our breath. I have begun doing this throughout my day when I find myself judging. To combat the resurgence of judgments I have begun inviting myself to get curious, about myself, the other person, the situation. What lies just beneath the judgments? I’ve become ninja like at catching myself the moment I begin judging, deftly cutting off the judgmental thoughts with my mantra, “Get curious.” But, as anyone who has meditated for more than five minutes knows, just as swiftly as the mind gets pulled back to the breath it will dash back off with a thought, new thought, same thought, take your pick the mind has gone there before a full inhalation and exhalation have occurred. Still, I keep gently urging myself to be curious instead of judgmental.
I quicken my pace trying to get out of earshot of the Jesus will save speech as fast as possible. “Get curious,” I remind myself over and over again. Finally, there is a pause; this woman is letting the person on the other end get a word in edgewise. The last clip of the conversation I hear is, “I believe you that she is acting out, but we have to return to our faith. We just have to keep praying…”
I dismount my horse of reason. I may not believe in a higher power fixing all problems, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I lay down my shield of judgments. Life hits hard and unpredictably, whether we have a strong faith in some higher power of not. Finding the strength to keep treading water and not just outright sink is no easy task at times. If praying and believing in Jesus is what gets you through, more power to you. This woman was talking to someone clearly going through a horrifically hard time with a loved one. Instead of opening myself to the fact that she was being a good support to the person on the other end of the line, I was judging her because the support and words of comfort and guidance she was offering were not in line with what I would want or what I believe. I was being a judgmental jerk. (But she was also being a bit of jerk ruining a peaceful evening walk by the bay for everyone being forced to listen to her conversation.)