The Way of Seeing® -- a simple, practical path

Don't Judge Judging

The following dialogue occurred during a group meeting with Ken Russell.

Woman: I'm finding myself drawn to one particular passage in "I Am That" right now. I don't know if I can remember it, but it's about accepting what comes to you unasked for rather than striving for what your desires are.
Ken: How is that phrase meaningful to you?
Woman: Because it's my tendency to always want to control things, the job I'm going to have, school, whatever.
Ken: According to what?
Woman: According to what I think is best for me, or will be best for me.
Ken: Who determines that?
Woman: My mind.
Ken: And what have you been discovering about your mind?
Woman: The thing I can say with certainty about my mind is that it stirs me up. It creates anxiety, for lack of a better word, or turmoil.
Ken: Does your mind always act in your best interests?
Woman: I think the turmoil is not in my best interests.
Ken: But the information, the thoughts, that your mind feeds you, does it always serve you well, direct you in the right direction, give you accurate feedback?
Woman: No. I think it tells me things a lot of the time that aren't true that get me upset or cause me problems.
Ken: So then normally, unless you're watching your mind, its intent on implementing its own agenda, which may not be in your best interests.
Woman: Yes. Mostly the low self-esteem stuff, mostly it just tells me negative things, that's where I notice being the most problem.
Ken: Low self-esteem?
Woman: Like when my mind goes, "you suck, everyone hates you, everyone's mad at you" that kind of stuff.
Ken: That's not low self-esteem.
Woman: I'm just using that as shorthand.
Ken: But you see, shorthand is sort of a smokescreen, it's a way of going unconscious. I have noticed an increasing tendency for people to use psychological jargon or buzzwords. I like the term "psychobabble". These words give the illusion of understanding and knowing something when that is not the case. These words interfere with awareness and clarity.
When you use a term like "low self-esteem" it gives you the belief that you know what you are talking or thinking about. But it is just a hollow label. What is actually happening is that you are being unreasonably critical of yourself. That is an accurate understanding of what you were doing. Awareness is very specific; neurosis and unconsciousness thrive on generalities. Being clear in itself will suggest corrections for this kind of self-harming behavior. You simply become aware of it and see its unreasonableness and cease to listen to these thoughts. On the other hand, what do you do with "low self-esteem"? Beware of falling into easy shorthand because it obscures rather than clarifies.
Woman: It's almost like because I'm watching myself more, I watch myself being self-critical and I'm having trouble interacting with people. I also see when I'm being critical of others. It's like I see so much now that I almost have trouble talking with people
Ken: Yeah, your mind has just figured out a new strategy to mess you up. It is using this process to point out your failings. But this process is about awareness, not behavior. You are to be aware, not act spiritual. The very awareness itself will operate to shift behavior if what you are doing is not good for you. You do not need to do it consciously. Something deeper in you will act on you.
So just accept that you are critical of other people. Don't bring harsh judgments in on yourself. These harsh judgments do not allow awareness to operate. They masquerade as trying to help you improve but do not give you the space to see what is happening. You have been trying this way your whole life. You know it doesn't work.
So if you're critical of others, just be aware of it. See if the criticism is justified, see if it is accurate, see what effect it has on your relations with other people. Allow awareness to operate on yourself. Just let the awareness stay there, that will in time shift things, sometimes rapidly, sometimes not so rapidly. It's unbelievably simple. This is not about behavior. You're not supposed to be good, you're not supposed to be spiritual, you're just supposed to know what you're doing. Even if what you're doing isn't socially approved or spiritual or whatever nonsense that your mind formulates.
So just watch. Because otherwise you're going to be tied up in knots. Because when we start looking at ourselves, it can be somewhat shocking. It wasn't fun when I started looking at myself. I discovered a whole bunch of traits that I had adopted from my parents that were far from flattering. But, over time I learned to accept them and watch them and they have faded away. So the whole idea is that you just accept what you see, because whatever you're seeing is not you. It's your conditioning.
Woman: So try to see it without doing the "yuck" part. Because I have a lot of the "yuck" going on, and then I judge the "yuck" part.
Ken: Yeah, the "yuck" part is not just unnecessary, it's disruptive. It's unnecessary because the real awareness just watches, and the "yuck" is your mind coming in. If you allow the "yuck" to come in you're not going to want to keep looking at yourself. It is a sort of negative reinforcement for looking at ourselves.
Instead of "yuck" you need to develop compassion for yourself. If you have these mannerisms and these tendencies and these habits which do not serve you, that's not your fault. If you didn't have the upbringing and history you did, you wouldn't have that stuff.
So everyone is going to discover all kinds of yucky stuff about themselves. And that's good--it's good that you see it, rather than it continues unseen but still influencing you. You have to be careful not to allow the mind to use this to beat you or criticize you. So welcome seeing these unpleasant things because they have been and are there. But now you are aware of what is going on. So the proper approach is, "Its good that I'm seeing it," rather than, "I've screwed up again."
Woman: I've almost gotten to the point where I'm saying, "You're such a horrible person"
Ken: But this is your mind's old trip. Your mind has just used something from this process to do its trip of beating up on you. The fact that you're seeing this stuff is good. Most people don't want to look. Especially in this area (Seattle), there seems to be a tremendous aversion to truth. People seem to be unwilling to look at anything that they consider negative, unless of course it has nothing to do with them personally, like politics. It's unfair, I guess, to be critical of this tendency because this is what we have been trained to do.
The fact that you're looking, you can feel good about. Because it's hard, it's hard to see how conditioned we are, how shitty we can be to other people, how dishonest we can be, it's not very pleasant. But to get beyond that, it's necessary to see that it's there. So you can feel good that you're seeing this, and trust that in time it will go because it's not really you. Whatever you see can't be the real you, because you are the part that sees, not what is seen.
Woman: So see it, but don't judge it.
Ken: Yeah. Because if you're judging it, that's not awareness, that's just another mind trip. This is super important for you. Everyone has to go through this stage of recognizing what a mess they are, regardless of how they may appear to other people.
Woman: I think I judge myself being critical of others and my being critical of myself because I think I shouldn't be that way and so it's hard for me to just observe it.
Ken: Ok, where did you learn to be critical of others?
Woman: From my parents.
Ken: So how you could you not be critical of others, having learned it from your parents?
Woman: Well, even if I get past the "bad girl, you're critical of others" it's still not a nice way to be.
Ken: Whoa, whoa, what's this nice shit?
Woman: It's not what I want to be.
Ken: That's the problem, you have a self-image about how you want to be, but that's just a mental image. You have to discard that image and be who you are.
Woman: But that's not nice for other people.
Ken: Well, other people will react and you'll get the feedback. And I'm not suggesting you all go out and start harassing people and creating problems, but you if you are not beating yourself you will be able to see clearly the effect your behavior has on someone else, how harmful it might be to them. Gradually you will begin shifting if you are watching yourself clearly. It doesn't make sense – to the mind, of course – but it does work.
But you can't hold it against yourself, because this is what you learned from your parents. Do you see that? You were not born critical. You didn't pop out of the womb and look at the doctor and say, "you could've done a better job." So you learned this. Other people learned to be supportive of others, flattering, depending on their home situation. You learned something, and especially in this area where niceness is valued, it's seen as a bad thing.
Woman: And so it's as simple as trying to figure out the whole observing without putting a judgment on it. Can you give any tips?
Ken: What are you trying to figure this out with?
Woman: My mind. But how do you watch something without criticizing it?
Ken: Practice. Go look at a tree. Pick something neutral in nature and experiment. You'll get the hang of it. I can't tell you how. I can't tell anybody how to be aware. It just happens. It is our basic nature. We just have to begin dropping the various habits we have picked up. I'm sure you have seen things without judging.
Woman: I mostly see myself judging.
Ken: Then just keep on watching that and just note the inappropriateness of it. Noting the inappropriateness of it does not mean being critical of yourself. Don't be comparing yourself to some idealized self-image. What you truly are will beat any image your mind creates.
And it's perfectly ok to have personal idiosyncrasies. I enjoy my little prejudices, attitudes, they're harmless. They can actually be fun, they introduce humor into my life. It's ok to be who you are. This is important for you. Drop your self-image, it interferes with seeing. Once your conditioning begins to drop you'll find that naturally you will become a kind considerate, caring person. That is inherent in your true nature.
I've been working with and watching clients and students for almost three and a half decades and I know that as they become more connected with themselves, as their conditioning drops away, they naturally develop the positive traits such as love, compassion, etc we see manifested in such people as Buddha, Jesus, Rumi, Maharaj, etc. Give it a try.

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