This is the second on the series of Opening the Heart and the Six Pointed Star
"When you see a worthy person, endeavor to emulate him; when you seen an unworthy person then examine your inner self!" Confucius
Modern medical research has shown that people who are critical and easily angered are more prone to certain diseases. Neuroscience is discovering that cynicism depresses, while compassion and forgiveness bolster the immune system. Therefore if for no other reason than our health we need to try and suspend our tendency to find fault. Judgment also takes us out of the present moment. If one is judging whether this is the best sunset one has ever seen, there is little energy left for being with the sunset. This space becomes occupied with the analysis of the event.
We spend much of our waking lives judging circumstances, situations, events and people. In doing so we are taken away from the nature of Self since judgment reinforces ego. Unfortunately, to be effective in the Western world, it is difficult to get rid of judgment entirely. We need to judge and evaluate others to see if they can do the job or not. It might be more appropriate to use a softer word, like discernment. On the inner journey into wilderness we can let personal judgment slide, since there are no deadlines to meet and no goals to achieve. The Bushmen have a gentle pace of life and possibly this is why judgment is not a big part of their behavior. When there is peace, calm, harmony and equanimity judgment falls aside. When there is no judgment, peace and calm result. Noticing and being aware of one's breathing puts us immediately in touch with our mood. If we are anxious or upset, our breathing is shallow and rapid. If we are calm and relaxed, then so is our breathing. We can control our state of mind by controlling our breathing. Breath control or pranayama invokes a parasympathetic relaxation response to counteract our day to day survival or sympathetic nervous system overactivity. We can change a feeling of being upset and harried to one of being tranquil and at peace just by altering the breath. If we can control judgment with a similar practice we can have a powerful effect on our spiritual progress.
"Self condemnation strengthens guilt, which is one of the greatest obstacles on the path of realization." Sri Swami Rama
All spiritual traditions rest on a firm moral foundation and have tenets to reinforce righteous behavior. Neuroscience has also shown that shame and guilt increase pro-inflammatory factors in the body such as C Reactive protein that increase the incidence of certain cancers, autoimmune diseases and atheroschlerosis. Furthermore, we cannot aspire to high ideals if we have a poor image of our character and behavior. Our own self-critical feeling that we are not good enough leads us to invest a lot of energy into judging others to compensate for our feelings of deficiency. Judgment of others and of ourselves makes us angry and takes away our power. We suffer more from judging another than the person who is being judged.
We can forgive others, their failings and idiosyncrasies, if at the same time we forgive ourselves for some failing. We can make a trade and be kind to ourselves for non skillfulness in our own personality. This barter system might work a little more effectively, since being non-judgmental in a situation that evokes strong emotions can be extremely difficult.
Ayurvedic medicine or the science of life, believes that we have a basic nature or Prakriti. There are three main Doshas which can make up anyone's Prakriti. These Doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, each of which represents a mind-body type. This is more sophisticated than the similar Western definition of endo, meso and ectomorph. Vata represents movement, Pitta metabolism and Kapha structure. The characteristics of each is unique. We are unable to change our makeup. If we try to be someone else and not true to our Dosha, we may go out of balance and eventually become diseased. Ayurveda gives many recommendations for keeping a particular Dosha in balance, by paying attention to whatever it is that gives our Dosha equanimity. There is no such thing as a good or bad Dosha; the Dosha just is! That is the way we are and the dosha is the body-mind card we were dealt when we were born. Some of us are single Dosha types and others can be a mix of di- or tri- Dosha. It is the dominant Dosha that is likely to go out of balance. This mind-body classification can give us insights into judgment. If we can look at people in the light of their having a particular Dosha, we can forgive them more easily for some of their "faults." The overanxious, irritable Vata personality who has been excessively stressed, has not slept and is exhausted, is no longer seen as a jerk, but recognized as manifesting the signs of his Vata Dosha which is out of balance. Kapha personalities who have trouble getting up in the morning and are constantly gain weight can be appreciated for their inherent Kapha nature instead of being regarded as lazy and undisciplined. By the same token, we can recognize some of our own behavior patterns and not judge ourselves so severely for our own deficiencies. At the beginning of a trail one can introduce participants to this system so that they can all trek together more harmoniously in a non-judgmental way.
One of the main principles of the talking or council circle is that; “Whenever one points a finger there are three fingers pointing back at ourselves." We are incapable of recognizing a shadowy quality in someone else unless it is a part of our own shadow as well.
More often than not, judgment is a projection of our own shadow onto another.
Judgment can be positive or negative, and we are inclined to think that as long as we are saying good things no harm is done. Certainly praise is preferable to criticism but it is still judgment. It has been my experience in the group setting that lavish praise can be just as harmful as strong condemnation. When we praise in a close-knit group we are comparing one person's performance to the others, and this can lead to a feeling of inadequacy on behalf of those not being praised. It may be more constructive to the group as a whole to take the individual aside and say what must be said in private, be it appreciation or otherwise. Many of us find it difficult to talk about our own feelings and often remarks in the circle gravitate toward praise for one or other member of the group, the trip, the day, or the leaders themselves. Although it is easy and agreeable to listen to this type contribution it often distracts us from the main object of the circle, which is sharing more intimately a part of our inner self.
We may need to take another lesson from the Bushmen in this instance. They have ways of keeping everyone humble and holding egos in check to maintain clan harmony and equanimity. Richard Lee, in his book "The Dobe Kung," describes what he has called "Insulting the meat." This is an indifference or even a negativity displayed to the good news of a successful hunt by members of the clan. An accomplished hunter will tend to understate and be self-effacing and modest about what he has brought for the group, and the happy onlookers are more apt to say something derogatory about a kill. Even something as impressive as a giraffe may be met with a statement such as, "Do you expect this puny specimen will feed us all?" The hunter furthermore is expected to reply in a deferential way. This type of light-hearted bantering is vital in keeping more arrogant individuals in check.
The shadow archetype with its judgmental temperament is apt to come up in wilderness and can frequently be a disruptive force in the group. If the group has an understanding and awareness of the psychodynamics of this shady side of the ego self each individual can take responsibility for their shadow rather than assign blame and point fingers.