Meditation Practice: What Do We Mean When We Say Practice “Without Judgment”?

Mindfulness. Sometimes defined as paying attention, on purpose, without judgment.

Without judgment.

There are so many layers to this part of the equation. This often repeated instruction comes to mind: “if your mind wanders, come back to the breath without judgment.” i.e. don’t beat yourself up for your wandering mind. Just come back to the breath.

But this idea of “without judgment” is so much wider than this initial instruction.

Eckhart Tolle speaks of this in a particularly beautiful way. He asks, What if you were to go into a garden and see the flowers without naming them?

Here’s the real understanding of judgment. Judgment need not be a criticism, it is simply the placement of a preconception onto something.

“This is bad, this is good. That is a poppy, that is a birch tree.”

When we judge things we make them small. We fit them into boxes created by our histories and patterns.

To see the world without judgment, without mental grasping, this is what we’re training for. This is where the creativity is. This is where the peace is. This is where the love is.

So yes, keep your attention on the breath. Bring your mind back to the present moment when your mind wanders, and don’t beat yourself up for it. But know also what you’re aiming for. This is just the beginning.

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