Source: Wikimedia Commons
Last week, I wrote Part One to this blog post. There, I laid out the problem regarding how paradoxically throughout time great sages such as Lao Tzu and Gautama Buddha and great holy works such as the Old Testament and the Mahayana Uttara Tantra Shastra (the Treatise on Buddha Nature) by Arya Maitreya and written down by the noble Arya Asanga have repeatedly insisted that all of us are awesome—perfect in every way. We are all Buddhas. We are all God’s children. We are all perfect facets of the always perfect Tao. Yet, less noble preachers, teachers, leaders, advertisers, and any other being or body lording authority over people seem to be espousing the exact opposite. Humanity is constantly being badgered into believing that they are morally corrupt, lazy, unattractive, and stupid louts. And if one were to be wise, good, and live a life of some decency, then they better get with the program and mistrust and dislike themselves as well as their neighbors. Unfortunately, after all this hammering and shame cloaking, we become so disfigured and wrapped in pain that it becomes very difficult to see or believe or experience what those great sages and great holy books are saying: that you were born awesome and will remain awesome, in fact, the one thing that cannot ever be taken from you is your fundamental awesomeness.
Today, I am going to give you a way to peel away some of those horrible layers of guilt, insecurity, and judgment that has been suffocating you and keeping you from not only seeing your inner light but the light within others as well. The technique is called Non-Judgment Awareness. It’s super easy and super powerful. Start small. Try today when you sit down in a restaurant, walk down a street, wait in heavy traffic, get a cup of coffee in your office, or really, any time you are amongst other people, try to ‘just see people.’ When you are sitting amongst a crowd or at work, try for a minute or so, to simply see others—without any kind of judgment or observation (even if the observation is reasonably benign). Just see them. Try not to acknowledge age, gender, size, clothes, or any other type of detail like if they are smiling or frowning. Just look at them. Now, you will quickly notice that your brain will observe and judge immediately. Do not worry. Do not fight your brain. Simply acknowledge your brain’s activity without judgment and go back to just seeing people without observation or judgment.
At first, just do it for a few minutes throughout your day—especially when you are in a crowd. If you live in a more isolated setting or lifestyle, do not worry. Try this same activity with the television. Just look at people without judgment or observation, and when your brain does judge or makes observations, without judgment simply observe your brain’s activity and go back to ‘just seeing people.’ As you progress, you will notice that you are able to ‘just see people’ for longer stretches of time. A good thing to do next is a walking meditation on ‘just seeing people.’ Find a place to walk, like a busy town center or shopping mall that has a lot of people, then try walking around (for twenty minutes or so) ‘just seeing people.’ Again, your brain loves to judge and make observations so simply look at your brain being a brain then return to ‘just seeing people.’ This will be hard at first, but over time, it will become easier. In fact, the more you do it, the more you will, without intention, ‘just see people.’
I have a very dear friend who did this exercise, and at first, he admitted that it drove him a little crazy, and he was wondering if he should continue. But then it happened. He explained to me that as he was walking through the streets, he suddenly was struck by how stunningly beautiful everyone was: old people, fat people, poor people, and rich people. He said that it hit him just how beautiful, vulnerable, and amazing everyone was. He saw that as his mind got out of the habit of constantly judging and parceling people apart via critical observation (like she’s old and foreign or he’s young and rich) then over time, he came to see that everyone was beautiful.
There is another part. As you get more and more proficient in ‘just seeing people,’ know that you are getting more and more proficient in directing your mind. The next step is to do the same when looking in the mirror (only do this after you have gotten proficient at ‘just seeing people’). Every time you look in the mirror, try for a few seconds to ‘just see yourself.’ Try for just a few seconds to see yourself in the mirror without judgment or observation. In time, the vice grip type hold of judgment and the mutilating effect of critical observation will lessen. It will soften. But this is the Big Beast—so, work at first on ‘just seeing people.’
One of my favorite scholars is Dr. Susan Bordo. She specializes in legal, social, and historical issues concerning the body with an emphasis (though not exclusively) on the female body. In a book about the body and the law, in her preface, she made a very human admission. In one of her classes, she had mentioned that she had just started the Jenny Craig diet. Many of the students—especially the female students—freaked out and called her a ‘traitor.’ They were upset because while Dr. Bordo could coolly show the corrupt values that made women unhappy with their bodies, she herself lived with the same sense of wanting to be pretty and attractive. Susan Bordo’s modest, compassionate, and, I think, brilliant response always stuck with me, and I never forget it when I write these types of essays. She said that while yes, she was a sociologist and scholar of the body, she herself was within a specific culture and time and was still vulnerable to its pressures and mores, as humans are pack animals and will literally mutilate their bodies to be a fully embraced member of said society. In short, she saw that intellectual understanding was no match for deeply embedded and highly emotional conditioning. So be kind and patient with yourself with this exercise.
One of the quests of nearly all of the great sages is to somehow deprogram all of the destructive, societal conditioning that blinds us from our fundamental goodness—our inherent awesomeness. However, I stress the word ‘quest.’ Practicing Non-Judgement Awareness and ‘just seeing people’ are great ways to begin stripping away all the layers of harsh judgment and mistrust of self and others. Will it completely free you—will it turn you into a Jedi? I do not know. Even after years of practice, I have my harsh (very harsh) moments with myself and others. But that does sort of become less frequent. Instead, I think what comes is a kind of broken heart. As you begin to see others with increasingly less judgment and observation, it will become increasingly painful to see them suffering. However, having a broken heart of light is not such a bad thing. It is far better than a heart so covered that you cannot see it at all.