photo: Daniela Vladimirova on flickr

photo: Daniela Vladimirova on flickr

If you’re a good little spiritual seeker, one of the first things you learn is you’re not supposed to judge others.

Judging others is baaaaaaaad.

Wait. Is that a judgment? Kinda sounds like one.

Let’s try this instead: Judging others is not an optimal way to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

Or is it?

Another truism of the spiritual path is that there are no absolutes. Everything can be seen from many different angles, many different perspectives.

Including judgment.

Check it out:

If you believe that consciousness is creative – i.e. that your thoughts affect your reality – then I have a little experiment for you. Actually, even if you don’t believe that consciousness is creative, I have a little experiment for you.

For a period of a week, observe the people around you.

And by “observe” I do not mean you should check to see that their socks match their pants and their fingernails are spiffy and clean. (Though if you want to do so, go right ahead.)

photo: Calitar on flickr

photo: Calitar on flickr

When I say observe others, I have a particular focus in mind.

First, notice the way they talk about things. Do they look for the negative in the world around them, or the positive? Are they hopeful about life, or pessimistic? Are they closed to the world, or open to it?

Then notice the circumstances of their lives. Do they have friends? Are they happy in their vocation? Are they healthy?

Once you have accumulated a wide range of subjects, step back and notice the correlation between the attitude of your subjects and the quality of their lives.

What do you notice?

In my free-range, non-scientific observation of those around me, I have found that those who have an open, optimistic attitude toward life seem to draw to themselves circumstances and events that support their open, optimistic view.

photo: Koshy Koshy on flickr

photo: Koshy Koshy on flickr

But Z, you say. My best friend is ill. She’s the most optimistic person I know and she’s really sick.

I’m not saying that those with optimistic attitudes will not attract challenges. But they will approach those challenges like they do everything in their lives: with an open expectancy for good. Indeed, they often emerge from the challenges stronger than ever, with a deeper faith in the power of positive expectation.

On the other side of the coin, curmudgeons living in lavish circumstances are rarely able to enjoy those circumstances. Their quality of life is hampered by their attitudes.

photo: Daniela Vladimirova on flickr

photo: Daniela Vladimirova on flickr

It’s a lot harder to see the correlation between attitude and outcome in ourselves.

Shit  Stuff happens and we feel justified in complaining. We feel justified in focusing on the negative, thinking that by fixating on what’s not working, we can change it.

But all you have to do is look around you and see how this approach is “working” for others. Bringing a focus of discernment toward our neighbor – which some might call judgment – can be eye-opening.

So that’s Step One: Observe others to confirm the correlation between attitude and quality of life.

Then, if you really want to have fun, you move onto Step Two!

In this step, you notice which issues in others especially bother you. You notice where your judgment of your neighbor is particularly acute.

It really bugs you when others are not financially responsible.  You find it reprehensible when others aren’t good stewards of the environment.

And there, my friends, is your work.

I’m not saying you’re doing the exact same thing as they are. But somewhere, in your judgment of this other, is a pearl.

photo: cornelianesseth on flickr

photo: cornelianesseth on flickr

Maybe the fiscally irresponsible are aggravating your scarcity consciousness. Perhaps the environmentally hostile are triggering the part of you that isn’t as nurturing to yourself as you’d like to be.

Who knows what your judgment is telling you. Only you do.

Are we having fun yet?

photo: Leonardo Shinagawa on flickr

photo: Leonardo Shinagawa on flickr

In Step One, we notice a correlation between attitude and quality of life. In Step Two, we turn this back on ourselves and find areas of potential healing.

What’s next?

The final step both embraces judgment and moves beyond it.

In allowing our judgment of others to be fuel for spiritual practice, we enter a whole new arena of freedom.

In Step Three, we accept the fact that we judge. We judge others and we judge ourselves. The more we can allow this, paradoxically enough, the more loving we can be.

We can love ourselves in all our humanness, including our judgment. And we can love others for helping to shine a light on our own dark places.

In this final step, we relax into a place of acceptance of everything – our shit stuff, other’s shit stuff, the whole world’s shit stuff. We use this acceptance to bring compassion to ourselves and others.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

photo: saragoldsmith on flickr

photo: saragoldsmith on flickr

So what have we learned?

Step One: Judge

Step Two: Contemplate

Step Three: Love

In completing these three steps, we embrace the full spectrum of who we are – human and Divine.

And not to be judgmental or anything, but isn’t that the best way to live life?

photo: Dustin Moore on flickr

photo: Dustin Moore on flickr

How do you work with judgment? How has it helped you grow? Share your comments below!

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