In many ways celebrating the end of the year today is an arbitrary choice, having little or no meaning. We have seen that the Church calendar started New Year already four weeks ago, while the ancient Celts marked their new year at Halloween. For other peoples and faiths, the Winter Solstice on December 21st marks the turning from one year’s darkness into a new years light.
And yet this day can take on a lot of meaning for people and can provide fertile ground for the judging mind. It is true that discerning, comparing and evaluating are part of the function of the mind and necessary in many contexts. Discernment in particularly can be accompanied by gentle kindness and contains wisdom and openness. However, this is not always the case with judging which we get so used to that often we do not realise we are doing it. Whatever we are looking at, in every situation, there is a constant commentary going on in our heads – that is not good, she is wrong, that is ugly, what a rude person. We frequently notice the mind coming to immediate conclusions about people we hardly know; spontaneously finding some things wrong with this or that person.
Unfortunately, we tend to turn the judging mind on ourselves, especially on a day like today. We have not “achieved” as much as we wanted this past year, we do not have a good a social life as those who are going to nice parties this evening, we are not doing as well as we think we should be. These fear-driven observations then give rise to (unconsciously) fear-driven resolutions ” I will do such-and-such next year” “I will do better, do more…” If we look deeply we can notice a heaviness associated with these resolutions, a hint of pushing and impatience. This type of thinking is just another aspect of our inability to accept ourselves without the spontaneous wish to fix ourselves, and tends ultimately just to lead to more dissatisfaction. Pushing to change ourselves based on unwholesome motivations will not lead to greater contentment with ourselves or our lives in the long run. Furthermore, these motivations tend not to produce the commitment needed for real change so do not last.
What would it be like today just to have one resolution: to accept ourselves deeply as we are, dropping the judging mind which splits the world into “them” and “me”. If we stopped the mind’s continual question – “what’s wrong with me” – for a year, what type of change would that lead us to?
When you dwell in stillness, the judging mind can come through like a foghorn. “I don’t like the pain in my knee… This is boring…I like this feeling of stillness; I had a good meditation yesterday, but today I’m having a bad meditation… It’s not working for me. I’m no good at this. I’m no good, period…”
This type of thinking dominates the mind and weighs it down. It’s like carrying around a suitcase full of rocks on your head. It feels good to put it down. Imagine how it might feel to suspend all your judging and instead to let each moment be just as it is, without attempting to evaluate it as “good” or “bad.” This would be a true stillness, a true liberation. Meditation means cultivating a non-judging attitude toward what comes up in the mind, come what may.
Jon Kabat Zinn