Lately I have been dedicated to refining the difference between ‘judgement’ and ‘discernment’. They really are poles apart. It’s a funny thing really – judgement gets a bad rap, as in “don’t be judgemental”. In essence, meaning, don’t be mean to others that are different from us, don’t be scared or fearful of others that aren’t the same.
Discernment is when we take our gut instinct, and make a call. Discernment is about subtlety, which in Sanskrit is called ‘Sookshma’. Discernment is when we finely employ our knowledge, experience and combine that with facts. It’s less about emotion. Discernment is vital. Judgement can be dropped.
“Discernment is vital. Judgement can be dropped.”
I had a profound moment this year, gently complaining to my karate Sensei outside the dojo (you don’t really communicate within the dojo) that I felt, due to my teaching commitments, that I was ‘falling behind’ in karate. He replied calmly – ‘falling behind what?’ – to which I had to take a very long pause and sheepishly reply, ‘well…myself I guess’. He tried very hard not to grin, and then said ‘and how is it that you can be falling behind yourself?’. It was one of those grasshopper moments that has stuck deeply with me. This is what we call an insight. A lightbulb moment.
“How is it that you can be falling behind yourself?”
Now keep in mind that in my dojo, I am not only the only woman but I am also one of the youngest adults, and the only white belt. I’m also by far the absolute worst and most unruly at practising karate. So, on a literal level, I wasn’t falling behind a single person.
But on a more philosophical level, I was judging myself at something that needed no judgement. You can’t get ahead in karate – it’s a way of life. It’s a daily pursuit to live more in alignment; to be present, gentle and seek the way of nature – to be discerning and proactive and to never attack and always defend. Then there’s the punching and kicking and stuff, but it’s so much more than that.
“Karate is a daily pursuit to live more in alignment; to be present, gentle and seek the way of nature – to be discerning and proactive and to never attack and always defend.”
I drove home, caked in sweat and buzzing from our little conversation, and really soaked in the fact that I had attempted a short-cut. For me, I realised that it is far easier to stop judging others, and to be more kind and compassionate and gentle – but is, in fact, way harder to do the same with oneself.
Within my attempted short-cut, I had in fact actually fuelled my ego a little bit. In congratulating myself on what a good job I was doing, being less ‘judgemental’, when in actual fact I had just ramped up the judgement on myself. Towards myself, I really was at times a judgemental bitch. To the majority of everyone else though, a really compassionate person. What a lesson!! An opportunity to grow beyond this.
“Towards myself, I really was at times a judgemental bitch.”
Once I have awareness around something, I seriously can’t stop seeing it everywhere. It drives me slightly nutty. Once you realise you have a glitch in your mind’s operating system, it haunts. Like when you chip a tooth ever so slightly and it’s the only thing you can feel in your whole mouth, and you cannot stop running your tongue all over it.
As soon as I shined a light on how much I was judging, mostly myself, it drove me batty. There’s really only one thing ever happening, and so it’s ludicrous to think that we can isolate a tendency, a response, an emotional glitch in only one area. If it’s happening somewhere, it’s usually happening everywhere.
Shine a light on only one area and we miss everything else that sits quietly in the shadows. So what I am now asking myself is this; where can I shine a light so bright that nothing can hide in the shadows?
And, most importantly, whatever is happening within me, is being projected outside of me. So I must deal with ‘in here’ first-and-foremost, not the other way around. That’s the trap the ego sets for us…
Header Image: howyouglow.com
Jacqui Lewis is co-founder of The Broad Place – a thoughtful modern approach to conscious living.