Judgy Judgy Judgy

People are so darned judgmental. I know we’re wired to be that way, but why does it seem like so few people are even TRYING to let go of that? So many folks feel compelled to be all like, “I’m not normally judgmental BUT it affects me, so judge, judge judge.” In the past week or two, I’ve seen the effects of other people’s judgmentalism and compulsion to give unsolicited advice have hurt people I care about who are doing their best in their complicated and difficult lives (hey, isn’t that every single one of us?).

I find it easy to love everyone. What’s your problem, Suna?

So, here’s sort of a letter to myself, to remind me of my intentions. Writing them down helps. And, it might help some reader, even!

What Helps Me

I read a lot of Buddhist stuff, and a lot of my spiritual practice draws from that tradition. It’s helped me a lot as I walk my own path toward being less judgmental (just ask anyone who knows me, I have an issue with it, just like everyone else). Here are two things that help me, and they are things that can help you no matter what your spiritual beliefs are:

  • Breathing: By this I mean stopping whatever you are doing that makes you feel angry, annoyed, anxious, or worried and breathing deeply. If you concentrate on breathing from your core, you can’t also be worrying or judging. It gives your busy mind a break and helps you change your focus. This has worked for me for at least 50 years, so there has to be something to it! And I find it works with animals, too, especially horses. It really helps Apache. And no, it doesn’t have to be special yoga breathing, Zen meditation, or some fancy thing. Just breathing deeply and focusing on it works. The latest issue of Lion’s Roar magazine has great articles on this that would apply to anyone.
  • Lovingkindness: What’s that? It’s a Buddhist practice that boils down to sending positive energy/thoughts out to the world. You start with yourself, then your family, then your friends, then people you like, then people you don’t like/don’t know…eventually getting to the whole world. It’s like prayer, and I know there are several prayer practices much like this. One way to do it is just to repeat this, with broadening focus:
    May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.
    I just like the idea of lovingkindness (metta). It really helps me focus on caring about fellow humans, even ones I may disagree with. Read more by searching for it!
In ranching news, Lee and I got some fish for the water troughs. Here I am trying to get a photo of goldfish.

My Own Hard Work against Being Judgmental

I know I’ve had pretty harsh feelings and thoughts about people who differ from me, whether politically, educationally, culturally, or philosophically. Sure, I have every right to think I’m correct, since what works for me does work for me. But, I know darned well I’m a product of many things:

  • When I was born
  • Who raised me
  • How I was educated
  • The people who surrounded me as I grew up
  • What I’ve read (or watched), and not to forget this one…
  • How I’m wired genetically

The last one has been hitting me hard lately. I’ve done enough reading on how our minds and bodies work to know that about half of the people in this world see the world one way, and the other see it another…and these boil down into the various dichotomies that have been around throughout our time as humans. Right now it’s liberal vs. conservative in the US, and other things in other places. But it’s there. And it isn’t going to change.

So, for the last few months I have been cutting back on my participation in the divisiveness in the US that’s not helping anyone. I’m going to keep my beliefs, but I’m going to haul out the lovingkindness and remind myself that people who do things or think things I disagree with were raised differently from me, have had different life experiences, are surrounded by a different subculture, and most important, are wired differently from me. This does not mean I can’t get to know them, be friends, or learn valuable things from them. I’m DOING this, dang it.

I know that there will be judgments aimed at me as I try to be more open, because my efforts aren’t exactly being replicated all over the place right now. So, the next thing to work on is not being hurt by judgments thrown at me. I guess these efforts go hand in hand. The past few years, where I’ve lived in a town where I don’t fit in, live with people with vastly different points of view and life experiences, and have not hesitated to share my thoughts have been great practice in not letting other people’s opinions hurt me.

From Jack Kornfield’s version of the meditation.

That’s not easy! I get hurt sometimes! But, at least I know that just because others look at me one way, it doesn’t mean I’m bad…just different. The key is to take the nugget of truth or valid criticism to heart, and reject the negative attitude or intent. We CAN learn from people who aren’t always kind to us or agree with us without absorbing the negativity. I’ve got a ways to go, and I’m glad I have role models who are further along with this than me.

But, I can take my breathing and use it to help me get back to a good place, and send lovingkindness out to everyone. That will keep me going as I learn, screw up, learn more, and find new ways to screw up. Now, doesn’t that sound just like a life well lived? It does to me.

An Invitation

Let’s see if we can all work to be less judgmental and more understanding that we can’t walk in other people’s shoes or know all their backstory. Can’t hurt. It might help.

Book Report: The Sacred Enneagram

What follows won’t be my normal book report. I don’t know what it will be, really, because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to adequately explain the profound effect that The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, by Christopher L. Heuertz has had on me. Anyway, I knew I picked up those Enneagram books for a reason.

If You Don’t Know What an Enneagram Is, Skip This Part

I liked it. A lot.

By the time I finished the book, I realized I had mis-typed myself, and thankfully someone who understands this mumbo-jumbo better than I do helped me figure out why that happened. I feel good about things now, even if it turns out I am a Type 1 perfectionist. Ugh. But accurate. In my younger years, I veered off to the adjacent Type 2, who want to help everybody and everything, and since menopause, I have been leaning to Type 9, so no wonder I thought that was my type originally.

I’m grateful to my two friends named Victoria who talked to me and helped me figure that all out. It’s so good to have a sounding board when you know there’s something not quite right, but you can’t figure out what it is.

Here’s the Fascinating Part

At least it’s fascinating and surprising to me. The author of the book is a young man who has spent much of his life doing charity work and comes from a strong Catholic background. I talked about this, and how he even knew Mother Teresa, when I reviewed The Enneagram of Belonging, his other recent book. So, yeah, he sprinkled examples from his own spiritual journey throughout this book, as well.

The thing is, the way he wrote about the practices of his teachers, their attitudes toward God and Jesus, and their goals for their spiritual development really resonated with me. As I read on and on about the contemplative Christian tradition, I felt more and more at peace with their goals and practices.

Toward the end of the book, when Heuertz talks about ways of prayer that will help you find your spiritual home, I was deeply moved. The aims of these Christian prayers and practices practically mirrored my own, other than the words they used to refer to the Divine. There is centering, stillness, attention to your breathing and body, and invoking love. Just like what I do.

What works for me may not work for you. Image by @linnflorin via Twenty20.

It fits in very well with the kind of Buddhist teachings I am most drawn to, as well, which are the more nature-focused ones that view us on Earth as all part of one entity. Just like the Christian God being in us all and accepting us all just the way we are.

I even see where Brene Brown’s spirituality comes from, though she may well approach it from a different tradition. It all boils down to acceptance of our whole selves (not, in my case, the perfect self I keep trying to get to with all this self help, education, and introspection).

So, for me (and I would think to many readers who plow through the whole book), the Enneagram types and interrelationships all turn out to be a tool to use to figure out how to get past all that stuff. Wow. Mind blown!

As a non-Christian, the most intriguing part (and the one I want to know a LOT more about) is how these contemplative Christians fit Jesus into all this, since you sorta do have to be a fan of Christ to be a Christian. When Heuertz goes into stories about Jesus, it reminds me of my years stuck in a basement with two former theologians (supposedly writing our dissertations), where it dawned on me slowly that they knew perfectly well there’s a lot of analogy, metaphor, and interpretation going on when it comes to the role of Jesus in their faith.

One Thing This Book Did for ME

Going through this book, and reading a little more about the groups of Jesuits, Sufi, and other spiritual guides Heuertz talks about, woke me up to an area where I have needed to do more work. I realized, deep in my heart, that not all people in organized religions fit into my stereotypes. My history with Christianity has led me to some pretty unfair over-generalizations, which I’ve been trying to rid myself of, slowly but surely.

There are lots of paths to inner peace and oneness with the Divine. Mine now makes sense. I wish this for all of you, whatever your path.

This book did it. I now feel entirely comfortable with the Christian path trod by people Heuertz’s spiritual guides (and Jim Rigby, and Joanna Fontaine Crawford, and other Christians I know who are working so hard for equality, love and understanding among people).

I knew intellectually that religious folk are like any other group: so diverse that I can find people I feel kinship with as well as people I just don’t understand at all. Now I feel it in my heart.

Personal growth for the win!

PS: Of course this is just MY spiritual journey. Yours is just fine for you as long as it is helping you be the best you possible.

Grace, Nature, and Humor to the Rescue

What do you do to get through trying times? You take it one day at a time. I am doing my best to just observe and not get all caught up in things I can’t control, like I’ve been saying this week. And I figure one way I can help myself and others is to provide brief diversions. What the heck?

Grace

I’ve been reading and reading ideas on mindfulness and they have brought me a bit of grace, I think. Here’s a quote by Joanna Macy, the Buddhist teacher and naturalist, about the times we are in and our relationship to the earth:

…It is so great a privilege to be here on Earth at this time….Being fully present to fear, to gratitude, to all that is–this is the practice of mutual belonging. As living members of the living body of Earth, we are grounded in that kind of belonging. We will find more ways to remember, celebrate, and affirm this deep knowing: we belong to each other, we belong to earth. Even when faced with cataclysmic changes, nothing can ever separate us from her. We are already home.

Lion’s Roar, May 2020, p. 50. Excerpt from A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time, edited by Stephanie Kaza.

Guess what book I just ordered?

Nature

As always, nature has provided me with a way to center. The magnolia blossom that Chris picked for me this morning has filled my office with fragrance, and I found myself in a meditative state earlier, just looking at the structure of the center.

Magnolia glory.

You can see how the current beauty is all set up to become a beautiful seed pod with bright red seeds. I take it as a reminder that we are always undergoing a transformation (including Mother Earth) and that we can gain solace from how destruction and metamorphosis bring their own beauty.

What’s cool is that it continues to change. The petals are folding up now (not happy we picked it, I guess)

I’ve noticed a lot of my friends sharing their gardens, whether flowers or produce, which brings moments of pleasure. And my Master Naturalist friends keep coming up with the best stuff! Look at this puffball mushroom my friend Pamela saw on her property, just a couple of miles from our ranch.

Now, that’s one big mushroom! I love all the patterns on it. Photo by Pamela Neeley.

Humor

And then there’s humor. I was rather surprised yesterday when I made a joking comment to my husband, and he took offense. He says I never joke around. This is disturbing, since I think of myself as funny. Oops.

But I decided that it’s a good idea to have some fun with images, anyway. I posted the following photo of a tile in my bathroom on Facebook:

What do you see in the center tile?

I said I saw a Satanic goat (it has scary eyes). The responses to the post were a lot of fun. People saw a llama, a dragon, a snail, a slug, a horse, unicorn, a goddess, and a duck (among others). The tile is a natural stone called river travertine, because it looks like flowing water, so the person who saw the ocean was right on!

I decided I’d just post things that made me laugh, so I also posted a picture of poor Penney and all her excess skin.

There’s a second dog in there somewhere.

So yeah, I’m not going to deny the undercurrent of doom swirling around me, but my pet bobcat (or whatever that is) and I are going to keep looking for grace, natural beauty, and the absurd as we go through the day.

Oh, SnapChat, when you don’t have me worried about my kid’s safety, you entertain.