I was walking home yesterday and passed a truck left in the parking lot of a convenience store with its engine running. I was kind of indignant, thinking, 'Now who would do that?' My internal tone was self-righteous and even smug. Almost as soon as I thought it, I realized that I was judging, making this anonymous truck driver into the 'other,' the 'enemy.'
Noticing created a shift. As I walked, I contemplated the situation and explored my own feelings. I still felt uncomfortable with the truck running, it's one of those things that seems so unnecessarily wasteful. But instead of projecting my feelings onto the driver I never even saw, I felt them., noticing that I don't like it when people leave their cars running and that I felt annoyed. I noticed that I felt sad and helpless about the truck and waste, climate change, social change. I noticed that I felt uncomfortably separate and alone, different than this truck driver. I still feel confused, wondering what I should do in those moments, and scared of being a freak who goes into stores and makes a fuss, scared of speaking up in a way that makes it worse (leaving him wanting to leave his engine running more often), scared of doing nothing.
Judgment of 'the other' was kind of protecting me from the discomfort and complexity of my own feelings. Working with that complexity is allowing me to dismantle a bit of the wall between me and the world.
This kind of thing happens a lot. I judge a person or situation and fall into a stream of critical thoughts. I judge myself, thinking something like 'Now why would I do that?' or 'What a stupid idea.' I keep trying to notice the judgment and then get curious about what I'm feeling and sensing.
This judgment and self-judgment play a direct role in my parenting. When I'm aware of my feelings and thoughts AS feelings and thoughts (rather than Truth), I respond more sensibly and wisely to and about my kids. When I'm caught in unaware judgment of my kids, their friends, their grades, the cleanliness of their rooms,how quickly they get up when their alarms go off,, etc., I am more reactive, internally and/or externally.
I'm a mom, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher who has long struggled with the desire to be the perfect person I imagine that I should be. Practicing mindfulness has changed my life, helping me to make peace with myself as I truly am and to appreciate my family, life, and the world as they actually are.