“I did a really intensive practice of non-judgement for a whole month,” she said. “It was really hard, but at the end of the month, I felt amazing. It was like all of the energy that I spent sending out judging things was coming back to me in a positive way instead”.
Being judgmental- or perhaps more to the point not being judgmental- is a really interesting topic. I’ve been throwing it around in my brainspace after having this conversation with my lovely friend Donna recently, and got to thinking, what’s the opposing positive manifestation of that? What’s the flip side of judgement? Because just “non-judgement” as a definition wasn’t really cutting it for me.
The conclusion that I came to was acceptance. The opposite of non-judgment was glorious, effortless acceptance of what is.
Acceptance worked for me on a number of levels. For instance, one of the arguments that came up in my head was, well, isn’t some form of judgement necessary? I mean we need to judge in order that we can evaluate things and make a decision about how to move forward, right?
Sound the buzzer!
Well, no. Because judgement isn’t synonymous with a productive outcome. It’s not linked together with objective evaluation. It’s a critique, and often on areas of life, riding and horses that may not concern us at all.
Judgement, it seems, is the mother ship of non- acceptance. Judgment causes us to observe something about ourselves, our horses, other people and situations and add layer of emotion on top which causes us to plant our flag in one of two camps:
Camp Right or Camp Wrong
Camp Good or Camp Bad
And if we wanted to get more specific:
Camp I’m a worthy person or Camp I’m not a worthy person
Camp My Horse Is Good or Camp My Horse Is Bad
You can see where I’m going with this.
Acceptance, on the other hand… just the idea of it feels liberating.
Acceptance is the objective observation of what is, before we add the layer of emotion. Before we get all judge-ey judge-ey.
Accepting something doesn’t mean you necessarily condone it.
It doesn’t mean that you won’t do anything to change it.
But it does mean that you observe a situation and you… accept it. It’s not good or bad. It’s not right or wrong. It just… is.
I shared a post recently from my time with a group of ten year old children involved in an Equine Assisted Learning program. One of the beautiful things about horses, we told them, is that they are give you instant feedback that’s non-judgmental. In other words, if you horse expresses to you concern or anxiety, they do so with clear, non-emotional intent.
Often, in our human to human interactions, our instructions or feedback to each other is not so unemotional. In fact, at the bare minimum, there’s often an undercurrent of feeling that colours every interaction we have, for better or for worse.
At the end of our session together, we asked the kids to pick a word that summed up their experience. One of the little boys in my group choose honesty. He said that he liked that the horses were honest.
When I asked how that made him feel, I was really taken aback by his answer. He said that it made him feel safe.
Judgment, it seems, is the elixir that causes us give away our energy in subjective, emotionally-fueled evaluation that somehow allows us to feel “more right”. More right in our opinion of others; more right in our assessment of our horses; more right in criticizing ourselves about how we should be if we weren’t this, that or the other.
Acceptance liberates the energy that we would spend in asserting our self-asserted right-ness and allows us to channel it productively.
If there’s a situation we can’t change, judging it is a waste of energy.
Accepting allows us to keep moving.
If our horse shows concern or upset, judging makes us feel worse about the situation without moving us closer to the solution.
Acceptance gifts us with emotional distance, that allows us to invest in the solution, rather than the problem.
If there is something about ourselves that we wish were different, judging only causes us to fester and ruminate. In unchangeable situations, it will make us feel worse with no benefit. In changeable situations, it will prevent us from making it different.
Once I decided to invest some energy in actively cultivating acceptance, I felt my body and mind take a long exhale.
“Peace is the result of training your mind to process life as it is rather than as you think it should be” ~ Wayne Dyer