[ guest post // a nonjudgmental practice // averil parker ]
It is a perfectly normal for our minds to produce judgements and evaluations. It is part of the human existence, it is what the mind does. Using language, our minds produce judgements and evaluations and attach them to people, objects or experiences. However, it is problematic to proceed as if these judgements were real, unchangeable aspects of reality.
Before someone hipped me to self-compassion, I had what I would say was a problematic approach to practicing. I used stress and criticism to motivate myself to work hard and accomplish my goals, and I would beat myself up if I fell short. Instead of reevaluating my standards and problem solving I would attribute my perceived failures to some sort of mysterious character flaw IE: I am inadequate, I am not talented, I am not good enough etc. This type of oppressive judging was somewhat functional, but blocked so much beauty and progress.
I started integrating a less judgmental approach into my practice out of necessity rather than intuition. About a year ago life severely kicked me in the ass. No longer really able to stand my own criticisms, negative self-talk or perfectionist habits I had to find a new way of dealing with challenges. There was a grieving period. For a while I felt like I was walking through the shadows of dreams I used to have. But, as I let go of the person I wished I was, fear eventually gave way to curiosity, acceptance and simplicity.
My practice changed from a space where I was constantly imposing negative judgements on myself to a space which is flexible and creative. A space that allows for happiness, excitement, anger, sadness, loss, beauty and kindness; that, rather than excluding parts of life I don’t like, is big enough to hold it all. Every moment blossoms into the next, pregnant with promise and chaos and hope, and I try to give myself completely and spontaneously to this process. There is so much joy, so much contentment to be found.
It is important for me to return to practice daily. Even when I am frustrated or don’t feel like it for whatever reason. Especially when I don’t believe in it anymore, that is when my practice will comb me into it’s fabric and fold me over and in on itself until there is no distinction between me and music, until there is only happy surrender.
My practices happen to be music, meditation and yoga. These are the actions through which I practice acceptance and compassion, the experiences which teach me to be curious, humble and patient. The action isn’t important, whether one reads or writes or runs or drinks coffee or makes love, to me a nonjudgemental approach is having the courage to lean into an action with awareness and to gently hold the moment with a compassionate heart. When this approach is applied, viewing judgement as fact becomes completely beside the point.
A very wise teacher once told me: when your heart and your mind is filled with music, there is no room for anything else.
[ Averil Parker is a saxophonist, composer, and yogi living in Montreal. Her new album, Project Pigeon, is due to be released in February 2014. More details at averilparkermusic.com ]