I was sitting at the Weaver Street Market in Carrboro (as I do most days) this past Sunday, and a interesting character initiated conversation, arrogantly noting his ability to relate well to others without judgment. I smiled, and responded that what he was saying was fascinating, because the very nature of the human mind is to place judgment upon everything that it comes into contact with. He was taken aback by my comment, and I could see the gears in his mind turning right at that very moment to place judgment on the words I was saying, in an attempt to respond.
The notion here is that there is a general lack of awareness regarding this concept. To sincerely be able to exist without judging others (or ourselves), while it is exactly the quality of the mind to judge, label and categorize everything all of the time, seems a contradiction.
It is the function of the mind to take the world in through the senses (the eyes, ears, etc.), and judge what it senses by labeling it with a word. As I sit at the Market right now, I am surrounded by my child and his friends as they run all over the place. Each word that I write is a judgment, or a categorization, or a label, and each time I look up from my screen, I am noting in my mind what is going on, what my child is doing, keeping an eye on him by noting that he is wearing a blue baseball cap and that is a good way to make sure that I know he is within my sight. So for me to say that I do not judge is to be unaware of my own mind and its function.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali begin with the idea that the state of yoga is the cessation or restraining of thought in the mind. In other words, the state of yoga is the lack of placing words, terms and judgment upon everything that we see and hear around us, and instead, just be with it as it is — not as we perceive it to be through our individual filters. In this place, there is no action, no thought, no movement, no typing, no discussion, no judging.
The Sutras go on to continue to teach that the only way to even begin to understand how not to place judgment upon everything that we see and hear is by realizing that we place judgment upon everything that we see and hear.
This is a difficult pill to swallow when the prideful human condition wants very much to think that it lacks judgment, and therein lies the difficulty in finding any motivation for the efforts to be put forth in order to steady the mind…these being the practices of yoga - the 8 limbs. Why ever would we want to exert effort if we are already enlightened? Thing is, we live in human bodies. And the human body has wants, needs, desires and fears, and it holds onto these with everything it has. And these wants, needs, fears and desires keep us from doing anything that might bring us to a state where we have less needs, wants, fears and desires.
So the practice of yoga, especially done with any level of vigor or intensity, can be seen as contradictory to the path if one deems his or herself to already to be in a contented place of enlightenment. This is a common theme in yoga communities all over the world. However, Swami Nikhilananda, in his introductory comments of his translation of the Upanishads, notes “It is the duty of those who still seek material happiness to engage in sacrificial action. The passages of the Upanishads that condemn sacrifices and other actions cannot possibly apply to the performers of sacrifices, for they are still householders.” He goes on to say that “The actual experience of Brahman (or the state of yoga; the stillness of the mind, and the place where there is indeed a complete lack of judgement), which is the culmination of Higher Knowledge, requires extremely austere disciplines."
In other words, as long as we have fears, desires, wants and needs, we are to engage in practices that would lead us to a place where we no longer have fears, desires, wants and needs. And, it is suggested that the more attachments we have to the external world, the more intensely we should practice.
Enter in the practices of yoga…the 8 limb path. In our country, yoga is taught much more in a way of looking at it as a hobby, or something to sprinkle into our lives as something that might aid in helping us to find a moment of peace here or there, or maybe some attractive 6-pack abs and toned limbs. But, the 8 limb path is traditionally held as a lifestyle, and a general focused mode of operation for a sincere aspirant.
Seldom are the 8 limbs taught in this way - with vigor, intensity, with the availability of a lifestyle yogi to teach these practices, showing a sincere aspirant how to do these practices in a modern world. However, one just moved into Carrboro, NC, and is ambitiously offering this lifestyle practice to all levels of practice and to the public. The method is strong, invigorating and powerful. The teaching comes from as much direct experience, scriptural reference and logical inference (AKA Right Knowledge as it is presented in the Yoga Sutras) as is possible on any given day. The time is now.
To lack judgment on ourselves and on others, to become peaceful on the inside and out, and to find depth and intensity of presence in every moment of life is to be a yogi. To understand the being of a yogi, the practice must come with dedication, devotion, and gusto. A couple of great teachers went around saying for a while that “Yoga is for everybody, except for lazy people.” :) So, the challenge is on the table…the rewards are great…the practice is strong and supple…and the goal is truly embodying the concept of lacking in judgment.
Come in, give it a try, then try it again, and try it some more. The invitation into the yoga body is right here on West Weaver Street in Carrboro, and comes with support, love and a truly non-judgmental notion where the brand of yoga pants that you wear, the car that you drive, the letters behind your name and the size of your clothing or your checking account do not say a thing about who you are. You might just find a few moments of peace, and muscles and thoughts you never knew you had, and maybe just maybe, a good bit of fun along the way.