Language Reflects Consciousness
Who’d like to share their experience?” A common refrain in the Satvatove programs, this question often results in responses such as “I was too distracted,” “My partner is so nice,” or “I’m a terrible listener”. I regard such expressions as judgments, rather than sharing of experience. Also in personal feedback exercises we sometimes use the prompt “I experience you as..”, culminating in expressions of evaluation or judgment, rather than actual experience.
Statements such as “I felt so angry when I wasn’t understood”, “I experienced my heart open when my partner shared a story similar to mine”, and “I felt great relief to talk about my hurt”, usually indicate sharing of experience. I use the term “usually” because, from my perspective, there is no particular phrasing that guarantees that one is connected with experience. Still, language reflects consciousness, and some wording consistently indicates analysis as opposed to experience.
Life-Enriching Versus Alienating
Sharing from experience tends to be life-enriching, whereas relating from judgment is oftentimes alienating. “What’s alienating about a statement like ‘You are so kind to offer me a ride home,’“ you might ask. A complimentary judgment is just as much a judgment as one of condemnation, such as “You’re irresponsible and lazy” These judgmental remarks reveal little about what is happening inside the speaker, and they reflect the attitude of the speaker as one qualified to sit in judgment. On the other hand, consider expressions such as “I’m grateful that you offered me a ride home, because I was worried that I’d be late to cook for my children, and now I’m peaceful about that,” and “You said you would wash the dishes last night, and you didn’t. I’m disappointed and angry that you didn’t do what you said you would” These statements, founded in experience rather than evaluation, convey valuable feedback about effects of specific behaviors.
To Judge is a Function of Intelligence
“Okay then, I’ll not judge anymore” Such a conclusion, in my judgment, would be a mistake. To judge is a function of intelligence. The first thing we read when we visit the Satvatove website (www.Satvatove.org) is “The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all” To make distinctions is integral to a life of refinement and progress.
Suspending Judgments is a Stategy for Living
In the Satvatove experience we distinguish between strategies for living and strategies for surviving (see article “Strategies for Living” by David Wolf). To share from experience is a strategy for living, as is suspending judgments. Note that the living strategy is not worded as “Be neutral, without judgment”
Genuineness dictates that we recognize our judgments. Dedication to growing and thriving relationships necessitates willingness to suspend judgments. This means that we choose not to allow our judgments to interfere with a fresh, present experience of a person or situation. Approaching each moment and relation in this way opens possibilities for discovery and vitality.
An alive and present experience may confirm or disconfirm my judgments. Suppose I have a judgment that a person is deceptive and not very intelligent. To deny that I am thinking this would be dishonest. In interacting with this person, I want to notice my judgments, and suspend them, allowing myself a fresh experience of this person. That experience may confirm my judgments, or it may reveal them to be false and shallow. Whatever new opinion may form, I have an opportunity to experience the next moment while suspending the judgment.
We talk about self-defeating games, one of which is to hide behind judgments. Intelligence, analysis and judgment are meant to inform and enrich our experience, or we can use them as fear-based barriers to authentic relation. To fully experience life does not imply abandonment of the wisdom of discretion. It does mean to be present with all our faculties, without limiting experience with preconceived labels or categorizations. In the words of philosopher and educator Martin Buber, “In spite of all similarities, every living situation has, like a newborn child, a new face, that has never been before and will never come again. It demands of you a reaction that cannot be prepared beforehand. It demands nothing of what is past. It demands presence, responsibility; it demands you”