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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Psalm for Tuesday: Psalm 82, Verse 2

How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

In many ways avoiding judgment is THE central principal of mindfulness.  "Moment by moment non-judgmental awareness" is how Jon Kabat-Zinn  once defined mindfulness.  Yet, we all judge. We judge our selves. We judge others. We judge thoughts, actions, ideas, foods, colors, clothing.....the list could go on ad infinitum.

Judging of any kind can bring suffering into the world and eclipse compassion and mercy.  But another problem with judging is that it is often based on faulty observations, past experience and biases.  How often have we judged only to later realize that our judgment was based on faulty information?

This verse can remind us that there really is no way to judge justly (I'm not talking about the world of jurisprudence).  Judging is unjust, or shall we say counterproductive, to being mindful and compassionate.  In passing judgment we can also run the risk of supporting someone who has acted wickedly (and yes, there are some acts that I believe we can label as wicked or evil. Not everything is value neutral! That's not the lesson of being non-judgmental) or dismissing someone who has actually made a choice that brought goodness and compassion into the world.

In the end, what makes judging dangerous is that it's root is in the human ego and not in the "higher realms," where we find the source of compassion, mercy and kindness.  Judging is all about our minds comparing people, actions, beliefs, etc.  It is never productive nor is it about equanimity.  And so we must do our best to avoid it.

When we find ourselves judging, we simply need to stop, notice that we are judging and do our best to stop.  Perhaps that is the meaning of the illusive final word "Selah."  No one seems to know what it means, but the assumption is that it was a musical notation for the Levites when they sang the psalms and that it was probably some type of pause. And so when judging, pause, let go of ego and judgment and then continue.

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