The layers upon layers of judgments we hail at people all day. At ourselves. Morning and night.
I can’t believe you would do that.
I would never do that if I were them.
My family wouldn’t do it that way.
What are you wearing?
She is a good person.
I am ugly.
I am not smart enough.
Maybe you don’t do it.
As I click clack my boots down the sidewalk in a hurry. As I waste time on Facebook or sit on a plane, my mind is full of misgivings and they did it wrongs. It’s full of I am doing it wrong, I look fat/bad/ugly, I am stupid, this woman is walking so slow, that man looks like this, she looks like that, they must be a nice person, they are rude…a cacophony of noise all at once and, in between it all, moments of I feel good/happy, I am safe, I am not my body.
There are many parts to me. To all of us.
We know this. There is the me that teaches my workshops, a combination of a Jewish/Baptist preacher in a Revival tent who likes to sing and dance and downward dog and read poetry and who knows damn well that we can manifest the life of our dreams if we change our thoughts and is spiritual and knowledgeable in the ways of the body, the heart, the mind.
Funny how most things can be at least two things at once isn’t it?
We all have opinions. We have to. You must know if you prefer the salmon or the beef (although I constantly struggle with even these types of small decisions). You must know if you want to spend your life with Mr. T or Mr. Big. You must.
You might change your mind. (You’re allowed to!) But you have to make a decision. A judgment call, if you will, to walk through your life.
The past few months, I feel myself sliding down The River of Judgment without so much as a raft. Lack of my own regular yoga practice, too much alcohol, too little sleep, weird hours, too much travel, jet lag, family stresses, whatever the excuse is, I have arrived at the bottom of the river, and it’s dirty, and I am soaking wet and freezing.
All of us have movable parts; this is the beauty of it. You can swim back upriver and dry off in the sunshine, and it will be like you were never a bottom-feeder at all. You ebb and flow. We know this. We all do this. Life is this. I was doing so well; I don’t know what happened. I was in a funk, but I feel better. I was happy, but all of a sudden, I feel really shitty again. I have stood outside the yoga studio or in parking lots so many times talking to Tribe members (I hate calling them Students), assuring them that such is life. Two steps forward, one step back. I promise. How do I know? Because I am here, two steps behind you. Or in front of you. Depending on the day. On the year.
I know it sounds cliché to call it “The Path,” but for lack of a better word, I will call it The Path. I want to be back on that Path and quiet some of the shitstorm in my head. I already have enough trouble with my tinnitus, which rings twenty-four hours a day, why should I add to it with more noise, more judgments, more things that have no relevance whatsoever to my life?
Why shouldn’t my Highest Self and Best Version of Me operate more of the time?
I would like to have the parts of me meet, maybe in a bar, probably best in a coffee shop. Wherever. The yoga teacher, fearless leader me buys the writer type, judgmental me a nice latte and offers her love, her understanding, her knowing that this is only temporary.
And the judgy writer me buys the yogi me a nice glass of cabernet and tells her to look around and pay attention and that judging is good because it means you’re noticing; and when you notice, you write; and when you write, you connect; and when you connect, you feel; and when you feel, you feel You’re alive.
The yogi says she can very well take some of that and apply it, but to judge so much would make her feel like a fraud, a big fat liar, and out of balance, and balance is key in yoga.
The writerly one says F*ck Balance. Have another wine.
Yogi: Why is it so all or nothing with you?
Writer: I don’t know. I plan to write and write and write until I have some semblance of an answer.
Yogi: You know, if you actually wrote the book, I mean really wrote it, it would be quite good. Why don’t you shut up and write it?
Writer: shuts up.
It would go something like that.
I judged myself viciously when I went on antidepressants some years back. How could I? How dare I? How wrong! Yoga should be able to help me 100%! How I have failed!
It was before I was an actual yoga teacher, but I considered myself a “hardcore yogi,” and I couldn’t possibly imagine taking medication to feel better even though I had been depressed as long as I could remember. Since early childhood. I was also terrified of gaining weight. I had heard rumors that they made you gain weight, and, at the time, I was battling a serious eating disorder, and I would’ve rather been sad than fat. Or so I thought. I probably would’ve rather been dead than fat at the time.
The phrase that swims in my head the most when I think I have gained weight, both now and in the past, is I can’t believe I’ve let myself go like this. There is such shame around those words, hovering right there between the shock and the letting go. As if to let myself go was equal to being an un-person, to undoing myself so much that I wouldn’t even have the right to be called a human being anymore. Again, judgment. Judgment. Self: Be judged. Be damned.
They saved my life, the meds did. I gave in and took them despite my fears and shame and eye rollings.
I saved my life, of course. But taking those meds helped me more than anything else in my life had ever helped me thus far. They helped me where numbing out couldn’t. Where starving myself couldn’t. Where yoga couldn’t.
I have thought long and hard about writing about this.
I am a yoga teacher! There is no way that I was on meds. For shame! Antidepressants? Psha! Couldn’t I have just meditated longer? I have failed. These were some of the words that trolled through my brain like they were visiting a YouTube comment board. (Have you ever seen how nasty those comment boards are? Don’t look, especially if you have a video up there. It’s like the dregs of the Earth gathered to collectively write the cruelest things they could about people they don’t know, beyond a veil of anonymity called a computer.)
The medication did not go through yoga teacher training nor lead my first retreat for me or teach any classes or marry my husband or do any of the things I was worried people would say. I had to shut myself up first though. They saved my life. Truly. I say that with such a sigh of relief because I have been walling it up inside of me for so long, for fear of what others thought.
I am not advocating you to take them.
Yoga your ass off! Dance! Sing! Write! See a shrink! Do it all, and then, if and when, you realize that perhaps something inside of you is, in fact, a little broken, then perhaps you can talk to a doctor and weigh your options. I don’t know anything. That’s all I ever say. I only know what I know or what I think I know.
I know they saved me.
I was in a pit, you see. I had fallen deep inside and someone finally threw a rope in, and I was able to climb out.
Once I was out, I was out. There was still work to do—a lot of it—and I still battle depression, but I cannot even imagine what the alternative would have been. I would probably still be waitressing at The Newsroom Café, and you probably would not be reading this. Who’s to say? But I doubt it.
Did my antidepressants do that? No, but they sure as heck helped me get through a day without starving myself and obsessing on my weight for the first time in fifteen years. With the new space in my brain, I was able to make room for other things.
And did I ever! Did I ever!
Judging. It’s a habit. We listen to our parents, and we parade around in our lunchrooms at school listening to what people say over bagels and milk cartons, and then we say our own what have yous, and we form habits around these things like little brick houses.
Breaking a habit is hard. But not that hard. What’s harder is not going back to the habit.
For years, I had stopped sucking my thumb, and then one day, I started again. It was that easy. I hear it’s that way with smokers as well. One puff could be all it takes. One suck and the safety I had always known was back. The thumb was back in the mouth; the pleasure remembered. I haven’t broken the habit yet again. It took one suck.
I won’t sit here and tell you that I will never ever judge again, that I am going to meditate twice a day, that I am going to not drink wine anymore, that I am going to love every single person I cross paths with, that I am going to write every single day. Sounds like a list of New Year’s resolutions. No, what I will say is this: I will do better than I did before. I will do my best. I will love harder.
I will look to myself with love and kindness as often as I can, and when the I am fat/I am a monster or How did I ever take antidepressants, what kind of jerk am I? starts to creep in, I will remember meeting myself in the coffee shop or bar or wherever we met, and I will remember what I said to my other self: Be quiet.
Enough with the noise. You don’t know all you think you know, so stop knowing so much. Your mind is filled up already. Put up a sign that says: No vacancy here.
And don’t worry. If you are anything like me, and I presume you are if you read my essays, you won’t listen to yourself either. You will listen a little bit, and that little bit will be enough to keep you happy until you need another kick in the pants.
Life is just one series of kicks in the pants after another anyway.
Here’s what I say to you, to me, and to anyone that cares to read this: The long and the short is this: stop judging so much.
People are doing their best. You are doing your best. You will keep getting better. You will keep rising to the occasion.
You will keep meeting yourself in the coffee shop or bar and telling yourself what your Highest Self would do now. What Love would do now. And now. And now.
I would love to hear where you could stop judging yourself in your life. Or anyone else.
Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and take one of her yoga classes online at Yogis Anonymous.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Writing/Yoga® week long retreat in Tuscany July 2013 as well as a writing/yoga retreat with best selling author Emily Rapp (whom TIME magazine voted as having one of the best twenty-five blogs of 2012).
*Image courtesy of Simplereminders.com