Forgive me if I accidentally judge you

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The other day, I was at the grocery store at 7:30pm. I’m usually at home tucking my girls into bed at that hour, but even with a few days left of school, we are already on our more lax summer schedule. The sun was out and we were in need of groceries so I left Dave in charge and went to do the shopping. When I had everything on the list, I pulled into a checkout line.

The checker was really chipper and chatty. She had a nice exchange with the lady in front of me, so I anticipated that we’d also have a little conversation when it was my turn to check out. I looked around at some of the other shoppers and their baskets of stuff and had a thought that I’ve had many times before, “You can probably tell a lot about someone by what you see in their grocery basket. “

It was my turn and after unloading, I pushed my empty basket forward and watched as my rosy-cheeked checker skillfully scanned my items while greeting me and asking if I needed stamps or ice. I smiled, let her know that I didn’t need those things and then said, “I bet you can really judge a person based on what they buy at the store.” OH MY GOODNESS… did that really come out of my mouth??? I’ve been explicitly working with judgment in my yoga practice… noticing when it comes up, why it’s there and if it is creating distance between me and other people, and then I said the judgiest thing EVER. I even said the phrase, “you can judge.” I was horrified and totally surprised, but I was also hoping the checker would say something like, “yeah. So true” so I wouldn’t feel so bad. But the checker said something beautiful instead. “Well anytime I try to do that I find that I’m wrong, so I just don’t try.” And she smiled, appearing not to judge even me for that horrific thing I just said.

I couldn’t leave it at that, because my thoughts on this matter were really misrepresented by what I actually said, and I tried again. “That must have sounded terrible. What I meant was, the stuff people buy must really tell you something about them.” But even as those words were coming out, I could tell that I was actually saying the same thing and that it was still terribly judgmental. The checker replied in the same way, firm in her conviction that judging people based on the food they buy isn’t the way to go. It really doesn’t tell you about them as a person. I wanted her to know that I actually agree. I’m not judgmental and I really think that, too, but what I was trying to say was that I was curious about personality and food choices in an anthropological way… like a scientist, curious about our species, and this is one source of information and I’m really not a horrible person, I swear. But it was time to conclude our interaction and with the swipe of my card, bags in the basket and the flitter of my paper receipt, I pushed my cart back to my car trying to make sense of what had just happened.

After a few days of reflection, a couple of things have come from this interaction at the store.

  1. When I’m a little tired and distracted, I’m less conscious and intentional about what I say. This is not a state of yoga. This is not a state where I’m choosing my behavior but my patterns are choosing it for me.
  2. Even though it made me cringe to see what some of those patterns are, it’s good to know they are there. I can work with them.
  3. Judging may sneak in under the cover of noticing and curiosity
  4. My grocery checker was my teacher that day. She is an example of non-judgment and that is a beautiful thing.
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5 thoughts on “Forgive me if I accidentally judge you

  1. We never know where or when our teachers will appear! Thanks for being transparent, for letting us see you, warts and all.

  2. What a lovely post! Kudos to the cashier for being so insightful and consistent, and kudos to you for being able to process that interaction (even if it was after the fact 🙂 and learn from that experience! And point #3 “Judging may sneak in under the cover of noticing and curiosity” is an excellent reminder!

  3. Love your “share” …so human! Ya know, for me …I almost always find that I am, “doing the work afterwards”! I think it is probably the best work, because we are not caught in it and can observe it within the practice. Glad I’ m not alone in this 🙂

  4. When I’m tired I tend to pronate on my ankles. The judging happens tired or not. We can get this down to a fine point. When you think about it – in a categorical sense – judging someone to be good looking is about the same thing as judging someone to be ugly. We are conditioned to evaluate, and we do it all the time – usually with ourselves as the standard. This is a very sticky thing. One of the myriad effects of asmita – I-ness. That sense of separateness shows up in everything. The cashier had a good practice of noticing how unreliable spot judgments are. She discounted the worth of the whole thing and so lost interest in doing it. I think I’ll try to work with that. Excellent, thought-provoking post as always. Thanks, Amanda.

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