Achieving Mind Mastery (Part 3) – Why We All Judge Everything

Recap: the ego is fuelled by your idea of being separate. If you feel separate from everything else, you are capable of forming attachments to things (identification), which ultimately creates suffering. You are not separate from the universe; you can only feel this way because you have the capacity to do so (self-referential capability). In truth you are born out of the universe and inextricably connected to it. (See previous article).

The ego thrives on identification with your thoughts and emotions, as well as with physical objects via your thoughts about them.

This identification, this attachment, increases your sense of “I” as a separate identity which is what fuels the ego.

Of all the things the ego can attach itself to, the strongest and subtlest is the attachment you have to your thoughts.

There are, broadly speaking, three ways the ego tries to entrench itself in your thinking.

These are through judgement, being ‘right’ and pride.

We are the architects of our life experience, the artists of our inner domain, and thus we create the inner and outer reality we inhabit.

Judgement

By its nature the ego is involved in surveying the world around you for potential danger to warn you about. To cement its position at the forefront of your awareness, it looks to do this by establishing a framework, a set of rules and assessments for ‘how life is’.

This takes the form of fixed ideas and judgements about the way things are and in particular how other people behave. When these judgements are not observed for what they are, they can unconsciously run your life and create suffering.

Judgements tend to hide at the extreme end of the certainty scale. The more certain you are about an idea, the more it’s likely the ego has gripped this piece of your life. Here are some examples: “she always lets people down”, “that’s typical of him to behave in that way” and “they will never change.”

Notice how each of these statements is absolute and declarative about the way things are?

The language you use both in thought and in spoken word is very important.

Any time you find yourself using words like ‘never’ and ‘always’, observe carefully and closely whether this is a fundamentally true statement.

The truth is life is not fixed. The only thing constant is change, or as the Buddhists refer to it, impermanent.

Making statements of permanence actually hurts you on an inner level and creates inner conflict as further down, in the deepest part of yourself, you know them not be true.

It’s important to root out and closely examine these kinds of dogmatic beliefs (whether they are about political parties or your ex) because they block you from seeing the ultimate truth.

In the words of the psychologist Frederick Nietzche, “convictions are worse enemies of the truth than lies.”

When you are unflinchingly convinced of your ideas, you stop listening to others and you block out any potential for transformation in others by doing so.

This is the root of much marital conflict. When couples stop speaking to each other because they think they know what the other person will say, they give up the potential for listening and transformation.

This also holds true on an inner level.

You stop listening to yourself as you become rigid in your ideas about reality.  

This is how the ego blocks your own innate, natural wisdom.

Take a moment to pause and reflect on that.

The lesson here is this, there is a truth waiting to be found and it lies beyond any competing and conflicting ideas you might have about the nature of things.

Harmony can be found only through receptivity, open-mindedness and acceptance to and for others.

Here’s a quick exercise:

Ask yourself, what five things do I really strongly disagree with my parents about?

Now examine the beliefs you have behind those things and ask yourself, would I be willing to suspend my beliefs and listen attentively to a different perspective on them?

This is the early work in cultivating a receptive, open and accepting mind.

The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.

Truth is Beautiful.

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Being ‘Right’

Aside from judgements as an obstruction to seeing reality as it is, there is another problem with getting attached to your beliefs and that is that you fall into the perilous territory of who is right and who is wrong.

The ego loves to be right, it loves to feel superior, but for you to be ‘right’, someone has to be ‘wrong’. This implies separateness and as you’ve already learnt, this is the centrepiece of the ego.

In truth, there is no separateness or what we can also refer to as ‘duality.’ There is no such thing as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, these are labels that we ascribe to actions and events.

Many people often react with shock to this statement.

If there is no right and wrong, then how can we ever govern ourselves and stop all sorts of terrible crime and behaviour? The answer is simple, the unconditioned human mind – that is the one free of the ego – is free of any desire to hurt anyone or anything.

Our natural, innate state is that of peace and acceptance.

That is why the deepest meditators become the most peaceful, energised and present souls. As they decondition their minds through meditation, they are returning to pure consciousness, an almost child-like form of being again, that has no interest in hurting anyone or anything, just being.

All action that hurts someone, deliberately or otherwise, arises out of ignorance which is a conditioned mind state of someone overly identified with their thoughts and emotions.

Nobody is wrong. It is the ego in someone, that’s all. Compassion arises when you recognize that all are suffering from the same conditioning of the mind, some more acutely than others.

To put it another way, Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist who went further than anyone else into the recesses of the mind concluded that “the pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong”.

What he meant by that is again that we have an innate, natural sense of how we should behave – one that makes common sense and is in accord with nature – and then we have our subjective beliefs of right and wrong that we’ve place over the top. We each have the capacity to fall into the grey area between where we make judgements but if we can suspend these, a sense of truth lies underneath.

To revert this back into the practical, think about the last argument you were in with your partner, parent or friend. Think about how you thought about it afterwards. Did you build your side of the argument up in your head? Did you replay their side and shoot it down? Perhaps finally ending up preferring your side of the argument and thinking, I can’t see how I’m wrong here?

Here’s a quick exercise:

Take the last thing you can remember being ‘right’ about or ‘winning’. Did it make you feel good or superior to be right? Could you let go of that feeling? It usually takes about 4-5 days and then something special occurs. Seeing is believing.

The less complex an idea you have about yourself, the less attachment you will have to form, the less suffering you will create for yourself.

Pride and Status

There are many demands placed on us in our society – particularly in the West – to compete for work, money, success, sex and everything else. This is the collective ego of our society playing out the same dynamics of separation we have discussed above.

One of the collateral effects of this is to fuel the ego’s desire for certain things and above all else, status.

Status has been a phenomenon in the human species since time immemorial. Your nervous systems – which is tuned by serotonin – is literally hardwired to your perception of status, such that if you don’t feel that you are where ‘you should be’ in the pecking order of your community, your emotions are actually regulated downwards.

The catalyst for a significant amount of worry and depression is from the perceived difference between where you think you are, and where you think you should be in society.

Both of these are ideas. Both of these are false.

Where you think you are is a mind-based, egoic idea rooted in your biography and interpretation of events that have happened to you.

Where you think you should be is a mind-based, egoic, forward-looking expectation of what you think you deserve based on your interpretation of your behaviour and events that have happened to you.

If we take the example of somebody that has worked several years in the same job, but not progressed as quickly as someone else, they are likely to feel hurt, angry at their superiors, and possibly disappointed with themselves.

The source of this suffering is in the difference between their expectation and reality as it is, in particular the knock to their pride.

Pride is another ego-created fiction and is entrenched in almost all of the ideas you have about yourself. Here are some examples of prideful images we can hold:

  • “I’m not the sort of woman that should be unmarried at 34”
  • “I’m not the sort of man that can go 3 months without having sex”
  • “I’m the person that is unmoved by any life event”

Each of these are examples of images we have about ourselves, that are really actually pride, masked as ideals we believe we ‘should have’ because of some sort of expectation placed on us.

When you don’t meet these ideals, you suffer.

The solution is to accept yourself exactly as you are.

It’s absolutely fine to be unmarried at 34 and it’s fine to go 3 months without sex. These are judgements, often internalised from the outside world and totally invalid to apply to our inner selves.

Pride is without question the root of the overwhelming majority of our suffering.

The images we have about ourselves that we don’t live up to, create huge inner conflict.

To reiterate from the last lesson:

The less complex an idea you have about yourself, the less attachment you will have to form, the less suffering you will create for yourself.

Here’s a quick exercise:

Write down the last thing you can remember being publicly wrong about. Maybe it was making a mistake in a client meeting or saying something wrong to someone you just met. Did you feel hurt by the mistake? Did you feel your pride burn?

Now ask yourself, what image of your ‘ideal’ self underlined this feeling of loss? Can you let it go?

The essence of bravery is being without self-deception.

— PEMA CHODRON

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