In yesterday's online chat with my friend Lemondrops, she described what it was like to be in the presence of His Honourable Dalai Lama. "Have you ever been with someone who had no judgment? That is, you feel that you are not being judged?"
This caused me to ponder for a moment. My Chinese upbringing taught me that knowing what was expected of me was more important than knowing what I wanted. From day one, I learned that people have expectations. And people judged.
People assess what you say based on their own value systems. When I told my grandmother that I was studying at a conservatory, I could sense her disapproval. As far as she was concerned, students were zero-net contributors to society. I could hear her silently scolding me, "What are you doing not working? Not drawing an income?"
Because it is difficult to change someone's value system, you can only avoid being judged by saying what they want to hear or saying in a way that does not cause conflict. So I quickly added that I was still earning money on the side. This seemed to placate my grandmother, though I could hear her wanting to say, "All that education put to waste!"
How can one be without judgment? Judgment is loaded with values and expectations. After all, being critical is the hallmark of someone who can assess quality and discern the good from the bad.
"What is left of what is being said if there is no judgment?" I asked my friend.
"Truth," she replied simply.
If you can get rid of the value-laden clutter, you arrive at the truth.
When I was introduced to the composer/pianist Robert Avalon almost four years ago, he told me about his vision and his philosophy. I did not listen without judgment. Instead I wondered how composers were able to make a living. I wondered how struggling musicians could afford to live and mingle with the affluent Houston elite. Didn't that bother him? To play music in beautiful homes and see what money could buy?
Not everyone has the same expectations as you do. But it is so easy to put your expectations upon what others say, assessing others by your own standards. As an achiever, you may judge others by what they have or have not achieved. As a non-conformist, you may think it's weak to conform. As an individualist, you may shun the collective mentality. You interpret what other people say or do with bias.
Listening with judgment is a way to prove that you are right. But not everything is right or wrong. To get what is really being said, you have to give up listening with judgment. To give up judging, you have listen without expectations. Only then, can you detach yourself from having to be right all the time.
When you try to listen without judgment or bias, that is, without that little voice in your head, you may arrive at the plain truth more easily. But the truth is not always what we want to hear.
8 May 2004 Saturday
The Art of Happiness - book review
a poem by