Seeing Without Prejudice

We all have them – a prejudice that emerges, a quick judgment, when we see another person with some characteristics that we look down upon.

I study a lot about health and causation of illness, and work on creating lifestyle solutions. In the locker room at my fitness club I cannot help but notice when others are taking off their clothes to reveal the signs of disease or destruction caused by a poorly maintained body.

The indicators of disease are just impersonal biological and sociological facts. The general causes are fairly well documented: a mixture of personal lifestyle and the patterns of our culture. But this individual has a unique story that I don’t know. I rationally understand that it is really difficult, if not impossible, even with the best education and practice, for any individual to avoid some destruction from our modern lifestyle.

Yet, the judgment pops up: you’ve done this to yourself. Don’t complain, especially if you are still not taking appropriate measures to remove those causes in your lifestyle.

People ask, “When you know all this, do you just see these problems everywhere you turn?”

Yes, I do notice involuntarily… unless I train myself to not notice, and look past it, and first notice positive characteristics instead. This doesn’t come naturally.

The first stage of the training of mindfulness – for the removal of prejudice – is to simply notice that a judgment arose in my mind and that I have grabbed on to it and am stimulating it. It takes some time for this initial act of awareness to become a habit, and not condemn myself for having the thought.

The next stage of training is to let go of that thought, to quit handling it. This takes some time time to form into a habit also.

The next stage of training is to notice the thought emerging, without grabbing on to it in the first place. Just watch it come and watch it eventually go. It takes a great deal of effort, at first, to do nothing with that thought.

With this level of practice done over time, it is anticipated that this kind of thought will just quit coming at all. If I no longer exercise the neural pathway it depends on – by grabbing onto it and giving it stimulation – that pathway will eventually atrophy and fade away from disuse. There will be no more impulse for this kind of thought.

This training is easily described, but not easily accomplished.