“Out beyond ideas of
wrongdoing and right-doing
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
Rumi (Coleman Barks translation)
This very famous, short poem by Rumi succinctly sums up the key to happiness. Non-judgment. Extended to self and others, non-judgment is the supreme challenge of a lifetime. I won't even pretend to have arrived at that “field beyond” at this stage of my life, but when I am able to call back a judgment, I feel better about myself. I feel lighter and happier.
I had a conversation with one of my sons this week about why it is that we humans judge. We agreed that the ability to read a situation is an adaptive skill. We are not the only creatures who have it—certainly dogs do. Possibly all sentient beings have the ability to feel the energy of another being, or of a given situation, and judge its safety. Maybe it's one of those instinctual abilities associated with the “lizard brain.” But it's also true that we, in the 21st century, are still more tribal than we like to admit. We like and trust our own, and until proven otherwise, we hold anyone who is not our own with a certain amount of suspicion. Like our dogs, we sniff them out.
But, there is a whole other category of judging that wreaks havoc with community and peace of mind. Seeing all “others,” that being anyone who is not our own, as untrustworthy is a problem. Lumping all types of people who are not “like us” into one big pile of dubious acceptability, is a recipe for discontent and unhappiness. If all people with brown or black skin, or all people with white skin, or all people of a different religion, or who speak a different language, or have a different sexual orientation are unacceptable to me, I will never be a happy, contented person. And, it's not the fault of that person or persons; they are not to blame for my unhappiness—that's all on me.
The challenge is to overcome one's own tendency toward tribalism and judgment. All of us have to take this on. It's hardwired into us to be wary, but we have the capacity to transcend our lizard brain. We can choose to be in community with people who are different from us. And when we make that choice, we will be happier, more contented people. Let's allow our souls to lie down in Rumi's field, where the world is too full to talk about.
In the Spirit,