To practice non-judgment is to separate the facts of a situation from your evaluation of it. The facts are the who, what, where, and why of what is in front of you. “This is happening.” Your evaluation is based on your preferences and assumptions. “This thing that is happening is good, bad, ridiculous, unnecessary, fabulous, boring.”
The thing that is happening is not inherently good or bad. Cultural and personal values determine that.
Taking a non-judgmental stance is to teach yourself to not automatically make assumptions or place a value. This includes your own thoughts and behaviors, the behaviour of others, events in your life, and what is happening in your greater global community.
The key word here is automatically. Judgments are an integral part of life. We must judge if someone is treating us fairly, we must judge if something we want to buy is a fair price, we must determine what we want and don’t want.
But to teach yourself to not do this automatically is the mindful practice of non-judgment. It’s our conditioned thoughts and habits that cause automatic judgments. We think things should or shouldn’t be a certain way. This is an indication that you’re spending your time in the past or the future.
Right here, right now, this is happening. Observe it. Observe the conditioned thoughts that come up. Consider alternatives to those conditions.
Take, for example, the guy who cut you off on the way to work. Maybe it was an accident and he didn’t see you. Perhaps he was moving quickly to avoid something in the road that you didn’t see. And maybe he is just a jerk who doesn’t care. Considering all the possibilities allows some space to open up in which you can chose your response rather than jump to a reaction based on an assumption.
Perhaps you’ll observe that whatever the reason for getting cut off, it doesn’t have any bearing on your inner state of being and doesn’t automatically need to make you (or keep you) angry. Or maybe it does.
That’s the beauty of mindfulness: you can respond instead of react. Non-judgment is a perfect tool for this practice.