Being a witness


If you’ve done any of the Eka meditations, you’ve heard instructions that tell you to notice any thoughts that arise, and then to let those thoughts go without judgement. This instruction is common across all forms of meditation. So why is avoiding judgement so important? A recent study answers the question right in the title, “The more you judge the worse you feel,…” Barcaccia, et. al. found that a non-judgemental reception of one’s mental and emotional experience resulted in greater feelings of well-being and reduced experience of anxiety and depression (Barcaccia, et. al.)

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When one attaches a negative judgement to a thought,

one is creating the basis of worry and rumination. By producing the negative judgement one is telling oneself that this is something to avoid, and this desire to avoid a thing frequently leads one to obsess about how to avoid it, and even to worry about how it might become worse than it already is. All the while one is worrying, one’s body is releasing stress hormones, and one is at greater risk of stress-related ailments.

The Buddha taught that suffering comes from

one’s desire for the world to be a certain way, and that if one can accept whatever comes along, one can find peace. The first step in finding that peace is training one’s mind not to label everything that comes along. That is the gift that meditation of any form offers. [Lest one think it is only negative judgement that presents a problem, it’s worth noting that one can create mental turmoil by chasing comfort just as one does by shunning discomfort.]

Self compassion,

like all forms of compassion, helps to stop the process of brooding thought, this rumination on negative beliefs (Raes.) Training one’s mind to be more accepting and less hostile helps one to feel better, not to mention the many other benefits. This practice helps one avoid the fruitless worry and rumination that generate stress in our bodies. 

Barcaccia, Barbara, et. al. (2019.) The more you judge the worse you feel. A judgemental attitude towards one’s inner experience predicts depression and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences. 138: 33-39.

Raes, F. (2010.) Rumination and worry as mediators of the relationship between self-compassion and depression and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences. 48: 757–761.