Why Nonjudgment is Part of Mindfulness Practice

Our inclination to make snap judgments can create stress for ourselves and others. Mindfulness helps undercut that.

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Judges Concerned for Judges provides Pennsylvania judges with information about stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns as a way to help them deal with the strain of their job. And make no mistake, being a judge—despite, or perhaps because of, its exalted status—is a highly stressful thing to do day in, day out. Dispassionately riding above the emotional turmoil in a courtroom is hard enough, but then there’s the matter of having to make certain judgments about uncertain things. You may be deciding not only how culpable someone is but what an appropriate response is to wrongdoing—and you’re doing all of that with imperfect information.

Lots of judges have participated in mindfulness programs, some of them specifically targeted for lawyers and judges, which is a little ironic, since the first principle they may encounter is that the practice of mindfulness involves “nonjudgmental” awareness. How exactly does that work?

The nonjudgmental part of mindfulness practice has to do with the very fact that the act of judging is stressful. The world is an uncertain place. We’re rarely totally sure. We survive on judgment calls. Only the know-it-all and the autocrat indulge in the luxury of certainty. The rest of…