A few months ago I was in Colorado and took a yoga class with a teacher who had enormous fake boobs. I have nothing against breast implants, and genuinely believe that everyone has the right to feel great about their body. Making people feel good about their bodies is part of my life’s work.
The teacher was thin and attractive and had the toned physique that comes from a blend of constant dedicated movement and genetics. But the breasts were huge; cartoonish in fact. I found myself spending much of this very hot, sweaty class wondering about her and her boobs. Not wondering actually. Judging. I was sneering internally and wondering, “Can she do chatuaranga? Can she ride a bike? Don’t her shoulders hurt? Why would she do that to herself?” Eventually, I realized that I was spending an entire class obsessing about this woman’s body, so I stopped myself, and almost immediately started judging my own body. “Why are my hips so damn tight? Is that a roll of fat at the top of my pants? Why do my hands look so old?”….Clearly, it was her or me and one of us was going down.
Almost always when we rush to judgment about someone it’s because it’s easier than facing a fear or reality of our own. Some days, I have that itchy, judge-y nasty energy that I can’t shake. Intellectually I understand that this feeling of judgment doesn’t serve me in any way, whether I aim my criticisms at myself or silently at a yoga teacher in the Rockies. She, mercifully, couldn’t hear me and I was hardly present in the class at all. The steady stream of subconscious gossip was drowning out any chance I had of actually enjoying the experience.
Judging and criticism are often so habitual that we don’t even notice they are happening. We constantly move through our days cataloging everything we see and putting them in three categories. We either like them, don’t like them or don’t care. One of the reasons to develop a meditation practice is to become familiar with this habit of mind which rarely serves us. If you categorize something or someone on sight, you actually don’t see them at all. That is why I can have an experience like taking a yoga class and remember nothing about the class itself but my own internal monologue.
We judge each other’s choices all the time. How often have you leaned in to a friend when she started a sentence, “She’s a nice girl but….” The thing about these kinds of judgments is that they are like junk food. It feels good in the beginning but always leaves you feeling unsatisfied and kind of icky when it’s over. I hope that teacher in Colorado is happy with her boobs. I hope that she looks at herself in the mirror and thinks she looks awesome. I hope that the next time I get caught up in judging another woman’s body or lifestyle choices I remember that I am only doing it so I don’t do it to myself. And then maybe I can let us both off the hook.