As a farm girl, I raised my own dairy cows and showed them at the county fairs. I was also trained to be a conformation judge of dairy animals. My training took place in the early evenings at various town halls in the region. My fellow trainees and I would be shown slides of cows side by side on a screen that had been set up on the stage in the front of the hall. We would take turns describing and comparing the animals. This prepared us to stand in a ring at the fair with young 4-Hers leading their animals around us in a big circle. We would place the animals in descending order with the most beautiful and the strongest at the head.
During that training we were charged with not only judging the animals and deciding who would win the blue ribbon; we were asked to describe them without using the words good, better, best, bad, worse and worst.
I don’t judge cattle anymore but I do find myself using those forbidden words to judge the world around me. If I happen to be having fun, I think “I’m having a good day”, if the sun is out, it’s “good weather”, if I feel crabby or sad, “I’m feeling bad”. Instead of taking the time to reflect and describe the world around me with meaningful words, I take the easy route of judging my experience with my single word proclamations of good or bad, better or worse.
Last week I took a vacation with some good friends and noticed this habit I have of judging. We all had bicycles with us and every bicycle was different. I sat on the porch of the little cottage that was home for the time being and with time spread out before me like a soft carpet, I looked at the bikes. My first instinct was to think about which bike was the “best”’ bike. I noticed myself trying to do this and decided that instead, I would describe each bike, as it was, without placing a judgment on it. I noticed the color, the tires, the type of frame and even looked at the wear on each bike. I took the time to describe what I was seeing to myself in words.
Here is what happened to me.
Instead of seeing one bike as good and dismissing the other bikes as somehow inferior and so not worthy of my attention, suddenly all of the bikes deserved my attention. Each one had qualities that were worth noting. My attention to the detail in the bikes became more pointed. My curiosity about the bikes was peaked and I found myself using my imagination to explain some of the detail that I explored. By describing rather than judging, my world opened up and became more interesting and more appealing.
I’m back from vacation now and back in the busy world of work and commitments. It is certainly more challenging to be mindful of myself and the world around me when time seems less like a carpet and more like a treadmill. My experience with the bikes stays with me and reminds me of the possibilities and the pleasure that is there for the taking if I am willing to stop, move out of the habit of judging and take the time to describe.