Cat From The Mat

Embracing Paradox

Every July 4th, I contemplate my definition of freedom.  I usually connect that word with the agency of choice or a sense of ease around a busy schedule or a difficult situation.  Recently, I attended an Empathy Intensive as part of my Non-Violent Communication (NVC) training.  To my unexpected delight, I tasted a new realm of liberation.  I felt free from evaluation of others and more importantly released from self-criticism.  

I am a critical thinker.  All of my extensive education has helped me hone those skills with a healthy dose of discernment.  In doing so, my judgment muscle has gotten so strong that it often likes to choose for me.   I am so good at judging that I even judge myself for being judgmental.  So I ask myself, which form of acuity brings me peace?   

We discriminate in different ways.  We have value judgments as a way to express preference, like whether or not we like the taste of something.  Judgments as assessments are also helpful, when figuring out if an item will fit into an allotted space.  Then there is the world of moralistic judgment, where we weigh right from wrong.  This shrewd ether is omnipresent, and yet the universe itself is not ethical.  As humans, we attribute meaning to the world and prescribe our perception.  I myself often wake up into the domain of "something’s wrong," which edits and limits my experience.   It's exhausting and can disconnect me from others and from myself.  

During the Empathy Intensive weekend, I was surprised to wake up into judgment-free ease.  And I stayed there for three days straight with amazing appreciation.  The pressures to be “the responsible one,” “the comic relief,” “the helpful support,” or the desire “to be liked” were completely off the table.  We were having a different conversation all together.   This was not only liberating, but my shrewd self took a much-needed vacation, which made more space for my true self to play.  Rather than analyzing between good and bad, I explored whether a specific need was met or unmet.  I was and still remain empowered.

Moralistic judgments are not bad.  They are just indications of unmet needs.  I am learning to welcome my critiques, for they contain golden information.   I can therefore witness my default pattern, be highly entertained, and see the message embedded within.  I now walk myself through the inner dialogue and notice, for example, that when I feel frustrated, I need to be heard and understood.  When I feel distant, I look for ways to connect.  Feeling alive and rejuvenated tells me that my intention of self-care has been met.  This is the path of compassion. Empathy and self-empathy are two sides of the same muscle that get stronger with practice.

(For NVC information, visit: or


Yoga is about embracing the paradox of you.  Steeping in the fulfilled (formerly known as "good") feelings only offers half of the picture.  Unfulfilled (aka "bad") feelings offer the same gateway to excavating the need beneath.  By digging into all feelings, you get the full Monty, the works.  Your judgments become allies as various entry points within.   Yoga invites you to embody disparate feelings all at once and to choose how to meet your needs in any given moment.   Often defined in Sanskrit as independence, "Svatantrya" means self-sovereignty.  When you are sovereign unto yourself, you are celebrating your freedom of choice, while welcoming all limitations as a gift to know the whole you.   

Happy freedom from and within judgment!



Cat From The Mat

July 2014