I Am Judging You

Posted on December 12th, 2013 by in Conscious Living


I’m having lunch at an Indian buffet in New Jersey. A guy at the next table is eating gulab jamun. That’s the little Indian donut holes soaked in sugar syrup. He has two on his plate, a very sensible portion. But these things are all dairy and gluten and sugar, so I am disgusted and appalled. I can’t believe he’s eating this.

The way I’m staring at him, you’d think I had just seen him kick a child or intentionally trip an elderly lady.

Which is pretty messed up. I know this.

I’ve been dishing out this kind of judgment since I first got into holistic health. Appalled to see a man walking around on a freezing-cold day without a hat. Wrinkling my brow at someone with a beer belly who would obviously benefit from a little yoga. Shaking my head at a jolly fellow on the subway while he enjoys a three-pack of Hostess Cupcakes.

I did this to my dad for decades. The man was a genius at fathering, but he didn’t take care of himself. Which made me really mad. How selfish. How careless. How lazy.

Then my dad died.

The funeral home could not contain all the mourners. Person after person stopped me or my siblings or my mom to tell us how my dad had inspired them or mentored them or changed their life. We received countless such stories as well as plants, bouquets, edible arrangements, cakes, and cookie platters. Six months later, we still get e-mails and calls about him.

Which made me realize that perhaps my dad’s dharma—his work in this lifetime—was not to learn how to take immaculate care of his body. This is my work: to find balance, to learn what to eat, to learn how to exercise. But maybe this was not my dad’s work. Maybe he had checked that one off his karmic to-do list in a previous lifetime, or is saving it for the next one. Who knows?

But I see now that he was definitely not being lazy. And he was surely not being selfish. He was just living life in the way that he felt called to—which did not involve eating kale or collards or jumping into Chaturanga.

Family and friends and people and service and above all LOVE were my father’s calling.

So now I’ll try to withhold my judgments. Whether I’m obsessed with chanting kirtan or eating gluten-free, I’ll try to remember my dad and that not everyone has the same calling. That what I need to master and figure out may not be someone else’s life’s work. That they might be living their life exactly right, just as it is. Gulab jamun and all.

So, Dad, you’ve inspired me yet again, even after we’ve said goodbye. And I suspect it’s not the last time.

Brian Leaf is a Kripalu Yoga teacher and the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness.


About Brian Leaf

Brian is the author of twelve books, including memoirs Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi and Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi. He is Director of the New Leaf Learning Center and a graduate of Kripalu's Yoga Teacher Training, Massage Training, and Spiritual Lifestyle Program. His work has been featured in Yoga Journal, Yoga International, USA TODAY, The Huffington Post, and Mothering Magazine.

16 Responses to “I Am Judging You”

  1. Lisa McCormack December 12, 2013 9:34 am #

    I am so inspired by your article. It is one of the most compassionate and loving pieces I have read, one which could only come through with a deep sense of awareness and acceptance. A true example of letting go and loving what is. Beautiful.

    • Brian Leaf December 12, 2013 9:38 am #

      Thanks so much, Lisa! Namaste.

  2. Kerry Ann December 12, 2013 4:46 pm #

    I too, am inspired by your article. When I return home after a long hiatus (often around holidays), I sense the heightened tension in my family around meals and indulging because of my judgment of them (particularly my father). While I do it out of love, this rigidity others them from me and me from them. When all is said and done, they are left knowing only how I disapprove of their habits and not of the overwhelming love and appreciation I have for them bottled inside.

    It would seem that your father’s calling of “family and friends and people and service and above all LOVE” continues through your words. Everyone deserves to know how they have touched others, made them feel, helped them grow. So, again, I thank you Brian for your example and courageous honesty. A lovely tribute, indeed.

    • Brian Leaf December 12, 2013 9:29 pm #

      Thanks, Kerry Ann! Well said. So important to let our loved ones know how we feel, besides the judgements and critique.

  3. Nars December 29, 2013 9:21 pm #

    So perfectly timed has the article arrived to me. I visit my family every year. Im a yoga teacher and Holistic Nutritionist and Life/Health Coach, so as you can imagine I know a lot of stuff that at I sometimes find myself imposing on my parents (for some reason, specially them- and by some reason, the last in listening to my advices lol) – I am arriving to the point where I suggest but I do not impose. I let them be, because its my work to accept them JUST AS THEY ARE. in the same way they do with me. At times , it seems imposible. But that’s part of my work here I guess! – thank you for sharing! blessings xx

    • KripaluEditor December 30, 2013 6:33 am #

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Nars. We are thrilled that this piece resonated with you.

      Happy New Year!

  4. Kaori March 1, 2014 11:53 am #

    Unfortunately, I would have to disagree. Refusing to take care of yourself can be a form of extreme selfishness. My dad also refused to care for himself and smoked until he was in his late 60’s. He developed terrible emphysema and COPD and eventually could not drive, walk or care for himself. He always denied that smoking was harmful and would growl at anyone who said otherwise, including his pulmonary doctors. He also said that smoking was only “his business.” But when you become chronically ill, it is your family who suffers and it then becomes everyone’s business. Not all of us can eat kale or run marathons. But unless we want to crawl into a cave and die without bothering anyone else, ultimately, bad lifestyle decisions impact those whom we love the most. Or say we love the most. Our selfish decisions can have costly, time-consuming and painful consequences on those who are closest to us.

    • Brian Leaf March 3, 2014 9:09 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing this, Kaori. Very powerful and thought provoking. When I have been in such a situation, I feel powerless, wanting to help but not seeing how I can get my help to be received.

  5. Lucretia March 2, 2014 3:33 am #

    Good Article. Instead of judging others, we should be an inspiration by the way we live. I have found in my life, when you are an inspiration by just living your best life, others can see it and sense it and want to live their best life. That is where change begins. It comes from within and not through judgment.

  6. Reilly Edwards March 2, 2014 1:27 pm #

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. I have similar issues with my mother, and your essay gives some great perspective and will now help me be more tolerant and peaceful. However, it’s not a black & white issue, because gross neglect of one’s health can still severely impact one’s family. (E.g., my best friend’s 60+ y.o. father completely avoided the doctor until it was too late: an ambulance, 5 aneurysms and a leg amputation due to atherosclerosis that could have been noticed/managed with one simple primary care visit.) Parents still have some responsibility…but your essay gives me very helpful perspective in dealing with my own mother’s ignorance.

    • Brian Leaf March 3, 2014 9:04 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Reilly. Yes, it is difficult to find the balance between tolerance and intervention. Thanks for sharing.

  7. MurJD March 3, 2014 8:24 pm #

    How beautifully written! And inspirational and thought-provoking. I am reminded of sitting in our little favorite morning restaurant eating gluten free, without sugar or dairy and watching others order the cinnamon roll, a specialty of the house. It is plate sized swimming in melted cinnamon roll frosting. It produces a cascade of thoughts in my mind, none of them are fit to share, just the ramblings of the mind that wishes it could still indulge in those things, imagining the sweetness of the next bite and knowing full well it isn’t worth it. But still wishing and resenting that they will have it and shaking my head that it is “so unhealthy”, on and on. I have two children, adults. I have found that it is best for our relationship for me to keep my mind centered on the things I can change – my choices for health or not – and let go of the things I cannot change. My addictions are many and a struggle to deal with and rather than spending my energy out there in judgement and trying to fix others, I actually need every ounce of it to abate my own urges with meditation, yoga, centering and avoiding temptations. It’s a full time job. The funny thing is that some of it seems to spill over with my kids from time to time and they ask me what they could or should do to take better care of themselves. And sometimes they don’t ask. I am finding it’s much better this way. Our relationship, after all, is the gift between us. Your writing is a beautiful reminder. Thank you.

    • Brian Leaf March 3, 2014 9:01 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing this, MurJD! Good points. I think we all need, as you say, every ounce of our energy to deal with our own urges. And funny that when we do take good care of ourselves in this way others notice and plug in.

  8. Yogini33 March 4, 2014 2:39 pm #

    I found this article in my “in-box” just as my mother was visiting and I was judging her eating habits….how perfectly timed, sweet Universe! I don’t feel good when I judge her (or others) for their health choices, and yet I feel the more educated I become, the more I want to share that knowledge with others. I can certainly lead by example, and my excellent health is a great motivator for friends and family, I believe (I am a yoga instructor)….but I almost feel obligated when I know that my mother’s diet is contributing to poor colon health, autoimmune conditions, lung issues, etc. And when she calls me complaining about another health issue, and yet another prescription her doctor wants her to fill, I feel such frustration since I know so much could be healed through holistic nutrition and natural supplements. On the one hand, I feel compassion for her as she grew up relying on doctors, taking pills, eating processed foods, and is indoctrinated in that belief system; on the other hand, I kind of agree with those who feel it is selfish since it is others (me) who will have to care for her due to the consequences of her choices. My dharma is to live a conscious life, so she is helping me to release judgment, offer love & compassion, yet respect my own path….I SO appreciate this article for bringing this to light at a time when I needed it. I know for certain that my mother, like your father, will be remembered for her love, friendship, and sense of fun…..maybe that’s all that matters.

    • Brian Leaf March 4, 2014 5:05 pm #

      I’m so happy this piece resonated with you, Yogini33. It’s amazing how truly not alone we all are. When I wrote this I didn’t realize how many folks would share such similar experiences and relationships. Namaste!

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