A common phrase that I have heard, and used myself over the years, is “perception is nine-tenths of the law”. Meaning that however one sees things, it becomes the truth in their eyes. And this practice has certainly made me examine this at great length over and over.
Most of us would likely agree that we have no choice but to see and understand things through our own senses. Our view and judgement are colored by the only vehicles that we know how to use. But chances are, if you are a teenager or older, you have learned through experience that these views have often times been very wrong. I know that I have personally judged friends, artists and entertainers, religious leaders, politicians and many more. Using my senses, I postulated a story that I could rationalize as logical and reasonable. But I am gradually learning that all of these have been far less than skillful or beneficial to self or anyone else. Which is the thing about judgements. They never ever seem to bear the fruit of loving kindness and acceptance. They don’t support or uplift compassion in any way.
I think the solution lies in more observance and awareness of these knee jerk behaviors. This is something referred to as sati-sampajañña in the Buddha’s teachings. Loosely translated, it mean mindfulness with complete awareness and comprehension. Certainly not an easy task, but a Noble and wholesome one to be sure. For me, this is a constant determination and focus. Being aware that my senses are building a story, is truly a full-time job. But one trigger that I often use, may also be helpful to you. And that is to ask yourself if you are above or below the person that you are viewing. If you receive an answer back in your mind of anything other than “neither”, than it’s time to breathe. And trust me, I have to breathe a lot!
I think the practice is really about no here or there, you or me, this or that. Once these are dropped, I think we awaken.
In the mean time, I believe that sati-sampajañña is the path to not only reducing our fruitless perceptions, but also the beginning of softening and opening our hearts.