Judgment Day

Aug 31, 2023

Artist: Victoria Lawrence / Instagram

How we view the world can literally leave us feeling depleted or expansive — the choice is ours, every day, in every encounter and exchange

Are you quick to judge a situation or encounter — maybe that’s picking up on a tone in a text message thread or conversation — and assuming an entire story that may not even be true?

We spend a lot of time in our heads, thinking, processing, making assumptions — instead of feeling or just sinking into the present moment. What do you think she meant by this message? I don’t like the tone of that customer, etc.

We’re each given numerous encounters every day where we make judgment calls.

We can’t avoid our impressions, intuitive hits or sensations — we can’t help but bring our own experiences, upsets and interactions into any given scenario. But we can also bring some awareness about ourselves to the mix.

A recent encounter I had at the café, reminded me how keeping our hearts open to life and its wonder is a much more easeful and abundant way to flow through it. And I was grateful that this experience occurred while I was with my teenage daughter, True. It sparked a beautiful conversation between us and hint, the story didn’t end there. Here’s the set-up:

One afternoon, on a day we were closed, we stopped by the café quickly to drop a few things off. It was a glorious summer midweek afternoon. The town was quiet, the sun shining and there was a gentle peacefulness blowing in the air. As I opened the gate to the garden, from the corner of my eye I noticed someone sitting on one of the tables.

Spoiler alert: This was a defining moment of choice.

I could’ve been outraged that someone was in my clearly closed garden without permission, or not. Honestly, it made my heart smile. I could see that she was tucked away engrossed in a book with a journal for writing or sketching. She was at peace bonding with our beautiful little outdoor sanctuary beneath a bow of tree branches below the backdrop of Catskill Mountains. I get it. To me there is no more perfect place to seek refuge and solace.

She was startled at first and quite apologetic, “Is it OK?” she pleaded. I immediately smiled at her and told her to please enjoy the space (and close the garden door on the way out). [wink] Something told me she didn’t expect this response. Either way, it felt good to my heart and my gut.

The encounter lasted only a few seconds and I was back to the business of what I was doing there in the first place and back in the car with True. “You’re letting her stay in there?” she asked. “Why?” And I explained how it just felt right and I was glad I could share it with her.

It would’ve been easy to react and take the stance that someone was taking advantage of me or had some malintent...or not. Catch yourself when you make a snap judgment — where is the first place that your mind goes? And please don’t judge yourself for whatever comes up.

Consider it powerful intel. Maybe you feel that people are out to get you, or take advantage of you? Maybe they have in the past, but you can decide what you do with the future and how you want to view it. Catch yourself the next time you make a judgment — ask it if real or if it’s being informed by past experiences or fear. Then ask yourself if this is how YOU want to feel.

I know that I don’t want to play defense with life. I don’t want to see the worst in people or assume they have some hidden agenda. I also know that we are navigating a tricky world right now — one that does its best to polarize and divide us, as if constantly saying, “Pick a team.”

What if we didn’t pick a team and rather saw ourselves as Team Humanity?

Back to the woman in the garden — it just felt good to be kind and to share. It was that simple and that complicated. Honestly, when I walked away, I didn’t even think about it again.

And then...this happened.

A couple weeks later this same young woman was sitting at the bar in the garden. This time we were open, she was sipping a fresh juice and she excitedly waved me over. Smiling as I approached, she asked, “Do you remember me?” “Of course, I do,” I responded. (I never forget a face or encounter).

And with the most joyous smile, beaming ear to ear she continued by telling me that she was an artist and wanted to gift me a painting. She told me how much my kind gesture had meant to her. Standing there next to her she handed me a framed painting capturing a little slice of our heavenly garden, the view she had enjoyed from the table I found her at that afternoon. She titled it, “Back to the Garden.”

I can’t tell you how much this gift touched me. I wasn’t expecting anything in return for what I had done that afternoon. Heart to heart, it had been painted in gratitude. And every day I am grateful to this glorious café for having transformed my life and opening my world — to more curiosity, expansion, learning, friendship, community — and YOU. Most of all for reminding me to keep my heart open.

I know the world can feel tough. None of us gets through this life without some struggle, but what if you consider dropping the judgement and softening your heart so you can clear space for surprise encounters like this. We can play both roles — be the one who gifts and the one who is open to receive.

Remember, every day is truly ‘judgment day’ — so, what are you going to choose?

As we transition from summer to fall, the seasons according to Mother Nature’s clock, let’s consider how much sweeter it would be to navigate life with a softer heart, seeking beauty and wonder in every chance encounter. Consider how you see the world. Let’s play with life!

Doesn’t that feel better already? I don’t know about you, but I feel my body exhaling. September blessings my dear friends.

—Lea Haas, Owner, The Garden Cafe Woodstock


 “A harmonized mind produces harmony in this world of seeming discord.”

—Paramahansa Yogananda


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