Let Go of Labeling, Distinguishing, and Judging

Frans StieneArticles, English 16 Comments


The more we try to interpret an experience and clothe it in words, the more we remove ourselves from it. We are left with ‘fixed’ concepts, and dualistic view concerning the world, so our responses and reactions to daily situations do not flow from a natural state.– Tarthan Tulku 

Why is it so important in our modern world to let go of labeling, distinguishing, and judging?  

One of the reasons why we have so many conflicts in our world is that we constantly label, distinguish, and judge. There is no harmony, no balance, no flow from our natural state, our True Self. 

Labeling, distinguishing, and judging is done because we constantly are comparing. Comparing what is good or bad, comparing what is smelly or not, comparing what is hot or cold, comparing, comparing, and comparing. Our constant monkey mind of comparing never seems to stop. This in itself will deplete our energy over time, creating a tired, stressful, closed-minded state of mind. 

When we compare we create trouble, and this kind of trouble might end up in not being compassionate to others and even to ourselves.

But when you do not observe the thought carefully, you may find yourself labeling or judging the experience. When this happens you will not be contacting the deeper, more subtler levels of the experience, and your awareness will be somewhat superficial. – Tarthang Tulku

Let’s take a closer look. We might say, “the tree I see in my garden is tall.” But is it? How do I know it is tall? Because I compare it with something else.

Yes, compared to the small bush next to it the tree is indeed tall. But compared to the big mountain behind it the tree is small. So what is the tree, tall or small? Neither! It is just a tree and that is all.

The more we compare, the more we label, distinguish, and judge. But what would happen if we stop all of that? If we see things simply for what they are, what would take place? We would see the tree just as a tree, neither tall, ugly, beautiful, just a tree. We would see a person just for what they are, neither ugly or beautiful; we would see the experience for what it is, neither good or bad. This in turn creates a sense of gratefulness for each experience we encounter. 

This kind of seeing without labeling, distinguishing, and judging creates compassion. Most of the time we have limited compassion because instead we choose to use comparisons. We compare, label, distinguish, and judge someone as nice or not nice, someone as ugly or pretty, someone as stinky or pleasant smelling. Thus, even if we want to help someone, we gravitate towards the things we like and not towards the things we dislike. 

Thus labeling, distinguishing, and judging creates duality: things we like and do not like. This in turn will create attachments to things we like and we will push away things we do not like. And to take that a step further we now have sown the seed of anger, worry, jealousy etc.

We get worried when the person who we do not like asks for our help; we get angry when the stinky person is asking something from us; we become jealous when someone else is talking to our beautiful friend. 

As we now start to see, labeling, distinguishing, and judging is a breeding ground for anger, worry, fear and jealousy, just to name a few. Do these traits sound familiar?

This is why any serious spiritual practice is all about letting go of labeling, distinguishing, and judging, because that way we can become compassionate human beings. This in turn will create a compassionate world in which we see equanimity and harmony. Choose compassion over comparison. Choose compassion over categorizing.

For whenever we are involved in categorizing or interpreting, the mind cuts itself of from the experience, causing us to become caught up in and endless progression of thoughts. – Tarthan Tulku

Comments 16

  1. Avatar of Scott K
  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  3. Avatar of scott

    Hi Frans,
    In your article you say –
    “Thus labeling, distinguishing, and judging creates duality: things we like and do not like……”

    I was wondering what you thought about pressing the like icon or not pressing the like icon in Facebook.  Isn’t that labeling?  By pressing the like icon we are saying we like it.  On other posts chossing not to press like we are saying we don’t like it or at least not as much as posts that we press like for.

    I used to avoid the like button because of labeling, now a press a little bit.  I don’t post much, but when I do of course my ego likes to see that somebody liked it.


  4. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Scott,
    We need to learn to accept things as they are. But society wants duality, because else we can not sell things in commercial ways etc… What one person likes and other dis-likes so in one way like and dis-like doesn’t exist if we look directly.

    Facebook..hmm maybe it has brought more trouble for humanity then we think.

    Lets go and play outside and kick a ball or something. Interact with people but not through a gadget but through direct contact.

  5. Avatar of Shannon

    Lately I’ve been studying the issue of racism in the U.S., which is my country. I have learned that many of the ethnic groups that are here feel swallowed up and ignored by the labeling we do here: for example, the common standard of “beauty” usually refers to White, blonde, thin, heterosexual people, as we see most represented in the media every day. Other groups feel cast out, unrepresented and unmentioned. In this case, our labeling has become exclusive; I wonder if MORE distinguishing and labeling would help a lot of people to feel acknowledged and valued here. We desperately need to expand our definitions to include all people, to reduce the pain of cultural oppression. I don’t know if society is ready to let go of its labeling, and if I do it, myself, I fear I will be accused of performing the racist act of ignoring those who feel ignored- when really I am trying to ignore all labeling, even of my own White privileged group.  Would more labeling and distinguishing help to lift up the oppressed, then, in this case at least?

  6. Avatar of Janine

    This post came at the perfect time for me Frans! I have noticed lately that my mind is judging more than I would like. Thankfully, I am a work in progress and have the ability to change. Cultivating love and compassion without attachments and the ability to come from a loving heart and not a judging mind is certainly a process. More reason to focus on the precepts!

  7. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Shannon,
    Interesting ideas. It could be but then we start to create smaller groups and then other people start to feel ignored. But if we move away from labeling we create more oneness so to speak.
    Hope that makes sense.
    I think it is a long progress.
    Maybe one day, I hope so.

  8. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  9. Avatar of Franklin

    Hi Frans,
    Your post rang true for me in many ways.  Perhaps the labels I have most difficulty setting aside are descriptions of Classical Japanese Reiki vs Western Reiki.  While I feel that the underlying energy is the same, the way in which the practitioner accesses the energy is qualitatively different.  I find myself frequently distinguishing between the two with both clients and students.  Although I try to avoid good vs bad, I feel clients and students are entitled to an explanation of the difference.  Nevertheless, I feel unsettled with labeling.

  10. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Franklin,
    Most of the time I do not talk about the differences in my classes or with clients. Just do what you feel connected to and they will either enjoy it or not. I only explain the differences when the students or clients ask.
    Hope this helps a little.

    Most important is that we embody the precepts.

  11. Avatar of Jen

    How can we improve or change our responses to our experiences if we cannot compare our shades of mind/speech.  I understand the concept of no-judgement, but when it comes to displaying an attitude, response or emotion, unless we have a “base line“ as the medical practice uses,  we have no starting line to make improvements or achieving new goals in the never ending battle against duality.
    When we speak of labeling, judging, anger, worry or jealously we are experiencing the reaction to human interactions with family, friends and other people. 
    How can we know that we are not-compassionate, a little compassionate, or showing a lot of compassion if we do not question ourselves and use a bit of comparison of past attitudes, present attitudes and our shining goal of true compassion of our heart/mind.  In order for our responses and reactions to flow from our natural state or True Self, we must become that first. 
    Harmony and compassion are not all or nothing, there are gradations of these attributes we exhibit all of our lives.
    Mindfulness in thought and voice are achievements we strive for but let’s not be too harsh on ourselves.  ‘Just for today I will show compassion to myself’ is half of one of the precepts.  First we need to recognize our lack of fullness of harmony in each situation we encounter or react to.  To me recognizing our True Self needs a tool that we can use to understand where we are in our quest for fullness/emptiness.  I use comparison to see how I can improve the next time.
    If we do not recognize a range or spectrum in how we think, I don’t mean black/white, good/bad or nice/not-nice, just differences or degrees of how we perceive ourselves on the path to find our True Self, how then can we change our responses or what tool do we use?
    The other half of the precept ‘Just for today I will show compassion to others’ has to work alongside the first half but I think if we can treat ourselves fairly first, the second half will be easier.
    We constantly adjust our thinking and voice as we recognize the benefits to us and others as we change and ‘let go’ of our tarnished reactions and responses.  How we do this needs some work.

  12. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Jen,

    Yes in one way I agree and the other way i see it differently. Being compassionate to ourselves is accepting were we are now, not comparing it with yesterday or tomorrow, but right in the moment. The more we compare things the more we move away from accepting things as they are in this moment in time.

    Of course, as you say, that is not that easy, we need tools like mindfulness practices. Within the system of Reiki these the meditating on the precepts, symbols, mantras etc..

    Not labeling is not about not having emotions, emotions come from our heart, it is when we label these emotions that we get caught up in them. Just be emotional without labeling it good or bad. Just be compassionate without comparing it to anything else.

  13. Avatar of Scott

    Hi Frans,
    Your last commet made me consider this—

    Can we say that True Self/Enlightenment/Non-Duality, from a practical perspective is full awareness in, and full acceptance of the present moment of the dual world? So in that sense duality is in non-duality and non-duality is in duality.  That sounds familar 😉

    Is there an answer to your anti spam question?

  14. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Scott,
    The web guy was going to fix that one, funny, it is like duality in non-duality. 😉

    Yes I see that we have to merge dual and non-dual together, heaven on earth.
    This way we create heaven on earth so to speak, hopefully one day we can witness this.

  15. Avatar of Scott
  16. Avatar of Frans Stiene

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