This is the first part of a Reiki saying (chant?) that I repeat multiple times during the day. I know it probably seems like it’s setting the bar pretty low, and maybe it is, but I’m okay with that.

It seems like my goal for 2012 is empathy. Not the, “OMG GIRL I FEEEEEEL UR PAIN!” kind, but the kind that requires seeing everyone’s journey as theirs and going beyond keeping my judgements to myself and instead just not judging. It’s a little bit of a bummer because I really have a lot of fun being judgmental. Really. I love the way it feels. All superior and dark and a little slimy. But what’s in its place is an even better feeling. One that’s lighter and better.

It’s the emotional equivalent of choosing an awesome chicken salad that makes you feel good and you know you’ve done good for your body versus getting that half pound hamburger with chili cheese fries. Both actually taste good, but in very different ways. The big difference is in what happens behind the scenes after the initial taste – or initial feeling – has gone away.

Wicked Awesome Burger Option (or, Judgement)

The chili cheese fries and juicy hamburger with the thick sesame bun are tasty, sure, but once they are in your system they get in there and the chemicals and the preservatives and the general grossness sit in your gut. It processes slowly and parts may not process and digest at all. Your body desperately tries to extract nutrients while you feel bloated and gross. Even after you’re not feeling gross the lingering effects still exist while that food’s going through your intestines and everything else. All that and let’s not even discuss it if you’re gluten sensitive or sensitive to MSG or a million other factors that might make your junk food experience different from everyone else’s.

Judgement is like that, too. It feels so tasty and good for that moment you wrap yourself in it, but then it starts to do its real work. When you judge you have to compare and when you start comparing you don’t stop. In the back of your mind you start comparing yourself in all respects to the person you’re judging and no matter what you’re going to fall short in one or two categories and then that’s when your judgement turns on itself and you begin nitpicking yourself. Maybe quietly, maybe loudly – it doesn’t matter because it’s happening and there’s nothing at this point you can do to make it change.

Tasty Salad Option (or, Empathy)

You make the salad, you feel good about it, and you can even make sure it’s not boring and throw in some chopped up, brightly colored peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, and whatever other veggies make you happy. You can shake up some snotty vinegar and olive oil and drizzle it over your lovely salad. Then you take your herbed, grilled chicken (mine gets made on my George Foreman grill because who fires up a real grill for one chicken breast) chop it up and pop it on top. The size of the salad is entirely up to you. You can make it in a popcorn bowl because it’s salad and that is fifty shades of awesome. You an absolutely gorge yourself and be super full, like, Thanksgiving full and know that it’s going to rock out inside your body and break down and hydrate you and your cells will lap up those lovely multi-colored nutrients and that fiber will sing in your intestines and you’ll be happy the whole time.

Which is like empathy. You think before you actually choose empathy it’s not going to be awesome and you’re choosing the higher, more boring path. It’s going to be like a salad when you’re a grown person and can have chili cheese fries if you want to. But choosing empathy releases so much from you that you may not even know you’re holding on to. When you read about the woman who is still getting food stamps after winning a million dollar lottery, you don’t have to give her your anger – your judgement – eat at you over some woman you don’t even know. It’s a shame, and when you choose to let go and believe that people will do what they will do and it is not your job to judge them or have an opinion on them – you free yourself. Empathy gives you freedom, it makes you lighter, and it just keeps on giving…

Perhaps the reason people put emotions and food in the same category is because the parallels are so acute. Not just the initial emotions but the choices we make every day.

I think today is my day, because just for today – I will not be angry.