I had a horrible experience with one recently. We met in the lineup in Pavones, Costa Rica – this totally epic, world-famous point break that can take you for a 1,000-yard ride. At first, he seemed cool. I had no reason to suspect that he would end up being one of the most manipulative and obnoxious people, like, ever.
This guy told me it would take about six hours to get there by bus, and that the waves would be firing.
In reality, it took eleven hours to get there, and the surfing season was over.
In other words, this asshat (let’s call him Ben) completely lied to me to convince me to go to Panama with him. (See also: A Pretty Girl Finally Answers the Age-Old Question, “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Getting Hit On All The Time?”) Once I discovered this, I said goodbye to him and never looked back (#BeRude) – except to ponder the life lessons I learned from the experience.
6 Things New Age Hippie Types are REALLY Saying When They Tell Me to “Relax”
Aside from the blatant lies Ben told me, he had this obnoxious habit of constantly judging my every emotion and word choice and facial expression to make sure it was “zen” enough (or whatever).
Any time I expressed anything that wasn’t perfect contentment, agreement and calmness, Ben would say something dumb like:
“Don’t worry about it!”
“I used to be like you, but I’m enlightened now.” (Yes. That is literally what he said.)
The first time it happened, I said nothing. No reason to make a big deal out of what’s probably a one-time thing. The second time, I gently asked him to never say something like that to me again, because I found it condescending. The third time, I explained that him telling me to “relax” or whatever was basically like telling me the following:
1. My beliefs are superior to yours, and it is my right to impose them on you.
Have you ever heard of a Buddhist missionary? I haven’t. Maybe because people who are all zen and stuff aren’t supposed to worry about imposing their belief system on others. They’re supposed to live and let live.
So after about the millionth time Ben told me to “let something go” – usually in the context of someone trying to charge me double for something because I’m white, and me standing up for myself and saying no – I had a comparable response for him:
“Have you heard the good news about Jesus?”
And he was all, “Huh?”
So I repeated, “Have you heard the good news about Jesus? Here – fold your hands. I will teach you how to pray.”
He promptly got flustered and told me he isn’t a Christian and doesn’t want to pray. “Wah wah wah, I grew up Catholic and now I hate organized religion, wah wah wah.”
“Wait – so you don’t want to pray with me? You don’t want me to help you find Jesus?”
“Fine. I won’t impose my beliefs on you. Now stop imposing yours on me.”
Because here’s the thing: as a Christian, I am happy to discuss my relationship with God anytime someone is interested – whether they are skeptical of my beliefs, they are struggling with their own faith, or they are curious about Christianity.
But that doesn’t mean I’m constantly telling people who may or may not believe in God that their feelings or behaviors are wrong in God’s eyes.
Because that would be obnoxious. Kind of like people who are constantly judging whether my way of life is “zen” enough.
(Quick edit: I wrote this post while I was on a bus in Costa Rica. But I thought I should Google it before publishing. There are, indeed, Buddhist missionaries. However, according to BuddhaSansa, "Buddhist missionaries have no need or desire to convert those who already have a proper religion to practise. If people are satisfied with their own religion, then, there is no need for Buddhist missionaries to convert them... But Buddhist missionaries deplore the attitude of certain missionaries who disturb the followers of other religions, since there is no reason for them to create an unhealthy atmosphere of competition for converts if their aim is only to teach people to lead a religious way of life." So there you go.)
2. I am unable to practice what I preach.
Going back to the whole “live and let live” thing… if you aren’t able to simply accept my life choices and move on, that means you are unable to do the very thing you are telling me to do. Just chill, man.
Don’t be a hypocrite.
If you’re really into your new age hippie stuff, then just let it go! Let me stand up for myself when someone tries to rip me off. Let me feel exhilarated when things are awesome, and disappointed when they aren’t. That’s how I do me – and I’m so, so happy with that!
And if you feel the need to read meditation books and “work on yourself” all the time – that’s great! I’m not going to criticize or correct your life choices. Go do you!
And let me do me.
There’s this really great Zen story I love hearing – it never gets old:
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.
The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.
Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.
The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.
Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
When you feel the need to constantly correct and criticize me, it tells me that you are the junior monk, not the senior one.
4. I lack basic human communication skills.
One of the easiest, most important communication skills we learn is to validate other peoples’ opinions – even if we disagree with them.
“I’m so sorry you feel that way!”
“It must have really hurt your feelings when he said that.”
“You’ve been on the road for a long time – I’ll bet you’re getting really tired of feeling like everyone’s trying to rip you off.”
“I didn’t realize you thought that was what I meant. No wonder you feel so upset!”
Most people learn this automatically by the time they enter elementary school. Others… don’t.
That’s why, when you complete your mediation for dispute resolution training (as I did in 2010), the very first thing you learn is how to validate peoples’ feelings – without taking sides. (A mediator must remain neutral – but that absolutely does not mean they can’t make people feel heard.)
Let’s relate this back to people like Ben.
When I say, “This is stressful! I only have two weeks of travel left, so I have to start making decisions about which beaches to surf and which flights to book,” the response of any person with interpersonal intelligence would be something along the lines of, “Yeah, that's tough – there are so many great places, and you’ll never have time for them all!” Or maybe something like, “Hm. Tell me what your options are. I might be able to help.”
But if you are ignorant, self-indulgent, self-righteous, or self-absorbed, you might instead say something like,
“Don’t worry about it!”
Which, translated, actually means:
“I don’t care how you feel.”
“Your feelings aren’t valid – you’re irrational, stupid and unjustified to worry about that.”
“I know the right way to feel. My feelings are right, and your feelings are wrong.”
It is the opposite of the most basic communication skill known to man. And, honestly… it’s pretty freaking rude. (The bad kind of rude.)
5. I see myself as enlightened, and I see you as unenlightened.
Most people won’t come right out and say that – although Ben actually did. Once, he called himself enlightened. Two other times, he told me, “If you’re open to it, you can learn and grow so much from me.”
(Q: How do you make an eleven-hour bus ride feel like a forty-hour bus ride?
A: First, tell the person it’s only going to be six hours. Next, spend the next eleven hours saying stuff like that.)
When you give someone unsolicited advice – especially about something as basic and personal as their own emotions – this is exactly what you’re saying:
You don’t know what you “should” be feeling. I do. Feel the way I tell you to, because I am wise and you are not.
You can see why people find that obnoxious – especially considering that, if you’re constantly judging and imposing and acting like a huge hypocrite, you are the last person who should be telling people to “chill” and change the way they feel.
Go work on yourself, man.
6. I am either financially illiterate, completely selfish, or disgustingly privileged.
A lot of people looooooove talking about how chill and relaxed and enlightened they are, because they don’t worry about “things” like money, property and belongings. They tell me they’re perfectly happy to have $5,000 in their bank account and/or to only work a few hours a week and “live the good life.”
Here’s the thing. While I agree that “things” like designer clothes and fancy cars will not buy happiness, it’s kind of like…
Aren’t you worried about your retirement? Don’t you want to be able to help out your mom when she gets cancer or needs a hip replacement? Don’t you understand that you could have a major emergency at any point… and you’re not going to be able to take care of it?
People who “chill” and “relax” all the time – particularly when it comes to making or saving money – are either financially illiterate, completely selfish, or disgustingly privileged.
I would love not to have to worry about saving for retirement. I would love not to have to have a rainy day fund in case of a personal or family emergency. I would love to know that all of my friends and family are taken care of, and will never need my financial or emotional support.
But guess what?
I have to work for my money, and I understand that I am going to retire someday. I have people in my life that I will always love and always support in whatever way I can.
Maybe you inherited a ton of money. Maybe you made enough money to retire while you were still young. If that’s the case, good for you! I hope you find your life of leisure to be satisfying. (But the fact that you keep reading and re-reading all those Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra books suggests that you don’t.)
I don’t know what to say to that. I am completely at a loss.
I don’t understand what you think will happen when you get old, and I don’t understand how you can care so little about what happens to your relatives as they grow, age and face life’s hardships.
Maybe your interpretation of the Zen lifestyle isn’t compatible with the modern world. Maybe it was meant for a time when the average life expectancy was thirty years and there were no medical treatments to pay for and no one needed a car or bus ticket to get to work.
Or maybe you’re misinterpreting the message – and I hope for your sake that everything works out for you.
Because Lord knows you aren’t prepared to handle any kind of unfortunate event.
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have comments or criticisms, I’d love to hear them. Check out the comments section, below, or find me on Facebook or Twitter!