We all know one: a new age hippie type who’s always reading Eckhardt Tolle and “working on themselves” and committing the gravest (or at least most condescending) of crimes against humanity: giving unsolicited advice.
(Maybe “new age hippie type” isn’t the most accurate word for them. As a writer, it kills me to use the wrong word… but in this case, I don’t actually know the right one. If you know it, please share in the comments.)
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.
Which is why, when he told me he was headed to Bocas del Toro, Panama, and that I should totally go with him because Bocas also has epic, world-class waves, I threw caution into the wind and said, "Sure!"
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.
Believe me -- I know how to relax! The question is, Do you?
3. In spite of my talk about enlightenment, I’m actually really judgmental.
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 mean, it's a good book and everything... but aren't you curious about reading about anything else? I really enjoyed The Cloud Collector's Handbook and Ellen Langer's Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.
But maybe you didn’t. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that it’s totally cool to live paycheck to paycheck, and never increase your savings. To which I say…
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!
4/21/2016 07:49:51 am
So how was the sex? Was he at least good in bed?
4/21/2016 08:36:14 am
Um, ew. I never had any intention of doing ANYTHING with him sexually. It turns out some women understand that they are worth spending time with, even when sex is completely off the table.
5/8/2016 12:38:00 am
It was interesting for me to read some one opinion of those new Eckhart followers with living the moment stuff .... I recently read his books and let me tell you they changed major pert of my life ..but this guy has no right what so ever to tell u what how to relax or not worry because u r simply a normal person ... people should understand that Eckhart books are only for people who have mental problem ... I used to suffer from depression and anxiety and Ekhart books helped me a lot .. I would say that u and Ekhart have more common in thinking and I really like to reads ur blog the same as I like to read Ekharts books . ur articles provided me ways of how to enjoy my life and I appreciate that ... one last point I would tell you regarding the matter of worrying about saving for your retirement or an emergency plan just in case , is that some people including me worry too much about this matter that I could not enjoy my daily life .... the good thing with living the moment is that u accept every bad thing as part of our life .. I mean my mom getting cancer at some day in the future is assumption that may not happen but when it happen be sure that I will find some way to figure it out ...there will be many solutions to choose from.... I will not worry about something that may or may not happen .. and of course this my way of thinking that I may change in the future :) ... I am not trying to imposed anything on u ;) :D .
11/9/2018 12:48:54 pm
All fair points! I'm not saying Ekhart can't be helpful -- overall, I agree with most of what he has to say. But, like any religion, social cause, or philosophy, it can be corrupted and turn into something it wasn't meant to be. Like a basis for judging others and imposing your beliefs on them. Or like the idea that, if you're "doing" mindfulness right, you can really be mindful of the congealed food on the dishes you're washing and totally relish it. (See also: It's Not About Dishes: What This NYT Writer Doesn't Understand About Mindfulness -- http://www.thehappytalent.com/blog/its-not-about-dishes-what-the-new-york-times-doesnt-understand-about-mindfulness)
7/21/2017 12:26:13 pm
I've always considered myself to be a bit of a hippie. Mostly because my friends and family all refer to me as such. I used to find it a bit bothersome but now I just accept it. Denying it can only go so far when you wear tie dye everything, have long hair, and own more tapestries than your local head shop. That being said, I have had the most difficult time trying to fit in with other Self proclaimed hippie types. They claim to be laid back, peaceful, "enlightened" (gag) individuals but a vast majority of them have been the most condescending assholes I have ever encountered. Often if you don't want to sleep with them or let your partner sleep with them, they treat you like you are a close minded idiot. I made the mistake of moving to Asheville NC in hopes of meeting more like minded people. instead I have found myself pretty isolated, depressed, and having a difficult time affording to survive in this overpriced trustafarian Mecca. Of course the fact that I work full time so I can pay my bills obviously means that I am an unenlightened, uptight materialist. If only I just sat around smoking weed all day and stopped caring about showers I'd probably fit right in. Thanks for sharing your story. It's nice to know I'm not the o my one who gets annoyed by the "enlightened ones."
5/19/2018 09:19:08 am
Thank you for this. I needed to hear this after a small tussle online with my local mtb group.
11/9/2018 12:57:03 pm
Glad it's not just me! And man -- that DOES sound annoying!
10/21/2018 05:15:00 pm
I actually confess that I used to be sorta like one of those hippie dippy types. Then my mom called the cops on me. Idk why I did it. I was mentally Ill with schizophrenia and I am a nature lover. And I liked the stuff that comes with it, so it seemed cool. I wasn’t nearly as bad as that guy though. Lol I remember hanging with people like him who act like drug addicts.
11/9/2018 12:45:14 pm
Thanks for sharing! If you've ever got ideas for something you want to write about, reach out!
1/24/2020 12:57:13 am
Youre describing a narcissist! That's who that person is.
6/29/2020 09:06:43 am
6/29/2020 09:24:08 am
So I'm quite a bit different than you. I mean I would absolutely love to live my life easy going and free and go on adventures but I really don't have that kind of cash and might never. That's just reality.
4/24/2022 04:19:58 am
I enjoy the point you make about them preaching "live and let live," but will not take that advice when seeing people living and believing differently from them. I have known such people, but even those people I cannot judge because they truly think they can help you. He likely truly thought that if you did everything he said, you would be happier. Maybe he even did have many good points and wisdoms to share, but he needed to realize that everyone is on their own journey. Some people Wish to feel and embrace their negative emotions, because they are currently in that stage of life, and it is good stage. We are all on a circle and there is no "higher up" on a circle. I am Buddhist, but I see everyone as currently experiencing exactly the stage they need to experience. There is possibility that everything he said to you was correct and could have helped you, but it is not his responsibility, and would just sound condescending in your eyes, maybe even pushing you away from trying Buddhism. I wish you all the best!
1/26/2023 04:06:34 pm
I've met no shortage of people within this belief system who use such terms: "Maybe you just interpreted it that way". This is what is known as gaslighting and invalidation and it is the tool of the emotional abuser. Like it or not, Buddhists can be shitty people. They can be judgmental. They can find clever ways to disguise their judgment of others within loaded phrases carefully crafted to make a person feel like their complaints are invalid or "of the ego". Why can't YOU understand that the author's "judgmental attitude" is a reflection of the pain they experience from being emotionally abused and condescended to? Rather then turning it back around with the undertoned subtext of "you don't have the to complain", try understanding where the author is coming from. There are people who treat others poorly in every group, no matter the belief system because people are gonna people. Every Buddhist I've met seems to want to avoid that fact. You're here, in Samskara. You are human. You have an ego, just like everyone else. You have blind spots, just like me and everyone else.
6/13/2022 02:27:44 pm
I too like to surf and have fun in my country, but you lost me at "charged me extra because I'm white." Boohoo. That $6 coffee doesn't even come close to making up for all the insane damage you guys do marching over to our "exotic" countries and taking their hotel rooms and resources. They're all spent on white people, not locals, so don't cry over your slightly pricier coffee Karen and educate yourself. Or do you want us to "relax" or "calm down?"
6/13/2022 02:44:08 pm
LOL. You think paying extra for coffee helps repair the reef? Too funny. But if you're going to stereotype about which racial groups cause the most damage to reefs, I think you're pointing at the wrong color.
1/23/2023 12:35:05 pm
If that comment pulled at an emotional string inside of you to the point that u, as the author, felt the need to write this whole paragraph...insulting ur reader even though her comment comes from valid anger at oppression from ppl who look like you... then I would examine where that anger is coming from T-T. I'd think people with a happy talent would be better at eloquently regulating their emotions when a person 10x more oppressed than them doesn't like their article and gives u genuine advice. "Helps my site get views" brooo, what are you a child? And I even liked your article in class, but what Cat said makes sense still. We should all learn from each other.
1/23/2023 07:50:12 pm
1/26/2023 04:33:47 pm
"You guys". Generalizing is lazy. Nuance is reality but it gets in the way of lashing out and playing the blame game. There's a saying: "What isn't faced and dealt with honesty comes leaking out the sides." It's the process of projection. We don't handle the pain we feel honestly so we turn it outwards, falling victim to distorted perceptions that validate our feelings while not realizing those feelings are coming not from other people but from within ourselves. You have every right to feel hurt by whoever caused you pain but blaming random innocent people who had nothing to do with that simply because they share a trait (are the same color) with the ones who actually hurt you is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, not to mention a poor coping strategy. It's also dishonest. Racism can come from grudges. Grudges come from unprocessed pain. Remember when you point a finger all blame everyone else for your problems, you have three other fingers pointing back at you. No one can hurt you without your agency. I say this as a trauma survivor who's family tried to kill me. Who was held prisoner and tortured as a child for almost a decade. I say this as someone who has faced death and come back with a better understanding. I say this as a transgender person and a disabled person. I say this as a middle-aged person: Waiting for other people to act to make the pain go away will never happen before, ultimately, no matter what they do, that pain is always going to be there. I can't raise my parents or the multiple sl foster families from the dead and demand they apologize, nor threaten every person who tried to kill me for existing until they "make it right" because it's never going to happen. They will/have die(d) self-righteously believing their hateful, abusive behavior was justified because they're morons. I had to start the journey of healing and that began by facing my shit honestly and stop projecting it onto other people. We have all faced some sort of indignity. Welcome to our shitty world. How you handle it defines you. Will you spread your pain like a virus or will you make the world into the better place for the next generation that was denied to you? After all, how we treat others really is a direct reflection of how we treat ourselves. I hope you find the healing you need. We are all one, under the skin. We are all the same being experiencing itself through different points of view. It's your decision. Be the change you want.
1/27/2023 11:53:46 pm
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