The anniversary of mindful Karen

This week marks the five year anniversary of my “Smug in the now“- post.

Back in 2015 I made a list of things that bothered me about the stereotypical mindful, vegetarian, yoga-practicing, gluten-fearing, urban-dwelling individual (often female, but not exclusively).

I guess today, we would refer to such a person as the yoga edition of barbie-doll Karen.

At the time, I felt I was surrounded by this type of people, and they annoyed the hell out of me. From my point of view they were stressed out hypocrites, tip-toeing their way around their looming burn-out, telling me to relax…

On a sidenote, I just found out the pejorative ‘Karen’ has its own wikipedia page. That is so awesome. Thank you internets.

How did Karen get me so worked up in 2015?

The (shortish version) of my list of objections to mindful Karen back in 2015 was as follows:

1) When she starts applying her ‘wisdom’ on others, she is not only annoying but oftentimes also wrong.
2) Her uninvited ‘health tips’ are counterproductive (and again, annoying, which is bad for my bowels).
3) Quoting an exotic luminary does not make her sound wise, but kind of pathetic, especially when applied as a conversation stopper.
4) It is always a sad day when a high-quality sarcastic retort gets dissected, but mindful Karen can’t help but try to find the deeper meaning behind simple statements, killing everybody’s buzz.
5) Karen is fooling herself by putting a lot of energy into avoiding ‘bad vibes’, but is really missing out on life by doing so.
6) Eliminating fiery emotions makes life colorless, lukewarm and passionless.

Looking back

A fact that I may not have expressed specifically enough in the first point in the original post is that the mindfulness lessons Karen learned are really only meant to be applied on her own inner self. The minute she tries to change other people is the second she stops being mindful all together and therefore has zero credibility on the matter.

As far as my food habits are concerned I think I have evolved. I have become more conscious of what I eat, not only for my own health but also for the well being of other beings and the environment in general. I’m sure the people I was directing my angry words at in 2015 were not all full of shit (no pun intended). However, I do think I needed to move away from that toxic group of hangry gluten-phobes to be able to make a change myself.

The sixth point should probably not really have been part of the list. It is not a point that describes yoga-Karen per se. More than anything, it is the conclusion of why I felt threatened by the ideas of mindfulness, or what I associated it with.

My hardheadedness and tendency to be blunt are traits of mine that I have a complicated relationship with. They are strengths as well as weaknesses. I guess my fear was (and probably still is) that the ‘luke warm’ bath of mindfulness would erase that part of my identity, taking away my uniqueness.

Embracing my inner Karen

Today, I am much better capable of applauding every effort somebody puts into becoming a better, healthier and more stable person. I can sympathize with the struggle that goes with that and understand they may not get it right straight away.

That, in their enthusiasm, they can’t help but project their problems and accompanying labels and lessons on others, is OK.

I have become better at controlling my impulse to snap back at people giving me well-meant advice. I can see their good intentions before condemning them for being wrong or pushy (which I still think they are, every now and then).

An additional thought that may be important to include is that most of my friends are yoga Karens. Ugh…. Did I really just use that argument……? Yes I did…

I realize everything I just typed sounds awfully condescending.

For the sake of honesty I will not rephrase. But I will try to save this sinking ship by patching it up with some additional thoughts…

Because who is that person writing a lifetip on her blog every month? ME!

Who frowns at the people buying bread rolls at the super market without bringing their own reusable bag? ME!

Who asked the neighbor to refrain from spraying pesticides on his roses in his own garden? ME!

I could go on with this list for a while longer, but you get the point; I can’t help but tell others how to live their lives and frequently point out why their actions are some sort of ‘wrong’.

Ergo, I am no better than then people I was aiming my poisoned arrows at in the past and whom I can’t help but talk about condescendingly, even now.

I am Karen. There I said it.

Flexing for charity

A charity get together I saw today on someone’s Facebook got my all bothered, despite its good intentions. The event that was being promoted was called “Pop up yoga for the refugees”… and that’s when my inner cynic took over the wheel.

By the way, have you watched the new animation film, Inside Out? I can hardly think about my feelings anymore without envisioning some little colored creature hopping around in my head’s control center.

Anyhow, I am trying to figure out what exactly bothers me so much about this. I think it’s a combination of things.

It’s because it is an activity that was born in the far east, that has now been appropriated by western hipsters. The fact that it is something I associate with well off health freaks, constantly on the edge of a burnout, plays a roll as well. It has a lot to do with the feelings I expressed in my blog on mindfulness, about a month ago.

It’s the fact that yoga, constructive as it may be in some people’s lives, is an activity I would categorize as a hobby. It’s not a basic need one can’t live without and I can just imagine it must seem so utterly futile to the people this yoga-charity aims to support.

think-positive-1It also leans on my anti-prayer sentiment, in the sense that I think they might actually think they are doing the world a favor by thinking happy thoughts…And I hate how cynical this makes me sound because I am really such an optimistic person and I honestly make a point of cheering on positive thinkers and shooing away the pessimists, but in this case I don’t seem to be able to do that…

And for some reason the fact that they named it “pop up yoga” just gives me itchy feelings all over… Haven’t really figured that one out yet, though…

mood happyI must admit I often give people who dislike my nasty opinions the finger (but I promise I do that purely in my mind, never actually in their faces), but in this case I don’t even really like me for disapproving of such a good initiative. Times are dire and there are way to many truly bitter and fearful haters and the open-minded-gang can use all the support they can get. So my conclusion is that I really want to back this idea up for the full 100%.

So, now that I have vented my self righteous ideas here, I can mellow the cynical fellow back down and guide him into the back of my mind, where he belongs, and hand the controller back to a better version of me.

Now if you would please excuse me, I believe I have a sun salutation to practice.

Smug in the now

In these crazy times many people are turning to Buddhism (or its derivatives) to find peace. I have never attended a yoga class or read any Buddhist teachings (unless the dozens of pretty quotes I see daily on social media count…) but I do appreciate the thoughts behind it.

Mindful quote 2For those of us who are not prepared to go all the way and declare ourselves true followers of the Buddha but do like our occasional yoga lesson and chew on superfoods every now and then, there is Mindfulness.

Again, I’m not sure if I ever got to the core of it, but what I have taken from leafing through the bestselling self-help books sold on every corner of any self-respecting town, is that it’s about breathing consciously, loving yourself, living in the now, valuing life and being positive.

I can do that! I like the idea of focusing on the present (and not only because I don’t want to think about that bill that just landed on my doormat). I appreciate the moon and the summer breeze and the song of the birds outside my window. I make sure to be kind to my neighbors and give the cashier an honest smile when I buy my hypothetical almond milk and goji berries, brief as this encounter may be.

However, I have come to the conclusion that I am not a big fan of the rest of the mindful clan. Actually, it is because of them that I have decided I am not mindful at all, just because I don’t want to be part of their little hypocritical, preachy little chanting circle.

harmony boy color

I must admit some of my anti-mindfulness feelings may have a dislike for the attitude of some of my ex-colleagues at its core. I have had this draft sitting on my dashboard for many months and knew I needed to get rid of some of my bitterness towards them before I could publish it. I switched jobs since then, which makes it easier for me to analyze it. I guess sometimes you need to not be in the now to be able to see something clearly. 😉

If I could explain to them now what it is exactly that bothered me, what would I say? Let’s make a list!

1) Privileged by unique knowledge

People that practice mindfulness (or other “live in the moment and love yourself”-ideologies) are told to be very self-aware. They analyze their breathing and how they feel in the presence of a certain energy. They get to know themselves better through meditation and self analysis. In the process of learning more about themselves they learn more about mankind in general, about emotions and reactions and feelings. I’m sure some of this is very valuable information that undoubtedly can reveal subconscious issues blocking someone’s growth.

However, sometimes people lose their mirror along the way and start applying their new found wisdom on those around them instead of themselves. This self righteousness is not only extremely irritating it is sometimes also wrong.

2) The over-analyzing whatever I am about to put in my mouth.

Mindful quote 5I have this idea that as long as you feel good about what you are eating, it can’t be all that bad. Of course, I understand that eating purely deep-fried food is a bad idea. Luckily, that’s not something I would crave for anyhow. What I mean is that if you eat all the best vegan, raw, superduperfoods, nuts and seeds available and do this without actually liking its taste, and are craving for a donut while swallowing your quinoa-salad, eating becomes a punishment. I believe that you might as well eat that donut, firstly because stress is probably the worst thing you can do to your body and secondly because living 10 years longer thanks to your diet without ever again enjoying the ritual of eating seems like a pretty pointless extra decade…

Anyhow, here is a list of the things I have been condemned for eating / drinking:

  • meat
  • tuna
  • soy-milk
  • chocolate
  • vegetables / fruit grown the wrong way
  • a smoothy I bought (ergo, not made by my own hands)
  • unpeeled apples (because the peels contain gluten?!)

Especially when I heard that last comment I almost lost it… Dafack is wrong with you?!?! Where do I even start to explain how moronic you sound? Do me (and the world) a favor and go ahead and eat your apple whatever way you want to and just let me die of a gluten overdose, will you?? (hmm, sorry about that, it seems I haven’t gotten rid of all my bitterness after all…)

3) Quoting exotic luminaries

I wrote this point down a long time ago and I have to admit I can’t remember the exact occasion that triggered it but I can imagine how it went.

Let’s say I blew up in someone’s face after they expressed their concerns about me eating an apple with peel and all. The person I would be directing my words at would look at me, probably nodding but with a blank expression demonstrating their inability to process the information being thrown at them, and would then quote some guru to invalidate whatever I just said.

You know Sarublabla Yogi Nagchampa once said that being angry is a choice… And sometimes you might believe you are doing this consciously, but it’s really just a compulsion. If you practice this often you can learn to stand above your emotions and find inner peace…

… and then they might smile, in true belief they just did me a huge favor… Or perhaps follow it up by telling me my energy was messing with their aura, or something….

4) The eternal search for the deeper meaning for things.

As a sarcastic soul, it is hard for people in general to sometimes get me. But these self-aware spiritual types get their panties in a twist trying to grasp the deeper meaning behind my words. The beauty of sarcasm is that it is often pretty straight forward communication in a “what you see is what you get”-kind of way. There is no deeper meaning and if you feel you are being mocked, it’s because you probably are. It’s not meant to be hateful or mean and I am not being negative, on the contrary. I am actually having a lot of fun, but I must say your slow analysis of what is going on is kind of killing my buzz.

Sarcasm without the right audience feels like screaming into a black hole. It’s like saying you don’t believe in fairies (you know one dies somewhere on the planet when you say that, right?) and as if the joke was never made. Such a loss…

5) Avoiding life

This point is actually a very interesting one, in my opinion. I have discussions with my father about this quite often, as I believe his loyalty and dutifulness is killing him. He does things purely because he believes he ought to, because it’s what people are counting on or because it’s written on some decades old piece of paper. When I told him I thought he wasn’t doing a very good job at being happy he told me not to worry. He admitted there was a lot of nastiness in his life and that it affected him at times but that it was a load he could carry… Not exactly the response I hoped to hear and all though it’s in no way reassuring, I guess he’s a grown man and knows what he’s doing…

I put quite a high value on my own happiness and make decisions based on the belief that it will be better for me and my state of mind. I believe that when a situation gives you negativity and stress without the prospect of improving any time soon and there is no satisfaction or success for you in it prospect, you should remove yourself from this situation and go into self-protection mode. I am a great promoter of this and apply this to my career as well as my personal life. It works for me.

Now, back to the part that I DON’T like… I believe that there are people that, in the name of mindfulness, run away from challenges without ever giving it an honest try, out of fear for how the bad vibes might affect them. They shut down difficult conversations without ever even having had a discussion about it. They cocoon themselves in an incense scented world of herbal tea, relaxation music and mandalas.

Besides the fact that I don’t buy that fake smile for a minute, it isn’t right. Having a discussion can be healthy and productive, despite the annoyance and grey hairs that come with it. Avoiding confrontation all together just feels so odd to me, as you sometimes need some friction to bring out the beauty.

I also think people that choose this strategy are fooling themselves because avoidance just helps the fear build up inside and I don’t believe all the meditation and yoga in the world can help you get rid of it without confronting it head on.

6) Killing emotions

Last but not least, I want to say that feeling things is wonderful. Strong feelings like anger, fear and sadness are not all bad. If you eliminate them all together, how can you ever appreciate true joy again? I myself love a good fight and we all know the value of a good fright! Sadness, admittedly, is one I am not good at expressing and according to some it is something I should work on, as a good sob is supposedly extremely relieving as well.

So, what would Buddha say about all of this? Something like this:

Mindful quote 4