Five Ways to Stay Zen When Life Seems to be a Total Dick

Lately, as a result of reading Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth, I’ve been really chill about everything in life.

My unprecedentedly Zen demeanor has the people around me kind of shocked.

“Wait,” they say after my bagel order is fucked up and I don’t shriek and/or fall out of my chair in a fit of hysterics, “you’re really not going to have a melodramatic breakdown over this?”

No, I will no longer unravel over bagels, because what are bagels anyways? They’re merely collections of molecules and energy – they’re form, and form never stays the same, and so trying to control or identify with form on any level (especially on the bagel level) is just silly.

But of course most of us are ruled by our egos (in other words, our thoughts), and it’s our egos that wholly identify with form – not just bagels, but our bodies, possessions, and even the thoughts themselves are a form (of energy) – and so THIS is why many of us are assholes. Because we’re trying to control circumstances and build our entire identities on shit that isn’t actually real or permanent.

So when we step back and become aware that the part of us that’s upset is often just a thought and isn’t truly who we are, we can watch as our egos go all “OMG this bagel was supposed to make all my problems go away and now it’s not even the right bagel!” and just laugh at the fact that our egos are big fucking babies.

This is the general approach I’ve been applying to all aspects of life lately, and it’s resulted in quite the shift.

And so here are five responses (all inspired by A New Earth) to common issues to help you remember that nothing in the material world is worth stressing out over. Ever.

(Note: If I sound like an asshole in any of these, it’s because I’m mostly talking to myself.)

1. Oh, that e-mail pissed you off? Well, how about the fact that if there was no electricity in the first place then your computer and/or smartphone would merely be a shitty piece of plastic and metal that takes up space, and so are you really going to allow a shitty piece of plastic and metal that takes up space to fuck with your energy like that? Plus, whoever it was who sent the annoying e-mail probably sent it from the same ego-based place in them that is now flaring up in you and getting all pissed off over a SHITTY PIECE OF PLASTIC AND METAL, so CHILL. (Love you.)

2. That guy doesn’t like you back. Hmmm… and what, exactly, is it about this guy’s perception of you that matters, like, at all? Are you going to be upset over the fact that someone else’s mental image of you isn’t one of total adoration and worship? I mean, even if this guy believed in his heart that you were gross and unlovable and Shrek-esque, what would that really mean? And if he believed that you were hot and brilliant and perfect, what would that really mean? Either way, you are who you are. The reality of the present moment is never going to be any different because of one fucking dude’s thought of who you are.

2a. Wow. Isn’t that shit freeing?


3. Your train is late. Unless you plan on becoming a sorcerer of trains and personally controlling all the trains in all the land and putting an end to train delays for the rest of forever, getting angry over this could be a waste of energy. Maybe.

4. You’re 26 and haven’t yet reached any of your major life goals. Okay, so our society is all about ambition! And hard work! And life milestones! And accomplishments! And other shit. Great shit, sure. But there’s plenty of misery in identifying entirely with shit – even if it is great. And yet defining ourselves by our accomplishments is exactly what many of us are programmed to do – we compare ourselves to each other (#Facebook) relentlessly. We calculate our importance, worth, and lovability based on superficial things like job titles, homes, cars, clothes, lifestyles, whatever. But at the end of the day (when we’re all dead, for instance), what REALLY matters? Our external qualities (AKA form)? Or those parts of us that were never identified with form to begin with (AKA our simply Being and connecting and loving)?

5. They fucked up your bagel order. See: the beginning of this post.



  1. In-your-face zen. I like it.

    • I think you just coined a new phrase! I like it as well. “BE ZEN OR BE MISERABLE” might have to be the name of my next blog (caps included).

  2. You’re a legend and I love you!

  3. 2 and 2a are my new life mantras. Love your posts!

  4. Can’t Take Zen Away (NicRiah’s Theme)

  5. Best title, just ever. And love your take on zen.

  6. I need so much zen. You know what MY zen is? Catching up on N!cBlog posts that I’ve CLEARLY ignored the last few weeks because my life is just an endless paper grading session. Also, it’s really upsetting that I had NO IDEA you even posted new blog posts because I for some reason no longer get WordPress emails alerting me to your brand new literary genius every time you post a new post. I used to. And then they just stopped….which of COURSE is making my stress levels increase exponentially, effectively making my zen-like process of reading your blog moot.

    But this neither here nor there (because what exactly IS the internet? A whole lot of NOTHINGNESS, #amiright?) because the real reason I wanted to comment was this: Don’t lie, if they fuck up your bagel order, you’ll still spiral. You’re only humaNic.

  7. Pro-tip re: #4: Achieving life goals is not that fun. Trying to achieve them is way better because that’s where all the learning and doing happens. Once you’ve achieved them, you run out of goals and then you’re all, “Now what?” because you had something to work toward and then, suddenly, nothing. What is the point of life, then?
    Well, aside from living, I mean.
    It’s far better to have vague goals that you’re gently working toward and if you get there, you can cheer for yourself but the whole acheivement thing isn’t the point because it creates WORK in that you have to come up with a whole new set of goals and those ones are never as fun because they’re sort of uniteresting back-ups that suddenly came to the forefront.
    Seriously, I have ONE goal left and I am a little afraid to accomplish it because I’ve already had to revamp my goals list once and I’m not sure I can do it again. I have another set of goals but they’re being saved for After Retirement (AR) so I don’t die…since, you know, if you don’t have things to do when you retire, you get sick and die.


  1. […] than usual, and it’s a problem. One second I’ll be all balanced and happy and zen, and then the next I’ll be spiraling into a black hole of fury: arguing that working forty […]

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