New Age fundamentalist

Joey Garcia

I was having a purely social conversation with my sister’s friend and it seemed that she responded to everything I said with a self-help book referral or a New Age quote. Conversation was difficult and exhausting because I had to repeat things like, “That’s a belief I don’t share.” How do you know the difference between what is a belief and what isn’t? What is your definition of karma? And how do you stay present with people who are pushing New Age jargon on you?

The word “communicate” literally means to become one with. It is the experience of union with another. Unfortunately, you didn’t have this pleasure in the battle of belief systems that you describe. My friend, Byron Katie of, points out that every thought is connected to a belief system. I would add that the decision to maintain a particular belief should depend on whether that belief provides the spiritual liberation necessary to perfect your ability to love and serve others.

Karma, simplified, is the doctrine that if you are good, good eventually comes to you—perhaps in the next moment, perhaps in the next life. Conversely, if you are bad, expect the worse. Karma does not exist at the higher levels of spiritual development because it is a dogma of right and wrong. Rules and laws, whether spiritual or secular, are designed for people who are not capable of being self-disciplined and other-directed.

You can stay present in your next interaction with your sister’s friend by acknowledging that she is a seeker (perhaps like you?) but she is suffering from an addiction to information. Her addiction keeps her in illusion. Rather than exhaustively defending your position, try to remember when your ego was immersed in the belief that you “got it” but others didn’t, and so you proselytized. Then forgive your sister’s friend for being a New Age fundamentalist and be grateful that you have chosen a different path.

In a recent column you wrote about the importance of scheduling playtime. What does that consist of for adults? Sports? I’m disabled. TV? I don’t allow one in my house. How does an adult play?

Once, I invited friends to a poetry reading at California State University, Sacramento. Afterwards, I dropped a random selection of word magnets in each friend’s hand and cajoled them into creating poems and placing them on the driver’s side door of parked cars. We laughed uproariously at the delight of people discovering our strange but well-intended verse.

Another time, I cajoled friends into attending a rondalla concert with me. During the performance of exquisitely romantic Mexican music, I convinced my friends to call their families and, without a word, let an answering machine record the music. We giggled thinking of their surprise. Days later, my mother called to tell me that she was certain that she had won something on a Mexican radio station, but that they could not reach her. I still laugh thinking of it. And, yes, I did tell her it was me.

Play, for me, involves abundant laughter and sweet surprises. Playtime might include messing with art materials—not trying to create something important, just having fun. It might mean writing agape letters to people I appreciate, like a store clerk or a bank teller, or just observing insects in my garden. Play is any activity that lifts me out of my daily schedule and refreshes my spirit through creativity or silliness. How would you play if you didn’t know how old you were? If you didn’t care what others think of you? Let those answers be your guide to fun.

Meditation of the week
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain–and most fools do,” wrote Dale Carnegie. Hey, if you see a problem, it’s yours. Can you adjust your perspective so that you understand that it’s your responsibility to initiate positive change?

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