Tag Archives: Zen

Anti-Zen: Quiet is for Wusses

Doesn't this look calm and peaceful?

Doesn’t this look calm and peaceful?

So in my stupid and doomed attempts to do things properly I have never taken the time to try and do breathing exercises, or meditate because there are too many kids around, or I don’t have enough time, or I am hungry/sick/tired/horny and that will be distracting, or it just isn’t quite enough.

Guess what—my life will never be any of those things. There is no perfect moment for me. Those moments are for special people, like those without children, or who get abducted by aliens.

So the other day I was doing yoga while the kids were eating breakfast and getting ready for school. I don’t use a tape because I am constantly interrupted and I find it easier to stop and go back when I am doing my own things.


I decide to try and do a breathing thingy. I don’t know why, inspiration struck. So I sit on the floor, cross my legs and start counting as I breath. I stop to answer questions. Focus back on my breath. Stop to make sure that yes he did brush his teeth. Focus back on my breath. The vacuum is turned on, I keep focused on my breath.
When I was done I felt more centered and calmer. I didn’t need quiet, incense, a special place, or a fancy round cushion. I just needed to do it, kids, noise, interruptions, and all.

At this point I think if I was in a totally peaceful and quite environment I would completely freak out. I’m sure quiet is lovely, but we are hardcore anti-zen—we don’t need your stinking quiet.

So quiet, so scary.

So quiet, so scary.

Anti- Zen I’m living in the Now so stop asking me what we are doing next!


Alica Mckenna Johnson, Zen, anti-Zen

Photo by h. koppdelaney

In my job (I am a house parent for kids removed from their homes by Child Protective Services), things can change in an instant. I can have three empty beds, then get a knock on the door and be full again. I can have calm kids who I would happily take anywhere,something sets one of them off, and I’m watching a two-hour fit. I can be hugged and cussed out by the same child in a matter of minutes.

So I have been forced to live in the NOW. Not the serene place of being in the moment and focusing on what is happening and what you feel without thinking of the future. No its more of a ‘I am trying to get through this moment in time, so I won’t tell you what is coming because everything could change’ moment.

Example:We are eating breakfast.

Kids: Alica, what are we doing today?

Me, grabbing the syrup from a toddler who screams in rage: I have no idea. I’m just trying to get through breakfast.

I never make promises, and I almost never tell the kids what is coming up. I might have visits scheduled on my calendar, but I don’t tell the kids until minutes before they happen because people get sick, cars break down, parents fail drug tests and everything changes.

I usually have a plan in my head, but planning out a day and setting up all my ducks in neat little rows, that was beaten out of me.

Alica Mckenna Johnson, ducks in a row, Zen, anti-Zen

Photo by Tim Green

I’m not sure I would call it flexibility, because I don’t really have anything solid to move around. I try to keep my days, plans, and expectations, minute by minute and free form as possible so I can be and do what is needed.
So what about you, do you live in the Now? Did you achieve it through deep spiritual focus and personal growth or did trying to plan in the middle of chaos finally wear you down enough to give up and let go?

Anti- Zen and the art of going within


Photographer- HaPe_Gera

Sometimes we all need a break, time to regenerate, delve within, leave the world behind and become clearer about who we are.

In Zen one realizes the importance of meditation, self-care, and just being, so you schedule time to do this. Which is odd that we have to schedule time to ‘just be’ when we don’t have much of a choice anyway.

Every four months I would go to a weekend retreat, workshop or ashram where a wise person, who glows just a bit, leads me in meditations, self-discovery, and great connection to the Universe.

Eating simple meals prepared by spiritual people who meditate as they work my body is nurtured and infused with positive energy.

I sleep peacefully in a small bare room, the gentle breeze and soft chirping of crickets singing me a lullaby.

Doesn’t that sound lovely.

Unfortunately I live in a completely different reality. I am ruled by Anti- Zen which takes a different direction.

My 14 year-old self slides into the Captain’s chair while I get up to get something to drink.

“Pizza,” she squeals and suddenly food I have been ignoring for months smells fabulous.

Photo by Foodies

I try and stay calm and reason with her. “No we don’t want to eat that. Gluten makes us sick, dairy makes our skin freak out, and we don’t eat meat. That’s for the work kids.”

“I don’t care I want it!”

My body goes to get a plate. I have been here before, in the past I would rant, yell, and fight with my 14 year-old self. This would cause a huge downward spiral of depression and self-hate, the 14 year-old would take over while my current self would be wallowing in pity and despair. The teenager would have control for a lot longer and the recovery period would be longer.

So now I try compromise and if that doesn’t work giving in. There is a lot of giving-in with Anti-Zen, it’s the opposite of letting go which is part of Zen philosophy.

Anyway, I start by offering chips and salsa- yummy, no gluten or dairy. It works once. The next night she wants Nachos, with cheese. I manage to put on a layer of real cheese before she adds some plastic American cheese to the mix.

When I go out to eat with a friend I give into temptation and eat wheat- it s baklava and who can resist baklava?!?!
Now I am lost, the 14 year-old is fully in charge. I’m staying up until midnight reading fan-fictionwa and eating foods that I’m too embarrassed to mention in public. I wake up each morning with a food hangover. Thankfully I manage to drag myself to the gym and keep one of the essential three daily activities to keeping sane , okay sane-ish.

photographer frankjuarez

Now while the voice in my head have a multitude of theories as to why we do this, the unfortunate result of reading far too many self- help books, the result is always the same, total immersion in myself.

My mind is blank, my brain doesn’t work under these conditions. I retreat into myself- which means I don’t answer emails, phone calls, I stop blogging and reading blogs, and other social media is dropped.

I can’t write, as I have a constant headache. And when I stay up until midnight I am alone in the quiet.

As I wallow in myself, the lack of sleep and disgusting diet allowing for nothing else I begin to self-analyze. While most of my conclusions are crap, at least that’s what my hubby says, I do manage to find a few kernels of truth. Somehow out of all of this chaos I manage to learn something about myself, at least something more than my 14 year-old self is an amazingly selfish, lazy, brat.

After a few days, if I don’t fight, I get bored. My teenage self goes to her room and falls asleep. Thankfully like most teenagers she can sleep forever. I am left to deal with a week or more of body ache, pimples, migraines, and other stuff I’d rather not share this publicly.

As my mind clears, little bits of intuition pop up: a new twist on a story, better clarity about a problem in my life, and a deeper understanding of myself and my goals.

It’s not the most graceful, mature, reasonable, or focused road to enlightenment but such is the way of Anti-Zen.
Maybe I could keep my teenage self-quiet longer if I gave her a tattoo or let her pierce something?

Photo by frankjuarez

Anti- Zen Enlightenment from the Sewers


To say my life is frustrating does not convey the daily restraint required to not commit acts which would require some friends, shovels, and a six foot hole.

I can feel a breakdown coming soon. It might involve Mojitos and there will be crying. But then I hope to achieve a moment of anti-Zen.

“But what is anti-Zen?” you ask. Let me ‘splain.
Zen is about detachment, things are what they are, and about being in the moment. You seek, and so I’ve heard, gain these qualities in quiet contemplation and meditation. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Anti- Zen is when I have a hissy fit. I scream, cry, rant at the world, and the unfairness of everything. And near the end of this epic emotional purging I give up (not letting go as in Zen) but give the bleep up. I can’t change this. I can’t fix this. I simply can’t. In that moment I give up my desires for things to be different because what is, is, even when it sucks bleep. I give my hopes of it changing or controlling it.

Then I collapse on the floor in in heap, making those pitiful gasping hiccups people do when they’ve been crying. And I feel better. I’ve let it go, and I can go on with my life and my routine. I know it sounds really bad, but I have no time or space for quiet meditation and I couldn’t get my mind to shut-up even if I wanted too. You creative types out there know what I’m talking about.

Have you even had a moment of anti-Zen? Have you ever reach a space of enlightenment through the sewer instead of the temple?