I refuse to dumb down. you?

Posted on March 30th, 2011

I saved this passage below from Daily OM ages ago. It describes those scenarios where you’re at a ra-ra gathering and you’re looking around and… everyone’s an idiot.


Which is a judgment. But, honestly, sometimes it’s true. Like when you’re sober and everyone is pissed or on the gear. Vibes spread and it’s easy to get caught up, or dragged down, and to dumb down so you can endure and fit in.

I liked this advice:

The ability to go into any social situation and sense the level of consciousness in that situation is a gift…Sometimes, when we get into a particular social situation, we may feel pressure to play it small in order to fit in. Perhaps everyone is drinking or smoking excessively, engaging in gossipy small talk, or complaining bitterly….

One viable option is to quietly endure the situation, keeping to ourselves until it is time to leave. In this way, we take care of our own consciousness and protect our growth process.

Another option is to interact in a way that honors and pays respect to the people in the group, while gently attempting to shift the level of consciousness with our input. In order to do this, we must maintain our own vibration…Being able to stand on our own, separate from the crowd, is a powerful milestone on any spiritual path. It can be difficult in the moment, but when we arrive on the other side, our integrity intact, we may find ourselves feeling positively smart.

I’ve learned to do this. I don’t always drink when I go out; I hate drinking without food and my body doesn’t deal with being drunk any more. So I do find myself standing at parties drawing on every iota of strength to not fall over in catatonic boredom when people are frothing empty substance-fueled foam. I’ve come to realise, though, if I hold my energy and lean inwards, instead of being dragged out and down, I enjoy myself in the most calm and enduring way. I treat it as a challenge to see if I can steer the vibe around.

The trick is not to be a condescending twat in the process. You know the types who stand smugly in corners and espouse knowing spiritual lectures? You don’t want to be like them. They missed the memo that says  BE the message.

Most people are frazzled and a bit loose in social situations, so if you’re steady, it’s pretty easy to steer things around to a more elevated conversation, just by being you.

Does this make sense?

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  • Oh my gosh, I experienced this on Tuesday night, I went out with a friend and her friends and ugh, they were just talking crap all night, stupid nonsensicle “comedy” that meant nothing and took no brains. I quickly made my excuses because I felt like I was getting dumber just by being around them.

    I didnt bother trying to bring them up to my level, I just decided to spend time with people less tedious.


  • hannah

    Very much relate to this post. I like your idea, will give it a try!


  • One of the main reasons I don’t drink anymore. I can’t agree with you more!


  • kylie

    thank you, i will try and practise this. at my current place of work it is full of bitching and gossiping, and i TRY not to take part. but sometimes i can’t help but join in, and it makes me so angry with myself. just because i am standing there, doesn’t mean i have to join in. i also get to see what people are really like when i am using my energy observing rather than taking part.


  • The whole idea of ‘dumbing down’ is informed by the constant fascination with celebrity. No wonder people can’t talk about topics that actually matter. Overheard a conversation on the train lately? Most of the time it’s about Angelina and Brad, Paris, Justin or the latest tv reality star.

    Our obsession with reality tv means that we are dumbing down our brains, so we can’t talk about real topics. How many people watch news programs such as SBS World News, or Q and A on ABC? The more people engage with intelligent conversation, the less our conversations will be ‘dumb’.


  • Helen

    Unless it is a work related event and its important for me to be there and contribute I go home. People who are drinking alcohol excessively (or using other drugs) are not worth my time or energy, I have better things to do.

    If its gossip or workplace complaining I think your advice is good.


  • Jenny

    This wisdom also comes with growing older and wiser. I now have a mortgage and would rather spend $100 on something for the house or save up for a holiday, than a round of drinks. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy going out – i just don’t need to drink excessively to prove it (and wasting the next day with a hangover is pointless).

    BTW, my manager’s daughter is starting a weeks work experience at Cosmo next Monday. She’s apparently very excited.


  • Great post again Sarah. The key is being resilient to outside influences and remembering your own personal powers – inner powers of thought and emotion and outer powers of speech and behaviour… What happens outside of you can only affect you if you choose to let it.

    Once you remember that choice you can choose to engage or not. When you do choose to engage with a clear sense of purpose, a higher intention and a sense of unconditional love for anyone wherever they are in their journey then interacting and lifting people on another level becomes just what you naturally do. Thanks for this thought!


  • Mia

    Absolutely! Sarah, I am so on your wavelength.

    It isn’t just drugs and alcohol though. In my early 20s, I had some really meaningful friendships with some wonderful people and have watched sadly as, one by one, they have turned into middle-age bores prematurely. All I hear about is competition over house prices, and assets, and the cost of their wedding, and how much they have spent on the latest product/ handbag/ shoes. As if there is nothing more to life than competing to see who can have/ spend the most money. I dont want to compete, there is nothing on this earth more tedious than consumerism and greed to me. I sometimes think that mainstream people in their late 20s catch some kind of weird zombie virus where they become incapable of meaningful conversation and just want to consume constantly.

    I want knowledge, spiritual wealth, experiences, travel, laughter, heated debates about theoretical physics late at night with a cup of traditional Chinese tea! The idea that we work ridiculous hours at jobs we hate, dumb ourselves comatose with television and booze to get through it, only to brag how fantastic we are because we were able to score the latest iPad before anybody else? Are you f*****g kidding me??? This isnt life, this is slow living death.

    *sigh* My minimalist roots are showing again, arent they?

    I tried to fit in for many years, but lately I have shifted somewhat. Got more tattoos, stopped watching tv, donated most of my belongings to charity and favored getting up at 6am to write and meditate instead of a late night of drinking and misfortune. There is think kind of Zen spot in between my past and future which is completely now, and completely authentic, and I like to sit there and be me. I dont know what the opposite of lonely is, but it exists there.

    I refuse to dumb down too! Thank you Sarah for giving us soul nerds a place to express our nerdliness. 🙂 I have really loved reading everybody’s replies to this!


    Jamie Reply:

    I absolutely gobbled your words up! You have spirit & i love it!! I can very much relate to what you’re saying and have complete admiration for you. I need more people like you in my life!


    Mia Reply:

    Naw, shucks…


    Justine Reply:

    You articulated that so well. Right there with you on this….what are you writing and where can we find it?


  • LR Brown

    Couldn’t agree more. This topic is quite relevant for me now, as I’ve decided to not drink a drop of alcohol for the whole year. It’s been 3 months and it hasn’t been too hard. I have my reasons which I won’t go into now, but lets just say that it’s part of my spiritual journey.

    I was in Melb for the weekend for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. I was fortunate enough to be there with a corporate sponsor, so got invited to the main after parties held by the big name sponsors. As you could imagine it was free booze, mingling with top name sporting stars, and the obligatory promotional girls. I however found myself standing there thinking to myself, what am I doing here? I felt like an alien, like I had nothing to talk to these people about. I felt like I was on a completely different wavelength. After reading your take on this Sarah, I guess I could have tried to sway the conversation towards my way of thinking, but along the lines of what you said, I don’t want to be that guy getting all spiritual on people, especially in a bar. The way I dealt with it was by removing myself from the situation. I will look for situations in the future where I can gently the shift the level of consciousness. Thanks for bringing this to my awareness.


  • Lauren

    As always, a great thought and so true.
    It is amazing how many times one might embark on a night out with the intention of staying sober, health reasons or not AND unfortunately it can be a huge challenge to stay true to your intentions.
    Thank you for reinforcing this and making me realise that I am not alone in this situation!


  • Joe

    whatever gets you through the night, s’alright!


  • Katherine Boicos

    Hah! Love this entry, I can relate indeed, been here maaany times…i just try to keep to people that i know can share stimulating, connected, deeper levels of conversation and a sense of humour that I appreciate and relate to. I like a casual laugh and a bit of festivity, however, mindless chatter gets very dull very quickly. I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company, and to have a book or pen and paper on hand! (although that gets alot of “it’s so rude to read” comments). Oh well, I mainly end up on the kids table at parties and much prefer it, and I’m 32! As I progress into “maturity” I find myself preferring the company of children to most adults at family gatherings anyway, adults have so many hangups, and are usually always talking about boring work, or wanting to lose weight (while carting a plate loaded with a mountain of cakes for the arvo), or complaints complaints, or the lastest sale they bought at Target. So yes, no judgement, no condescension would be ideal, but then they dont have to judge me for doing something “weird” like whipping out a book of Haiku or running away to play with my little cousins at the local park when I just cant take the mindless chatter no longer. Sometimes I try to engage, or to offer a new perspective on their issues/complaints, but usually I find that it simply encourages more complaining. People have to figure out their own stuff I guess, complaining doesnt really create anything productive in a conversation. But neither does celebrity baby gossip, or work issues.

    And as for contemporaries…? Well perhaps in society, it is the minority of people who are sensitive, deeper thinking, reflective, creatively humourous, intelligent people (dare I say like you seem to be Sarah) and the majority are lower intelligence, worker bee, simpler, less spiritually minded, lower creativity, alcohol consuming, dishwater dull, TV watching simpletons. Sorry to be harsh! But maybe it’s just a matter of odds.


    Caitlin Reply:

    oooh that was a little harsh Katherine but you have freedom of speech!
    I enjoy the odd bit of mindless tele and believe in small pleasures, for me its watching french chef Manu on tv! But I also consider myself tuned in and sensitive, intuitive and meditative, anti social at times and party goer at others. I don’t like to get drunk anymore either, my body and mind don’t do well with more than a few glasses and I could think of much better things than a hangover but i still drink with meals and the odd night out. This doesn’t make me a simpleton. But I get where you are coming from.


    Katherine Reply:

    oh gosh, maybe in hindsight simpleton is too harsh a word! I agree with you though, we can be dichotomous in nature, i’m sure plenty of us agree with having a party going silly fun side (all well and good) and a more quiet solitary nature too (this is probably a necessarily healthy balance), perhaps the key here is to apply ourselves with the principal of mindfullness. I get you on the Manu!


    Mia Reply:

    I dont think watching tv or drinking alcohol makes you a simpleton. A person whose life revolves around nothing else and insults those who seek more, however… I see your point and tip my hat at your directness Katherine. It’s refreshing in a world too filled with bullshit.

    Caitlin Reply:

    Hi Katherine, maybe I was nit picking with my comment! I agree with Mia that directness over rides bullshit any day. Principle of mindfullness? Nice. I am going to take that on and practice it tonight when I head out. Cheers!

  • LizzyBee

    I’ve found that when i’m being my non-ego-driven self, in any situation, people always respond in kind. It’s almost like I’ve given them permission to be themselves too; they trust me enough to let their guards down. They show me a facet of themselves that I had no idea existed… talking to the scared inner child of the guy who is the life of the party, discussing the spiritual beliefs of the person I had always thought was so 2-dimensional, being fascinated by the latest invention of the person who simply cannot spell! Its not always positive, some people are just mean by nature, but that’s their life path to sort out. I just appreciate that they’ve showed me who they are so I know where I stand.

    But best of all when I am myself I act like a beacon for my kindred spirits. They would never know how to find me without me being me.


  • so much sense.
    the first sentence of this post is golden. just golden.
    i can relate to everything you say here… I find that, more often than not, drunk people are blubbering at me, “Aw man, I need to be more like you, you’re so good not drinking,” and basically exposing their own insecurities, like I’m supposed to help them grown some confidence. It’s amusing, more than anything.


  • Yep, this makes perfect sense, and it’s something I’ve been working on lately. I’ve found that meditating every day is absolutely essential to keeping my head on straight, especially as life seems to get more complicated every moment.

    I recently had this experience in a yoga workshop: A very well renowned teacher was teaching to a class of 60 people for 5 consecutive days. The energy was all kinds of out of whack. People were feeling intense, excited, spiritual, tired, meditative and emotional all at once. Furthermore, I got the distinct sense that many of the female students desperately wanted his attention … not just in a spiritual way. This teacher seemed to be containing the energy and directing it so that we all had some rather powerful experiences in our meditation and our asana practice, but after he left, the energy slowly faded and I couldn’t reproduce any of the effects I felt in his class. It left me wondering about the responsibility of a teacher or anyone with that level of energetic expertise. Did he make it too much about himself with the way he handled the energy of the class?

    I guess that’s a little off topic, but it certainly did wake me up to the effects one person’s energy can have on a whole group of people.


  • Frankie

    Thanks Sarah, you always seem to post the right post at the right time! I have a particular circle of friends who seem to have gotten into the habit of bitching about each other and other people constantly. Most of the time I have managed stay out of it by telling myself that people who don’t get involved in nastiness are much more alluring and sophisticated. But sometimes you just get sucked into these things without realizing.

    I’ve since decided to distance myself from these “friends”, and this post has definitely reinforced that decision! I think sometimes you just have to take yourself out of the situation.


  • Karla

    I love this message. This is what I try to do too Sarah. Totally, totally, totally 150% agree.


  • Clare

    Sarah – this is great stuff. I, too, have been immensely bored at parties as people waddle and stare in a drunken stupor. Why do they always shout?! It can be infuriating.

    I’m trying not to judge. To meet people where they are, to subtly bring my energy in to complement theirs, to get through the night with grace and good humour.

    Thanks for verbalising what I’m trying to do.



  • Heather

    This is a really powerful post for me. This explains me. I walk into a room and immediately feel the energy and I find it so hard to maintain my sense of self in some of these situations. I know what individual people are feeling and I can find it very difficult at times. What you explain is on the surface a really simple strategy. It takes a really strong sense of self to achieve it however. I love it though…thankyou. It is my thing that I need to work on.


  • Pingback: MINXY LINKS | April 1 | No. 7 « renegade princess()

  • I love any chance to communicate, that’s the thing.

    When the sense of “flow” happens and everyone gets to hear/understand new ideas, clarify or beat into shape old ones and this fluency happens – marvelous!

    When this descends into a little too much uncaring intoxication it just leaves behind a vaguely remembered “Time” instead of a tapestry of “Grand Moments”

    Happy April – no fooling!



  • Terry Kelly

    Hmmm.. nice column. We shouldn’t get too smug with the “dumbing down” concept, though. It’s even possible to get the same feeling when reading some of the comments on this site, for instance.


  • JessieAnne

    I actually find this rather negative. I do understand the feeling being discussed here- In an age where most people my age are talking about sex and their most recent drunken exploits, whilst consuming McDonalds (which I don’t go near for ethical reasons) I have naturally gravitated towards people that think ‘outside the box’, so am no longer regularly in these situations.
    However, the few times I do mix with people that are more the normal Gen Y (and older!) than I, it’s never been a question of ‘dumbing down’ (at least not since my insecure teens). I find that this would even be considered rather disturbing, and a rather shallow approach. I also find that once I engage with people in conversation, there is always so much more to them than my initial judgment. That is, more to the individual than the group mentality would suggest. Is this all another form of judging people? It smacks of superiority issues (although maybe I pick that up because I’m afraid of appearing superior as well 😉
    As LizzyBee said, if I am myself in these situations, people do respond in kind. They really do. And if not, no biggie. We walk away like adults, not saying ‘I am so much more intelligent (or ‘positively smart’) because I am sensitive/sober/introverted etc etc’.

    Oh, and finally, the drunk thing got to me a bit. We definitely have an alcohol dependent generation, but surely we all need to blow off steam once in a while??


  • Kristy

    Interesting… I’m not sure about trying to change everyone elses vibe – but definitely staying in my own is a challenge I am working on.


  • Hater

    This is disgraceful.
    This entire post smacks of self importance and judgement.
    Perhaps if you had more love, peace, and respect for your fellow man you would find meaningful conversation easier to come by.


  • Andy

    Yes, exactly! It can be lonely. But worth it when you haven’t lowered your energy by joining in with gossip, getting drunk, eating the wrong foods. When I’m in that situation I try to keep love and kindness in my heart and find at least one thing in common.


  • pepem

    I agree, “the trick is not to be a condescending twat in the process.”

    I wouldn’t want to be the person pretending to be something I’m not!

    I mean, I am definitely the person looking around at a party, watching out for the person who’s judgmental or just “too cool” and feeling intimidated or pretending to be ultra cool too, ignoring the feelings inside that no one wants to see.

    What ever happened to “don’t judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in his/her shoes?”

    I guess this is why I don’t go to parties because there is always that person who knows better than every one else (not that they’d decree it out loud, they’re too cool) and it’s exhausting to pretend that everything is just so peaceful inside. Good luck, y’all.


  • jiss

    when you say amusing, you are condescending


  • jiss

    How do you know you are being a beacon? You say you are being your non-deg-driven self but wanting to be a beacon for your poor fellows sounds very egotistical to me.


  • Joanna Mitchell

    Fantastic post, thanks for sharing Sarah.


  • Kirra Pendergast

    Totally relate!


  • Krystal Schroder

    I think there’s something in here about a “Chosen projected Image”…I think these days there are so many people who think they need to be ‘that’ person, or fall into a particular label, which together with stereotypical behaviour of said label, turns them into a watered-down, 2Dimensional version of themselves. If we all had the freedom / security to really be ourselves, then maybe we wouldn’t all be around the watercooler (read bar) flinging shallow comments about the latest celeb gossip. Being more secure within ourselves leads us down the path of really enjoying a deeper sense of being.