Chillax: All This AWOL Advice Columnist Needed Was a Monthlong Yoga Sabbatical

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

I just witnessed some pretentious behavior. Could you please satirize it?Some Guy

Dear Guy,

Comfy . . . cloud . . . chardonnay . . . Oh, sorry, I was just practicing what I learned on my little hiatus at the Ananda Meditation Retreat Center. They had this great workshop, "Words of Peace, Worlds of Peace." The idea is that every word you utter exerts a subconscious force on your consciousness. So you should focus on words that take you to a positive place. A world of peace, in other words, begins with you. And the world of your "you" begins with the world of your words. Not that you need to get all heavy and preachy about it. We can still have a sense of humor about this. There's no reason why our words of peace can't also be words of wackiness: Gargle! Zipper! Rutabaga!

So while, yes, I am vaguely aware, Guy, that you are trying to pull some sort of "head trip" on me, pardon me if I don't go there with you. Cheerios . . . harmony . . . Podlodowski. . . .

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

How should I deal with feelings of guilt when traveling in developing countries?Whitey

Dear Whitey,

This is a problem that carries a solution within itself—like the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks, or those handmade crafts in your carry-on.

True, you feel guilty about seeing all those poor people. But what does that mean? It means you're a good person. And therefore . . . you shouldn't feel guilty. Actually, you should feel better than not guilty. You should feel great. You're focusing on the most important issue here: your own feelings. As I was just telling Some Guy, a better world for everyone starts with you.

Unlike most people, you've actually taken the trouble to go to where the developing people live and learn about their culture. Maybe you're checking into an ashram in rural India, or enjoying an eco-tour of Belize. Don't flinch from the differently privileged people you encounter in the dusty streets. Remember that we're all part of the same big crazy Dance of Life. Sure, the dance has sad parts and slow parts. Smile at the indigenous folks as you pass to show that you accept your part in the dance, and theirs, too. Let go of those negative thoughts and call up some of your words of peace: creamy . . . nap . . . sunshine. . . . Radiate these words in the direction of the destitute. They may seem to want your money more than your positive energy. But that's an OK part of the Great Dance, too. We all learn the steps at our own pace.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

A co-worker has serious allergies. When he gets a particularly bad sneezing fit, he might sneeze, no lie, 30 times in a row. He sometimes gets up and stands outside until the sneezing passes. It seems like he might want some privacy, but I also feel like I should offer some kind of help. Also, and I don't know if this is relevant, he's Indian.Wha-choo I do?

Dear Wha-choo,

Don't just let the poor guy suffer in peace! Follow him outside. Say "bless you" after every sneeze. But take care that you do not become too mechanical in your blessings. You have to show you really mean it. Make eye contact (as best you can with someone whose head is jerking spastically). Introduce some variety, to show you are fully present. Something like: "Bless you! Bless you! Bless you! Oh my goodness, that was a big one, bless you again! . . . Whoa, Nelly, that's quite a streak you've got going! Bless you one more time!" You should, of course, avoid adding the word "God," for obvious reasons.

If by "Indian" you meant your co-worker is a Native American (remember, we all have to be more careful in how we use words!), you could express your support with a lighthearted reference that he will be sure to appreciate: "I think even Chief Sealth heard that one, brother!" If you meant he's an Indian from India, you could say: "I think you're getting all your sneezing out of the way for this incarnation and the next one, too!" When his sneezing fit has passed, pat him on the back and comfort him with one of your words of peace. Give him a quiet, enigmatic smile and say, "Seashells, my friend. Seashells."

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