I was reading about the importance of “lazy days” in one of my spiritual books. It got me thinking about how rarely I do nothing.
I was taught it was a sin to be idle; lazy days were for lazy people. Hard work brought good luck and many rewards. I’ve lived by that creed in many ways.
Maria and I are poor at having lazy days, although she is better than I am at times – like Saturdays. Her idea of a lazy day is to line up a dozen chores and tasks and go to work doing all of them.
(Above, Zip can teach me something about lazing around. He is very good at it.)
Maria and I both find great peace in reading, but that is hardly not doing anything. Reading is essential, but it is not a lazy day.
Doing things all day is not the same as a lazy day, which is theoretically about doing nothing. I’m not 100 percent sure what that means or how I can achieve it, but I’m working on it. Doing nothing is critical for spiritual, physical, and mental health.
The American idea of energy is working hard and making money. There is no noble word for doing nothing outside of a Buddhist temple. They call doing nothing holy. Catholic ideology suggests we’ll end up in hell for doing nothing. The Jewish Bible indicates it is blasphemy, something to be severely punished.
In our hyper and chaotic culture, and in rough times, the idea of a lazy day is more appealing; we all need to rest and gather ourselves.
I’m increasingly drawn to the idea.
I want a lazy day, and I believe I need one, as we all do. It takes a lot of hard work to do nothing. I’m guessing since I don’t remember ever doing it. My best thoughts and ideas have come through silent meditation, which is almost the literal definition of doing nothing.
None comes from the news or a politician’s mouth.
A lazy day is more challenging than it sounds. For people like Maria and me, living on a farm with a million chores and lots of creative work, a lazy day takes work. So far, I’ve not been able to do it for anything longer than a half hour.
But I’m working on it, perhaps as early as this weekend. I’ve said this a thousand times, but I must be more determined to make it happen. My mind is never still. First, I must sort out what a lazy day is for me. I’m still determining.
Planning a lazy day is difficult; most of us are taught that doing nothing is undesirable, even irresponsible. No one got rich doing nothing, one of my uncles told me. Whenever I try to do nothing, guilt, and voices in my head, stop me and warn me to back off and find something to do. I won’t be rich or famous. Deal.
(Every afternoon, weather permitting, Zip and I do nothing. I like it. I think he does, too. Does it qualify for lazy time?)
But doing nothing can be the key to happiness, relaxation, and goodwill. Smiling when you aren’t doing something takes a great deal of strength.
Doing nothing is important; it is a valuable and often neglected skill, a matter of mental health and what is called “wellness.” Doing nothing is about the quality of being, about freedom to reflect and feel, rest and find peace. It’s also about focusing on a meaningful life.
It is, I am told, vital to a life with a spiritual direction.
Looked at in that way, doing nothing is doing something, something that is important and full of meaning, especially in the context of a spiritual life.
Doing nothing is something. Using that as a mantra might help.
I will try it tomorrow or Sunday for a few hours. I’ll let you know how it goes.