Have you been lazy enough today?

So it’s been a year. I don’t need to tell you. But to shift to something positive lets reflect on some of the good things that came out of 2020. For me one of those things has been the increased ‘free’ time.

I’m sure if you ask anyone who is still lucky enough to have job and can work from home – they might miss a lot of things about the office but they don’t miss that hour stuck in the gridlock Belfast traffic every day. They don’t miss not having time to hang out with the family, to spend quality time with the kids. They don’t miss the stress of rush hour and sandwiches at the desk. For many 2020 has given us back some quality time.

We know that non-stop busyness isn’t sustainable healthy or joyful but in the old days ‘I’m so busy’ was practically a mantra for many. I’m so busy translated as I’m so important I can’t go your event or just call for a cuppa tea. I don’t have time to watch that latest series or read a book. There’s no time for walks and there’s definitely not enough time for sleep. Some people even boasted about how little sleep they got… Of course, this year has been filled with stress, worry and heartache for many but it’s also given us back space time that we maybe didn’t know we needed.

For those who are sick, recuperating or pregnant – this ‘down time’ the less frenetic pace of life has actually been an aid to healing and proper rest. Statistics show that instances of premature babies have decreased dramatically – because woman aren’t running around busy, the way they used to.

When we have extra time and there is nothing we can do and nowhere to go then the practice of laziness is perfect. When we are lazy we have a chance to really rest, reset and recuperate. The word lazy is often used as an insult but actually it’s a wisdom practice to be lazy  It’s an antidote to the modern world.

At Plum Village the French mindfulness retreat centre I’ve been visiting every year since 2005 (except 2020 of course!) every week they have a very important day called ‘lazy day’. The Village’s founder, Zen Master Thich Nhat (Thay) always asks retreatants on lazy day: ‘have you been lazy enough today?’

It used to blow my mind as I would use lazy day to walk an hour to the nearest town, shop, catch up on emails in the internet café and run about with my new friends all day like a wee busy bee… It took me a few years to really understand that being lazy means doing nothing and going nowhere just allowing the day to unfold naturally… now I’m an expert at it and 2020 has definitely boosted my laziness practice. 

Thây said: “When we lose ourselves in activities we diminish our quality of being. We do ourselves a disservice. It’s important to preserve ourselves, to maintain our freshness and good humour, our joy, and compassion.”

It seems our former busyness has been covering up for our fear of stopping, our fear of really get in touch with our inner world. We really do need to stop the glorification of busyness… No one on their death bed ever said ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office’. No they say thing along the lines of: ‘I wish I’d spent more time having fun, more time with my friends and family, more time just enjoying this one precious life I have been given.’

I’ve always been inspired by the movie ‘Ferris Bueller’s day off and it’s famous quote: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” A lazy day a day off. Use Ferris as your inspiration if you’ve seen the movie 

In Japan they actually have a word that means ‘overwork death’ – Karoshi. Us humans we’re not built to be ‘on’ 24/7.  I actually feel sorry for those born after 2000 (the first iPhone came out in 2007) because they’ve probably never spent any time being bored.

Neuroscience now shows us that being bored is good for us.  We need to unplug our brains from time to time too.  I don’t know if kids these days say the famous line ‘are we there yet’ anymore…? They’re probably all too busy on their devices to ‘keep them quiet’. But being bored actually leads to creativity, noticing the world around and increased imagination.

At this time of year, we can be inspired by nature, the dark nights, the cold days are calling us to rest and hibernate like the animals do.  We need to learn that ‘good enough is good enough’. To let go of perfectionism, be kinder to our wee selves and work smarter not harder.  I really hope 2020 has taught us all this lesson and that the digital economy will enable us to have more time that we can spend being just doing nothing.

I’m not advocating being lazy ALL the time! But one day a week, (all religions advocate for a rest day funnily enough) the occasional afternoon off or regular hour of ‘down time’ will really reap all sorts of rewards!

Do yourself a favour rest and sing along with Bruno Mars… ‘today I’m not doing anything’ .

*****

‘Today I’m not doing anything’ is the song I chose when I was speaking about laziness to Lynette Fay on her Radio Ulster afternoon show on the 31 December 2020. It’s available to listen again for 30 days on BBC Radio Sounds https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000qn83?at_custom2=twitter&at_custom4=A66AF7AA-4B8C-11EB-9657-D5F0923C408C&at_custom1=link&at_campaign=64&at_custom3=BBC%20Radio%20Ulster&at_medium=custom7

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