In Plum Village, the mindfulness practice centre and monastery founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, one day a week is designated as Lazy Day, where everyone practices being, rather than doing.
On Lazy Day, there are no scheduled tasks, no one has to do anything, and the day is allowed to unfold naturally and with ease.
As a former, recovering workaholic, I love the idea of a Lazy Day so much. And I love, even more, the idea that it’s okay to sometimes do nothing in a world that has fallen in love with the notion of being busy all the freaking time.
At one point in my life, I thought work was everything. I was a productivity addict, addicted to the high of optimizing my days. And I worked and worked, all the time. I thought I was happy, but the truth is I was scared to death.
I was worried that if I stopped working I would find less success in life. And then life would be a disaster.
Then I almost had a burnout last year. That was when I decided to take two months off. During that period I found myself living in Taiwan for a month, in a hostel with many young people from all around the world.
I remember one of them was an American who woke up very early every day to meditate. He would then spend the rest of the day doing nothing but wander around Taipei admiring the city’s architecture. I asked him why he did that, and he said it was because he wanted to. It was as simple as that.
Every night, a bunch of us would gather aimlessly at the hostel’s living room to talk about random things. Someone would bake a cake and leave it on the table for everyone to share. We never had to fix a time to meet; everyone just wandered into the living room whenever they wanted to.
Sometimes we would spend an entire evening just sitting there, eating, chatting, doing nothing of much consequence.
There was no agenda, no project, no goal, but yet it felt nourishing to the soul.
There is a Plum Village song that goes like this:
“Happiness is here and now,
I have dropped my worries,
Nowhere to go,
Nothing to do,
No longer in a hurry.
Happiness is here and now,
I have dropped my worries,
Somewhere to go,
Something to do,
But I don’t need to hurry.”
That month in Taiwan taught me a lot about how to be happy doing nothing.
At the mindfulness retreat I just went to, time also lost its meaning there. We had a schedule to follow, but there was often ample time in between the activities. One morning, after eating breakfast by the sea, I even fell asleep under a tree. When I woke up, groups of other retreatants were still near me, talking and enjoying each other’s company and the breeze from the sea. It was magical.
And amazingly enough, even though I wasn’t replying to my emails or working during the retreat, the world didn’t end. In fact, to me, the world sparkled and glowed. In each present moment, I found something beautiful to live for (the early morning light, the bowl of porridge I was eating, or a kindred moment with a new friend), something that had nothing to do at all with my future success, or my future happiness.
Back in the real world, it’s a little hard to do nothing all the time. We are all so busy, and we all have responsibilities. That’s why I enjoy the idea of designating a Lazy Day, to remind us that it’s okay not to be buzzing around doing things all the time.
If you want to take it a little further, you can also spend your Lazy Day practicing mindfulness throughout the day. When you eat, only eat. Eat slowly and in silence, chewing each mouthful at least 30 times. When you wash dishes, only wash dishes. When you are with your loved one, only be with your loved one. Keep your phone away. Quit social media for a day. And remember, do nothing and let the day unfold naturally and easily.
Lazy Day is also an effortless day. No struggling, no striving, just being.
If a Lazy Day like this isn’t refreshing and nourishing, I don’t know what is 😉