Lazy Days

September 9, 2009 Leave a comment

A few months ago, I wrote a post called “Over-Working“, in which I was questioning the ways that I (and many of us) over-work. I am just now returning from a five and a half week sabbatical, thanks to the generosity and forethought of the staff and board of IISC and clearly, given what is happening to so many people right now, a great deal of privilege at having the kind of work environment I have.

It has been an amazing span of time, opening me in many ways and creating quite a space to build the life I’ve long been wanting. And so, in this returning to work (and, for some, school) time of year, I thought I’d reflect a little on what taking a break has meant.

About ten years ago, I spent three weeks at Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery in Southern France. The time there was primarily spent in silence – with long periods of sitting meditation, walking meditation, and even working meditation. (No surprise, I struggled with over-working during working meditation!)  One of the practices at Plum Village is that each week, everyone takes a “Lazy Day”.

My friends Peggy Rowe Ward and Larry Ward describe Lazy Days in their book, Love’s Garden: A Guide to Mindful Relationships, as follows:

“A lazy day [is] a day for us to be truly with the day, without having any scheduled activities.  We just let the day unfold naturally, timelessly. It is a day in which we can practice as we like. We may do walking meditation on our own or with a friend or do sitting meditation in the forest. We might like to read lightly or write home to our family or to a friend. It can be a day for us to look deeper at our practice and at our relations with others. On this day, we have a chance to balance ourselves. Lazy isn’t about going to sleep. It isn’t about goofing off or zoning out. Lazy is more about creating a relaxed and easy quality. Having lazy time … is about stopping and entering into the speed of life.”

And so it was for the past five and a half weeks – perfecting the practice of lazy days, of living at the speed of life. I had purposefully not planned my time, and instead had set an intention to have nowhere to go and nothing to do. And so, what a delight as each day unfolded! Every day was, miraculously, the perfect day for something – yoga, meditation, time on the scooter exploring, kayaking, walking with friends, reading, starting and deepening relationships, cooking, sailing, driving to New York one weekend and later to Vermont (and staying as long as felt right). After all these years of over-working, I seem to have finally perfected (for now) the fine art of doing nothing!

And so I re-enter work, watching myself go from zero to ninety in half a second, with my spirit recharged, full knowledge of what I need to do to maintain that pace and a commitment to maintain, also, the life I have built – and to cultivate the practice of lazy days (and even lazy hours or lazy moments) in my week. And so I ask this (as they ask in Plum Village): are you being lazy enough?

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  • I will be interested to hear from you again on this subject once you’ve had a chance to settle back into the work routine. I imagine it will become more and more challenging to maintain a healthy balance.

    The buzz in the office these last two days has been palpable and much of what I am hearing from those returning from breaks is: “Right back into the fire”, “Back to working at the speed of light”, “Going back to the insane pace” etc. Some of these comments are made in jest – but it is very hard to ignore the underlying truth within the sentiment. We work like crazy people and we buy into the notion that if we aren’t working as fast as we can, we are not doing enough.

    Which reminds me… I’ve got a lot of work to do. 😉

  • Santiago says:

    Great point Charlie, I agree. And I laughed at the end there. Well said.

  • Curtis says:


    Seems you were given (and gave yourself) quite a gift! I remember reading something that a friend wrote about the challenge being not about being busy or not busy, but being a peace with whatever state you’re in.

  • Chris Toppin says:

    Thanks for this post, Linda. I love it. I’m just reading this now because I’m catching up with all the blog posts of the past couple weeks, as I’ve been too busy to read them. I guess I’d unknowingly decided to take a “lazy moment” in my day to read your post instead of continuing through my lengthy “to do” list. AND I’m awefully glad I did.

  • Ruth Keaney says:

    I am so glad that I read your blog today. I’m all about the lazy moments, hours etc as long as I can accomplish my goals of the week. Its about quality of life & you simply can’t be at your best without the occassional time out. Its often revitalizing to take the time to stop & smell the roses .

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